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AL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 20

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) - 6% owned

Garver looks to be the starting backstop for now in Minnesota, and it is not every day that owners can add a starter off the wire like this. While he is in the role due to an injury to Jason Castro, Garver has earned the role since that time as well. To date, he is slashing .261/.337/.405 with six homers and 24 runs in 77 games. The lineup hurts him a bit, as the Twins have struggled all year, but with that batting average should be a fantasy starter in most leagues. The other good news is that he has cut his K rate from 28.8% last season to 23.2% this campaign. While the OBP is not supported by a high walk rate at 9.6%, his numbers last year show that he can improve in the short term and return to the 11.5% rate. The skills are there to be a high-end backup, and this makes him fantasy worthy right now.

1B - Mark Canha (1B/OF, OAK) - 3% owned

A new name at the position to add to the list with a recent switch from the outfield to first, Canha offers top production hidden by the switch. Not often can owners add a player who would be a top 12 player like this, but with the fact that he was stuck behind some other good player in the outfield, Canha has been a bench play at most times this year. In 93 games this season, Canha is slashing .258/.331/.454 with 14 homers and 49 runs. Those bombs are the main play, and even with a lack of standout power, he is productive enough to give him a spot in a corner role. The other good sign and a trend this week, the K rate is down from 29.9% last season to 22.5% this year. With the Oakland lineup also being driven by the long ball, Canha can turn that OBP into runs with the best of them and offers a floor in that category. This looks like one of the better options with the ownership rate this week.

2B - Neil Walker (1B/2B/3B, NYY) - 5% owned

After a tough start to the year, Walker has rebounded into a serviceable fantasy player with good eligibility and lineup context. Also, in the second half of the 2018 season, Walker is hitting .333 with three homers and 11 RBI, almost matching his first-half numbers. While Walker might never be the top player he was in years past, there is little doubt that he has some value to the Yankees. The other good news is that the team chose to stick with him over Brandon Drury, so the front office thinks he is better than his numbers so far. The six homers are way down from past 20 plus season lines, so owners should not expect power to be an addition here, but should bank that he can keep up the current surge. This is a buy-low with upside and should be a nice add in most leagues.

3B - Alcides Escobar (3B/SS/OF, KC) - 1% owned

The 2018 season has been a frustrating campaign for Escobar with a lowly .206 batting line, and this completes a trend with declining offensive production from the utility player. The good news for fantasy owners is that he is not being pushed for time, and should hold down a role the rest of the way. His glove keeps him with the Royals, but this might be the end of the line for the player in a starting role. Why should owners look to him with these numbers: runs. To date, he has scored 42 times, and with the playing time, should keep this pace up. When he gets on base so little, the fact that he is still productive when he gets there is a nice factor for owners looking to plug a hole or two. The other good news is that while six steals is not close to some of his career highs, he has already passed the four from last year. Productivity counts and owners should be keeping tabs on this player.

SS - Chad Pinder (2B/SS/OF, OAK) - 1% owned

Another favorite for this column, Pinder offers the unusual mix of positions with some upside to boot. To date, Pinder is slashing .253/.333/.442 with 10 homers and 30 runs. Having only played 73 games, this means that over a full season Pinder would be pushing 20 homers, offering good upside from a utility role. The park factors are key here, as Pinder hits close to 50 points better on the road, making him a matchup play in daily leagues. Even more unusual, Pinder hits better against lefties at home with a .286 batting line, and righties on the road, with a .283 rate. This is perhaps due to the pitchers more than the hitter, and clearly, Pinder is not only a platoon option for the skipper this year. The best option for the player is an MI role, where that power is unusual, but also can move around as needed. Play to the matchups, and reap the benefits.

