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Digging Deeper: NL-Only Waiver Wire Report for Week 7


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. Note: all FAAB bids assume a $100 budget.

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C - Alex Avila (C, ARI)

1% owned, FAAB $34

After starting the year on the Injured List, Avila is back in the starting line-up for Arizona. Even after missing some time he is, at worst, on the long side of the platoon moving forward. And yet, if he hits, expect Avila to be the starting option for the rest of the season. In fact, through 20 total AB this year, he already has two homers and six runs. Add in the .350 batting line, and while early, Avila looks to be on pace to be one of the sleeper offensive assets at the catcher position.

The other signs that point to underlying value are the K% and BB% lines which are both moving in the right direction. A patient hitter over his career, and now seeing pitches in the eight spot, Avila will need to keep this up to be productive. Add in an increased exit velocity, and there is no reason that Avila should be on the waiver wire for long. When Carson Kelly is still not hitting this season, expect the team, which might be in contention, to play the stick behind the plate.

 

1B - Pablo Sandoval (1B/3B, SF)

1% owned, FAAB $18

After failing to live up to expectations after a big contract with Boston, Sandoval has returned to Bay Area and some success. While no longer an All-Star option at third, and perhaps, to be honest, never really was, Sandoval is now a productive bat that many teams would like. To date, in 71 ABs, Sandoval has a .282/.282/.577 slash, with four homers. Add on 12 runs and 11 RBI, and Sandoval has been worth his fantasy value this year.

The underlying change for Sandoval this year has been a more aggressive approach at the plate. Last year, he saw 4.19 pitchers per plate appearance, and this year, that number is down to 3.62. This has supported a .302 xBA with some reason to think that he will see the rate stats as a whole rise. Finally, even with the change, he only added three points onto his K%, so the gains are manageable with the overall profile. Expect him to play in three or so games per week, with four hits and a homer upside over that time.

 

2B - Daniel Descalso (1B/2B/3B, CHC)

2% owned, FAAB $7

While the production at the plate has not been there so far with a .231 batting average, the playing time has been. Expected to play off the bench late in games, Descalso has been a starting option at times in Chicago. With the Cubs playing as one of the best offensive teams this year, Descalso’s 34 games have led to 14 runs scored. Even more, he has driven in 11 runs on his own, showing that everyone in this team should be owned for context alone. With some positional flexibility, Descalso should be able to fit on most teams; as he does with the Cubs.

The reasons to buy-in on even more production this year are tied to the launch angle. To date, it is down to 14.5 from 19.1 last year, but his exit velocity is up close to a mile an hour. This means that while he is hitting the ball on the ground more, he is making better contact in the process. This means more balls in play with more chances to get on base. Expect Descalso to play his way into a .240 batting average, and score 60 or so runs over a full year. At worst this is an upside MI play, at best, Descalso could end up being a top 12 option at the keystone.

3B - Jake Elmore (SS/3B, PIT)

0% owned, FAAB $12

While he might not be eligible at third to start in all fantasy leagues right away, this is where he can expect to get some playing time. No matter the case, with six seasons in the Majors, Emore has a clear track record of not hitting. With a career .217 batting average and only four homers, there has not been much reason to know the player. And yet, he is off to a hot start in the minors, and the Pirates require at least a utility option to plug some early gaps. All of this leads to an interesting player, having the best career of his life, with a chance to play five times a week.

In 31 games at Triple-A, Elmore was slashing .380/.444/.546 with two homers and two steals. While he has also been thrown out three times, there is clearly more emphasis on running for Elmore this season. What also stands out is the 13:15 BB:K rate and this highlights a career 522:526 BB:K line. A patient hitter, who is now starting to make contact is an intriguing player to own in any format. While Elmore was a cheap add by the Pirates, this is the type of profile that can value for free in fantasy leagues as well.

 

SS - Miguel Rojas (1B/2B/3B/SS, MIA)

2% owned

FAAB $8

Able to play all around the infield, Rojas is valuable as more than just a replacement-level shortstop. To date, he has played in 37 games for the Marlins and has posted a .244/.302/.291 with 10 runs and two steals over that time. Seemingly a regular option moving forward, and boasting an expected .240 batting line, Rojas can compile over this year. While shortstop has met expectations as a position and is steady at the top, after hitting the bottom of the barrel, playing time is a crucial selling point. This means for owners who are in need of a long-term replacement, Rojas will offer a good floor at the position.

