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AL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: September Call-Ups Edition

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 - Eric Haase (C, CLE) - 0% owned

A few things factor into Haase getting the slot this week, some within his control and other notes. First, Cleveland traded their best catching prospect in Francisco Mejia and have no other real backup at the position. This means, when looking to catching depth in the second half, Haase is the only real option. Second, Yan Gomes left the game the other day with an apparent leg injury, and while the news so far is that he will not be heading to the DL, if he does Haase is the next option. Third, while not a great batting average this year, Haase has been playing well enough at Columbus to get the call, even if just for September depth. This campaign he is slashing .239/.299/.433 with 14 homers and 60 RBI. Those numbers place him right in the mix for a backup role in the bigs, as that power will play if he can keep a close to .240 average. Haase is a risk due to limited production, but with playing time, could add to the counting stats on every team.  

1B - Sam Travis (1B, BOS) - 0% owned

Travis has already played in five games for Boston so far, and there is little reason to think that he is not back in the bigs with roster expansion at least. In all fairness, Travis is perhaps a better real-life player than fantasy asset without the power that comes from most on the corners, but the other tools still hold value for fantasy owners. In 74 games at Triple-A, this season Travis has slashed .258/.321/.356 with six homers and one steal. Speed is also not a factor, with a season-high for steals being 10 in 2015. That being said, this is a plus hitter, who can hit better than the .258 mark, and has a track record of doing so. The one red flag is that the K% has shot up this year to a 23.3% mark, from the previous season’s 16.7%. If he can get this under control, and perhaps getting the call takes some of the pressure away, Travis could be a solid, but not great, fantasy CI moving forward.

2B - Brandon Lowe (2B, TB) - 0% owned

Lowe might get the call before this article is even published, and should slot right into a regular role with the Rays moving forward. If he performs, Lowe is a definite upgrade on Joey Wendle, and with the other players moving tied to the Pham trade, the team needs more depth in the infield. Lowe, in 46 games at Triple-A has slashed .304/.380/.613 with 14 homers and scored 36 runs. Not only is he one of the better second base prospects in the league, but seems to be ready for his shot at the bigs, and the performance means that the Rays cannot string him along in the minors as they do with their either prospects. Lowe has gotten better at every step up the minors, and should be a must add in fantasy leagues. In the short term this is an upside play with owners happy to get any production, but moving forward, this could be the sleeper player to target in drafts.  

3B - Hanser Alberto (2B/3B, TEX) - 0% owned

While mostly listed as a second baseman, Alberto looks to have enough experience at third to either start with the eligibility or earn it quickly. While playing behind Adrian Beltre is not ideal for playing time, with Beltre perhaps on the move, this is another risk worth taking in deep leagues. This campaign has been excellent for Alberto, with a .326/.341/.442 slash through 85 games at Triple-A. Add to that four homers and 52 RBI, and Alberto looks like an average and runs play, without much power, but the potential to hit for impact with a good approach. While he has struggled through his first 40 games in the Majors, over a few seasons, there is no doubt that the minor league numbers show a player with offensive upside. The best sign of improvements has been a drop in K% from 16.7% in 2017 to 8.4% this season. If that can continue, and the average stays close to .300, Alberto will not need to hit for power to be valuable to fantasy owners. Add him now, and with other moves or a hot streak, plug him into a starting role.    

SS - Nick Gordon (SS, MIN) - 1% owned

While the promotion to Triple-A has not worked for Gordon to date, the fact that the Twins seem to be in sell-mode means that he should at least get a cup of coffee this season with the team. So far in 70 games at Triple-A Gordon is slashing .210/.237/.294, and these numbers are all down from his stint at Double-A where he slashed .333/.381/.525 to start the year. There is not much power with only seven total homers in 2018, but the speed will play with 15 steals this season. The significant difference between the levels had been a declining LD% from 25.2 to 18% in the second half of this year. This could be new pitching or park factors, as there is no other major change in the profile. Therefore owners should be willing to bet on small sample here, or at least, overlook the poor batting line to some extent. When Gordon looks to be the future in Minnesota, the chance to get him some chances seems worth it even with the struggles, and if this the case, perhaps the numbers improve with better pitching. When Gordon played well at Double-A, there seems to be no reason to doubt him long term, and the only question is when will he get regular playing time.

