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AL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 21

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 - Max Stassi (C, HOU) - 4% owned

The trade of Martin Maldonado to Houston was not a good move for fantasy owners who were counting on offensive production from catchers in Houston. At best, Maldonado took some ABs away, and in the worst case, he took over the role for good. And yet, the news so far seems to be a split. Even more, while Stassi is struggling, he is being used more often than expected. This means that while Stassi has seen a real drop in his stock with some production issues, at the same time, his value was dropped to the point that he is worth a pick-up at this rate. While there are issues with his chances moving forward, this is the buy-low play at the position. Even playing at catcher where the wear and tear do limit some offensive production, the ability to add a player like Stassi is not something to be ignored.  Ignore the .187 batting average in the second half, and expect the first to not be a fluke.

1B - Jace Peterson (1B/2B/3B/OF, BAL) - 0% owned

First was a tight spot this week, with most of the primary targets creeping above 12% on the ownership charts as playing time seems to have settled out after the trading deadline. Peterson is an unusual name, as he offers multi-positional flexibility, but also has been adding spots like first more recently. This hints at a player that the organization is trying to keep around, moving him if needed. At the same time, the Baltimore club is nothing more than farm club at this point, meaning that Peterson should get a run of games the rest of the way. The downside is that Peterson is not a good fantasy option, as the .199 batting average alone will cause most to avoid him. And yet, he is on this list due to the simple fact that he has nine steals in 75 games this campaign. At a full season rate he is pushing 20+, and eligible at a position that offers no speed. It seems like the longshot option to take for owners who need steals late in the year.

2B - Devon Travis (2B, TOR) - 3% owned

It seems that Travis might never have that injury-free season that would allow him to reach the predictions, but to date, 81 games is not a bad tally for the player. Through those games, he is hitting .242/.289/.388 with nine homers and 37 RBI. If this were a full season of production most owners would be happy with .250/20/80 for those categories, so there is some play here. The K rate is down a bit, and the walk numbers are the same, so there is not much movement to see in the profile rest of the way. What this means is a doubles hitter making most of his outs in the field, and adding to those RBI numbers with those outs. This is the type of profile change that much hurt his long-term value, but can add to counting numbers above his pay grade for most fantasy teams. Travis is a good replacement but might be a win at MI if the power can emerge in the last handful of games.

3B - David Fletcher (2B/3B/SS, LAA) - 1% owned

The former sixth-round pick never was considered a top prospect for the Angels but has shown in the past few months that he can offer real fantasy value to most teams. First, the position flexibility opens him up to every single spot on the infield other than first, but, he can moonlight as a CI if needed. As much as this column loves flexible players, those type of options are an easy sell. Second, in 55 games this season he is slashing .265/.310/.357 with one homer and one steal. The rate numbers are excellent for a utility player, but teams looking for those counting numbers will not have much to go on. In the minors Fletcher did show a bit more speed and power, but not to the point that owners should bank on more production. The good news is that he only strikes out 12.8% of the time, which is also consistent with the numbers in the minors. Down the stretch, he plays best as a .280 corner hitter who gets on base a bit but will not add in the other categories. For teams needing a batting average floor to secure the category, this looks the right fit. This is a name to watch next season though.

SS - Ehire Adrianza (3B/SS/OF, MIN) - 0% owned

The former Giants prospect, Adrianza has found a role on an underperforming Twins team, which might help out his owners. To date, in 84 games he is slashing .242/.302/.377 with five homers and four steals. On its own, the offensive line does little to help fantasy teams, but the signs are there. First, his K rate last year was 13.4%, and this year it has spiked to 26%. At the same time, there has a been 20 point drop in the batting line, but more homers and doubles over that same time. Adrianza looks to be more aggressive this year, which is hurting some numbers, but also adding some power upside. Knowing how nice a hitter’s park Target Field is, if there are owners chasing homers, this might be the best bet at a position without much to offer this cheap. The other reason is that he looks to be set to play down the way with Minnesota not having much talent at Triple-A currently.

