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Digger Deeper: AL-Only Waiver Wire Report for Week 12

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 - Pedro Severino (C, BAL)

2% owned, FAAB $23

Severino is back on the list after a hot start. With a .274/.353/.496 slash over 43 games, Severino has been one of the better offensive catchers in fantasy this year. The added value comes with the power, as Severino has eight homers and six doubles so far. While the team around him does not score runs, when he can create his own chances, owners are still looking at a catcher who will score his share of runs. At the same time, he looks to be in a least a 50/50 split, so he will get playing time comparable with other starters.

The xBA is what sells Severino, as he is slated to hit .304 the rest of the way based on his current performance. Add in the 16 point jump to his Hard Hit% and this far into the season, Severino might be starting to prove that he can compete. While there will always be questions on the glove, when the Orioles are not contending, he will still get his chance to earn the job for 2020. At the very least, Severino looks to be a replacement level option with the performance to suggest a higher floor.


1B - Bobby Bradley (1B, CLE)

1% owned, FAAB $7

This is a pure speculation bid, but one that if owners time right can save them lots of FAAB dollars. As of now, the team has stated publicly that they have no plans to call Bradley up to Cleveland. And yet, the team is still in need of more offense, and even as Jose Ramirez might be starting to turn it around, another bat is still needed. This could see Jake Bauers shifting to left full-time, with Carlos Santana playing first or at Designated hitter, Oscar Mercado in center, and Jordan Luplow in right. When that team makes sense on paper, there is room to add Bradley as the rotation option for Santana at first.

The primary reason to keep Bradley down is to give him regular playing time. Still, with a .287/.351/.623 slash and 22 homers through 64 games, Bradley does not have much else to prove at his current level. Always known as a plus power bat, the rest of the batting rate stats were always the concern. With some changes over the past few offseasons, Bradley has pushed the career batting line to .256, adding some support for the floor. Bradley will be an impact bat when he gets the call, and owners should be willing to eat a spot on the bench to get that chance.


2B - Daniel Robertson (2B/3B/SS, TB)

1% owned, FAAB $4

Another regular on the list, Robertson appears due to the injury news surrounding Yandy Diaz. Not only does it look as if Diaz will be out at least two weeks, but that Robertson will be the replacement for the time being. This has been the main appeal with the utility infielder, as while he lacks an impact bat, Robertson has been playing close to every day due to the rotational needs on the Rays. The good news for fantasy owners is that Kevin Cash is sticking with the player even without the bat.

With a .205 batting average so far, Robertson’s value has come from the counting numbers. While he only has two homers and one steal, 22 run scored does show the floor for the profile. His xBA is only .203, so owners should not expect a quick rebound or improvement in the line. For now, owners in need of a body can turn to this Rays but keep expectations limited. Still, a good week for Robertson is a .250 batting line with five runs, which most owners will take to cover for an injury.


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

3% owned, FAAB $23

Another Oriole who has continued to hit this year, Alberto looks to be a solid bet to start in Baltimore this year. Through 58 games this campaign, Alberto is slashing .311/.327/.383 with three homers and four steals. Alberto has also improved since his last appearance on this list and has dropped the K% from 12.1% to 9.2%. This shows that what Alberto lacks in terms of traditional power at the position he can make up for with solid contact.

The concern with Alberto is his exit velocity. Sitting at 82.6, Alberto is in the bottom 5% of the league. The good news is that he does not rely on the power to generate his offense, as only nine of his 63 hits are for extra-bases. This limits the upside to the profile but trades that for some stability. When Alberto is on a 12/12 pace, there is still time to buy and cash in. The floor is high, with some concerns on the ceiling, but good value while Baltimore figures how he fits for next year.


SS - Nicky Lopez (2B/SS, KC)

2% owned, FAAB $7

When Lopez was called to Kansas City, the fantasy community seemed to grade him as an impact player from the start. While no one expected him to break the league, the plan was for him to hit .300 and steal bases on a team that can run. The value has been a bit different, as Lopez is hitting .223 with one steal through 30 games. This is less a victory lap, and more a chance to buy a valuable stock at the bottom of its price. While Lopez will struggle to be a regular in fantasy, the tools are there for a plus MI option. Even more, with owners moving on, this could be a $1 bid with some value attached.

Moving forward, there will be no power and the speed expectations need to come down as well. In the minors, he stole more than 20 bags in his first two seasons and has capped off at 17 since. This means that while he can be a threat, speed is secondary to the hit tool for overall value. With an xBA at .222, Lopez has not impressed so far. Still, if he is free in a league, this is the best raw upside on the wire.


