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Every week a significant player will hit the disabled list, start a slump, or a get traded out the division. How fantasy owners adapt to these situations can make or break the season as a whole. One lousy add might not hurt the long terms standings of a team, but failing to take advantage of breakouts or impact bats before others sure can.

Instead of digging the waiver wire of 0% owned players, this article will give you a player at each position to fill the gap, or at the least, to keep an eye on. Not all of these players will replace that injury, but offer the best option of the scrap heap.

Comparing the NL and AL lists this week one should notice that this list is much shallower than Sunday’s post. With the DH slot, there are often fewer defensive players that might jump into a line-up with offensive upside.  This means that AL-only leagues are much shallower compared to their NL counterparts based on limited flexibility on benches. When looking to the players that are available a common theme will emerge: the upside is better than an empty roster slot. As long as a team has absorbed some of the issues with AVG and OBP most of these players will offer rosters some chance at counting stats but be a bit more careful when hanging onto this list in the long term.

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AL-Only Team of the Week

C - Luke Maile, TOR - 3% owned

With Russell Martin continuing the struggle this season, Maile has played in almost half of Toronto’s games.  The reward?  Maile has put up good offensive numbers when gives chances. In 18 games the catcher is hitting .317 with 12 runs and 14 RBI. If owners ignore the 30% K rate and squint, he looks like one of the better offensive catchers in the league right now. At the very least, he is the best offensive catcher on the Blue Jays. Even better, he has one steal already. Who does not like a catcher who is a threat on the bases? All kidding aside, Maile appears to be experiencing a breakout of sorts as the career AVG of .207 is not something to excite owners. What is? The short-term boost he seems to offer at the position.

1B - Neil Walker, NYY - 6% owned

Walker has started the year off slow to say the least. For one of the more surprising free agents to sign late, Walker has not helped his cause. Through 30 games a .210 AVG will not get the job done, especially with no homers. The good news is Brandon Drury was sent to the minors, meaning that not only is Miguel Andujar the starting third baseman going forward, but for now Walker has a chance to prove his worth. The nice thing for fantasy owners is that when he does play, he will score with such a good line-up around him. 17 runs so far with only 35 times on base total means an almost 50% score rate. A .268 BABIP will come up and even if he is just a .240 hitter, expect at least 60 runs from a bench slot.  The slow start has scared off most owners meaning the bounce-back opportunity is there to be had.

2B - Erik Gonzalez, CLE - 0% owned

The critical question in Cleveland, apart from where has the bullpen gone, is how long Jason Kipnis can keep the job at the keystone? The primary battle in spring training for the team was the utility infield slot with Gonzalez and Gio Urshela fighting that out. Urshela was traded to Toronto for cash meaning the job is Gonzalez’s for the long term. How has he responded? Through 19 games he is slashing .357/.400/.536 and playing all over the diamond. A career high 6.7 BB% also shows a maturing approach at the plate, and five RBI in 30 plate appearances is a solid return to boot. If Kipnis continues to struggle in the box, expect Cleveland to give Gonzalez a chance to play more often. Even more so with an unusual 47.4 Hard% so far this season. Not a power bat but should help with average and runs if playing every day. (As this article was being written, Gonzalez launched a home run against Detroit so maybe there is some pop.)

SS - Jose Iglesias, DET - 2% owned

Making his second appearance in two weeks, it seems that not many owners took the advice last time and this kept Iglesias a top pick-up option walking into this week. Why so? In 37 games, a .243 AVG with 17 runs and five steals make this a good play at a weak position with coverage of multiple categories. The BB and K% still look the same, and nothing in the profile stands out, but a 1.7 WAR 2017 is nothing to ignore. So then what has happened in the past seven days to keep the profile high? Three multiple hit games out of six, with only one game without any time on base. At the same time, six runs in six games are nice to play with as well. If owners ignored this column last week, and still need a shortstop, go ahead and pick up Iglesias.

3B - Luis Valbuena, LAA - 4% owned

The free-swinging corner was rumored to lose plate appearances with the addition of Zack Cozart and Shohei Othani, but with early injuries to Ian Kinsler he seems to have found a role on the team. In 37 games, Valbuena is batting .257 with four homers and a .381 SLG. The K rate up is, and the walks are down, which should keep owners with these categories on alert. Still, in traditional counting leagues, the AVG tends to play, and some pop is nice to have with the flexibility. Valbuena is a better CI play that 1B or 3B, but in this case seems to be getting the ABs that should have gone elsewhere. Keep this in mind when constructing rosters as the team seems to value something about the player enough to find roles and chances.

