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Digging Deeper: AL-Only Waiver Wire Report for Week 8

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. Note, all FAAB recommendations are based on a $1000 budget.

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C - Isiah Kiner-Falefa (C/2B/3B, TEX)

3% owned, FAAB $7

Catcher is a bit of a mixed bag this week, with some lingering injuries perhaps opening chances for undervalued names. Sadly, none of those options have much, if any fantasy value. For now, the best option where he is available, is Kiner-Falefa. Entering the year, this writer was not buying the hype, even after rostering him last year, and did not think he was worth a 273 ADP in mixed-leagues. While the positional flexibility is critical for any player in only-leagues, the hit tool was there for batting average, but just not the power that was needed for that type of pick value at the position.

The good news for owners is that he is playing often, with 27 total games played this year. As predicted, the offensive production has not been there, with a .213/.308/.338 slash with one homer and one steal. The good news has been the 12 runs scored, and 12 runs driven in, but not enough to keep him on most rosters. The expected stats do not like him the rest of the way as well, so there are real concerns at the plate. The silver lining, and reasons to add Kiner-Falefa this year, are tied to the power. After no barrels last year, he does have a 3.4 Barrel% this year. Expect the park to push up the floor, but Kiner-Falefa has the best upside of the bad options this week.


1B - Ronald Guzman (1B, TEX)

1% owned, FAAB $9

Another name, and another Ranger on the list, Guzman has been underperforming his projections so far this year. With a .215/.282/.492 slash, and only four homers, there has at least been some pop in the approach. The other interesting note is that he has only played in 21 games, losing some playing time to Danny Santana and Joey Gallo. Now that Delino DeShields Jr. has been sent down to Triple-A, Gallo will move to center and open first for Guzman. This will only add some chances to produce, and that park still fits with the approach. Even with the reports that Deshields might be on his way back up, expect Gallo to keep a starting role in the outfield for now, and therefore Guzman at first.

The other notes are that his expected numbers are at least 20 points higher than his actual line, so with time, there should be a bit of run with those rate lines. The concern is the exit velocity, which sits at or below league-average. Still, the launch angle is up 20, so there is some interest with the future power numbers. Add in a 42.9 Hard Hit%, and there are plenty of reasons to think that Guzman can at least be replacement level the rest of the year.


2B - Hanser Alberto (2B/3B, BAL)

1% owned, FAAB $17

There is not much to like about the 2019 Orioles, but some players are getting overlooked as fans tune off those games. Alberto is one of the surprise fantasy options this year, with a .297/.309/.390 slash with three homers and two steals. All of this is coming over 35 games for Baltimore, meaning that Alberto might be the starting option at second moving forward. How the Orioles are using him is also interesting, as he either bats lead-off or eight in the lineup. If Alberto can somehow lock down the lead-off spot, then what few runs this team does score can start to help fantasy owners via the keystone.

The confusing piece with Alberto’s line so far is that his xBA is in the top 30% of the game, but his exit velocity is at the very bottom of the league. This leads to other good news as the exit velocity is up four points, even if that means he is still sitting at 83.2. With a declining launch angle as well, Alberto seems to be making better contact once he moved away from the power-approach that framed his minor league career. This would be a shift in the profile, but one that could work out for owners in need of a batting average floor. For now, owners should buy the playing time, and hope the metrics are missing a mini-breakout campaign.


3B - Yolmer Sanchez (2B/3B, CWS)

1% owned, FAAB $11

While he is currently stuck in the ninth spot, on a slumping White Sox team, Sanchez has shown that he will play every day. Even more, as a switch-hitter, Sanchez can add an extra three or four chances per week, as he avoids some of the platoon moves late in the game. Add in that he is hitting in front of Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu, and there are clear run-scoring chances with this bat. In fact, in 39 games he has 12 runs scored, showing the value the rest of the way. Add in a .225/.320/.297 slash and there are clear reasons why he is free on the wire but also has hidden value for fantasy owners.

The key piece to watch with Sanchez is the steal production. Last year, he stole a career-high 14 bags, but only has one so far this campaign. For his career, the speed has been secondary to the hit tool, so owners should not bank on much production there. And yet, as the team falls out, Sanchez could be a sneaky source of eight or move bags the rest of the way. While not a great pick, Sanchez is a regular, who tends to make contact over his career. And, with speed being so hard to find this year, Sanchez is a good upside play with some risk to help in other spots over the campaign.


SS - Thairo Estrada (SS, NYY)

0% owned, FAAB $21

Estrada seems to be the primary utility option on the Yankee bench, at least until Didi Gregorius is back. While he has bounced between Triple-A and the Bigs, Estrada has made it into 16 games in various roles this year. Over that time he is slashing .294/.314/.529 with two homers and a steal. What sells Estrada is the run production, with six so far this year. Not only does he offer an excellent on-base option, but with the team context can score on homers and doubles to the gap. For that alone, Estrada is a key MI option this week.

