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Digger Deeper: AL-Only Waiver Wire Report for Week 15

very 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 - Jason Castro (C, MIN)

4% owned, FAAB $26

While not the sexy fantasy option in Minnesota behind the dish this year, Castro is healthy, and after dealing with his issues last year is back in the starting gig. After Terry Ryan left the job in 2016 and was replaced by Thad Levine, the talk was that the Twins were going to start valuing modern metrics. Their first signing was Castro, an excellent framer, who was a definite defensive upgrade. Castro is a player that the Twins were willing to pay up for, and for this reason alone, will be around the team all year.

Known as mostly a glove-first option behind the dish, Castro has hit his way to a .257/.331/.529 slash with 10 homers in 45 games this campaign. The power is the emerging skill, with a previous career high of 18 back in 2013. The other good news is that his expected stats like him to improve in the second half with a .288 xBA and .629 xSLG. If the numbers are to be believed, the new power is real, and batting line will carry Castro to a top-five finish in the American League at the position.

1B - Ryan O’Hearn (1B, KC)

1% owned, FAAB $11

Entering draft season this year, O’Hearn was one of the favorite sleeper picks by the community at first. So far, this has been a disaster, with the slugger only slashing .188/.286/.333 with six homers in 56 games. Not only has this led to a demotion, but the future is now unclear with Cheslor Cuthbert playing well at the position. This means that his window to get the job might have closed, but also that the player blocking him from the Royals has no track record of his current value. Expect O'Hearn to get another shot this year, and with that, have a chance to deliver on his pre-season potential.

At Triple-A, O’Hearn’s numbers have been much better with a .257/.349/.446 slash. Add in the three homers in 20 games, and he is back to looking like the player that got so much hype this year. The good news on the swing is that even with the current struggles, O’Hearn was hitting the ball hard. With a 90.3 exit velocity and 40.7 Hard Hit%, owners still have to like the power upside in the bat. For owners in need of a boost on the bench, O’Hearn looks to be one of the riskier, but also, higher-upside options when he gets a second crack at Kansas City.

2B - Yolmer Sanchez (2B3B, CWS)

1% owned, FAAB $7

With the White Sox continuing to improve their offensive output, owners need to begin returning to some of these players as fantasy options. While Sanchez has always been in the conversation on this list, for now, owners are looking at his lowest price and should buy accordingly. Hitting seventh or eight on most days, Sanchez has scored his share of runs with 26 so far. This means he can make runs on his own and can be seen as a more reliable floor option compared to others on the wire.

The other factor is that Sanchez has put together one of his best seasons at the plate. So far, he is slashing .252/.318/.314 with one homer and three steals. While the counting numbers are not great, he has been good for eight and eight so far in his career, so there is some value left to be had. The other good news is that he is making better contact this year, with an exit velocity up to 85.6 from 83.8 two seasons ago. While still below league average, improvements accompanied by production is always a good sign. A low ceiling target at second, expect Sanchez to improve as the rest of the team does in the second-half.

3B - Mike Brosseau (3B, TB)

1% owned, FAAB $9

Brosseau makes his second appearance on the list this year after featuring right after his initial call-up. With no real name value entering the year, this third baseman appears to have taken the fantasy community by surprise, with still a close to zero ownership rate even after the first two productive weeks. With 10 hits in 26 plate appearances, Brosseau has hit the ground running with one homer and five runs scored. While only a handful of games, so small sample size alert, the 20% K rate is encouraging after showing a good plate approach in the minors. Showing off the glove in the field as well, Brosseau has looked as good as may could have expected to start his career.

The concerns will be with the sample size, and how useful expected stats will be at reading his future value. Posting a .231 xBA right now, the systems expect him to drop off a bit the rest of the way. He also lacks the good power output so far and is making league-average contact at best. Still, if he can keep the early start up, Brosseau will offer a batting average floor at third. An AL-version of Colin Moran, but without the power upside, those who read the National League version of this article know how much I like the Pittsburgh third baseman, and therefore this profile.

SS - Myles Straw (SS/OF, HOU)

1% owned, FAAB $33

Perhaps the most exciting speed option from the minors can now play on the infield, and fantasy owners can rejoice. Setting the record this year for the highest recommend FAAB bid Straw can be a season-changer in most fantasy formats. Perhaps the fastest runner in the game currently, Straw has legitimate 60 steal upside if the team lets him run. While owners will need to adjust for the rest of the season with their projections, Straw stole a base every 2.68 games he played in the minors. Owners can do the math and add that to their roto categories to see what he can mean the rest of the way.

The shortstop eligibility will also help Straw, as he might have lacked the bat to hang in the outfield. Straw has posted a good batting line and is slashing .288/.403/.365 this year with Houston. Still, there will be a dearth of power in the profile, with four total homers in 449 minor league games, limiting some of that upside with the hit tool alone. If the batting line can stay in the .280 range, and he can steal as he did in the minors, Straw might have the most earned auction dollars at MI of any player in the second half. Where he is not owned owners should be spending big if they have a spot.