The other piece to like is the 12.2 K%, a top 20% mark in the league. While the expected numbers support the rate production so far, the fact that he is not striking out means outs in the field. This will serve to boost underlying run production, and chip in value over the full season. Add this play-and-play option to outperform his draft expectations the rest of the way.

 

OF - Bryan Reynolds (OF, PIT)

2% owned, FAAB $17

Reynolds has exceeded all expectations so far with the Pirates. Over 19 games he is slashing .305/.339/.458 with one homer and 18 total hits. When he was called up, our prediction was a singles hitter with some speed upside. To date, this has been the case, but he is hitting a lot of singles. This has driven up the floor so far this year, and with playing time, will keep him with the team for the time being.

The supporting numbers are also attractive with a 91.5 exit velocity, and 51.2 Hard Hit%. Whether he can turn this into more power leads to be seen, but even with the lack of pop, the contact has been there to believe what owners are seeing. Still a low upside play with Reynolds, but the fantasy floor seems to rather high to start his career with Pittsburgh.

 

OF - Gerardo Parra (OF, WAS)

1% owned, FAAB $6

Recently signed after leaving San Francisco, Parra steps into playing time right away with early-season injury woes in Washington. Playing four times last week, with three appearances at first, Parra offers a high floor OF4 after the move. With both the Giants and Nationals, Parra has a sub-.200 batting average, but does have nine runs off two homers and two steals. Thought of as a platoon option for his career, Parra was asked to face lefties with the Giants, and this did not help his confidence at the plate.

With a .143 BABIP underlying his year so far, there is some definite helium with a better offensive environment on a new club. When looking to his number in Coors in past campaigns, Parra was a .280/8/8 player, which would be welcome on most teams. A compiler when given chances to hit, if the Nationals use him in a platoon role, then Parra will be a completely different hitter the rest of the way. At worst, this is an easy cut if he loses playing time.

 

OF - Mac Williamson (OF, SF)

2% owned, FAAB $42

One of the fantasy community’s favorite power call-ups at this point in the year, Williamson has not been able to stay healthy when he has gotten the chances to play. What owners are looking for with this slugger, is a continuance of the 30 homer trend he has shown in the minors over the last two seasons. One of the lesser known players who changed his swing, Williamson’s goal was to sell-out for more power. So far this has worked, when he has been on the field.

2019 has seen his best start to a professional season, with a .378/.459/.756 slash and nine homers in 23 games at Triple-A. Add in 23 runs over those same games, and the value is there to be seen, While the park is not an excellent fit for the power approach, the tools are there to post a .250 average with 15 or more bombs the rest of the way. While usually a skeptic on Williamson in past years, this year’s version seems to be a bit more patient and contacting the ball to all fields. As with every year that Williamson is on the wire, the upside is there and worth the dart.

 

SP - Cole Irvin (SP, PHI)

4% owned, FAAB $12

One game and seven innings into his Big League career, Irvin has grabbed the fantasy industry’s attention. While he only struck out five in his debut, Irvin did post a 0.86 WHIP, and overall showed that he can use his command to keep runners off base. The issue with fantasy value will be the stuff, as he does not have much room for error with an 88 MPH fastball. That being said, the change-upgrades out well at 83, so close enough to flash the four-seamer, but enough to get some swings.

The fantasy value comes from the team, as the Phillies will keep playing well, and with time, Irvin is a solid wins target. There are players on other teams with better ratios, but Irvin is an excellent option to chase the win category. The WHIP will be useful but expect the homers to drive up the ERA. At the very least, a good stash to see how the team uses him.

 

RP - Adam Conley (RP, MIA)

1% owned, FAAB $7

The season has not started off the way that many had expected after some draft-season hype. To date, Conley has a 7.90 ERA after 18 games and 13.2 innings. The good news is that the FIP sits much lower at 4.79, which while not excellent, shows that better times are coming if Conley continues to pitch the same way.

The selling point on Conley are the five H+SVs so far this year. This means that even with some struggles, he will still get some chances in key spots adding on some fantasy value. The 17.4 K% is down, but the 7.4 BB% is right in line with career marks. The main difference is the SwStr%, down this year to 11.8% from 14.5% last year. This is the key moving forward, and when all the pitches are looking the same, expect Conley to turn everything around. An outside chance for saves, the best case is a set-up arm with length.

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