The other piece for Estrada owners is the value of Giovanny Urshela. There is a real chance that the decision on who makes this team comes down to these players, and while Urshela offers a bit more with the glove, the bat has been way too hot to be sustained. This means that the player with a track record of contact, who might be running into power, is the better option moving forward. Urshela has been playing well, but over this time in the Majors, the production has been minimal. This means owners should be buying the cheaper option on the waiver wire for the long play.


OF - Jake Marisnick (OF, HOU)

2% owned, FAAB $26

While currently listed on the Houston bench, Marisnick played in six games last week, showing that there is at least a platoon role at play. Either way, Marisnick is off to his best start to a campaign in an Astros uniform. Through 38 games he is slashing .286/.348/.560 with five homers and three steals. A platoon role might help the underlying numbers, but with the upside, owners want the Astros to ride the hot hand while they can.

Always known as a power and speed option, with 49 career homers and 66 total steals over 603 games, Marisnick can be a solid fantasy option in the outfield. The issue has been the .223 career batting line, making him hard to roster. The expected numbers hint that the batting average should tick back to the career norm, but there is enough other noise in terms of the context to make this all work. At the very least, the team likes his glove enough to play him on the regular, and with that will comes runs. If the batting line can keep up, expect a .250/15/12 season. With the Astros also running away with the Division, expect the rotation to keep up, with Marisnick being the largest beneficiary with added playing time..


OF - Delino DeShields Jr. (OF, TEX)

1% owned, FAAB $17

A speculative pick for this week, DeShields Jr. has been recalled to the Rangers after a demotion to Triple-A a week back. After struggling to a .182/.321/.284 slash with one homer and eight steals with Texas, DeShields has continued to disappoint fantasy owners with no production and a high draft stock. The speed is excellent, but there was not enough bat to make this work for a team. Long-term, expect the Rangers to give DeShields another extended chance, as he still looks to be on the best options for the team in center, at least, in terms of speed and glove. The baseline is a .230 batting average, and DeShields will be a regular once again.

The reason to add now is that since he was demoted, DeShields has been playing well. While the batting average is still stuck at .211, the two homers and doubles are encouraging. While this is all against lower-quality pitching, as opposed to the Majors, value at the plate should be attractive to owners. The final note is that the walk rate was up to 15.7% from 10.9% last year. DeShields is a player with potential fantasy impact, so owners would be smart to add him now, and then bank on a return to playing time.


OF - Leonys Martin (OF, CLE)

2% owned, FAAB $13

Well, my prediction that Martin would be a top-60 OF this year has not been looking so good. The good news is that the Cleveland hitter is finally starting to turn this year around. To date, he is slashing .226/.309/.377 with six homers and three steals. For a starting outfielder, this is not great, but for a team struggling at the plate as much as Cleveland currently is, the counting numbers are welcome. The other good sign is that the batting average has improved each month since the start of the year, so there is a reason to buy-in over the full year.

One of the reasons that Martin was high on the list to enter the year was the batting location. Slated to hit leadoff, recent struggles have sent him down the batting order. The other piece is with Jose Ramirez struggling to start the year, the support has not been there to rack up the runs. The good news is that Martin has a better batting average in the seven or nine-hole, as opposed to the top-third of the team. Therefore, since the move, he has been hitting better down the bench. Add in that he is still adding both power and speed, and Martin is a natural, cheap buy this week.

SP - Daniel Mengden (SP, OAK)

3% owned, FAAB $22

Mengden has appeared in a few of my pieces leading into the year, and his numbers looked good in the follower role last year. The issue for this year was that he had a tough spring, and with options, was the easy pitcher to send to the minors. Now, after a recall, Mengden is firmly in the Oakland starting rotation for the time being. While he only has two starts this year, he does have a 3.65 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over that time. He looks to be given at least another run on the mound, so there is some stability with this addition.

The stuff has always been the limiting factor in fantasy with a career 17 K% line. This year he does have nine Ks in 12 innings, for a 20% line, so there is some interest in the approach to start. Over the year, owners want Mengden to move back into the role he had last year, as this will push up the stuff. If not, he will have run support, so can earn wins with a 4.00 ERA. The ceiling is low, but over the past month of 2018, Mengden was one of the top fantasy earners. And, with Oakland starting to win, this is the time to buy while the price is down.


RP - Hunter Wood (SP/RP, TB)

1% owned, FAAB $31

A 29th-round pick by the Rays in 2013, Wood has taken a long route to the Majors but is looking like a vital piece of a contending bullpen this year. Operating in both the opener and set-up roles, Hunter has nine games to his line this year, with two starts. Over 9.1 innings he has 10 Ks with one save. This all comes after a solid 2018, but one which saw him used in situations with lower leverage. With how the team will move him around, expect Wood to earn some wins and saves, but ultimately the stuff is the leading fantasy asset for regular production.

The expected numbers love Wood, with a .186 xBA and .191 xWOBA for opposing hitters moving forward. Adding to the value, this year opponent's exit velocity is also way down from 86.4 to 74.5. This means that he is not only getting swing-and-misses, but limiting the damage when hitters are making contact. With the team losing starters quickly this year, Wood will be relied on even more. Add him now, and run with the varied roles to a benefit on all teams.

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