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AL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week (7/23 - 7/29)

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 - Mitch Garver (C, MIN) - 1% owned

Taking advantage of the injuries at catcher in Minnesota this season, Garver has filled in well, and the fantasy production is more evident than it might look at first glance. In 61 games so far he is slashing .250/.338/.378 with four homers and 19 runs. The last number is the encouraging sign for fantasy owners, as the full season pace would be close to 50 runs from the catcher position with close to 12 homers. The other good news is that the K rate is down from 28.8% last season to 23.5% this campaign. In fact, all the fantasy numbers are better this year with the playing time, so this could be not only a player to watch in the second half, but also looking ahead to 2019.

1B - Logan Morrison (1B, MIN) - 11% owned

While posting a bit higher ownership rate than typical on this list, with Morrison coming off the DL, the expectation is that owners who had stashed him will now drop the struggling first baseman sooner than later. His 2018 campaign was one to forget for Morrison with a .192/.287/.367 slash supported by 11 homers and 34 runs. The power numbers, while not great, are still productive and with a pace of close to 20, could end up being the saving grace for fantasy owners. The batting average will hurt teams overall, but some improvements the rest of the way will be welcomed. The good news is that the 10% walk rate is consistent with the rest of his career so that other facts might be holding the player back. Morrison is swinging a bit more, with a rate up close to three points from last season. This could be a player looking to press with the contact, and perhaps the injury will be a good reset. Do not expect much, but the upside makes this a worthwhile risk for most teams.

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

Starting the run on Cleveland players this week, Gonzalez has been a favorite of the list and looks to continue a strong start to the campaign. With injuries to Lonnie Chisenhall and Bradley Zimmer, Gonzalez looks to be in a good spot to a least keep the reserve infielder role on the team, and the right-handed bat will keep him playing on a team that needs those matchups. Through 52 games, Gonzalez is slashing .312/.347/.452 with 13 RBI and three steals. The ability to plug in for an injury always carries value, but that batting line alone should make him more owned than the current 0% rate. For example, in the past month, the batting average is up to .375, and the OBP sits at .400. Even if he gets limited chances, the line will not hurt most teams, and as always, Gonzalez is one injury away from a starting role. A repeat this week since the value is too good to pass up.

3B - Yandy Diaz (3B, CLE) - 0% owned

The next Cleveland ballplayer, Diaz is back up in the bigs after the bullpen changes announced by the team. The right-handed hitter will not offer much power as he only had two homers in 81 games at Triple-A this season, but the overall batting profile has the hint of a breakout. Three hits in his first two games show the potential, and, the ability to go to the opposite field should keep him covered from most shifts as well. So far at Columbus, Diaz has gone the opposite direction 44.9% of the time, which also explains why he can be so productive with a 56.7 GB%. Diaz also hits the ball hard, with a 32.8 Hard% during his time in the majors last year. Diaz, if he can continue to hit, will drive in runs and rack up doubles for owners. And, with the chance to beat Melky Cabrera to stay with the team, this is a good bet for owners as he might stick around.

SS - Adeiny Hechavarria (SS, TB) 1% owned

A major leaguer more known for his glove than the bat, Hechavarria is the type of player that owners on the fringes should be excited to add. In 57 games this campaign he is slashing .267/.300/.343 with 29 runs and 34 and 24 RBI. For a player not known for the bat, this is a rather good line, and the total gross runs play for most at the position. The glove also means that owners can count on his getting starts down the stretch, with the rate numbers being good enough to keep a floor on his average and other ratios. The K rate is high at 15.3% for the lack of power, but still shows a marked improvement from past seasons. The place that improvement should come from is the 2.8 IFH%, as the speed should add some to this mark. Even then, when he is not relying on these for hits, the overall profile reflects a better than expected output so far.

