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AL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 22

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 - Kevan Smith (C, CWS) - 0% owned

A solid second teamer with Chicago this year, Smith has produced well in limited time and should continue to get some shots. This move is one where owners are looking for flashes when they can get chances, but should not expect a long run of games. The good news, and not that injuries are ever good, is that Welington Castillo is still not game ready even after the suspension. This means that Smith has at least another week or so, and therefore, will be around when rosters expand. Onto the numbers: Smith has been quite good for a catcher. To date, in 34 games, he is slashing .282/.328/.331 with one homer and one steal. The other number that stands out is 15 runs over that stretch, or close to half a run per game. If this keeps up, Smith is a safe C2 with decent batting numbers who can add a few runs. He might also get a few more games, which only helps his value.

1B - Ryan O’Hearn (1B, KC) - 1% owned

Finally getting his shot with the Royals, O’Hearn has long been one of the better prospects in a shallow system. While he is not expected to be the next Eric Hosmer, a solid bat goes a long way in a struggling lineup. In his first 18 games, O’Hearn is slashing .254/.323/.610 with six homers and 15 RBI. The power is the selling point so far, but owners should not expect the current rate to continue. In the minors, he was often a 10-15 homer player, so there is some pop, but not more than 20 over a full season. That even takes into account the homer surges most players are seeing in the majors. The main reason to add the player is that he does not make soft contact, with only a 15 Soft% this season to date. This means that perhaps he can add a bit to the power line, but even without the loft, he'll be an excellent source of doubles and other big hits. Playing time down the stretch makes this an easy add in points leagues.   

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

Lowe was featured in the “September Call-Ups” edition a few weeks back, and a slowish start to his time with the Rays has kept him off most rosters. Owners should take that opening and add him if they have not already, and by the 0% ownership rate, they have not. The major piece is that he should be a starter moving forward, and in fact, is listed as an outfielder on most sites. This is only good news for owners who might be able to add Adam Frazier position eligibility with a better bat. While this might not be fair, owners should ignore his numbers to date with the Rays as the small sample keeps that batting average low, and a good week, or even three games, will get that back to a useful level. Instead, look to Triple-A, where he slashed .304/.380/.613 with 14 homers. While owners cannot just plug in the minor league numbers for production the rest of the way, this shows there is a skilled bat to be had, and when he turns it around, will be a useful player at worst.  

3B - Hunter Dozier (1B/3B, KC) - 0% owned

Another young Royal to make the list, Dozier has a bit more of a track record this season, but the results have admittingly not been excellent. In 74 games this campaign he is slashing .217/.275/.348 with seven homers and 24 runs. The SLG is what is interesting, as while the power numbers are a bit low, he does manage to drive the ball and add other hits for value. For example, he already has 10 doubles, which is useful in points leagues. Also, his walk rate is down almost nine points from Triple-A, which is not a good sign, but might also be an area where some improvement carries over to the rest of the profile. The OBP is what drove most of his success in the minors, so this is an area to watch moving forward. Add as a bench stash right now, but with playing time comes excellent opportunities.

SS - Franklin Barreto (2B/SS, OAK) - 1% owned

While Barreto is not currently with the Athletics, with September being so close, this is the time to jump in and add him before rosters expand. The first reason is that with any Oakland hitter, the high number of homers up and down the team means a few extra runs that most owners should expect. Those little benefits are key down the stretch for most teams in close races. The other reason to add Barreto is that in his limited time so far this year he has played reasonably well. Though 23 games the infielder is slashing .246/.270/.508 with four homers and 13 RBIs. While the batting average is not great, this is a fairly good floor for production at short. Even more, with the ability to continue a .500 SLG, the upside is there to be had. Owners needing a spark should look at Barreto for this year and next.

