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AL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 18

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 - Isiah Kiner-Falefa (C/2B/3B, TEX) - 5% owned

The beauty of fantasy baseball is that sometimes players get season long eligibility at a position that in reality, they will only play for a few games. While each league has different rules, at least in Yahoo leagues, Kiner-Falefa is a catcher moving forward. In 76 games this season he is slashing .266/.330/.387 with four homers and seven steals. As an infielder not ideal, but as a catcher, this might be a top 12 profile at the position over the course of a season. also, he has shown the ability to mix in power with some speed, and score 36 runs over his time in the majors is worth the add. The other numbers look good as well with a 7.3 BB% and 17.1 K%. All in all, Kiner-Falefa is an underrated fantasy asset that will add to any team.

1B - Luke Voit (1B, NYY) - 0% owned

This is a speculative add, but with the trade announced this morning, Voit in on his way to the Yankees to serve as a platoon bat at first. While not currently on the roster, this is not a move that Cashman makes without allowing him to see some time the rest of the year at the very least. While the number so far with St. Louis are not great, this is an add based on where he will be playing, as opposed to how he has been playing. To say this another way, Voit is not a player who has hit his way onto the list but will be hitting in a line-up that gives players this little owned a boost. That being said, the numbers at Triple-A are intriguing with nine homers in 67 games with a .299 batting average in support. Worth a dart, and should be a good runs play if and when he gets a shot.

2B - Joey Wendle (2B/OF, TB) - 6% owned

A quiet but productive season from Wendle in a semi-starting role down in Florida. To date, Wendle has played in 89 games and slashed .285/.335/.403 with five homers and seven steals. While maybe never the player he was hyped to be with Cleveland and Oakland as the power has not come around, that batting average plays in most teams. Add in a bit of speed, and this is an excellent second base profile compared to the field. The one issue with the profile is that the BB rate is down, even as the K rate is staying the same. These will hold him back from top eight fantasy play at the position, but in the short term, teams looking for batting average with power and speed upside can do much worse.

3B - Danny Valencia (1B/3B, BAL) - 2% owned

Valencia is an intriguing fantasy player as it seems that when he does get hot, there is a cold spell coming shortly. At the same time, anytime a player with power plays in Baltimore there is enough of a reason to take that risk and try to ride out the storm. Through 74 games this season he's hitting .268/.321/.423 with nine homers. The K rate is down to 19.6% from last season’s 24.4% line which is good news for fantasy owners. Even more, with Manny Machado moving to the National League, there is little reason that he is not in the starting lineup the rest of the season. In fact, all the others numbers look better than last year, so the upside is there, even if this is the best that it might get.

SS - Jose Iglesias (SS, DET) - 6% owned

For a rebuilding Detroit club Iglesias has been sneaky productive, and one of the better players on the Tigers this season. While that might not be saying much in comparison with the filler on this team, Iglesias should be owned in more than the current six percent of leagues. In 100 games he is slashing .266/.308/.387 with four homers and 13 steals. While the offensive averages are not great, the rate stats play at the position, and the extra speed is excellent to have on the bench as well. What is underrated about Iglesias is how little he makes outs at the plate with only a 10.2 K% line. This means that the rest of those outs are in play, and help drive in runs. To date, he has 41 RBI which play out from that skill, and with a pace of 70 RBI for the season will put him in the top eight at the position.

OF - Adam Engel (OF, CWS) - 0% owned

The first of two White Sox to make the list as outfielders, Engel is the speed option of the two. In 93 games this season he has swiped 11 bags while scoring 30 total runs. The batting average is low at .220, but that is much the trend with speed options this season. While the K rate is 25.8%, this is an improvement over last season’s 34.8%. Compared to the previous season, the homer numbers are on pace to pass the 2017 line, and he has already passed the steals numbers from 2017. If owners need steal, this is the shot with playing time to get them, but do not be surprised to see the .220 line remain the rest of the way.

OF - Leury Garcia (OF, CWS) - 1% owned

The second Chicago player on the list, Garcia is experiencing a mini-breakout season. While this will not make him a high draft pick next year, there will be mixed league play at the very least. In 66 games he has a slash line of .286/.314/.410 with four homers and 10 steals. All of this will play in the outfield, and while only half a season of playing time should keep him more than one percent owned. The thing to watch in the line is the swing rate, as he is swinging at four percent more pitches than last season, but close to nine percent more of those are outside the zone. More chasing seems to be paying off in the short term though but could be a red flag if the pace changes. If he can keep this up, and the support the gains in the batting line, do not be afraid to add and start right away.

OF - Nick Martini (OF, OAK) - 0% owned

The pick this week had been set as Dustin Fowler for the speed upside, but Martini has been taking enough of his playing time in real life to take his spot here as well. After a productive few years in the minors with the Cardinals and Athletics, Martini is making the most of his current shot. In 17 games he is slashing .344/.462/.531 with six runs and RBI. While the numbers will come down with more film and scouting on the rookie, there seems to be a spot in the lineup as long as he keeps producing. Not much of a speed or power play, as even in the minors he did not get to double digits, the batting average alone is worth a look. For his career, Martini is a .300 hitter, and that should carry over. The walk rate was above 12 most seasons, and even in the small sample, he has a 10.3 BB% with Oakland. Owners should grab him while they still can.

P - Heath Hembree (RP, BOS) - 1% owned

For a non-closer reliever pitching in a hitters park, Hembree has surprised most this season as he is currently rated at the 187th fantasy player on Yahoo. How has he gotten there? To start, in 43.1 innings he has four wins and 15 holds which are well above average for the position, especially looking at how much he cost in drafts. Add to that an 11.84 K/9 ratio and the points keep rolling in for the Boston hurler. The 3.74 ERA is not great, but with a 3.35 FIP, there seems to be little reason to think that this is going to increase moving forward. Most of his success this season has come from a .232 opponent batting average, and if this keeps up, expect the holds to be there the rest of the way.  The other good news is that even with this production expect him to pitch in innings with better matchups as the club saves the big arms for late innings.  All signs point in the right direction for this pitcher as a fantasy option.

P - Ryan Pressly (RP, HOU) - 1% owned

Even with the hype coming from the trade to Houston, to see Pressly only owned in one percent of leagues is a bit surprising. Even as he leaves a spot in Minnesota that might have had a quicker path to the closer role, with Houston this year, all things are possible, and the front office liked him enough to get him from the Twins. The key for leverage relievers are Ks, and to date, with both teams, Pressly has been dealing with 12.95 K/9. At the same time, he has lowered the homer rate from 1.47 last season to 1.11 this campaign. Add in the 3.51 ERA, and the move to a better park in Houston, this is the best reliever on stats alone owned in this few of leagues.  Even more, if Hector Rondon struggles, with Ken Giles out of the mix, Pressly is next in line.

P - John Axford (RP, TOR) - 0% owned

This another move heavily reliant on context, as Axford has not pitched himself into a fantasy valued role with Toronto. At the same time, with Roberto Osuna’s off the field issues, and Seung Hwan Oh’s move to Colorado, Axford’s past in the closer role means that this could be the dart to throw for saves the rest of the way. While Toronto might not be expected to win many games in the next two months, saves are saves for fantasy owners. The numbers also add some hope, as the FIP is close to a half a run lower than the ERA, and the 8.82 K/9 rate plays. Watch the trade news to get more idea on this, and if so, Axford looks to be in a good spot.

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