OF - Cedric Mullins (OF, BAL) - 0% owned

The Baltimore outfield might lose another bat sooner than later in Adam Jones, but even without changes owners should be stashing Mullins for at least September, if not before. In 58 games at Triple-A, this season Mullins is slashing .263/.327/.419 with five homers, 39 runs, and 12 steals.  While the batting line is down from Double-A, Mullins has made up for it with the power and speed combo that should play up in Camden Yards. The other good news for owners is that Mullins has walked more at each level with a current 8 BB% which is not great but shows an improving approach at the very least.  Mullins looks to be a .260 hitter in the Majors, and if he can add a 15/15 line in support, is a solid OF3 this season for Al-only owners.

OF - Michael Hermosillo (OF, LAA) - 0% owned

Hermosillo has already been up this year but struggled in 17 games with the Angels. Even with that, he looks to be on the way back for September, and now with injuries in the Los Angeles outfield, the path is even more open. In his second season at Triple-A Hermosillo does look to have nothing more to prove, and without much more to play for, the Angels can make this work.  In 61 games at Salt Lake this season, Hermosillo is slashing .277/.375/.496 with 11 homers and 10 steals. While there are some doubts on his game power, the raw power is there with double-digit pop in the minors, and that should only increase in the Majors. The K rate is high at 27.8%, but owners will take that with a 10.4% walk rate to boot. The ceiling might be a bit low here, but the floor looks to be good enough for the fantasy play.   

OF - LaMonte Wade (OF, MIN) - 0% owned

After starting the year at Double-A, Wade quickly made the move up the ladder, and so far has been making his case for a cup of coffee this year with the Twins. In 50 games at Triple-A, Wade has slashed .250/.376/.378 with three homers, five steals, and 18 runs scored. While the slash line, as is a trend this week, is down from the numbers earlier in the year at Double-A, the rest looks much the same with some power and speed potential. While in the long term Wade is perhaps an OF4, in the short term, for a Twins team without their starting centerfielder, this could be a more extended opportunity to impress. With K numbers in the low teens, Wade is also a good bet to keep that OBP line up, even with stricter pitching in the bigs. For a player who flashes an above average glove the offense does not need to be elite to get him in the line-up but also gives him a good floor to fall back on. Wade will be a player to watch for next year, but for this year, owners can expect five categories of production.  

P - Josh James (SP, HOU) - 0% owned

To owners interested in prospects James is a name that might be familiar, but without much helium on prospect lists, should also be free in most leagues. Perhaps the second-best starting pitching prospect in the Astros organization behind Forest Whitley, James is more likely to make an appearance this year in the bullpen. After being promoted to Triple-A this year, James has been quite good with five wins in 13 starts, and an ERA of 3.28. The FIP sits at 3.05, so the ERA is reasonably accurate and should be a useful marker moving forward. The reason that James perhaps fits in the pen better this season is the 13.75 K/9 line coupled with a 3.91 BB/9 rate. The walks will have to come down for James to be an elite starter, but in the short term, those numbers play rather well in the pen, and with some increased velocity from the move, the line could get even better. Add James for the pen this year, but keep an eye on the rotation for next.

P - Artie Lewicki (SP, DET) - 0% owned

While his 11 games for the Tigers this season have not gone to plan so far for Lewicki, the situation makes this one of the more likely September call-ups, and this time, owners should be hoping he stays in the rotation. Much of the issues to date seem to be from a series of short call-ups and switching role, which means that some flexibility would be a nice change for the pitcher. The one rub with Lewicki is that he does not strike out that many batters with an 8.03 K/9 line this season being one of his best. At the same time, he has been able to keep the ball in the yard, and this should play up at Comerica. While not the best player on this list, the guarantee that he is back and starting looks good for fantasy owners making plans. And even more, he gets to play the White Sox and Royals, so the matchups are in his favor.     

P - Trevor Oaks (SP, KC) - 0% owned

Oaks is a bit of a fantasy mixed bag, as he carries enough prospect hype to be a known name, and pitches in an organization that will give him a chance to play, but does not post the numbers needed to be an impact player in roto leagues. Starting with the good, Oaks does not give up homers with a 0.29 HR/9 rate this year at Triple-A, and this is reflected in his 2.39 ERA.  At the same time, he does not strike anyone out. In fact, other than one year at rookie ball, he has never had a double-digit K/9 rate, and this year it sits at 4.96. Even more, he has walked 3.01 per nine this year, so this is not a control pitcher with a low K rate. At the same time, the results have been good to date with wins and solid ERA numbers at every step. If he can continue to generate a 51.6 GB% in the Majors, this might work. If not, the line might fall apart. Owners looking for ERA darts can take that risk.


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