OF - Leonys Martin (OF, CLE) - 6% owned

A word of warning with Martin, last week he went on the DL with an “illness” and should be out for a bit longer than the minimum with that stint on the DL. And yet, when he was playing this looked like the perfect final piece for Cleveland. That being said if owners can afford to wait this is the pickup of the week, but if they cannot, then keep reading onto the next name(s). While the team has been quiet about what the illness is and hoping it's not severe, the good news is that unlike an ankle or shoulder there should be no long-term ramifications. To date, this season has been one of his best in recent memory, with a .255/.323/.425 slash with 11 homers and seven steals. When he is back, Martin is the starter in center so owners can plan on runs as well. If he comes back soon, that 6 percent ownership will shoot up.

OF - Greg Allen (OF, CLE) - 0% owned

Allen is the hedge on Martin and is back in the bigs due to the illness. While not an offensive force this season, the last few games have been promising for the speedy fielder and should be a regular in the lineup without another true fielder in center for Cleveland. Since returning to the club, even though only 12 ABs, he is hitting .500 with three steals and four runs. The speed is the main reason to play Allen, as Cleveland has been stealing more than any team in the American League, and will continue to do so to produce runs with other injuries currently. For the long-term, Allen could be a .260 hitter with 25+ steals in a season, but in the short term offers a nice speed floor with runs upside with that lineup. Owners can do much worse, and adding him with Martin would be a nice combo.

OF - Daniel Palka (OF/1B, CWS) - 5% owned

At times this season, it has seemed that this column has been the only supporter of Palka, and moving forward will continue to be in his corner. The raw power plays well, and with 18 homers to date is showing up in games as well. He is being given every chance to be a long-term player in Chicago and therefore will get playing time the rest of the year, helping his fantasy chances.  This campaign, Palka is slashing .235/.280/.496 to support that power, and the line is a bit low with recent struggles. Rest of the way, owners should bank on a .240 average while expecting a bit more. The downside is that he strikes out a bunch with a 33.9% K rate to date, limiting some of the RBI numbers. Even with that, owners looking for power can expect a handful more this season.

P - Brad Keller (SP/RP, KC) - 5% owned

Typically starting a player on a losing team is not a great ideal, especially when that player is a pitcher with little to no run support. And yet, at this point of the season, any arm deserves a second look. In steps Keller who has moved between roles a lot this season, but looks to be a starter at least for now. The 3.57 ERA is nice, but the FIP sits at 3.64 so do not expect any improvement. Even so, this is a good play for teams in need of a starter with a decent ERA floor. The downside is that fantasy owners cannot count on many wins, and the 5.91 K/9 also does not look great either.  The good news for owners is that Keller generates a 54.6% GB rate, meaning that the homers are not typically an issue. Not a sexy play, but an excellent short-term option.

P - Trevor Hildenberger (RP, MIN) - 7% owned

The last few outings have been rough for Hildenberger to say the least, but owners should jump on the chance to buy low with Fernando Rodney moving west. If he can keep the ball in the yard, Hildenberger looks to be the closer moving forward, even if that job is not all that appealing to fantasy owners with the struggles in Minnesota this year. The 8.68 K/9 rate plays, and with the funky delivery will play up with bad contact more than swings and misses in most cases. A few bad outings bloat the ERA, so owners should trust the 3.72 xFIP more than the 4.74 ERA to date. For owners looking for saves, this is the best bet in a weak waiver class.  

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

Cimber first showed up on this list after his trade to Cleveland, and he is back due to the new context in that bullpen. With Cody Allen’s recent struggles owners can count on Cimber getting some more high-leverage innings, as even without taking the job from Allen, increased usage is good news. The other news is that Allen might be appearing more in the 7th inning to set-up Andrew Miller and Brad Hand, meaning a match-up 9th inning might fall to Cimber before all is said and done. Even more, Cleveland recently has been scoring more later in games and therefore might mess with the manager's plans out of the bullpen.  Even more, Dan Otero look to be done, so this is the second best righty in that pen.  The 8.72 K/9 is also a nice bonus to the 0.34 HR/9 line this campaign. With the Cleveland offense, Cimber will also walk into a few wins as well. For teams needing another relief arm, Cimber is a safe play with upside, making him worth the add even without saves.


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