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Digging Deeper: AL-Only Waiver Wire Report for Week 6

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 - Pedro Severino (C, BAL)

1% owned

With Baltimore being just as miserable as many expected entering this year, most of their players have been dropping off fantasy radars. With a record of 13-23, this makes some sense, but this is leading owners to miss some of the diamonds in the rough. Enter Severino, a reserve catcher, who while only playing two or three times a week, has been sneaky effective at the plate. To date, Severino has a .250/.328/.519 slash, with four homers and eight RBI. This is all happening without any real support on the team, showing that the skills are there to predict this level of production all year.

Severino never got close to these numbers with the Nationals, and in fact, over the past two seasons posted a .169 batting average, with a total of two homers. Going back to 2016, in 16 games, Severino did bat .321, but owners should prefer the more substantial, recent samples. The signs are there to buy this year’s results moving forward, with Severino seeing more pitches per plate appearance. To date, he is averaging 4.1 pitches, and over the last two, the average was 3.62. Add in a 26.2 Hard Hit%, and there is a reason to be excited. While he will stay as the reserve option, even in small bursts, can be a source of offense in AL-only leagues.

1B - Ji-Man Choi (1B, TB)

4% owned

Currently serving on the long side of a platoon at both first and designated hitter, Choi has already played in 26 games so far this year. Over that time he is slashing .256/439/.411 with two homers and one steal. Lacking the glove to find a spot elsewhere on the field, Choi will be a reliable option at the corner, or at first, the rest of the way. While he will lose some time to prospect Nathaniel Lowe, the designated hitter spot is his for now, so expect 120 games over a full year. Choi is also cheap, playing near the minimum, so there is little incentive to move him from the team with some production.

While he is off to a solid start, his expected numbers show a different story. With a .283 xBa, .332 xOBP, and .462 xSLG the overall profile seems to be on the way up. Fueling the rise has been a sinking K%, down to 17.9% this year, from last year’s 24.7%. A solid hitter, with below-average power, Choi can be a .270 hitter the rest of the way at the least. With a team that is looking to compete, expect Choi to add the counting stats to make him a valuable add in AL-only leagues.

2B - Jason Kipnis (2B/OF, CLE)

4% owned

Streaky to start his return to the club via injury, Kipnis is slowly beginning to look like the fantasy asset than owners are used to. While his ceiling is down from the All-Star appearances a few years back, Kipnis still is a doubles machine with power upside. Only batting .209 so far, he does have five hits in his last 16 chances, so the return might finally be on its way. To date, the power has not been there, but expect the career norms to hold true with 14 or more bombs over the full year.

With Kipnis starting to heat-up, Tito Francona has moved him to the two hole. Batting behind Francisco Lindor and in front of Jose Ramirez, there will be pitches to hit. This also will help push the RBI and run totals, if Ramirez can start to hit. Buy the skills, and expect to get above-average production for the rest of the year. Even more, there should not be a move to center field to worry about this year. When that seemed to be a big distraction for the lefty, any stability would seem to be the goal this year.

3B - Kelvin Gutierrez (3B, KC)

2% owned

Added to the Royals via the Kelvin Herrera trade, Gutierrez has worked his way into the starting line-up with a hot start at Triple-A. Never thought of as much of an option with the stick, Gutierrez has emerged as one of the future building blocks for the next Kansas City competitive window. He has continued to produce once he go the call to the Bigs with a .300/.317/.450 slash over 10 games. Add in the homer and 10 RBI over that time, and there is clearly some interest for fantasy owners.

The downside to the line so far is that he is striking out nearly 30% of the time, and only walking 3% of his chances. While he does have swing and miss in the minor league profile as well, he had a more patient approach with double-digit walk rates. Playing four times in the past week, it looks as if Gutierrez will be the starting option at third moving forward. While not a great team, this is the starter for free on the waiver wire to add. Expect with more regular playing time to see the rate stats even out, and Gutierrez is a player to be adding before his name reaches the rest of baseball.

SS - Thairo Estrada (SS, NYY)

0% owned

Last year was interesting for Estrada, to say the least. First, he started off the season dealing with a gunshot wound, and then returned to rake in the AFL. Finally getting the call to the Bigs, Estrada is the next wave of young Yankees players that fantasy owners need to know. While he did not have a route to playing time entering this season, with Troy Tulowitzki still battling injury, there is a spot on the roster to be had. And yet, he only played in one game last week to bring the total for the season to eight games. Over that time he is slashing .333/.364/.476 with one homer and one steal. While playing time will be a concern, he does offer a useful utility option for the Yankees. This should help him add some chances, or at the least, stick around with the versatile glove.

A streaky hitter in the minors, Estrada bounced between a .220 and .300 batting average, so there is some risk in the hit tool. And yet, there is also some speed with double-digit steal lines in the minors. Owners adding Estrada are looking for a lottery ticket in the middle of the field, and Estrada can offer that support with speed and run support. He might also play once a week, with a hit or two, making him a natural cut.

