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AL-Only Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 1

Every week in baseball, a significant player will hit the disabled list, slip into a slump, or get traded out of a good spot. How fantasy owners adapt to these situations can make or break the season as a whole. One lousy add might not hurt the long-term standing of a team, but failing to take advantage of breakouts or impact bats before others sure can.

The primary challenge of playing in an NL or AL-only league is often the lack of options regarding adding and subtracting players when needed. In mixed leagues, the players on the waiver wire are usually starting for an NL-only staff. So then how does one wade through the names of players that even regular fantasy players have never heard of, and that often will not even start for their teams to begin with? That is where this series comes in.

Instead of owners spending time digging the waiver wire of 0% owned players, this article will give owners a player at each position to fill the gap, or at the least, keep an eye on to add or stash. Not all of these players will replace that injury, but offer the best option off the scrap heap. Often the players advocated for here are long shots due to the nature of shallow leagues. No quick fixes, but some upside that could turn into much more. Now, onto the AL version of the Island of Misfit Fantasy Toys.

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C - James McCann (C, CWS) - 1% owned

While looking like he will split time with Welington Castillo to start the year, McCann stills looks to have the opportunity to play more often with early season performances. No real carrying skills when looking to the production over the past few years, but he did show some pop last year with eight bombs in 118 games. Add in that in 2017 he hit .253, and there might be some regression that will help fantasy owners.

The other reason to buy in is that McCann is quite fast for a catcher, with a league average sprint speed. Even more, in 2015 he finished tied for 22nd with five triples. This means McCann might produce with the XBHs to add some value that most other reserve options lack. Playing time is the key here, but with an offense in Chicago that might start to produce, this is the time to buy-low on a position where there is not much to buy.


1B - Mark Canha (1B/OF, OAK) - 1% owned  

While mostly an outfielder, Canha opens 2019 with first base eligibility, and owners should take advantage of this. Last year, the slugger hit 17 homers in 122 games with 60 total runs. That type of power is easier to find nowadays, but still, for free off the wire, will be a solid add for most teams.

The batting line was up last year to .249, and most of this was down to a more selective approach. In 2017, Canha swung at 50.1% of pitches. This was down to 44% last year, and owners should be watching this early in the campaign. Adding in the outfield eligibility, and Canha will be a solid produced with 120 games or so in the field.


2B - Josh Harrison (2B, DET) - 2% owned

Avoid most Tiger hitters this year, other than the outfielders we have later in the list, but take advantage of the industry's absence of love for Harrison. Only 31 to start the season, Harrison still has a lot left in the tank and is only two seasons removed from a 2.6 WAR season. Even in a down 2018, Harrison hit .250 with eight homers and three steals in 97 games. The xBA was down to .240 last year, but in the previous three, the floor was .260, so chalk up last year to injury issues.

A free swinger with only a 4.8% walk rate, this a good fit for Comerica Park, and owners should bank on him being the starter for most of the year. The other piece is that if any of the other hitters start to take off, it will be Harrison that they are driving in.


3B - Brandon Drury (2B/3B, TOR) - 2% owned

One of the significant pieces in the 2018 trade for J.A. Happ, Drury is holding down the position for a certain top prospect in the Blue Jay system. And yet, for the time being, Drury will be the primary option at third and should expect to play close to every day. Toss out most of the numbers from last year, as he missed the opener with migraine and vision issues. Going back to 2017, Drury slashed .267/.317/.447 in 135 games with Arizona, and this is the production that owners are hoping for this year.

The power has been there with consecutive seasons of 16 and 13 homers, in 2016 and 2017, so this means that Rogers Center will be an excellent spot to expect a bit more of the same. Even when he loses his starting place, Drury will be a crucial bench bat for Toronto and will get his ABs.


SS - Freddy Galvis (2B/SS, TOR) - 3% owned

Another Toronto batter on this list, Galvis was added over this winter to again hold a spot for the young prospects on the rise. And yet, unlike Drury, Galvis should be in the starting option all season if he produces. After spending all of his career in Philadelphia, Galvis moved to San Deigo last year and slashed .248/.299/.380 in 162 games. In the past four seasons, he has played at least 151 games, showing the durability that owners can count on for the season, and therefore the playing time and counting numbers that will follow.

