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Digging Deeper: NL-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 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 - Tony Wolters (C, COL)

1% owned

Finding more playing time even as the Rockies continue to struggle, Wolters has been hitting well enough to warrant a discussion on the fantasy waiver wire. Currently sitting on a .292/.354/.389 slash to start the campaign, Wolters has been one of the better hitters on the team. Also, with 25 starts, the Rockies are willing to use him over better defensive options. When he has not seen many steal attempts, there has not been much to expose the glove so far, therefore keeping him in the conversation. And yet, red flags are there to be seen regarding his offensive value. His exit velocity, xBA, and Hard Hit% are all bottom of the league, hinting at some issues with good contact.

One significant change in pitchers’ approach to Wolters has been the fastball usage. Last year, this sat at a 68.8% clip, and to date, is down to 58.2%. He is seeing more breaking balls, but doing better with them. From the reports, Wolters has always had a slow bat speed for the frame, but still flashes excellent contact skills. Due to this, expect him to keep hitting, even without the underlying supports, and serve as a good batting average floor at the position. Basically, the fastballs are too fast, and Wolters can deal with the breaking options more effectively with a slower swing.


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

1% owned

Prado has been a regular for the Marlins this year, and after a short injury stint, is back with the team and hitting. Through 27 games he has a .282/.308/.365 slash with 10 runs scored. While looking to lack the power that made him a fantasy asset earlier in his career, Prado can still make contact and get on base with the best of them. A free swinger, as can be seen by the lower OBP, his approach allows him to fit in a pitcher’s park unlike others who are struggling.

The significant change this year is the launch angle, with a flatter approach to date. In 2018, he posted a 9.1 line, and this year, 5.7. While not a huge drop, when looking to his career average at 8.6, there is a change occurring. Prado is not a great fit for the position with the one homer so far in 2019, but still offers runs and rate stats the rest of the way. This is also the type of approach that can be sustained, meaning that Prado is a good floor option at the corner spot. A cheap FAAB bid is all this will take, but expect him to produce positive auction value.


2B - Joe Panik (2B, SFG)

1% owned

Rebounding after a slow start to the year, Panik offers the playing time needed to be an option in fantasy leagues. Still only batting .208 after 30 games, his nine runs and 10 RBI show the value he can bring. While the park will limit any power he might fall into, Panik does have two bombs this year. Even more, with the team not contending this year, and lacking a player to push him for time, Panik is a lock to have 120 games and 500 ABs by October.

The major reasons that owners should be interested the rest of the way are the expected numbers. Panik has a .252 xBa and .413 xSLG. Both hint at some improvement over the full year. Also, a consistent, patient hitter, Panik has posted a 12.5 K% and 8 BB%. When both numbers show the underlying skills, this is the type of player to target for a rebound. If Panik can be a .250 hitter, the rest of the production will carry him at the MI slot

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

2% owned

With Todd Frazier’s return to the active roster, Davis has been relegated to the bench over the past few weeks. Only playing once over the past six days, Davis is stuck as the bench option for the time being. With that, Frazier’s health is always a question, so owners should own this reserve option with upside. Also, the veteran is only slashing .159/.178/.295 to start the year; there might be a change sooner than later.

For Davis, the start of 2019 was a bit of a break-out, with a .274/.369/.452 with three homers and 12 runs. Add in that his expected numbers are in the top 10% of the league, and owners might even see even more production when he gets his chances. Add in the multi-position eligibility, and Davis is a solid add this week. For the time being, Davis is a stash with some pinch-hitting upside, but long term, should be a regular in NL-only leagues at the minimum.


SS - Orlando Arcia (SS, MIL)

1% owned

Not the rebound season that many had hoped for following last year’s playoff heroics for Arcia. While still the starting option for the Brewers, Arcia is never going to the top prospect that many had expected. And yet, the park is good for the underlying value, so even if this is the real Arcia, the fact that he is only owned in 1% of leagues is a bit surprising. Arcia does play at a deep position, so the numbers might not jump off the page. Still, a hit tool at short is rosterable in all formats with playing time.

Batting only .242 so far this year, Arcia has seen his stock drop across the fantasy community. And yet, the upside play has been the power, with a .400 SLG and four homers so far. If anything is worrying, it would be the glove. While not a holistic metric, the .969 Fielding% is not great for the spot. If he can keep in the field, the power and counting numbers will be worth this add. Expect the batting average to hurt, but if owners can get 20 homers out of short, that will compensate for a .240 batting line.


