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Digger Deeper: AL-Only Waiver Wire Report for Week 16 (Triple-A Edition)


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 - Eric Haase (C, CLE)

0% owned 

Expected by many to get a run of playing time with Cleveland this year, Haase has struggled through his limited chances so far. Add in that Roberto Perez is a borderline All-Star, and the field is even cloudier. Still, when looking to other catching options with a route to playing time, there is not much else on the wire. If the team did not see a role for Haase, they would have moved onto some younger options. That fact alone is a feather in his cap.

Haase might not be a catcher for long, with the glove being the limit on the profile. The bat is the key, as he is leading Triple-A catchers with 23 homers so far. The other good sign come with the rate numbers, as Haase has pushed the batting line to .252 from a career .246 line. If he can keep that in the .250 range, then Haase fits well into the modern catching game at the plate. In terms of impact bats at catcher, the best owners can hope for is a Haase replacement of Kevin Plawecki for the reserve role in Cleveland

 

1B - Taylor Jones (1B, HOU)

0% owned 

Before getting into why I like Jones, it should be noted that fantasy owners are hoping for a trade away from Houston to push up his fantasy value. Blocked by Yordan Alvarez and Tyler White for a spot, it does not look like Jones will get more than a cup of coffee this year for the Astros. Still, when Alvarez might be the answer at first for the future, Jones can now be an exciting trade chip with upside based on his performance so far this year.

Through 85 games at Triple-A Round, Rock Jones is slashing .291/.387/.526 with 17 homers, and 60 total runs scored. Another player who did not make Baseball America’s top-30 for the system, Jones is having his best season to date. His career batting line is .261 meaning a 30 point jump in his average so far this year. The other piece is that Jones has flashed good power in the past, with 18 homers over a full 2018 campaign. With the increased power numbers in general, Jones might not get as much of a bump but still offers a sleeper bat on a roll this year.

 

2B - Ryan Goins (2B, CWS)

1% owned 

While not a sexy option at second, being 31 at the time of this article, Goins has been hitting too well to ignore for much longer. To date, he is slashing .327/.410/.537 with 10 homers and 47 runs. Owners looking to Goins are hoping for a second-half run of games, but also might need an injury to make this all click. Old enough that he is best suited as a veteran depth piece in the minors, with 489 Major League games under his belt, Gois can add experience to a team in a playoff hunt.

Even if he stays, Goins should be getting a chance to play this year, as he could be an option for 2020. Yolmer Sanchez is currently holding the spot, but also looks to be hitting himself out of a long term role with the club. The other piece for Goins is that the power numbers are well up from his career norm. Like many hitters this year, with the new ball, much of the same impact is being seen. Not a power-hitter by trade, Goins does make good contact leading to more homers. A higher floor option the rest of the way that most other targets, owners in need of MI depth can target a safe play here.

 

3B - Andy Ibanez (3B, TEX)

0% owned 

While there are real questions regarding Ibanez’s ability to stay at third, for now, that is where he has been getting most of his playing time. The main issues are less with the glove, which grades out as average to plus, but more the arm. With an average arm, at best, that throw will be tough across the diamond. Still, there is always room for growth, even if he fits better at second with bat anyway.

This year Ibanez is slashing .299/.371/.466 with 10 homers and four steals. A few years back, Ibanez was one of the top prospects in the system, but the bat has not been there so far in his career. Still, with emerging power and a .290 batting average floor at second, Ibanez can be a reliable offensive option. The base stealing skills will need to improve for him to emerge as a fantasy starter, with five caught stealings this year compared to four steals. With Texas still needing to cover for some injuries, and perhaps still in the playoff hunt, Ibanez will at least be a September call-up type. He also should be moved up on draft boards heading into 2020.

 

SS - Jake Cronenworth (SS, TB)

0% owned

Durham has been on fire this year, with a 57-39 record to date. While some of the hot hitters like Mike Brosseau are up with the Rays, the roster is still filled with exciting pieces. While this whole list could not be Durham players, owners should look at others who did not make the cut. Cronenworth was an easy pick this week, as he has been the stand-out of the year for the Bulls. In 80 games at Triple-A, Cronenworth is slashing .342/.432/.540 with 10 homers and 11 steals. With the chance for an impact bat at short, this is the type of player that can change a fantasy teams’ second-half.

While Cronenworth is blocked at short by Willy Adames, the latter has posted an 83 WRC+ offering some need of an upgrade. Even more, when Tampa is only five games out of the division but lacks the capital to get other pieces, they will have to look internally. If Cronenworth is dealt for a starter, he becomes a must-add. For now, the numbers speak for themselves, and Cronenworth is a sleeper that needs to at least be on watchlists in case he gets the call.

