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AL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 8

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, HOU (C) - 1% owned

The good news for Astros fans is that Brian McCann looks to be picking up the offense a bit, but on the flipside, Evan Gattis has still not been the same player. With Gattis struggling Stassi seems an excellent bet to get more cracks in the line-up, as already seems to be the case. While known more for his glove than bat, this season Stassi has slashed .281/.352/.500 with three homers and ten RBI. Not bad out of the backup catching position. The unusual piece of the puzzle is that his walk rate is down from 19.4% to 7%. How does someone go from a career .200 hitter with walks, to not walking and hitting better? Well the BABIP sits at .385 so expect that to come down a bit. At the same time, the LD% is up from 9.5% to 11.9% perhaps showing that Stassi is giving up some power for good contact. Keep an eye on this as the GB% is also up, but so far, whatever changes were made seem to be working. At the very least, with good lineup context, and some idea of a floor, in deep leagues, this is an excellent catcher to watch.

1B - Austin Romine, NYY (C, 1B) - 1% owned

Most of the headlines for Romine this year have had to do with Sonny Gray’s pitching preferences, but in fact, the offensive production is worth a shot as well. If first base had been stronger this week, Romine would have bumped Stassi out of the above slot, so if Stassi does not fit the bill turn to this Yankee. 15 games and a slash of .326/.396/.488 for a wRC+ of 143 has been excellent. Romine has always been a bit better than other catchers, but this production is worth the 1B slot in most teams. The K% is down from 22.6 to 20.8, and he is walking 4% more often. If Gray gets him in the line-up, and with all of those bats around him, expect runs at the very least. On the other side, anyone who can make contact can drive in runs with this offense.

2B - Isiah Kiner-Falefa, TEX (2B, 3B) - 1% owned

Adrian Beltre is hurt again, Rougned Odor might be broke, and Ronald Guzman cannot seem to hit. How is this good news? It means that Kiner-Falefa does not need to do much to stay in the line-up. He is producing a bit. 34 games and a .242 AVG are playable, especially when the supporting stats are playing up, and average should improve. 15 runs and 12 RBI are good enough to keep him in the three hole in the Ranger’s line-up, and two homers and three steals hint at some other production. Why should owners expect the AVG to come up a bit? So far Kiner-Falefa is only swinging at 40% of pitches, but making contact on 87.4% of his swings. If that contact rate keeps up, and he learns the strike zone a bit more, a .250 season is not outside expectations.

3B - Pedro Alvarez, BAL (3B) - 1% owned

Well with this entry one might guess that 3B is weak this week, and yes it is. That is why the .198 hitter is the top recommendation. In typical Alvarez fashion, what an owner loses in AVG, they make up in power. So far this season, in only 33 games, he has eight homers, almost one every four games. Also, the K% is down five points to a measly 24.2%, or right in line with his career average. If this is the case, and the swing and miss can be contained, could a 2016 campaign of .249 and 22 HR be in play? It seems worth the risk for owners. Even more, with Tim Beckham’s injury, Ryan Mountcastle does not need to push Alvarez off the position as he can go right to 3B when ready. If owners need power and are willing to risk their average, this looks like the easy play.

SS - Richard Urena, TOR (SS) - 0%

Urena, while recently sent down to the minors, should be on all AL owners' radar for the rest of the season. Over early appearance with the club, Urena batted 278/.278/.444 in 19 plate appearances with one homer and three RBI. A few reasons to keep him close to the roster. First, if the Jays decide to blow it up and rebuild this season expect Urena to be a key piece to fill in for a leaving Yangervis Solarte or Josh Donaldson. At the very least he gets appearances while the Jays wait on their supper prospects. Second, while the K rate is still absurdly high, the plate appearances seemed to be improving. This year, Urena has swung at 15% more pitches in the zone and made almost 90% contact on those pitches. So while the swing and miss will still be there, the aggressiveness should pay off as a backup shortstop in deep leagues. Third, the batted ball profile is much more even with an Oppo% jump from 14.3% to 33.3% between this year and last. If he plays with a .278 AVG right now, imagine when he starts to walk a bit.