OF - Connor Joe (OF, LAD)

0% owned

After a slow start with the Giants led to his return to the Dodgers, Joe has been stuck at Triple-A. A fantasy sleeper entering the year due to the Rule Five protection, Joe did not hit once the season started. While looking good in the spring, as soon as the calendar flipped Joe looked lost at the plate. Now, back with his original club, Joe faces more depth blocking a potential return to the outfield with the Dodgers as opposed to the Giants. And yet, since his return, Joe has gotten back to hitting. So far, in six games in the minors, Joe is slashing .467/.525/.533 with two runs and three RBI, showing the tools that led to his selection this year.

While Joe has a lower ceiling than most on the list, any bat on the Dodgers will be worth a look in fantasy leagues. Joe should be the first up with an injury or might be a trade piece for a rebuilding team. Lacking the overall profile to be a regular on most teams, Joe does have the power upside to be a platoon option with upside. For owners with a speculative roster spot, Joe makes a ton of sense. Even if he is not called now, expect him to appear on September lists later on.


OF - Ben Gamel (OF, MIL)

1% owned

Gamel moved to Milwaukee this offseason and has turned into one of the better reserve outfield options in the game. Appearing in 33 games so far, he is slashing .300/.385/.415 with a homer and a steal. The carrying tool is the speed, with a sprint speed in the top 10% of the game. With a glove that can play all positions in the outfield, Gamel will be a crucial piece on this Brewer club all season. This means playing time, and OF4 status in only-leagues.

For fantasy value, the steals have not been there so far, and part of this is down to the situation. When entering in a reserve role, Gamel often is unable to risk making an out on the bases. Expect the number to rise over a full season, but for now, expect the batting average to keep him on the roster. The power ceiling over his career has been 11 in 134 games, so owners should set their expectations a bit lower. The rest of the way, expect .275 with five homers and eight steals.


OF - Albert Almora Jr. (OF, CHC)

2% owned

As the Cubs have started to turn it around for their year, Almora has also started to produce. The season-long batting line is up to .241, and he has scored nine runs in 83 chances at the plate. The underlying numbers support what Almora is doing so far, and then the question is, can Almora be valuable with a .240 batting line?

For his career, the power and speed numbers have been marginal, and so far, he only has one homer and two steals. The primary value comes from gross run production. Over a full season, he can be expected to account for 60 or more, just due to the team around him. With the depth of the Central, there will be even more chances to hit late in games off the bench and move into the field for the glove. With all of this, Almora offers a safe option that still has the skills to serve as a fantasy replacement option.


SP - Taylor Clarke (SP, ARI)

1% owned

So far this year, Clarke has been used exclusively out of the pen by Arizona. And yet, it does look as if he will get the start this week adding a bit more intrigue to his usage. When Clarke featured in our prospect call-up report last week, I wrote that he offered more value out of the pen for fantasy owners in redraft leagues. While that might still be the case, with the Diamondbacks looking to hang in the West, there might be more wins than expected to start the year. If Clarke can win 10 or more, he becomes a must own.

The underlying skills are there to be effective, with three pitches that can flash plus, and the velocity to hang with most hitters. There are concerns on length, but Clarke should be able to go the five needed to lock down wins. The park also limits homers, so there are fewer concerns his issues from the minors. If he can pitch well, there is a spot in the rotation the rest of the way. This is one of the better FAAB bids this week.


RP - Matt Andriese (RP, ARI)

1% owned

After moving over in the offseason, Andriese has seen his role move from the rotation to the bullpen. All of his 19 innings have come from 11 relief appearances, so he is being used in an extended role this year. In fact, due to this, Andriese would be excellent cover for a Clarke addition this week. Even more, expect him to also be the next option in the rotation with injury, as Jon Duplantier will be kept in the pen when he appears this year.

The good news for fantasy owners is that Andriese is posting a 26.1 K% and 10 BB%. The K line is up from the past few years and shows the bump that most pitchers can expect in the role. The .234 opponent batting average is also well down from .268 last year, a further improvement. While not an option for saves, there are holds to be had, and counting numbers with the length Andriese should be Seth Lugo-lite the rest of the way. While most of his value is tied to the Diamondbacks resurgence with the Rockies falling apart, there is a chance that this is all real. Even on a struggling team, Andriese will be a K machine.

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