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AL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 9

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 - Russell Martin (TOR, C) - 14% owned

So far not a season to remember for Martin with a .161 AVG. All is not lost though, as there is still some power to be seen with six homers to date. More to the point, Martin is an exciting play due to the newfound position flexibility. So far this season Martin has played at short and third opening up some new playing opportunities with John Gibbons. What this means for fantasy owners is a power source playing up the middle, and if he can get hitting, a good play at catcher. The BABIP sits at .181, but the HR/FB rates have stayed mostly the same. Even with the low batting average, Martin is still posting an OBP of .288. If his career numbers apply, expect the average to creep up to the .230-.240 range over time. Adding a .240 and 20+ HR at shortstop would be solid production, and with the moves, it seems that the team wants to keep him in the line-up. All good signs for owners who want to jump on now.

1B - Ronald Guzman (TEX, 1B) - 5% owned

While so far his time in the majors has been a bit up and down, Guzman offers some good value at first with his run production and "clutch hitting." In 33 games, he has driven in 21 off the back of six homers, five doubles, and two triples. The 31.7 K% pushes the overall profile down a bit, and the .230 AVG is not ideal, but for the counting stats this looks like a good source to rely on moving forward. Guzman is pulling the ball almost 15 percent more than his career numbers in the minors, and if he can get to a more even approach, it can only help the overall profile. Guzman seems like he will get opportunities with Texas this year, and if owners can suffer through the bad, there is plenty of good pushing up this profile.

2B - Joey Wendle (TB, 2B) - 2% owned

It has been a long journey to the majors for Wendle starting off as a touted prospect with Cleveland, to being dealt to Oakland for Brandon Moss, and now he is manning the keystone in Tampa. While cooling off from the hot start, this is good news for owners.  What can be gleaned from the first few weeks is that the skills are there, but the production being off means it should be easy to grab this player. 40 games and a .288 average are some of the best on the wire, but the lack of supporting stills limits is the key reason why he might be available. With only one homer and three steals, this is an average only play, but there are runs to be had. With 15 through his first handful of games Wendle seems to be located in a good spot in that line-up which is a plus in his favor. Is he keeps sitting second or third 60+ runs might be a good target for Wendle owners.

3B - Danny Valencia (BAL, 3B) - 2% owned

Valencia has always been a tough case for fantasy as the position flexibility is excellent, but the lack of comparable production at this position means it is hard to find a spot for him. That being said, this season’s .268 and five homers might show a player finding a role and some production at the plate. Double-digit runs and RBI also play well in positional context. The most significant difference this year with Valencia is a sharp drop in K% from 24.4% to 18.7%. Small changes like these have led to a ten point bump in OBP supporting the increase in runs. The other good news for fantasy owners is that more hard contact and a pull-heavy approach should help make this more of a power play at the corner. Perhaps not a starting 1B/3B, Valencia is a great play at the CI spot for a good floor from the early start.

SS - Aledmys Diaz (TOR, SS) - 2% owned

Diaz looks to be off the DL sometime this week and seems to be a high-upside option coming off the waiver wire this week. While Troy Tulowitzki looks to be on his way back as well, the position is currently held down by Giovani Urshela. In his limited games, Urshela has not shown any reason that he should hold Diaz of the position. The other reason to look to Diaz is the power upside at the position. Six home runs in only 32 games are promising, whereas the batting average sitting at .216 is not. This year Diaz is swinging a lot more, with a swing rate up to 57.2% from last year’s 52.3%. At the same, he is not striking out more, which is a good sign that the AVG should improve. Diaz is the power source at the position this week and offers more upside than the other options.

OF - Trayce Thompson (CHW, OF)

Bouncing around this year trying to find a spot, ending up on the short side of a platoon on a struggling White Sox is a good place to be. Thompson finally has a team that is both in need of a bat, and have no real prospect pushing him for time. While struggling at the dish to start the season, this is a player that will offer both power and speed if owners do not expect the moon. In 31 games Thompson has chipped in three homers and two steals. The intriguing piece on this profile is how good of a baserunner he is. While only getting to base 13 times this season Thompson has already offered 0.8 BsR. If he can work on that average Thompson is a flier to score more runs than he should due to his baserunning.

