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Deeper NL-Only Waiver Wire Sleepers for Week 3


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 of 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. With that, onto the Island of Misfit Fantasy Toys.

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C - Tyler Flowers (C, ATL)

3% owned

After a few solid campaigns, Flowers has quickly emerged as one of the better offensive options at the catching position. Five seasons in a row with 2.2 WAR or more demonstrate this, and a hot start to 2019 shows that there is a ton of value to be squeezed out of this under-owned asset. So far, in 2019, Flowers is slashing .367/.441/.467 with only homer in nine games. While this pace will not continue, there is no reason to doubt that Flowers is the same, steady option as ever.

With Brian McCann hurt but returning soon, there should not be that much impact on his playing time. Flowers is the better option of the two, for fantasy, with the boost coming from a reliable Braves team as a whole.  Add in the above-average hit tool, and Flowers is an upgrade on most other options at the spot not named J.T Realmuto. While not an elite power source, Flowers will chip in 12 homers or so, over a full season, and will post enough other counting numbers to make this a good option. A solid play in one-catcher leagues as of now, owners should be buying in sooner rather than later.

 

1B - Martin Prado (1B/3B, MIA)

1% owned

A .400 batting average through 12 games might not be sustainable over a full year, but the plate approach is. So far, Prado is posting an even K:BB ratio. While this is up for his career, there are reasons to believe that what owners are seeing is the real deal. While the team around him leaves much to be desired, this type of steady production is sustainable with the single batter serving as a threat to opposing pitching.

No homers through the first 12 games is a bit troubling, but when he is a mid-teens option in most years, the pace does not need to concern owners yet. Even more, if the OBP drops closer to the career .360 line, Prado still serves as an above-average injury replacement, with the track record to be a trustworthy CI. Playing time is there, and the start to the season should have owners interested.

 

2B - Derek Dietrich (1B/2B/3B, CIN)

3% owned

Dietrich is off to his best power start to a season with four bombs in 15 games. Over a full season this is 42 homers, so perhaps there is a bit of regression coming. Jokes aside, Dietrich offers a solid impact bat off the bench, with the parks and teams to justify the spot on a roster. Not only can he play around the diamond in both real and fantasy baseball, but the emphasis on platooning him helps deal with some of the splits. Last year, in a more regular role, Dietrich batted .274 versus righties and only .227 versus righties.

The more concerning piece was that he only walked once versus righties compared to 28 versus same-handed pitching. The power was also better with the platoon splits, so there is a case to be made that in this same role, Dietrich could boost his overall line. While owners will need to pay attention for playing time, the upside is there for a high return with fewer games.

 

3B - J.D. Davis (1B/3B, NYM)

2% owned

Off to a hot start in part due to injuries that opened a spot on the roster, Davis is doing nothing to help justify moving him off the team anytime soon. Through 14 games this campaign, Davis is slashing .286/.412/.548 with three homers and nine runs scored. After struggling to a .217 batting line with Houston, over two short seasons, this turn around is welcome to both the Mets and fantasy owners. The production is there to keep Todd Frazier on the bench if Peter Alonso also keeps hitting.

Davis' K rate is down to 17.6%, and the walk rate is up to the same line, both steps in the right direction. Expect the batting line to tick down over the full year, but buy into the power, with 30 homers being realistic with a starting role. The significant change has been a surging fly ball rate, and decline ground ball rate, ticking off all the boxes for a deep option with the skills to keep producing. Davis is producing like the hitter that many expected, but never got to see in Houston. Prospective owners should see this clip continue for a bit yet, creating opportunities to buy-in before others notice.

 

SS - Orlando Arcia (SS, MIL)

1% owned

Arcia might never be the elite shortstop that many saw when he was on prospect lists, but the production is still there in what is now an incredibly deep position. The .218 batting line through 17 games is not great, but the three homers are welcome. For his career, Arcia is at his best versus off-speed offerings low in the zone. He has posted a .335 batting versus sinkers, compared to only a .241 mark versus the fastball. The latter offering is still hurting him this year, with only a .222 mark so far this year. This leads one to believe that the bat speed is what is keeping him back, and this should also hint to a lack of sustainable power.

