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AL-Only Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 2

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 for 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. Now, onto the AL version of the Island of Misfit Fantasy Toys.

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C - Mitch Garver (C, MIN)

1% owned

Cool the Willians Astudillo hype, or perhaps not, but owners should be sure to grab the bench option as well. While Jason Castro looks to be the primary catcher, or last in a split role with Astudillo, Garver is the better of the bats on the bench. This alone, and the hopeful plans to move Astudillo around the park will open up the route to playing time.

This column was all over Garver last year, as he took the starting role and slashed his way to .268/.335/.414 with seven homers. What drove his value the previous campaign was the contact rate. After an 83.3 Z-contact% year in 2017, Garver added to push to an 86.9% mark last year. If Garver can keep putting the bat on the ball, and keep the other numbers in line, he could be one of the top 10 catchers in the American League when all is said and done.


1B - Hanley Ramirez (1B, CLE)

4% owned

All aboard the Hanley train. After being a late add in the spring, and sneaking his way onto the starting roster, Ramirez has been precisely what Cleveland needed. Through seven games he is slashing .238/.385/.524 with two homers and four runs. While the batting line might stay down, even with a slight bump for the sample, Ramirez will add value with the solid contact rate.

While his exit velocity is down from this time last year, the barrel rate is way up. Last year he sat at 7.6%, and to start this year, he is way up to 18.2%. While some regression is coming, the skills are still there. With the ability for him to match up with lefties, and being one of the only righty bats on the team, he will play as long as he hits. Cleveland expects to be one of the top OBP teams in the game, so there will be chances to drive in runs.


2B - Jason Kipnis (2B, CLE)

4% owned

Another Cleveland batter on the list this week, Kipnis is still hurt, but on his way back to the team. If he is healthy, owners are hoping for second half 2018 production, and not the previous season and a half from Kipnis. To end 2018, Kipnis batted .244 with nine homers and did all this in 20 fewer games. The significant change seems to be that Kipnis is hitting the ball in the air more often, with a 33.7% mark last year. If he can keep the ball up, then the power should continue to be there, with Kipnis having multiple 20 homer years without the swing change. This could sink the batting average, and the BABIP will be low to the naked eye but should pay off for fantasy owners. Add him this week in case he is back, or if not, grab him before people realize how close he is.


3B - Richard Urena (SS/3B, TOR)

1% owned

Not a great four-game series with Cleveland for Urena, but he did get to play in two of them. While he looks to be one of the utility options on the bench, after the Kevin Pillar and Kendrys Morales deal, Toronto seems to be seeing what they have on this team.

While always a good prospect, the hype has worn off as it has been made clear that Urena will not be a .300 bat. And yet, he does get on base well enough, with some fringe speed, to be a threat. The power is mediocre as well, with roughly eight homers expected over a full season. Even with all the warts, Urena is a utility bat that can produce more than expected. Add him, and plug him where needed.


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

1% owned

Similar to Urena in the utility spot, Robertson is good enough at all positions to get even more playing time. Last year, in 88 games, Roberston slashed .262/.385/.415 with nine homers. The ownership level should not be this low with that stat line and position eligibility. Somehow it has gone unnoticed just how often he has been playing, with six starts in six games last week, and nine total games to date.

While he has been slated to play in a lefty platoon, Kevin Cash has been willing to play him more often, either based on plans, or a good start to the campaign. The batting average is only at .192, but the K-rate is down by close to five points, so the right signs are there. Brandon Lowe is stopping him from taking a starting role on paper, but with rookie's struggles, the opening is there.


OF - Avisail Garcia (OF, TB)

4% owned

While 2018 was not his best year, the fact that he was on his way out of Chicago was a surprise. A career .270 hitter, Garcia’s batting line dropped to .236 last year. And yet, he still hit 19 homers, a new career-high after 18 the year before. Right now he looks to be the starting DH for Tampa Bay but also can play the outfield, so there might be some rotation in playing time there.

While he is only hitting .167 to start the year, owners should be taking this discount and running with it. Not only will he get 150 games if healthy, but the power alone is worth the batting line not improving. Not a huge speed threat, Garcia should give owners seven or more overall a full year. If he does, .260/20/8 looks like it should not be free on the waiver wire.


OF - Carlos Gonzalez (OF, CLE)

3% owned

Another Cleveland bat, and another that is still on a rehab assignment to Triple-A, Gonzalez is a crucial stash this week. The reasons to add Gonzalez are both his track record, but also the needs that Cleveland has. Last year, and admittedly a Coors product, Gonzalez had a .276/.329/.467 slash with 16 homers. After a down year in 2013, CarGo has been a .260 hitter with close to 20 homer power for the previous five years. While he is not young, the skills are there to be an above-replacement-level bat.

As to Cleveland, while the offense came around versus Toronto, there are still gains to be had. The K% is the highest in the American League at the time this was being drafted, and without Francisco Lindor, this offense needs all the help it can get. The natural block for Gonzalez is Tyler Naquin, who also is starting to hit, so there might be other moves to be made to arrange this pairing. And yet, if he is called up, assume that Gonzalez will be on the long side of a platoon with Jordan Luplow. This means four games a week, and perfect launching bad to short right field for the power hitter.


OF - Leury Garcia (OF, CWS)

2% owned

Another Garcia on the list, this one is still in Chicago. Through six games to start the year, Garcia is slashing .321/.345/.357 with two steals and nine runs. The good news for owners is that he looks to be the leadoff hitter for the time being, and will keep those runs flowing hitting in front of Jose Abreu and Yonder Alonso.

The other good sign is that the K rate is way down this year, to 17.1% from 25.1% last year. If he can keep this up, watch Garcia turn into the better version of Jon Jay, on a team that already has the latter. Also, with a lack of other prospects close to the White Sox, there is not a real option to push him from the team. Bank on 130 games, and hope that the bat keeps up.


SP - Felix Hernandez (SP, SEA)

9% owned

His ownership is possibly a bit high to be free in most leagues. Herandez offers the most exciting pick at the starter spot. While he will never go back to the Cy Young contender that most of us remember, one strong start is a promising beginning. Last week, he pitched 6.1 innings with no walks, which is on the right path. Even more, only one earned run versus a good Los Angeles squad keeps things moving along.

With how hot the Seattle offense is, at this point, any starter should be owned. If the run support keeps up then Herandez is a crafty enough pitcher to keep his team in the game and rack up wins for fantasy players. If not, this is an easy drop should he struggle over the next week. We like the pedigree and the first start, so this is as good a dart as any.


RP - Shawn Kelley (RP, TEX)

2% owned

While he does not look like he is getting saves any time soon, Kelley does look like he will have a vital role in this bullpen. Five games, and two wins into the season, Kelley also pitches in the position that allows the team to score around him, placing him in line for wins. A 23.5 K% is down a bit in his career, so buying now will even allow owners to capture some positive regression.

The other reason to be in on Kelley is that he does not walk batters, which helps in the launching pad that is Arlington. This is a steady ratio play with a path to wins, and without a closer on the wire, Kelley is the best of the upside relief arms.

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