OF - Daniel Palka (CHW, 1B/OF) - 2% owned

Never considered a top prospect, Palka seems to have finally found a team willing to play him with the White Sox. (Sounds bit like the post above.)  Two season and middling results allowed the Twins to move on, but Palka has played well to keep himself in the bigs with his new team. Through 24 games the .271 AVG will play, and the 16 RBI are near the top of what owners can find on the waiver wire right now. The fly ball rate is down compared to the numbers in the minors, but four HR is nothing to be concerned with moving forward. It also appears that he will stay on the long side of the platoon with the player listed above, which should help with match-ups. Palka seems to be player with a high-floor for the time being, and if owners are not expecting him to carry a team, this looks like a buy-low OF3.

OF - Tony Kemp (HOU, OF) - 2% owned

Since his call-up, Kemp has been a mainstay in the Houston outfield and has been matching his plate with excellent production at the plate. Through nine games he is batting .375 with eight RBI and two steals. Even more important for context, most of those games have come against Cleveland. Kemp is only striking out ten percent of the time and matching this with the same walk rate. Kemp’s defense has been exceptional and should keep him in the line-up for the time being, or at least Josh Reddick is back. Even then, expect Kemp to hold a job on the bench if he continues to hit. Owners should look to Kemp if average and steals are areas of need, as there is not much power in the profile. So far seven of his nine hits have been singles, so expect that moving forward.

P - Blaine Hardy (DET, SP) - 2% owned

A 22nd round pick in 2008 has been an off and on reliever for the Tigers but seems to be getting the chance to start more this year. If he returns to the bullpen, the lefty looks to be a good extended relief option with good control. In his start against Minnesota, he went five innings, struck out four, and walked no one. On Sunday, he dazzled with seven innings of three-hit, one-run ball. While not a strikeout pitcher, the career 7.37 career K/9 rate plays with the current 2.08 BB/9. A .350 BABIP explains away some of the 1.46 WHIP, but even so, offers an upgrade on other Tiger starters. The Tigers will not win many games this year, but the 3.46 ERA will keep Hardy in games.  Even without wins, the ratios make him an excellent pitcher to plug a hole. Also, when a pitcher gets to face the White Sox and Royals more often, the chance for wins goes up even more.  This could be that reliable SP5 that will not hurt a team but just might help them.

P - James Shields (CHW, SP) - 8% owned

How the mighty have fallen. The former Cy Young candidate is now an afterthought in fantasy circles. Playing for a bad team and struggling so far, for a name like Shields this 8% ownership matches the production. Still, for owners who need starts there are a few reasons to kick the tires here. In his last four starts, Shields has gone at least six innings each time and only given up more than three earned once. The home runs are down from the previous year from 2.08 HR/9 to this year’s 0.58. If he can keep the ball in the yard and eat innings, there might be something left in the tank here. If owners add Shields, this is a pitcher to really watch match-ups.  Avoid Minnesota while starting Shields in Kansas City would be a smart play.

P - Jaime Garcia (TOR, SP) - 2% owned

Garcia went toe-to-toe with Arron Nola in his last start, and while not the no-hit bid of his rival, one run in seven IP is worth the watch this week. There is always injury risk in the profile, but nine starts and 8.47 K/9 are promising for the pitcher. Career average regarding strikeouts has been 7.59, so it seems that Toronto’s park is helping just up that number. He appears to be throwing the curveball and slider a bit more which should support the increased swing and miss. Do not spend too much time with the ERA and other numbers as the injuries might have played out in some bad starts. If Garcia looks more like the pitchers versus Philly this is a solid add, and worth a bench slot when there is not much else there.


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