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AL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 15


By Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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.  With that onto the island of misfit fantasy toys.

Editor's Note: Get our 2020 MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our draft kit, premium rankings, player projections and outlooks, our top sleepers, dynasty and prospect rankings, 20 preseason and in-season lineup tools, and over 200 days of expert DFS research and tools. Sign Up Now!

 

AL-Only Team of the Week

C - Kyle Higashioka (C, NYY) - 1% owned

Three homers in his last five games, along with injuries in the Bronx, has shot Higashioka to the top of the catcher lists and might be a sign of things to come from the Yankee prospect. This is not the first time that a Yankee has shown remarkable power in the majors, even this season. Word out from the team is that Gary Sanchez will be out until after the All-Star break, which should give owners another week with this player, and perhaps a bit more based on roster construction decisions. The rub is that Higashioka did now show any of this power in the minors, and was hitting only .191 at Triple-A. While there might be some offensive bump with the move to the Majors, this should be a short-term play for fantasy owners, but with playing time, should be a good catcher streaming option.  If he does follow the trend out out-hitting his minor league numbers, with this team and park, there might be good value still to come.

1B - Lucas Duda (1B, KC) - 8% owned

The fact that Duda is this widely available is quite the shock, as through 49 games he is hitting slightly above league average with a WRC+ of 101. Not great, but with the power upside, this is worth a fantasy play is all AL-only leagues. The other good news is the injuries seem to be in the past, or at least he is recovered and should allow Duda to play as the starter at that position moving forward. A bit more into the numbers, as though those 49 games so far, Duda is slashing .247/.310/.429 with seven homers and 26 RBI. That batting average plays at the position, and should at least offer a floor for owners with the power numbers to support. The seven bombs so far place Duda on a 22 HR pace, and with playing time, owners should not be surprised if that jumps to closer to the 28 projected to start the season. The other good news is that the K rate is down close to two points, which not a huge mark, shows some movement in the right direction.

2B - Devon Travis (2B, TOR) - 2% owned

Well, it seems like Toronto is going to try this one again, and how long he can stay healthy will determine how valuable Travis is to a fantasy team moving forward. Through 52 games Travis is slashing .232/.287/.375 with five homers and one steal. The play with Travis was always trading some batting average and steals for the runs upside, as in the past few years, he has not run or hit for much at all. In fact, since swiping 16 bases at Double-A in 2014, he has never eclipsed five steals in a season since. With that, Travis becomes a Jason Kipnis-type player, with a lower batting average but some gap power. The issue this season is only five doubles, and the limited power has sunk that as well. With all this negative news, why is he the pick this week? The one improvement in the line is the OBP which has moved to .287 from .234 last season, and some of this is fueled by a close to doubling of his walk rate. With that, over the past month, he is hitting .286 with a WRC+ of 117, showing that he is seeing the ball better. This looks like a good sleeper play that should pay off with the continued small changes.

3B - Luis Valbuena (1B/3B, LAA) - 2% owned

For the season, Valbuena has been one of the better power options freely available on the waiver wire and has nine homers in 79 games. The other plus has been the batting average, which while sitting at .211 is up from last season’s .199 line. Owners are not looking for 30+ power here, but rather another 12+ might be a good floor the rest of the season with playing time. The other good news is that he is playing close to every day and not much out of the DH, meaning that he should not lose time to the returning Shohei Othani. Owners looking to that power line will notice it is well below the pace from last season, but he is hitting the ball harder by about three points, and hitting for a similar fly ball rate from last season. If teams can stomach the batting average, this could be another Duda-like power return, and with a better team around him might even pass that line.

SS - Chad Pinder (2B/SS/OF, OAK) - 1% owned

Pinder has been a favorite on this list a few times this season, and for a good reason. The position flexibility matters not just for fantasy, but also concerning getting him into the lineup with some regularity this season. 60 games so far show the team’s willingness to move him around, or at the very least, use him as one of the first bats off the bench. Over that time Pinder is slashing .246/.311/.436 with eight homers and 28 Rs. The second number is what fantasy owners should be looking at, as with the way that Oakland is built, being on base with those power bats pays off with runs and other counting stats. The team is currently sitting fifth in total power, and the recent series of wins shows that that strategy can pay off. When Pinder gets on base enough, the runs should continue.

OF - Greg Allen (OF, CLE) - 0% owned

With the recent injury to Lonnie Chisenhall, Allen is back with Cleveland and playing in center field. This is a profile that owners should look at with a grain of salt as the .219 batting average is not representative of the season with the call-ups, and has buried some excellent offensive stretches for the player. The most significant upside in the profile are the steals with six steals, and no caught stealings for Allen so far. Cleveland is also showing that they will run and are currently sitting in third overall in the league. If he had played a full slate this season, Allen would be on pace for 26 steals and this would be worth the addition alone. Expect the batting average to jump around, but a .250 floor should be a good target.  While he might not be up long, and the team could add an outfield bat at the deadline, in the short term this is the speed option of the week.