OF - Cameron Maybin (OF, NYY)

1% owned

Another Yankee on the list, Maybin has been given a second chance with the slew of injuries that have befallen the Yankees to date. Platooning with Mike Tauchman for the time being, Maybin has played four times in six games. Over 10 games, he is slashing .360/.484/.360 with six runs and a steal. For his career, Maybin has been a .250/.320/.360 hitters, and is still young enough to keep up this production.

A bit surprising that he did not get a chance with Cleveland, Maybin has the glove to play all three spots in the field, so he will be able to find time with movement between positions. While the lowest option on the list when players return to the team, expect Maybin to play well enough the next few weeks to keep him on the roster. With the Yankees in need of plate appearances, Maybin has been slotting into the eight spot on the team. While usually a downside for fantasy, the fact that he will bat in front of Luke Voit and Gary Sanchez should support the underlying production. For owners in need of a short-term option, Maybin is the pick this week.

OF - Skye Bolt (OF, OAK)

1% owned

After a hot start at Triple-A, Bolt finds himself in the mix with the Athletics. For fantasy owners, this is an exciting move, as while only just getting to the upper levels of the minors, Bolt offers a good amount of pop for the spot. Often pushing 20 homers over a full year, he also can chip in double-digit steal numbers to round out the profile. The question on his prospect value was tied to the hit tool, and whether he could stay in the line-up to produce for owners. This means that owners might need to settle for a lower average to add the 202/20 upside, but will be valuable if and when he plays.

With only 22 games on the line so far, Bolt is batting .325 at Triple-A, after repeating Double-A at a .256 clip the year prior. While he does have some swing and miss, the floor for BB% seems to sit at 10%, saving the OBP line in roto leagues. While only up for three games and four at-bats before being sent down, Bolt looks to be a feature the rest of the season. With the Athletics struggling to start the year at the plate, if he can keep up the pace in the minors, Bolt might be an option moving forward. At the very least, he will be back.

OF - Jake Cave (OF, MIN)

0% owned

While a semi-regular last year in Minnesota, Cave has struggled to stay healthy and is finally getting a second chance with the team this campaign. Even when making the team to start the year, Cave struggled to a .206 batting average over 15 games, limiting his marginal fantasy value. Adding some interest to fantasy owners, there is a bit of power in the profile with 13 homers in 91 games last year. Expected to play mostly off the bench, Cave should get upwards of three games a week, so owners should limit their counting expectations. And yet, with other struggles on that team, Cave is the solid, reserve option that might play more than owners are expecting.

The good news is that the launch angle is down to 1.3, after peaking last year at the 10.3 mark. This means that the early season injury can explain the drop in production, and a return to form can be expected. At the same time, when this does not seem to be a planned change there is a risk that the return just is not there. And yet, the xBA sits at .246, so there is some helium in the rate lines as well. With the team playing well, Cave is a smart add for teams needing steady production at the rate and counting positions.

SP - Danny Duffy (SP, KC)

4% owned

After an apparent break-out and a big contract, Duffy has not been the same pitcher in fantasy or real life. After posting a 1.11 WHIP in 2014 and 1.14 in 2016, Duffy shot to an average of 1.35 over the past three years. Add in a surging walk rate, and things have not gone according to plan for the lefty. With the team also entering a rebuild, the win value has not been there either. All of this has led to Duffy moving from a first 12 round selection, to a non-drafted asset entering the season.

This year has been a return to form, with a 3.06 ERA over 17.2 innings. The seven walks over that time are not great, but 12 Ks seem to show that the stuff can still play. Opponent’s exit velocity has been down this year, and their Hard Hit% is down six points. Even with some of the control concerns, if Duffy can keep getting outs in the field, he has the stuff to hang as an innings eater. For deep leaguers, Duffy has the upside to make a move at the deadline, and if not, can still earn some wins with quality starts. For the rest of the year, expect a 3.5 ERA with eight or so wins, making him a key arm in the new era of pitcher injuries.


RP - Chaz Roe (RP, TB)

2% owned

With 13 Ks over 10.1 innings Roe has been a fun arm to watch to start the year. Even better for fantasy owners are the seven holds. While the WHIP sits at 2.03, this can be explained with the small sample size with a young season. No real route to saves, in SV+H formats, Roe will be an option to also add the counting numbers to boost overall value.

Roe mixes in three pitches, with a fastball that sits up in the zone, and a sinker that can paint the outside corner. As he is starting to add in a slider up in the zone, there seems to be an extra pitch to change the eye-level of opponents. If this can keep working, the HR/9 numbers need to stay down. With a career-best 0.87 mark to start, expect the run to continue. Roe will be a solid relief option for teams needing to move for a low K starter, but who can also count those holds. With a good team, there will be increased chances to rack up those numbers. Roe is both a safe arm, but one that offers the upside that others on the list cannot match.

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