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AL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 16

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.

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AL-Only Team of the Week

C - Omar Narvaez (C, CWS) - 6% owned

With a suspension to Wellington Castillo creating opportunities behind the plate this campaign, Narvaez is, so far, taking advantage and has appeared in 52 games. With the bat showing well, there is no reason to think he loses those chances even when everyone is back. This season, Narvaez is slashing .286/.356/.415 with three homers and 18 RBI. While not his first stint in the majors, Narvaez is showing a much better approach this time around. For example, he is posting a career-high .129 ISO to date and overall seems to be hitting with a bit more pop. Even more, Narvaez is swinging at three percent fewer pitches out of the zone, helping to create more good swings in the box. The power might not be where he contributes the most, but a catcher with some power and a .280 average plays.   

1B - Joe Mauer (1B, MIN) - 7% owned

Mauer is no longer the top fantasy option that he once was, but for him to be this available the entire community needs to be underselling the benefit of an average floor at a position. This year, while admittingly one of his worst to date, Mauer is still productive at .273. That average is even with a .305 BABIP and 11.6 BB% limiting context. Also, even if the homers are low so far with only three, the 30 run production accounts for the difference. The other key to the profile is the 12.5 K%, which coupled with the walk rate, means that he makes the most of his outs in the field. Batted balls mean runs and other counting stats so do not sleep on this former MVP. If he were still a catcher, he would be top three, take that for what it is worth, but add him to be a solid contributor down the stretch.

2B - Daniel Robertson (2B/3B/SS, TB) - 8% owned

Position flexibility is always a plus when this deep on the wire, but Robertson is putting in a productive season that can play at the corner spot, or up the middle.  In 74 games he has already set a career high for homers with seven and runs with 39. Still, the slash line is less impressive at .257/.381/.394 chipping in one steal. The K rate is high at 24.7%, but that is down from 28.7% last season. The walk rate is up two percent to boot, and with playing time, those runs will keep coming. All in all, the numbers are moving in the right direction even if owners will still hope they keep moving. With the Tampa team as a whole playing well, expect the good ride to continue after the break.

3B - Erik Gonzalez (2B/3B/SS, CLE) - 0% owned

When he last appeared on this list, the rumor was that Jason Kipnis was going to take a seat due to struggles, and Gonzalez would get more shots in the starting lineup. Since then, Kipnis has picked up the pace, and Gonzalez has been shifted to a late-inning replacement player. Even still, he is still getting three starts a week and is moving around a bit more than just second. With more starts, Gonzalez would be getting more attention, and he has quietly emerged from just a fielder to a regular offensive contributor. For example, this campaign he is slashing .297/.333/.429 with one homer and two steals. That batting line alone keeps him in the MI/CI spot, or in the short term, offers upside at the hot corner. As the Cleveland club approaches a second half where the goal is to keep a lead and avoid injuries, Gonzalez should be the first they turn to with the plan to eat starts and games.  

SS - Brock Holt (2B/3B/SS/OF, BOS) - 2% owned

Much like Robertson, Holt gets the fantasy attention for where he can play, and so far has also added the production to justify the attention. In his best season since his All-Star campaign, Holt is slashing .283/.356/.380 with 23 RBI and 20 R. No power or speed to talk about, but the average and on-base numbers should keep him in play at least up the middle. Holt's 59 games so far this campaign show that he is getting that playing time around the field, and not just for fantasy owners. The K rate is also down four points, so getting on base this much seems sustainable. The player without offense is worth it to most teams, but with this production, Holt could be the second half add for free that secures a season or category.  

OF - Tony Kemp (OF, HOU) - 1% owned

With Kyle Tucker being called up to the Astros, there is a chance that Kemp loses some playing time, but the ability to play center should keep him more involved than most might think. 2018 has been exceptional for Kemp with a .304/.396/.435 slash in 45 games. Add to that three homers and seven steals, and Kemp is an across the board contributor. The 12.4% BB rate keeps him on base in addition to the batted ball profile, so the steals should be there even with fewer chances. Kemp also looks to be valuable enough to the club that he will not rotate back to Fresno any time soon. Kemp, even when outperforming the predictions, shows no weakness that hints that this run is about to stop.

OF - Robbie Grossman (OF, MIN) - 0% owned

While not appearing on many fantasy wishlists, the 2018 version of Grossman should be owned in more AL-only leagues based on the production so far. A .252/.333./.372 slash might not jump off the page, but the 27 R and 28 RBI should. Chip in four homers and there is some power to help in all categories, even if he is not going to save a category on his own. With 14 doubles, Grossman shows that even without homer power, there is some drive in his game. Even more, while Grossman is posting a declining walk rate, and slightly increasing K rate, the batting line is still up from last year. This means that if he can regress on the supporting stats, there should be even more production in this bat. Right now he is an OF4, bit with slight improvements is a clear OF3.

OF - Alex Gordon (OF, KC) - 2% owned

Another former star to make the list, Gordon has been sneaky productive this season with a .244/.322/.348 slash with an added six homers and four steals. While the batting average could be higher, double digits in steals and homers should keep him on most replacement-lists at the very least. Even better are the 26 runs, which on a bad team, show how involved he is in the Kansas City offense as a whole. Keeping that in mind, Gordon benefits from any other support in the lineup, so when injured players return he gets even better. A few things that stand out for Gordon alone are the swing and contact rates. Even when dropping his swing rate by close to three points, he is still posting an 88.2 Z-contact%. Fewer swings and more hits explain the 20 point jump in batting average to date, and that should stay steady moving forward.  

P - Jonathan Holder (RP, NYY) - 1% owned

Since his recall from Triple-A Holder has been lights out in the bullpen for the Yankees as 39 innings have resulted in a 1.85 ERA with 7.85 K/9. While not in the saves conversation yet, he does get the advantage of playing with Chad Green so Holder should avoid most of the best hitters in opposing lineups. While the Ks are a bit low for a fantasy reliever, the 1.38 BB/9 keeps runners off base and limits the damage. Owners looking for some upside, but also a good floor, should add Holder before he gets noticed.

P - Brandon Workman (RP, BOS) - 0% owned

Owners who follow prospects might remember the name as a top starting prospect for the Sox, but the career has not gone according to plan so far for Workman. And yet, the bullpen gives him a chance to flash the stuff, and the past weeks have gone quite well for the righty. In 18 games he has an ERA of 1.65 with 9.37 K/9. The .220 BABIP means there might be some luck so far, but the Ks are higher than his previous stints in the Majors so there might be a new approach here. In fact, he has dropped his slider and changeup entirely and now uses only three pitches. With more prominent innings coming according to his manager, Workman should keep those ratios intact for owners.

P - Jesse Chavez (SP/RP, TEX) - 0% owned

A spot starter in the past, this season in Texas, Chavez looks to be firmly in the bullpen and picking up multiple innings per appearance. In 29 games he already has 55.1 innings, and with that, three wins and a save. The 3.58 ERA plays with a 3.75 xFIP and 8.13 K/9. The homers are high at 1.63 HR/9, but with multiple innings per appearance, this could be due more to volume than rate. At the same time, Chavez is posting his best GB% to date at 44%, which is up from 41.1% last campaign. Owners looking for innings and a few wins here and there might take a look at Chavez, but do not expect this to be anything more than a volume play, even if that does have a ton of value.

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