OF - Mark Canha (OF, OAK) - 2% owned

For a player holding down the starting role in left, and hitting second in a great offense, the fact that Canha is only owned in 2% of leagues reflects how undervalued he is for fantasy teams. Through 67 games he has a 124 WRC+ supported by a .264/.339/.481 slash. Add to that 11 homers and 30+ R and RBI, and this should be a solid play the rest of the season. As with Pinder, the ability to get on base around Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Khris Davis is worth the start on its own. Canha is also striking out 23.1% of the time, down from 29.9% last campaign. Not a running threat at all, and there is a cap on the power, but the other numbers work out in the player’s favor. The other piece for owners is that Canha is making hard contact 40.4% of the time, and there are reasons for the fly ball rate being down. So far in 2018 Canha has a 15.6% IFH%, which should go up as the season plays out. With that hard contact and such a high rate of hits on the diamond, expect the batting line and power to at the very least improve.

OF - Adam Engel (OF, CWS) - 1% owned

While it does not look like Engel will hit his prospect ceiling, he is getting the playing time on a bad Chicago club to show what he has moving forward. In 80 games, Engel is slashing .223/.279/.307, but even that is a marked improvement from last season. The average alone is up close to 60 points, and while not in a reasonable range, the development is there to be seen. The K rate was down to 25.1% from 34.8% last season, and much of this is driven by the player swinging more often. In 2017 Engel only swung at 47.4% of pitches, whereas this season he is swinging at 50.2%. More swings have seemed to result in fewer Ks, and this is even with an increased O-swing% from last season. The other difference is the contact rate, as in 2017 Engel only made contact with 68% of his swings, and this season that is up to 70.8%. Engel looks a lot like Greg Allen in that the batting line might not sound appealing, but the speed does. This season Engel already has 10 steals, which is more than 2017’s pace. The upside is there if the batting line improves.

P - Andrew Cashner (SP, BAL) - 3% owned

Baltimore pitchers should be avoided like the plague, but Cashner has looked like a good pitcher in the past few weeks. In his previous five starts Cashner is posting a 2.89 ERA and while not winning any games, looks like a good overall profile that makes him fantasy worthy in non-mixed leagues. The issue is that the Ks are low, with only a 5.14 K/9 in that time. Without wins and Ks this is nothing more than an SP5 profile, but if that ERA stays the same, at least worth a look for streaming options. Away from home, his ERA sits at 4.01 as opposed to the 4.70 line at home. This makes sense with the park and should give owners some ability to start him on the road and keep a good floor. When starting pitching is weak across the board on the wire, and the chance to add some production and innings counts for more than it should, Cashner is the play this week.

P - Ryan Yarbrough (SP/RP, TB) - 6% owned

Is he a starter or not will be the question for most fantasy owners, but either way the stats seem to a support a pitcher worthy of a roster spot. In 84 total innings, Yarbrough has a 3.75 ERA with 8.25 K/9 and a total of seven wins. While not the dominant stuff so far for a reliever, if he is getting more starts the overall line looks promising. To keep improving, Yarbrough needs to induce more ground balls as the current rate sits at 39.2% but this is about eight points lower than his minor league average so the promise is there. The other rub, or place for owners to watch, is that he does give up more than normal contact with an 82.2% contact rate. If that keeps up and he does not get more grounders, there is a power issue with the profile. As in, is the contact stays the same expect more balls to leave the yard.  In the short term, and with some improvement, this is a good starting play with a decent team context.  For this week at least add the player, and then make a decision moving forward based on an increase sample size.

P - James Hoyt (RP, CLE) - 0% owned

While not active right now, there is a good chance that Hoyt is added to the Cleveland bullpen before long. While the team, in general, has rebounded, Josh Tomlin has not, and there is a spot for another righty even with Tyler Olson and Andrew Miller returning to add lefty depth to the pen. The most significant loss for Cleveland has been Bryan Shaw, and while he is not having the same season in Colorado, there is still a need for someone to emerge for the 7th inning role. Hoyt looks to fit the mold with a 12.04 K/9 last season in Houston, and the 2.55 BB/9 rate plays as well. This season at Triple-A Hoyt is posting a 2.25 ERA with 10.61 K/9, so the skills seem to be there. If he gets the call, this should be a good ratio play, and with that team, there is a chance to walk into a few wins as well.

 

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