 

OF - Victor Reyes (OF, DET)

0% owned 

While Reyes made the club out of Spring Training, he has spent the majority of the season stuck in the minors. Over 65 games he is hitting .302/.326/.480 with nine homers and seven steals. During his limited time with the Tigers, Reyes has never been able to complement a .258 career batting line. With only one homer and 12 total extra-base hits in 256 chances, Reyes has been an empty batting average so far in his career.

And yet, 2019 has been his best year to date in terms of power output, with only 21 career homers coming into the year. He does have a career .299 batting line in the minors, so the hit tool has always been critical to his prospect profile. Reyes is an easy add due to his 40-man status, and a team with no definite plans to upgrade at the deadline. The best owners can hope for is something better than a series of singles, as Reyes offers value with a .280 batting line and 15/15 projection over a full season.

 

OF - Brent Rooker (1B/OF, MIN)

0% owned 

While starting his career at first, Rooker has moved to playing more in the outfield as he has moved up the ladder. The downside to this move is that Rooker might not have the bat to project as a starting outfielder, as at first, he was projected as a plus-plus glove. Still, owners have to like Target Field as a landing spot, and with the team in the mix of the playoff hunt, can always use an extra power bat to hold down some plate appearances. Rooker should also be a target next year with the aging Nelson Cruz nearing the end of his time in the Bigs.

Rooker has continued to flash a plus bat with a .281/.398/.535 slash and 14 homers so far this year. While the batting line is up from a .267 career mark, he has been a consistent hitter every step up the minors. The red flags come from the swing-and-miss tendencies, with 95 Ks in 228 ABs this year. Still, the power is real, and Rooker is answering critics on his batting average potential. Rooker can be a solid bench bat, with 10 homer upside, but also should be moving up lists for next year.

 

OF - Bubba Starling (OF, KC)

0% owned 

Starling is another of the prospects that have divided the fantasy community. Listening to scouts this year, and seeing Starling in the Futures Game, he looks erratic. As in, not in control of his body at the plate, or in the field. And yet, looking to this numbers, this has been on his best professional seasons to date. Through 72 games Starling is slashing .310/.358/.448 with seven homers and nine steals. With decent defensive ratings, Startling is starting to look on paper like the prospect that the team drafted in the first round.

So then, here is the rub. While he is on this list, and I think owners can use his profile to win fantasy games, the numbers are a bit inflated. First off, he is 26, so a bit old, even for Triple-A. Second, even with the gains, the fact that he is steady or decreasing, in terms of power output, and every other player is hitting more bombs, should alert owners to some to the ceiling. Still, if owners are looking for batting average and steals, Starling will be up and playing soon. Just do not expect to see him lead with the pop; they will be disappointed with the returns.

 

SP - Asher Wojciechowski (SP, BAL)

0% owned 

Traded from Cleveland to Baltimore for cash considerations, Wojciechowski might be the front runner for the minor league Cy Young this year. A bit ridiculous, but looking at the numbers, that might not be far off. In 15 starts this year, Woj has an ERA of 3.61 with eight wins, and a 1.16 WHIP. Add in that opposing hitters are only batting .217 and the overall profile looks solid.

The concern will be that Baltimore is not an excellent spot for a developing pitcher, even one who is 30 years old. Still, playing time is playing time, and he has been effective at limiting homers this year. That is why the numbers jump off the page, as with the increased power output at Triple-A pitching lines are hard to gauge. Even better, Woj is currently second in ERA amongst qualified pitchers in the International League. By relative value, Woj is one of the better options to target in the second half, even with Camden in play.

 

RP - Joe Harvey (RP, NYY)

0% owned 

Currently tied for second in the International League with eight saves, Harvey has been one of the best relievers in all of the minors this year. With a 2.53 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, Harvey has not had any issues keeping runners off base. Add in 32 Ks in 22 innings, and the profile is clear, Harvey is an elite arm ready to make the jump for the long term.

Harvey has managed to appear in nine games this year for the Yankees, but his command has let him down. With seven walks and 11 Ks in 10 innings, the 1.80 WHIP says it all. Still, both the fastball and curveball grade out as plus. Harvey reminds me a lot of Nick Goody, a former Yankee farmhand with a similar mix and velocity profile. If this the career path, then Harvey can emerge as an eight-inning arm, with right-handed specialist duties as well. As valuable as any other reliever down the way, the stuff will give Harvey more of a floor to work with for fantasy impact.

 

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