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Deeper AL-Only Waiver Wire Sleepers for Week 5

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 - Travis d’Arnaud (C, NYM)

1% owned

While still technically a member of the Mets, the most likely landing spots for this backstop are in the American League. Cleveland, Oakland, New York, and Houston are all playoff teams that could still use an upgrade at catcher. This means that there playing time on teams that will offer playing time and run support, making d’Arnaud a reliable option this week. Not only might he step into playing time right away with a timely add, but also, might be just the profile that needs a change in scenery.

So far, in 2019, d’Arnaud only has two hits in 23 ABs, but also has posted a .240 career line. This means that while not an elite offensive option, D’Arnaud is clearly not a catcher without any plate skills. Even without the hits, his walk rate is up to eight percent from last year’s six mark. Still more, the K rate is down to 20% from 32% the year prior. While he does not do anything significant, the career .704 OPS shows that, for a part-time player, d’Arnaud can be a reliable, productive bat. Even with the speculation, he has more upside than every other catcher that can be added in most leagues.


1B - John Hicks (C/1B, DET)

2% owned

Hicks is a player that struggles to find a role in the fantasy community. He has a better bat than the average backstop, but does not play defense well enough to get regular playing time there. And yet, his bat is below average for first, so at that spot, he is not a definite upgrade over most other options in 12 and 15 team leagues. This means he often slips through drafts, or like now, is under-owned on the market in redraft leagues. Luckily for fantasy owners, he is eligible to play at catcher, first, or corner, meaning he can move around to find a fit on most teams.

So far this year, in 49 ABs, he is slashing .306/.370/.469 with one homer this year. The power will not play up, since his best years only pushed 16 homer power over a full season. And yet, like the old maxim, he can get on base. The walk rate has crept up each year he has played with the Tigers, and from a six mark in his rookie debut, he now looks to be pushing double-digits in 2019. While a low impact move, Hicks is a 2019 Miguel Cabrera-style player on the waiver wire for free, but without the brand.


2B - Tyler Wade (2B, NYY)

1% owned

With so many injuries hitting the Yankees already this year, Wade has gone from a Quad-A player to a full time, starting option in the outfield for New York. While eligible only at second right now in Yahoo leagues, Wade made four starts in left last week so is well on his way to the Ben Zobrist positional flexibility. Never considered a top prospect, Wade has been serviceable as a glove but has yet to find the bat. Over his first two stops in the Majors, he batted .163. And yet, the minor league numbers are encouraging with a .272/.351/.363 line over 605 games. So the floor is higher than what fans have seen so far.

In terms of what owners can expect moving forward, Wade will need to add 100 points to his batting line to be relevant, but the trends are there. After 41 ABs in pinstripes this year, he is batting .240 with eight runs. The latter is the crucial piece with this addition, for as long as Wade can get on base 25% of the time, he will be setting up what few weapons exist on this team. The other piece is that Wade has dropped his launch angle to negative this year at -1.6. While typically not a good sign, as the batter is averaging a ball into the ground, Baseball Savant does grade Wade as one of the fastest runners in the game. Fantasy owners do not care where the run comes from, and an infield hit looks like a gapper.


3B - Daniel Robertson (2B/SS/3B, TB)

1% owned

Robertson has been a regular for the Ray this year, with 24 games on his season line. The bat has not shown up this year, with a .174 batting average, but he does have seven runs score and nine driven in, to date. While currently being listed on the depth chart as the right-handed utility option on the bench, Robertson started seven games in seven last week, mixing in time at third and second. That alone should ease owners’ concern on the production so far. He is valuable enough that he will continue to float and set up scoring chances.

His xBA is stuck in the bottom 15% of the league, and the SLG in the bottom 10. So owners are not reaching for a rebound, but if this is the low, then all the production to come will be on the tick up. Even more, when Marwin Gonzalez is also slumping, this is a piece of the role. With needing to fit more roles, there is less time on the bat. With more time, Robertson will return to his .260 career line, but will still score runs to make it playable for owners.


SS - Luis Rengifo (2B/SS, LAA)

1% owned

One of the top Angel prospects, Rengifo looks to be up for the next two weeks as a cover for Zack Cozart. With three hits in his first 13 chances, Rengifo seems to be a semi-regular for that time and will benefit, like most rookies, from the hitting environment and the new balls. After racing through the minors with a plus .300 batting line, Rengifo struggled at Triple-A. Over two seasons he only batted .258 showing his limits. Even when he is making contact expect singles with a flat swing.

Rengifo makes this list, not for his bat, but the speed. While only being slightly above average in terms of sprint speed, he posted multiple 40 steal seasons in the minors. With the Angels already looking to be out of the race Rengifo will be given a chance to run while he can. If the bat can hit a bit, Rengifo will be one of the next rabbits to watch, with a profile that can project for a bit more overall production with time. While not ready to be up full time yet, Rengifo will be a piece to have until Cozart is back.

