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Deeper NL-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 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 - Russell Martin (C, LAD)

2% owned

Signed in the offseason as a placeholder for the young catching prospects that dot the Dodger system, Martin, so far, seems to have something left in the fantasy tank. While Martin did spend some time on the Injured List to start the year, Austin Barnes has not been playing well enough to keep the veteran out of some playing time. Not that Barnes is a bust, but he is not pushing Martin into a 70/30 timeshare. This means a 250 AB floor the rest of the way. Through 19 ABs this year, Martin in slashing .316/.462/.526 with one homer and eight runs.

The other signs are there for more value, with an 11.5 K% and 19.2 BB%. Even the “X” stats are measuring his early production well, with a .351 xBA and .422 xwOBA. With the Dodgers continuing to live on the long ball, Martin and other light hitters will benefit with a bit of helium for their run numbers. For owners in two-catcher leagues, Martin is a must own. In one-catcher formats, he should be the top option on the bench.


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

1% owned

As long as Smith continues to hit, and owners still do not add him, he will be a mainstay on this list. Through 25 games, Smith is slashing .400/.531/.480 with a 6:5 BB:K ratio. While he does not have a homer this year, he does have two doubles out of his first 10 hits. When the BABIP sits at .500, the batting line will come down, but it also shows the change at the plate. Smith is using a shorter swing to make more contact, and shooting the ball to the other field more often, increasing his overall batting profile.

Evidence of this approach comes from the dropping exit velocity. In 2018 it sat at 87.7 and this year, while only slightly down, sits at 86.8. For most hitters this would be a concern, but for Smith, who has struggled in his first two season with the Mets, any change that can be tied to production is a welcome development. The other good sign is that Smith is seeing more pitches per plate appearance. His career line is a flat four, and this year it is up to 4.4. Add in the close to 20 BB%, and all the signs are there for a batting average floor at the corner. If the power emerges, then he will back on track, but even if not, Smith is undervalued in all formats.


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

2% owned

Dietrich is back on the list, but at a different spot. While only batting .208, his five homers place him third overall on the Reds. A bit of a surprise with that park and line-up construction, but Dietrich has found a good spot to play this year. With chances to play around the field in both fantasy and real-life leagues, Dietrich can offer a power source to cover for injured starters. The xSLG at .458 shows that the power is real, and the park is becoming a pivotal fit to boost the baseline for his counting stats.

Most of Dietrich's production has been tied to the pull side, with only three out of his 13 hits going to the opposite field. This could be the red flag moving forward but also does not change much when the trend is consistent with both handed pitchers. While his exit velocity is well below league average, he is getting a 19 launch angle to allow him to the produce the loft, and therefore power. While not the typical power approach, Dietrich has shown the value that he can offer to fantasy teams. Loft is the game, and with a short porch in Great American, expect the power numbers to continue at home.


3B - Johan Camargo (SS/3B/OF, ATL)

4% owned

Entering the 2019 campaign, questions buzzed around where and if Camargo would play in the field this year for the Braves. With the addition of Josh Donaldson, third seemed to be taken. With Dansby Swanson also starting to hit, the chances would seem to drying up there as well. And even a hot start by Camargo was not going to push Ozzie Albies off his spot. Even with all of that, Camargo has found playing time and appeared in 22 games for a total of 64 plate appearances. While only slashing .237/.297/.390 he does have 10 runs batted in. Add in a steal and a homer, and Camargo will produce across the roto categories in redraft leagues.

The underlying numbers are also showing that Camargo can be productive with more pinch-hitting value. With an above-average exit velocity, contact rate, and Hard Hit% Camargo shows the pop that he can offer. The other difference is that Camargo is swinging at more pitches, with a swing rate up to 54.7% from 47% last year. If he can start to make more contact, expect a .250 batting line with 15 homers over a full year. With an injury he is the next man up, but for now, assuming all stays the same, Camargo looks to be the better Marwin Gonzalez on the market. And that includes Marwin.


SS - Jose Iglesias (SS, CIN)

1% owned

After moving over from Detroit this offseason, Iglesias has quietly been one of the hottest hitters on a slumping Reds squad. Playing in 24 games this year, Iglesias is slashing .282/.320/.366 a homer and seven runs scored. Batting seventh has limited some of his fantasy value, but the batting line alone will fit on most teams. A definite MI with upside if he moves up the roster, Iglesias needs to be owned in more leagues.