OF - Curtis Granderson (OF, TOR) - 4% owned

With Toronto not going anywhere this season, Granderson has not played well enough to get traded at the deadline but should be in line to be a critical piece in Canada the rest of the way. In 80 games he is slashing .234/.342/.424 with nine homers and 29 RBI. While the average might not be ideal, the OBP shows that he still getting on base, scoring runs, and adding some power to keep this as a valuable fantasy piece. In fact, the 112 WRC+ is a better reflection of the season, where Granderson has been better than the average, and still shows the upside that could increase production the rest of the way. The encouragement comes from the fact that Granderson is still making a ton of hard contact with a 36.8% line this season. Add that to the 29.3 LD%, and the current production should be the floor. If he can hit a bit more this is a OF3 profile with power upside.

OF - Joey Rickard (OF, BAL) - 0% owned

The focus on Baltimore recently has been who can they trade as opposed to who do they still have. Rickard started off the year well and had fallen to a .202/.272/.365 slash which is barely fantasy relevant in all fairness.  Why should owners add Rickard in that case? First, if Adam Jones leaves, then there is, even more, playing time for Rickard moving forward. With a team this bad, while the support is not there, the playing time alone has value. The other good news? The walk rate is up to 7.9% from last campaign’s 3.2% mark. This means that the OBP gains at least are real, or at least a better reflection of the player. The five homers also play well, and if Richard can be a .250 hitter with another five homers that is OF4 potential at the very least. When the only place to go is up, owners can take all the good, and avoid the bad that has been 2018 so far.  

OF - Jake Marisnick (OF, HOU) - 0% owned

For a player on one of the best teams in the league, 2018 has been up and down for Marisnick. Having been sent down to Triple-A earlier in the campaign, only to get the quick recall, the playing time has been all over the place. And yet, the glove should keep in in the conversation as with the Astros not looking to add in the outfield; there is no reason to think he leaves the roster. The power is impressive with seven homers in 71 games, and the best line with this low of an ownership rate on the waiver wire. If owners can stomach the .192 batting line, there should be some production left here. The 42.2% K rate cannot continue, and if it does, this a comfortable cut in a week or two. Roll the dice on team context, but feel free to move on if the signs are not there.  

P - Adam Cimber (RP, CLE) - 1% owned

The final Cleveland ballplayer to makes the list, Cimber has recently been added to the team and should be getting key innings moving forward. While not a saves candidate in the short term, even with Cody Allen’s struggles, the ability to get regular usage should see him get wins and ratios on a solid team. So far with both the Padres and Indians, Cimber has pitched in 42 games with an ERA of 3.12. The FIP is even lower at 2.34, so the ERA should only improve moving forward, and with the 9.37 K/9 it does not need to for Cimber to be a productive arm. The funky delivery messes with hitters as reflected by 10.9 SwStr% even with only touching 90 MPH. Expect the Ks to continue with a good team context. Cimber looks like one of the safest bets for relief in fantasy leagues.  

P - Jose Leclerc (RP, TEX) - 2% owned

Leclerc is the ideal deep league fantasy option at relief, proper ratios and with some deals a clear show to the closer role. The critical number is a 12.97 K/9, which coming over 34 innings means this is not a sample size issue. The stuff is real, and 15.5% swinging strikes show that as well. Leclerc is also getting more chases than in the past, as last season the O-swing rate was 28.4%, whereas this season it is 33.1%. Only two percent more swings mean that he has turned even more swings into misses, and therefore the high K numbers. The one warning sign is the 0 HR/9 rate, and with the heat and ballpark, one has to leave the yard sooner than later. And yet, when the approach has been good, some regression should not tank the profile. This is the ideal lottery ticket for owners with short-term production leading to a bigger role down the stretch.  

P - Trevor Hildenberger (RP, MIN) - 8%

Unlike most relievers to make the list this week, Hildenbeger does have a path top saves, and with other deals might be there sooner than later. With the current ownership rate, owners need to jump in now if they want a shot, and even without the saves, there is good value here. In 44 games, Hildenberger has an ERA of 3.26 and 8.23 K/9.  Another funky delivery, the batter is continuously off the pace, which allows the stuff to play up. The GB% sits at 47.4%, but the homers have not been an issue with only 0.96 HR/9. Not great, but with Target Field serving and a launching pad this year, it reflects a good approach at the very least. The bullpen in Minnesota is so shallow that this could be the best option after Fernando Rodney is dealt, and with success so far, no reason to shy away.


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