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Deeper AL-Only Waiver Wire Sleepers for Week 4

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 for 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. Now, onto the AL version of the Island of Misfit Fantasy Toys.

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C - Martin Maldonado (C, KC)

1% owned

After having a hard time finding a gig to enter this season, Maldonado was signed to cover for the injured Salvador Perez in Kansas City. Playing every day and batting eighth, fantasy owners know what to expect from the veteran catcher. So far, in 18 games, he is slashing .167/.265/.217 with no homers and six runs. Thus, owners are not running to add the batting-average crater that is Maldonado, but there are some signs of lingering usefulness.

First, the BABIP sits at .213, which is again, not ideal, but shows that there has been bad luck for far in the profile. The other good sign is that his exit velocity is up to 86.3 from 84.7 last season. Add in that he will get to hit in some good hitter’s park in Progressive and Comerica, there is a reason to be hopeful. If the batting line can move up a bit, there are runs to be had, or stream him versus the division to squeeze out some value.


1B - Brandon Dixon (1B/OF, DET)

0% owned

After bouncing from the Dodgers to the Reds, Dixon seems to finally have a path to playing time with the Tigers. While playing mostly at first so far, he will also keep outfield eligibility, making him a good stash with playing time upside. His first stint in the Majors, over 74 games for the Reds, Dixon was reasonably regrettable. He posted a .178/.218/.356 slash with five homers and 14 runs, and Dixon was nothing more than a power dart. Add in a 34.7 K%, and there was no reason to keep him in Cincinnati.

And yet, the tools are there. Dixon's career line in the minors was a .273 batting average with 18 homers. While he has not shown it in the Majors, Dixon is a good hitter. Even if that batting line comes down to the .240-.250 range, that could be an impact bat for some fantasy teams. The other interesting piece was a 9.3 Barrel% with the Reds, so there is contact to play with for offensive value. Assuming he can find his form, this is the cheap option to bet on at first this week.


2B - Danny Santana (2B/OF, TEX)

4% owned

After moving from Minnesota to Atlanta, Santana found himself on the outside of a job looking in last year. After signing with Texas this campaign, Santana benefitted from the Rougned Odor injury, so his playing time might only be there in the short term. And yet, if he continues to hit, that could change. So far, in eight games, he is slashing .290/.313/.516 with one homer and four stolen bases. With Arlington still playing as one of the best hitter’s parks, Santana could see this run continue.

The main change in the hitting profile has been the launch angle, with a 19.5 mark this year, after a career 9.8 coming into this year. Even more, the K% is down to 18.2% after last year’s 34.2% mark. While small sample size alert exists for the production, there is a minor league pedigree to buy into and a team that will put up runs. When he adds shortstop eligibility, his value will jump even more, so buy him while he is cheap.


3B - Tommy La Stella (2B/3B, LAA)

4% owned

To be fair, most of the value for La Stella so far has come from two elite games. Still, there are enough signs that the profile is trending towards fantasy relevance. So far this year he is slashing .237/.338/.559 with six homers. For comparison, last year, in 123 games for the Cubs, he slashed .266/.340/.331 with one homer. The main difference is that last year he was a late-game play, with occasional starts. This year, he has been starting more often, with 22 games so far. Playing time increases the counting stat floor, and with the eligibility, he could move around a bit. Even more, the slugging line is up enough to show that the small drop in batting average is being turned into more power at the plate.

The other vital sign is that he is seeing more pitches per plate appearance, with 3.93 this year compared to 3.78 the year prior. Both of these numbers are below his career average, so there is some helium in the rate, but a good sign compared to last year. Even more, the BABIP sits at .163, so expect the rate stats to jump as well. With injuries and slumps to others opening the door, La Stella is a great profile to buy in on for the rest of the season.


SS - Eric Sogard (2B/SS, TOR)

1% owned

After being a semi-regular for the Athletics, and a reliable bench option for the Brewers, Sogard might finally have found his way into a regular role for the time being. With Lourdes Gurriel Jr. being sent down to Triple-A, Sogard suddenly finds himself batting leadoff. Even more, he is slated to split time with Alen Hanson, on the long side of the platoon. Playing time is the main sell for Sogard, but the bat also has a place at MI. Sogard also fits into Toronto's plans with a bit of leadership support in what will be a young locker room soon. This means there are reasons to keep him around, even with some struggles at the plate.

And yet, so far this year, Sogard is slashing .385/.392/.577. Expect the batting average to move off an MVP pace, but the OBP shows that Sogard can still get on base. Taking out last year’s mark, Sogard, for his career has a .327 OBP, so there is a track record owners can count on with at-bats. While Toronto may not win many games, owners should want anyone potentially hitting in front of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. the rest of the way. And hey, you should get extra points for those glasses.