OF - Alex Gordon (OF, KC) - 2% owned

Another Royal to make the list this week, Gordon is always an exciting player, but also a disappointing fantasy option. Since his big contract a few years back, Gordon has cratered from the former MVP candidate to a barely serviceable player on a struggling team. And yet, for fantasy owners, there still might be something to squeeze out here. In 111 games, Gordon is slashing .239/.320/.347 with nine homers and seven steals. The ability to get 12+ bombs and steals is an excellent addition for an OF4, especially with a batting average that will not kill a team’s line. Even more, Gordon has scored 39 runs and drove in 33 runs to date. Again, not close to what he used to produce, but if owners squint there is still a solid production profile. Over the final month expect eight runs and RBIs, with two homers and a few steals as a safe baseline. Worth a shot as he will play at the very least.

OF - Ben Gamel (OF, SEA) - 0% owned

While Seattle is finding the second half of this campaign a bit rough, Gamel seems to have pushed his way back onto the roster. In 77 games so far, Gamel is slashing .292/.367/.401 with 29 runs and six steals. No power here, with one homer to date, so owners should be looking to this as a batting average and runs plays. Some speed, but nothing to write home about. Fangraphs gives his fielding a 50 FV, so that might limit his role as a starter, but off the bench, he can post a good average at the very least. The best news is that over his career, the BABIP numbers have always been above average, so the .374 should stick. If owners need a bat in the outfield and have power elsewhere, Gamel is the safe pick.

OF - Jim Adduci (1B/OF, DET) - 0% owned

Well, this week might as well be an AL Central column with the number of players on bad teams from Kansas City and Detroit, but that is where the value is to be had this late in the year. In steps Adduci, who is more of an infielder that outfielder, but owners will take the fantasy eligibility. The career journeyman seems to have a role down the stretch for the Tigers, and in 35 games to date, he is slashing .273/.308/.404. Add to that two homers and 12 runs, and the month of play has been productive. So far in 2018, he also is posting his lowest K% line at 20% in his career. This means that at the very least there is some baseline to play with, even if he is not going to break out the rest of the way. For owners looking to add a safe bat, but need more power upside than Gamel, this is the next best play.  

P - Chaz Roe (RP, TB) - 4% owned

The first of the Rays to make this list, Roe has had an unusual path to the bigs after being drafted in the first round of the 2005 draft. The Rays are his eighth club so far in his career, but he seems to have finally settled as a reliever for the team. The calling card is his stuff, with 10.35 K/9 flashing fantasy upside. Add to that a 3.15 ERA, and this looks like an appealing profile for a power reliever. The other goods news is that while only posting one save, this is a player that seems to be next in line for the team if something happens down the stretch. The homers are down this year to 0.90 HR/9, so another good sign for the pitcher. Good ratios and a risk of closing make Roe a good fantasy option.

P - Diego Castillo (RP, TB) - 1% owned

Unlike Roe, Castillo is just beginning his time in the majors, after spending parts of five seasons in the minors with the Rays. Now up with the team, Castillo has earned a role going more than one inning on multiple occasions. This has helped add to the gross strikeout numbers which sit at 9.71 per nine. The issue has been the walks with 3.79 BB/9. At the same time the 3.32 ERA keeps him in contention, and while behind Roe on the saves lists, Castillo will add production elsewhere. The number to watch is the BABAIP, which currently sits at .239. Without much of a track record, this could be normal for Castillo, or low and a red flag for the stat line. Owners willing to take a chance for the stuff should keep an eye on this line to see what the case will be going forward. And yet, if owners are looking to add relievers, might as well take that risk.  

P - Ryan Brasier (RP, BOS) - 2% owned

Rounding out the list with another reliever, Brasier is a name that is relatively new to non-Boston fans this year. After being drafted in the sixth round by the Angels, Brasier never had much luck with only seven games in 2013 for that franchise. Now he finds himself as an emerging piece for the Boston bullpen, with 18 games so far to date. The numbers this year sit at 8.10 K/9 and a 0.90 ERA, meaning he has played above expectations. The FIP is also good news at 2.25, so the ERA is not a fluke. So far he has not given up a homer, which will not continue, but gives owners an idea of his upside and pitching style. The walks are a bit high at 2.70 per nine, but this is much higher than the numbers in the past. Another reliever without a path to saves, but who should keep getting ratios for owners. As the Red Sox begin to rest their bullpen to prepare for the playoffs, watch for Brasier to get more time, and play well enough to help fantasy staffs.   

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