OF - Christin Stewart (OF, DET)

1% owned, FAAB $7

Stewart is another bat who has made the list with some regularity this year. Entering the year off a hot end to 2018, many expected him to blossom into a star in Detroit. Rather, the return has been mediocre this year with a .228/.319/.394 slash and five homers. The significant change has been the batted ball profile, as Stewart has sunk from a plus exit velocity player to well below average. Same with Hard Hit% and other contact metrics. And yet, the Tigers are continuing to play him, so he has a chance to hit his way out of the hole.

The value comes from the offensive upside, as Stewart could be an All-Star hitter if he hits his ceiling. While that is not the likely outcome, that talent can help fantasy teams over a short spurt. Even better, his xBA is .242 and xWOBA is .307, so there is an improvement on the horizon. With Detroit still hitting him fourth, the price is worth the risk on the young hitter.


OF - Daniel Palka (OF, CWS)

2% owned, FAAB $13

While stuck at Triple-A at the time this piece is being written, Palka has rebounded at the plate to get him back on the fantasy radar. After making the Sox out of camp, Palka struggled to one hit in his first 35 plate appearances. After some issues with the swing and miss last year, Palka remains in the White Sox plans, but they are willing to give others the looks for now. A decent glove, with a plus arm, Palka has the tools to hang with the team, if the plate approach can improve.

Since his demotion, Palka has slashed .262/.367/.539 with 14 homers through 51 games. The batting average will be stuck with a ceiling in the .240-.260 range with the Sox, so not all owners can take on that hit based on scoring. Still, the power is real, and the slugging line shows that he is back to mashing at the plate. For now, owners should be adding him before a potential recall, as the power upside alone makes him an easy add in most leagues.


OF - Cesar Puello (OF, LAA)

1% owned, FAAB $6

Puello might be the first currently DFA’d player to make the list, as he looks to be done in Los Angeles. Slated to make room for Justin Upton's return, Puello has been hitting since his call, so this move was a bit puzzling. There is a decent chance that he stays with the team, meaning back to Triple-A and a bit less of a stock boost. Still, if he moves, Puello fits best in the American League in terms of available team needs. At the very least, he looks to be a bench bat, and in fantasy would push for OF4 playing time.

While with the Angels, Puello has appeared in 12 games, with a .390/.500/.683 slash. Add in the three homers, and Puello has been excellent to date. In terms of his track record, speed will be the carrying tool, with a top 5% of the league sprint speed. Still, the power he showed over a small sample size might push him to a 15/20 type ceiling. A good enough first few weeks to get the look, owners are hoping he lands somewhere with playing time, and can see if that power is for real.

*after publishing this piece it was reported that the Miami Marlins has claimed Puello off waivers from the Angels. This makes him a target in NL-only and mixed moving forward.


SP - Glenn Sparkman (SP/RP, KC)

1% owned, FAAB $3

Fantasy owners can see the state of the position with this selection. To date, pitching has been hard to stream, as even the aces are down compared to their projections. This means that owners need to be careful when starting players and take into account all the park and team factors. Sparkman gets the pick this week, on what looks to be a spot start, with a chance to hang in the rotation. The potential to stay in the rotation adds some value, but the team mitigates that with a lack of run support.

Appearing 13 times, with five starts so far, Sparkman has a 4.01 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. Both numbers put him below average, but right in line with current league trends. The 13 K% if not ideal, but owners should like the 5.9 BB%. For now, Sparkman is a player to add and stream, and the key will be to stay away from teams with elite power. Sparkman can limit the damage but does not have the stuff to get out of jams.


RP - Ryan Buchter (RP, OAK)

1% owned, FAAB $7

A similar play to the NL-only version of this article yesterday, Buchter is a match-up lefty with limited chances to implode. Through 34 games, Buchter has a 3.48 ERA, with a 1.65 WHIP. Taking into account the small sample, Buchter does have a 27.4 K% adding some additional value. Add in the eight holds, and in the right league, Buchter is an asset for reliever stats in both roto and points leagues.

The other reason to add Buchter is the usage, as his 34 appearances have him on pace to be in the top 15 in the game in total appearances. When he only pitchers one-third of an inning at times, the additional appearances will boost his counting numbers. A safe pick with some stable upside, Buchter will not hurt a team’s line, with a low-risk, low-reward add at the reliever spot this week.

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