OF - Ryan Cordell (OF, CWS)

1% owned

Recently recalled to the White Sox, Cordell has been a slow mover within the system after being drafted in 2013. Always known as a batter who would need to hit for more power to stick, he only hit four homers over 51 games across three levels last year. And yet, after just 10 games in the bigs, he has two dingers, and the other numbers look good in terms of what he is doing.

Cordell is making hard contact with a 36.8 Hard%, and getting on base with a .431 WOBA. After playing all week, Cordell appears to be the direct replacement for Daniel Palka. If so, expect Cordell to get at least the same 20 games to prove what he has for the team. With the White Sox not expecting to compete, there is every chance that the early season numbers are accurate, that Cordell could be a building block. Buy into the early season production, and in the worse case, he's Palka 2.0.


OF - Robbie Grossman (OF, OAK)

1% owned

As a switch hitter, the Athletics are using Grossman on both sides of multiple platoons. Due to this, and after playing in 18 games, Grossman is getting more of a run than expected based on his draft price. This means that owners can look back to his recent spell with the Twins to see a .250/.360/.380 hitter with double-digit homer power. If that is what he can offer, AL-only owners can surely find a spot, and five outfield leagues the same.

At his best, Grossman can push a .280 batting line, but at his worst, he can sink to the low .200s. And yet, he gets on base and therefore seems to be a perfect fit for the Athletics. Owners need to balance him out with a power source, but Grossman can be played like a poor man’s D.J. LeMahieu. When the Athletics score often via the long-ball, Grossman will be a source of runs, with an upside that is intriguing to fantasy owners.


OF - Hunter Pence (OF, TEX)

1% owned

Many thought that Pence was done after last year’s exit with the Giants. Texas added him to the spring roster on a minor-league deal, and he beat out Willie Calhoun for the final roster spot. So far the move has paid off, with a .297/.325/.486 slash through 37 ABs. Add in the three homers, and even in a part-time role, Pence is offering good value off the bench. Seemingly splitting time with Shin-Soo Choo, Pence is in a spot to earn more chances if he keeps producing.

What also adds some interest to the profile is that Pence's plate approach is different. So far in 2019, he has a flatter swing, but a better contact. The launch angle is down to 1.3 from a career 11 mark, but the exit velocity is four points above his career norm. Pence has also cut the K% from 23 to 20%, so all signs are moving in the right direction. If he can turn into a more regular contact hitter, Pence has the track record to buy into a high batting line, with power due to the park. This means that even with less loft of the swing, Pence can rack up some cheap homers in Texas, and owners might get to get a .300 batting average in their roster.


SP - Jefry Rodriguez (SP, CLE)

1% owned

When Mike Clevinger hit the Injured List, Cleveland was left in a bit of a bind. A.J. Cole was the next man up on the depth chart, but he has not pitched enough this year to be ready after just starting at Triple-A Columbus. Rodriguez was added in the offseason as a piece of the Yan Gomes trade and was talked about as a potential impact reliever when he made his debut this spring. And yet, Cleveland has kept him in a starter’s role, and has called him up twice. So far, he has been superb.

Through 12.2 innings Rodriquez has an ERA of 2.13 with a 13.6 K%. While the latter number might seem underwhelming, with a career line of 23%, expect this to rise. This also means that the power pitcher does not need the punch-out to get outs, which is encouraging. While the minor league numbers are not great, the raw tools are there, and he has the skills to be a solid starter for this team. With Clevinger out for a while, expect the righty to get his chance to win the job. When the Cleveland offense is starting to hit, Rodriquez will run into wins with starts over the next few weeks.


RP - Brandon Workman (RP, BOS)

1% owned

While the rest of the bullpen is a mess, Workman has quietly put together his best run in the Majors since he debuted in 2013. When he was in the minors, and on the prospect list, Workman was known as a starter with an SP4 profile. While lacking the stuff to make the jump to the bullpen on merit, Workman has found it hard to fit that type of role after missing on the rotation. With a fastball that only tops out at 91, Workman has morphed into a pitch-to-contact arm out of the pen. This has pushed his WHIP up to 1.25; it is passable, but just not good enough for fantasy leagues.

The issues have been the contact rate, with a .400 slugging mark. The interesting thing is that this year his normally above-average walk rate has shot up to 18%, but the opponents' batting average has dropped to a .159 XBaA. The latter mark places him in the top 15% of current pitchers. When looking to the pitching chart, Workman is throwing to the edges of the plate more, and this has moved him off the heart of the plate. While not pretty, the new wild Workman seems to be more productive and rosterable in fantasy leagues. Do not expect him to jump into the closer battle, but he has the skills to be Boston's Ryan Pressly.

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