OF - Jon Jay, KC - 3% owned

The fact that Jay is owned in so few leagues shows the value that past performances still have with players on the waiver wire. Typically a fantasy afterthought due to the lack of power profile in the outfield, Jay is putting together a productive season concerning the AVG and other stats. In 39 games Jay is slashing .288/.353/.340 reflecting the lack of power, but a good play in OBP leagues at the very least. 17 runs also play with a single steal showing that when getting on base the runs are so valuable to Ned Yost that he is not sending runners, but hoping that players like Jorge Soler will drive them in. Jay is also making an incredible 92.2% contact rate with pitches in the zone which means that the eye is still there, and should be added to most teams.  Batting lead-off the runs should keep up, even on an overall weak team, keeping him a valuable piece.

OF - Jacoby Jones, DET - 2% owned

The tanking Tigers seem to be holding their own this year, in some part due to the weak division, and in some part due to a strong, young core of players. Jones is one of those players who is beating the projections and working his way onto fantasy radars. In 36 games he is hitting .248 with two homers, 16 runs, and four steals. Not leading the league in any category, but a solid three or four category contributor is valuable on any roster. Jones has cut his K% from 42.2% last year to 26% this year which also shows good promise for the young bat. What stands out is the percentage of doubles from his total hits. Eight doubles mean that close to a third of his knocks are finding the gap, which is a useful feature of Comerica and can offer an excellent streaming option. Decent glove and no plans this season mean he will stay in the line-up.

OF - Mark Canha, OAK - 6% owned

The 2014 Rule 5 pick from the Colorado Rockies has perhaps always been a better real-life player than fantasy due to his defensive flexibility and reliable, if not spectacular, offensive production. This year might be a bit different. Through 27 games, Canha has six homers to compliment 17 runs and 16 RBI. A .271 AVG also keeps him playable in three outfielder leagues, but in more, he should be a must add for the nice power floor that is on display this year. The most significant change in the profile is a slight decrease in Swing% down from 49.9% in 2017 to 44.6% this year. While the K% is up and the BB% is down, the contact rate is there to show the benefits of the change. While not a top outfielder, this seems like a smart move if injuries have started to take their toll.

SP - Andrew Cashner, BAL - 6% owned

Cashner has dropped a long way from his 2014 campaign with the Padres. At the time he was a borderline all-star with fantasy upside, and now, well he pitches for the Baltimore Orioles. Nothing more needs to be said. And yet, so far this year, four quality starts in eight total appearances, and an 8.06 K/9 makes his rosterable in deep leagues. Will Cashner be a top pitcher? Never, especially with that ballpark. The unusual number to watch is a 4.84 ERA combined with a 17.9 HR/FB%. While home appearances constitute a significant concern, that rate should drop a bit, and with that should also see the ERA dip a bit. The other way to look at this would be that if Cashner is decent in half of his starts with those high numbers if there is some change imagine what the underlying output might be then? Speculative for sure, but worth a shot if there is a spot on the bench.

SP - Daniel Mengden, OAK - 5% owned

A strong appearance, even when picking up the loss, against the Astros got some attention in the fantasy community for this mustached pitcher. Through eight games Mengden has only two wins, but a strong 6.6 K:BB for the year. Add a WHIP of 1.15 to the mix and other than the results for the team the profile looks appealing to fantasy owners. How does he help? First, the beloved ratios. Add those K numbers to the overall team line and the wins will not matter as much. Second, the Athletics are not as bad as many think playing close to .500 baseball. At that rate, Mengden will pick up his share of wins to complement the other pieces.

RP - Neil Ramirez, CLE - 0% owned

The final member of the Cleveland team to appear on this list, Ramirez is a longshot pick who might work his way into key innings in a struggling bullpen. Dan Otero seems to have lost the trust of management in critical innings, and Terry Francona can only use Andrew Miller and Cody Allen so often. Zach McAllister has lost his way, and Evan Marshall cannot seem to find the strike zone. Up steps Ramirez who at AAA pitched to a 2.55 ERA with 31:3 K/BB in 17 2/3 innings. Ratios matter and this a good play for holds upside. Do not expect saves, but in the short term, he will have the chance to take down a vital role in the pen.

 

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