OF - Matt Joyce, OAK (OF) - 2% owned

Well, owners jumped off the Joyce bandwagon quick this season. While off to a slow start, Joyce seems to be under-owned for what baseline production he does offer. Throw out the average for a second, and take a look at the rest of the profile. Five homers, 19 runs, and a career-high 15.9% walk rate all seem to play looking forward. Add that to a .236 BABIP, and there is no reason to think that the platoon bat is finished with being a productive part-timer with Oakland. Even more, he is pulling the ball 7% more often this year. The GB% is down to a career-low 33% which can add some context to the low doubles numbers for Joyce this year. Expect Joyce to find a good run here soon and get back to shooting the ball to the opposite gap. With the Khris Davis injury, there is less pressure on the team to move on from Joyce, and any added time is good for fantasy owners.

OF - Guillermo Heredia, SEA (OF) - 0% owned

Owners keep a keen eye on Seattle as Trading Jerry has to make a move soon, right? With Robinson Cano out for the time being, if the team trades for a 2B then do not worry about this add. At the same time, if they move Dee Gordon back to 2B then expect Heredia to become a starter overnight. His appearance Sunday against the White Sox should give owners a good view on what to expect from this player moving forward: 1 for 1 with two walks and a run. While not a power threat he is walking almost 10% more often this year, and the speed will let him score from second on a single from the heart of this order. A .280 average with a few homers rounds out this profile nicely and makes it all the more surprising that he is not owned more often yet.

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

This pick could change to Melky Cabrera with some other injury news regarding Lonnie Chisenhall, but expect Allen to get most of the starts with Bradley Zimmer out, due to his glove alone. Cleveland is short on center fielders, and Allen has shown the ability to flash the leather in his shot appearances in the majors. When deciding on rostering Allen, ignore the .212 average over his first 11 games. Instead, look to the .333 in the past week. With more starts as opposed to appearances off the bench, Allen has looked much better at the plate, and results are starting to come with more exposure. The limitation with Allen is do not expect much power, but the speed plays up well with excellent baserunning skills and steals potential. Allen should be an above average hitter with 10+ steal upside if he sticks with the team moving forward.

P - Adam Plutko, CLE (SP) - 1% owned

If you read my article on Cleveland pitching prospects last week, you know how much I love this guy. With Josh Tomlin finally being banished to the bullpen, for the time being, Plutko is the Cleveland SP5 moving forward. First, the team will start playing better soon, and with that, even a base quality start should give owners wins from this pitcher. Second, the ratios are excellent for a waiver wire add. At AAA this year Plutko has 3.89 K:BB ratio, and in his only start in Cleveland this year he pushed that to six flat. The walk rate has gotten lower each step up to the majors, and 0.82 WHIP at AAA this year is proof of that impact. While no owner can expect AAA numbers to carry over the raw skills are there. The most significant difference in the 2018 spot start as opposed to 2016? More than twice the number of swings by batters outside of the zone. Buckle up.

P - Doug Fister, TEX (SP) - 2% owned

After struggling mightily in 2017, Fister has rebounded a bit in Texas. The ERA has dropped to a respectable 3.43, and the BB/9 is down closer to three than last year’s four. The other critical stats with WHIP and BABIP have stayed the same meaning that the regression should not worry owners for a bounce back. Perhaps Fister was a bad fit in Boston, or maybe there were some health issues, but the mid-rotation version appears to be back. Now the downside. Do not expect wins with that Rangers team, and with the opponents in the AL West expect the HR to be there. Still, if Fister can keep the walk rate down keeping runners off base, the damage should be manageable. And hey, where starters are needed owners cannot be too picky.

P - Warwick Saupold, DET (RP) - 0% owned

The Detroit bullpen has been awful this year, sitting at 24th in league with an ERA of 4.58. One of the few bright spots has been Saupold who has quietly emerged as a legitimate saves candidate in case Shane Greene falters. At least, he seems to have a better shot than Joe Jiminez with his recent struggles. 16.2 innings and a 2.16 ERA are nice to have, and the extra save to throw in, that was nice if owners got that timing right. Now there is room for concern with a 4.68 FIP, but Saupold has been good at minimizing hard contact. So far this season opposing hitters are posting a 25.9 HARD% with most of the contact going up the middle 41.4% of the time. Saupold is worth the risk on the FIP and SIERA due to a small bullpen sample size, but in fact, looks like a decent fit to take advantage of Comerica. If you're willing to throw a dart in a deep league with no other saves candidates, here is your target.


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