OF - Mike Tauchman (OF, NYY)

2% owned

Tauchman showed up on the National League version of this list often last year. While he had struggled with the Rockies, the minor league numbers were elite. Even factoring in the hitting environment in Albuquerque, Tauchman has the skills to hit at any level. So far this year, Tauchman has been playing better with the Yankees than he ever did with the Rockies. With a 60th percentile exit velocity and a 13.2 BB%, even in a small sample, the underlying numbers are supporting him sticking in that outfield. And yet, the xBA is down to .189 so there are some early warning signs as well.

The good news for owners is that he has hit three homers, and has scored 10 runs in 21 games. Expect the batting average to improve, with a .229 BABIP holding back good contact. Another player who benefits from a weak Yankee roster, Tauchman is slated to hit fifth, being covered by Gleyber Torres. This means he will keep getting pitchers to hit, and with the same hard contact, will start to take off. Own him while his stock is still a bit low.


OF - Billy McKinney (OF, TOR)

1% owned

Moving to a former Yankee with this pick, McKinney has been a regular for the Jays this year after bouncing around. He first moved from the Cubs to the Yankees, but then was flipped last year for J.A. Happ. While the prospect shine has fallen off a bit, there is still a good hitter in the profile, and with a hitter’s park will add small boosts to the line. For example, after the trade last year, McKinney slashed .252/.320/.470 with six homers. If this can keep into 2019, then he will be a top 75 outfielder in mixed formats.

The significant change this year in the profile has been the launch angle. Last year he posted an 88.8 line, but this year, the mark is down to 84.1. With that, the exit velocity is down, and so are the barrels. The other change has been the number of fastballs he is seeing. Last year, he saw 57%, and this year that number has moved to 62%. When McKinney adjusts back, expect the hard contact to increase. Even with the metrics moving the other way, owners should be buying in while the stock is down.


OF - Tyler Naquin (OF, CLE)

1% owned

As an unabashed Cleveland homer, it is hard for me to trust Naquin over a full year. Part of this comes down to the lack of a real glove in the outfield, with dropped balls that cost his team a World Series and other games over his time. Even more, the bat has never been there, and therefore Naquin has no real carrying tool. The other concern is that he is one of several left-handed hitters on the team, and maybe not even the best in the outfield. All of this means that he has to produce to stick with this team.

And even with all of that concern, even I cannot help but enjoy what Naquin is doing this year. Over 22 games he is slashing .257/.288/.371. While the numbers are still below average, the approach is worth a look. The only real change from last year for Naquin is that is chase rate is down a bit. Last year he had an O-Swing of 38.4% and this year that is down to 36%. Coupled with an increased swinging strike %, and no change in the swing rate, Naquin is swinging at more strikes. This has led to an increased swing and miss on pitches in the zone, but keeping the ball near the plate will help Naquin’s increased 13.3 launch angle. Expect the power to start showing up, and if the approach continues, Naquin will be hard for the team to cut this year.


SP - Manny Banuelos (SP, CWS)

4% owned

While thought the fifth starter spot locked up for Chicago, Banuelos has spent most of his time this year out of the bullpen. With only one start to his name, Banuelos has been limited to only 14 innings so far this campaign. The good news is that he has looked solid over those chances, with a 2.51 ERA with 22.4 K%. With opponents only batting .240 versus the righty, Banuelos should be just as effective now that he is back in the rotation. Add in the weak offensive environment in the Central, and Banuelos should be a solid SP4.

Back in 2015, Banuelos first appeared in the Majors with the Braves. At that time his fastball was only topping out at 89, but this year, he is pushing 92 with the four-seamer. Even more, he is throwing a slider 37% of the time, compared to 10% of the time in 2015. Not only is Banuelos a different pitcher this year, but he has a direct route to playing time. While the Sox will not win many games behind Banuelos, the main play is for ratios. Do not count on his for elite numbers, but as an innings eater Banuelos can still compile over a full year.


RP - Connor Sadzeck (RP, SEA)

1% owned

After debuting with the Rangers last year, Sadzeck now finds himself as a critical piece in a shallow Mariner’s pen. Over eight games and 10.1 innings he has a 1.74 ERA with a 32.5 K% While currently slotted as a middle reliever, Sadzeck has thrown 20 or more pitches over his past two outings. Not only does this show that he can be a boost for innings totals, but also has the length to chip in for counting numbers out of the pen.

Currently, not on a path to closing, Sadzeck is another emerging bullpen arm to know. Ratio support will be good, and with the Mariner's starting rotation struggling with length there will plenty of chances. Watch for the team to limit Justus Sheffield's innings, creating even more chances for this pen. In dynasty leagues, this is one of the lottery tickets to own, but for redrafts, stash him on the bench. The stuff is there, so now all owners need is the playing time.

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