The floor this year, based on those past years, should be 13/13, meaning that Galvis will help across all roto categories. The thing to watch will be the K rate, as that jumped to 22% last year, after 16.7% the year before. For owners needing to cover shortstop due to early injuries, Galvis is the best option.


OF - Dwight Smith Jr. (OF, BAL) - 3% owned

An unheralded offseason addition by Baltimore, Smith Jr. is slated to hit second and play left in a platoon to start the year. This means that he will benefit from what offense the Orioles have to offer. Only having 47 games under his belt so far in the Majors, there is not much of a book on the outfielder, which also should play in his favor. When he did play, Smith has slashed .304/.368/.455 with two homers and steals. Never a significant speed threat in the minors, he did swipe 10 or more over two seasons and should be given the green light this year.

Owners adding the player will be looking for batting average support, with a career .280 line in the minors. If all goes well, expect him to hit his way into a regular role, and if not, will still get 300 PAs due to the lack of other options on the team. Also, with the launching pad that is Camden, there might be some power bump that owners can bank as well.


OF - Kole Calhoun (OF, LAA) - 6% owned

Calhoun has been a bit of a mixed bag for fantasy owners, with stretches of elite production, but also, sub .100 batting lines for weeks at a time. The good news for fantasy owners is that the Angels are sticking with him, and plan to lead him off to start the year. After a sub-par start to the year, Calhoun was a top 100 batter to finish off the year.

At his best, Calhoun is a .240-.270 hitter with 15+ homer potential. Add in that the floor for runs has been 71 over a full year, and there is production to be had if owners can eat the batting average downside. There's not much speed, but over a full year, owners can expect five or more steals, so not a completely sunk category. Any player hitting near, or around, Mike Trout will get a boost, and with a regular job, should be added this week.


OF - Christin Stewart (OF, DET) - 4% owned

Still a rookie after only 17 games with Detroit last year, Stewart started off hot during the draft season but has been his stock sink just enough to make him easy to add. The 2018 numbers at Triple-A show the upside, with 22 homers and a .264 average in 122 games. While there will be some growing pains, and without much else to support him on that team, the power should still be there. If anything, expect a bit more, with rookies tending to add a few homers when they get the call.

If he can hit for power, the runs and RBI will also be there. Slated to bat sixth on the long side of the platoon, Stewart has the upside to be a stash and playing time to be added to start.  


SP - Lucas Giolito (SP, CWS) - 7% owned

As many others have noted, Giolito flashed a new delivery in his first start of the 2019 campaign. The arm action is shorter this year, and he hides the ball longer before delivering it to the plate. If this helps keep him in front of batters, then this writer is willing to buy back in when the skills have never in doubt, but the application was. A good first start to the year versus Kansas City, Giolito went 6.1 innings with only three hits, one walk, and two earned runs. Eight Ks over that time also show that the stuff might be on the rebound, with a spot in the rotation his to lose as the White Sox try to see what they have for the future.

His main offerings are fastball and curveball, but scouts also like his changeup is that can come around. If it does, then Giolito might be the break-out starter to own this year. Also, add in the weak division, and Giolito should be able to post numbers in the division that can balance out the other offenses in the league.


RP - Roenis Elias (RP, SEA) - 2% owned

While his role might be in flux, Elias already has two saves plus holds, and the length to join the rotation as needed. With a team that looks like it will score runs in bunches, this is the type of profile to own, with an inside track to wins, even if he stays in the pen. Last year, in 23 games, Elias made four starts and posted a record of three and one. The stuff was not there in bunches with only six K/9, but Elias still posted a 21 K%. The latter will be welcome and should keep up with playing time as he has posted close to, if not above, these numbers in the minors. The ground ball rate has dropped with his time in Seattle, but the park will help keep those runs off the board.

Add Elias and wait to see his role, but do not surprised if he gets a run in the closer role, and in some multi-innings spots as well. Worst case, he is entering the rotation with the run support to make this all work out in fantasy owners' favor. 

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