OF - Cameron Maybin (OF, SEA) - 3% owned

Moving from Miami to Seattle has been a bit of a mixed bag for Maybin, with only a .236 batting average in August. Add to this that he is no longer a starter and Maybin seems to have lost some of the fantasy value. The good news for owners is that fewer games and lead to better match-ups favoring the 20 point batting average jump from lefties to righties this season. Also, in those 14 games with Seattle, Maybin has already scored eight runs. Even if not a starter for Seattle that counting ability does still play out. The other piece is that Maybin offers one of the better defensive options for Seattle, and watch them use him more if they stay in the race longer than expected. Small doses of Maybin can be just as a good as the Miami version for fantasy owners the rest of the way.

OF - Jake Cave (OF, MIN) - 1% owned

After starting the year with the Yankees, a move to Minnesota has opened playing time opportunities for the young outfielder. Cave will never be a top fantasy player, but for the rest of 2018, he does offer a starting fielder in a good hitter’s park. Even more, in 53 games Cave is slashing .274/.308/.445 with four homers and 25 runs. The batting average gets him into the conversation, and the runs keep him a viable fantasy player, even on a bad team. The other data that stands out is how little he makes Soft% contact with this only happening at a 7.9% rate. The majority of his contact is medium with 60.4% Med% to date. Taking this with the current .375 BABIP, there is a reason to believe that the number can stay that high down the stretch. Good contact with some power upside and Cave looks to be the best option for regular playing time. At the very least he is owned everywhere, and a .270 outfielder with power can help teams.

OF - Brandon Guyer (OF, CLE) - 0% owned

This is a play only in daily leagues, as Guyer is the bench outfielder for Cleveland right now. And yet, as a platoon bat, he can be just as valuable to a fantasy team as he is with Cleveland. What does stand out is how good the second half has been to date. While the season-long batting average is under .200, since the start of the second half he is hitting .289 with three homers. This means in daily leagues when he faces lefties he is a solid player with a .247 average compared to the .138 against righties. The other note is that he is getting some playing time in center as Cleveland figures out what to do without Leonys Martin for a bit. If he can keep up the good second half, Guyer has an OF3 potential for his OBP and runs alone. Good stash to target now in case this surge is for real.

P - Joe Smith (RP, HOU) - 1% owned

The move to Houston this winter made a lot of sense thinking concerning Smith’s usage and critical roles, and to date, things have worked out. In fact, in 32.2 innings Smith has four wins, 9.64 K/9, and a 3.58 ERA. While not a closer by any means these are substantial numbers to push up ratios or to hedge on a combustible closer. The one issue this year has been a significant drop in ground balls, but there is nothing else in the profile that says owners should worry. He is still getting infield outs, and limiting hard contact. In addition, opponents have been popping out at a rate of 16.1% which is a career high, so there might be something to watch up in the zone. In the meantime for owners looking for a safe reliever with some punchout upside, Smith is that pick.

P - Shawn Kelley (RP, OAK) - 0% owned

After the news of the “issues” in Washington, Kelley has found himself banished to the West coast with the Athletics. Perhaps “banished” might not be the best word to describe being added to one of the best pens in baseball, but with this season who knows. Kelley is listed here as Oakland will be sticking around for a bit, and that means more bullpen usage. This stacked pen implies that Oakland might be willing to use Kelley a bit more often to save some of the innings from their stars. What this means is more chances for Kelley to return to a pre-2017 from when he posted 12.41 K/9 lines before dropping to last year’s 8.65 line. With the Athletics also scoring a ton of runs via the long ball this could be a nice wins play as well. Match-up guy for now, but will be given the green light which helps fantasy owners.

P - Victor Alcantara (RP, DET) - 0% owned

Appearing in the Majors for his second stint with the Tigers, Alcantara has shown visible improvements that push him into a valuable role with the team and his fantasy owners. While only striking out 6.62 per nine this season his ERA sits at 0.51 with a FIP of 2.94. ERA might come up, but he has still been pitching at or above league average. The red flag is a .235 BABIP this campaign, but this might not be that alarming when the GB% has also dropped close to five points from last year. He also is only giving up a 0.51 HR/9 line, which helps drive down some of the damage. If he can find a bit more speed, there might be more Ks, but in the short term, Alcantara has been an effective reliever for a team that needs them. These are the teams that will earn owners innings and other counting lines for pitchers with decent outings the rest of the way. Good ratios play with limited downside makes for a safe final pick this week.

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