OF - Tyler Naquin (OF, CLE)

1% owned, FAAB $12

The first of two outfielders hailing from Cleveland to make the list, Naquin has been a mixed bag so far this year. After a strong 2016 campaign, Naquin missed playing in Cleveland during the 2018 and 2018 campaigns due to struggles at the plate, and some reported injuries. Still, with the lack of depth in this outfield, the expectation was that Naquin would be a key piece this year. And yet, once again injuries have kept him from playing a full season.

Even with all of that, Naquin is slashing .266/.306/.462 with seven homers and three steals in 54 games so far. Even better, the expected metrics like the production to keep up, with a .279 xBA and .492 xSLG. Naquin is also hitting the ball harder this year, with a 91.3 exit velocity, up from 89 last year. Moving forward, expect the batting line to improve, and the power gains to stick around. When the team is starting to play better, players like Naquin will benefit the most. While the offensive production has not been there is spades over his career, Naquin has always hit the ball hard, and that is a skill to throw a dart at.

OF - Teoscar Hernandez (OF, TOR)

1% owned, FAAB $4

Another of the young bats expected to make an impact in 2019 draft rooms, Hernandez now finds himself free in 99% of leagues. The main sell with the Toronto outfielder is the power, as he had 29 bombs in 134 games with the Jays last year. This year, the story has been a bit different, with only eight homers so far. Add in the drop in the batting average from .239 to .204, and what power has been there is not enough. While owners could live with the .240 line for a slugger last year, the decline has pushed him off most rosters already.

The silver lining this year has been the sharp drop in his exit velocity. This has dropped from 91 to 88, and while still above league-average, is limiting his production right now. Add in that his Hard Hit% is down 12 points, and something is clearly going on. While there is no real optimism in his expected stats, with a.192 xBA to far, that is the exact reason to buy in on Hernandez. Either pitchers have figured him out, or there has been an injury holding him back. Twenty homers in the second half are worth that risk. At the very least, he is a dart who is easy to cut without a good start to the second-half.

OF - Greg Allen (OF, CLE)

1% owned, FAAB $7

The second of the Cleveland outfielders to make the list this week, Allen entered the year with some expectations and was slotted in as a starter by most sites. The main appeal was the speed, with 21 bags in 9a games last year. The issue in 2019 has been that even with the potential to steal a .211/.260/.423 slash does not get Allen on base enough to be a regular threat. While he does have two homers, and has been known to get on a run with the bat, Allen has been a disappointment so far in Cleveland.

The good news is that he is hitting much better at Columbus, with a .274/.349/.432 slash complimented by five homers and eight steals. While he will need this to translate to the Majors for it to matter, the success, especially after the demotion, is a good sign for a still-developing player. While the expected numbers do not like to him to hit the rest of the way, the recent spells have looked better and better. This might be a bit of a gut pick, but Allen is in line for a big second half. Even if that means OF3 status in AL-only leagues, Allen can be an asset with his feet and glove.

SP - Ariel Jurado (SP, TEX)

6% owned, FAAB $4

A bit high at 6% ownership this week with Jurado, but this is as low as owners should be willing to go to get a starter this week. A bit of a pop-up pitcher last year, Jurado appeared in 12 games last year posting a 5.93 ERA. This year, that line has improved to an 4.23 ERA. Even better, Jurado has dropped his WHIP from 1.54 last year to 1.35 this campaign. With that all moving in the right direction, and with Jurado slotted as the number three starter in the Texas rotation, this is a stock with emerging stability.

When owners look to the Statcast numbers, they will see that Jurado does not grade out well on velocity or spin. In fact, all of his offerings are in the bottom 20% of the league, with a fastball topping off at 93 being the only excpetion. Jurado does also give up better than expected contact, with a .270 xBA on his line. The value comes when Jurado has been able to get hitters to ground into outs, as seen by the drop in his BABIP from last year to this year. Still sitting at around league average, Jurado can keep the ball on the ground, and if the homers from Arlington do not tank his ERA, can be an effective SP with a bit of rise.


RP - A.J. Puk (SP, OAK)

3% owned, FAAB $21

A bit of cheating to end the list this week since Puk is not currently eligible as a reliever in fantasy, nor is he even in the Majors with Oakland yet. Still, when he returns, owners should expect him to be used in the pen, as the team cannot risk him hurting himself again. Add in that Jesus Luzardo will be up in the fortify the rotation soon, and the team will have less of a need in the rotation when the time comes.  If the need arises, them he is a start, and not matter where he pitches, Puk is an impact arm in any fantasy league.

The reason to buy now is that many owners might forget that Puk is planning to return this year, or at least, owners can get the jump now. Little to no stats to look at due to the injury, but what Puk offers is an elite arm. The question will be the velocity, as after TJ pitchers can be down a tick or two until the following year. If so, another reason to keep him in the pen. Still, with two elite pitchers in the fastball and slider, Puk is ready to be a Josh Hader-type arm this year. Even without a risk of saves, those Ks add up with extended outings. There is a risk, but this is the type of move that could win a league is all goes well.


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