After posting a league-low BB%, with a 4.2 average last year, Iglesias has pushed that up to 5.3% this year. While not great, it fits the low exit velocity, contact profile that has served Iglesias well so far. Even with the hard-hit rates and exit velocity still being well below average, the xBA sits at .272 so the numbers like what he is doing this year. A cheap option at short, expect him to score more runs when the rest of the team starts to produce. For now, Iglesias is the starting option unless Nick Senzel pushes the team around, and Iglesias to the bench.


OF - Curtis Granderson (OF, MIA)

1% owned

After signing on an invite to spring training, Granderson has turned himself into a regular for the Marlins. In 25 games, he is batting .183, but he does have three homers. While hitting in a pitchers park is never great for a hitter, Granderson has the raw power to make it work. The other note is that his BABIP is down at .244, so there will be some rise in the batting rates with increased chances and playing time. Even at his best, Granderson is not a plus hit tool, but will compile like the best options in fantasy baseball with a starting role.

The other factor with Granderson is that Monte Harrison will be not be pushing him for time this year. Granderson owners will hope for a deal at the trade deadline, but until then, will run with the regular chances at the plate. Team context alone, it is not surprising that the fantasy community is staying away from the slugger. And yet, with injuries continuing to mount, playing time becomes one of the critical assets on the waiver wire.


OF - Tyler O’Neil (OF, STL)

3% owned

After making the team out of spring training, O’Neil has suffered through injuries and slumps to end up in a part-time role on the bench. Through 17 games and 31 plate appearances, O’Neil is slashing .290/.313/.452 with one homer and four RBI. In 61 games last year, O’Neil batted .254 with nine homers for the production is on pace to match a strong debut season. Good enough to play in the outfield on the regular, O’Neil offers an excellent back-up option with the pop to take a spot on the fantasy roster.

The red flags are tied to the batted ball profile. His exit velocity is down, and the launch angle is as well. From there the xBA is stuck at .183. This means that owners should add O’Neil as an upside play, but one that needs to earn his way into regular playing time. Still, the prospect pedigree is there to keep his name value up. Save the FAAB dollars this week, as opposed to a doubling in price when he earns a regular spot. On the other hand, this could be the cheapest he will be the rest of the year.


OF - Neil Walker (1B/2B/3B/OF, MIA)

1% owned

Entering the year, Walker was the only Marlin hitter with some fantasy upside. So far, that has mostly turned out to be accurate, with Walker exceeding even his lowly ecpectations. To date, he is slashing .260/.345/.429 with three homers. Hitting fourth in the line-up offers the best chance for him to gain some counting value, and Walker has scored six runs this year. Add in that his K and BB lines are much the same from his career, and Walker might still have some left in the tank.

The other items of note are that Walker is posting a top 25% of the league xBA and xwOBA. All the signs are there for Walker to be a veteran bat with the chance to drive in young Marlin hitters as they debut. His exit velocity is up to 88.5 from last year’s 87.6, so there are even small steps to boosting value. While he looks to be day-to-day with a slight knock, Walker needs to be owned in more leagues.


SP - Daniel Ponce De Leon (SP, STL)

1% owned

While only up for one start, the line was good enough to keep Ponce De Leon on fantasy watch lists. While he will lack the length to go more than five, for now, his seven Ks over those innings flash the upside. Last year, over 33 innings he posted a 1.12 WHIP, so even with only a small sample, there is a track record to buy-in on this year. Over his one start, Ponce De Leon did feature his curveball more often, with less reliance on his cutter. When the curveball flashed as the better off-speed pitch in the minors, this addition could push up the bottom line.

The other fact that runs in Ponce De Leon’s favor for playing time is the Cardinal’s reliance on Adam Wainwright and Daniel Hudson to stay healthy this year. With an inning cap on Hudson due to his low usage over the past few years, expect Ponce De Leon to get at least 12 or so starts over the full year. A good ratios play, with a team that will get him wins, this is the speculation pick on the docket this week.


RP - Jon Duplantier (RP, AZ)

2% owned

Another pitcher who was just sent down to Triple-A, Duplantier is the top pitching prospect in the Arizona system. So far, when he has pitched for the Diamondbacks, Duplantier has been used in a long relief role. With two appearances of three innings or more, he clearly will be used in this role moving forward. Long term, owners expect him to start, but with him being adding as a reliever this year, owners should be buying stock.

Featuring a plus fastball, slider, and curveball Duplantier has the tools to keep hitters off balance, and so far has struck out 22.6% of opposing hitters. The fastball sits on the outer half of the plate, but Duplantier can throw the sinker to all quadrants. With the ability to throw this as his out pitch up in the zone, Duplantier can be elite out of the pen. Add in that the humidor has hurt the power numbers at Chase, and Duplantier will be a power arm who can induce ground balls. Even if he is down in the minors for a bit, his value will still be there over a full season.

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