Therefore, if Arcia can keep being selective, and waiting “for his pitch,” the offense numbers should keep moving in the right direction. With this in mind, the 8.3% walk rate, compared to 6% for his career, is a point to the good. Where free, Arcia is a great add and stash.

 

OF - Dominic Smith (1B/OF, NYM)

1% owned

Smith returns to the list with sustained early season success, and hints that the prospect bust might turn into a reliable fantasy option after all. A .450 batting average through 23 PAs is too small a sample to justify buying-in ultimately, but the 13% K line is. Thus far, Smith has cut his flyball rate from 39.6% to 23.5% over that sample, showing that the power will be sacrificed for overall success. If this approach continues, the rate of hits will increase meaning more chances to both drive in, and score runs.

The other interesting note is that Smith has not seen a change in batting ball distribution, with a steady percentage of balls moving to the pull side. All of this shows the change in approach, but a continuance of skills, and this writer is buying in for the middle ground when the power does start to appear.

 

OF - Howie Kendrick (2B/OF, WAS) 

3% owned

Kendrick has been an excellent fantasy option for the past few seasons, but injuries have derailed what would have been good season-long lines. Through the first eight games of his 2019 campaign, Kendrick has two homers and seven runs to his name. Add in a .471/.545/1.000 slash line, and all signs point to the return of a four or five WAR player, but in a part-time role. The 1.33 BB:K rate also supports the early season success. Owners will need to watch with the playing time, but if he keeps hitting, there is no reason to see Hendricks stuck in a bench role.

With the Nationals needing to incorporate in some young players, with plans to compete, the positional flexibility also plays into getting those chances. Even as the roster transitions, Hendricks will be a crucial player to target.

 

OF - Raimel Tapia (OF, COL)

1% owned

The fact that Tapia has this low of an ownership rate is a bit shocking. This is not one of the top outfielders in the game, but with playing time, the speed, and the Coors factor; sign me up. Tapia does not need to post substantial offensive returns to be a replacement level option on most fantasy teams, but still, has the tools to be a legit breakout. Through 17 games, he is slashing .256/.275/.436 without a homer or steal. The speed is critical, with multiple 40-steal seasons in the minors.

While he did flash some power in the minors, the park factors in the Rockies system lead to some fluky numbers. Still, park factors are one of the selling points, and even without the steals, scoring on a single with that outfield size will boost the runs. Tapia has the highest upside on this list and needs to be owned.

 

SP - Drew Pomeranz (SP/RP, SFG)

2% owned

Admittedly, Pomeranz is not the same pitcher that Colorado acquired in return for Ubaldo Jimenez. And yet, he does still offer a reliable pitching option that is free off the wire. The main issue with his development was injuries, and because of that, the fastball is not what it was. Three starts, 14 innings, and a 3.53 xFIP offer a mixed return to start the year, but the 8.2 BB% does provide some interest.

Over his career, Pomeranz posted his best seasons when he demonstrated  control and limited walks. While a simple correlation, as in, when there are more runners, there will be more runs, it is effective at pointing to trends. When the walk rate is bad for Pomeranz, it shoots up and often he would post 18% marks. So then, if he keeps his control, this is the type of profile to watch. Add in a good pitchers park, and Pomeranz offers a good SP4 floor, with the chance for more.

 

RP - Nick Anderson (RP, MIA)

3% owned

Anderson seems to be the top option this week, at least looking to the excitement on Twitter. While most of the young pitchers in Miami have turned into pumpkins after a hot start, Anderson has been consistent out of the pen so far this year. Eight games and a 48.5 K% with a 1.17 WHIP all highlight the skills. A 19 SwST% also point to fantasy value, with gross Ks or other ratio categories.

While still stuck on a team that will not win many games, and therefore, also not add many saves chances, Anderson is the option to add. Not only will he pitch a ton with the other issues on that team, but also is a definite part of the upcoming rebuild. His price is just going to rise, so even if the regression comes, this is the time to buy.

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