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Digger Deeper: AL-Only Waiver Wire Report for Week 17

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 - Austin Romine (C, NYY)

2% owned, FAAB $8 
The first of a few Yankees on the list this week, Romine offers what has been a steady presence on a surging ballclub. When the catching position is again a bit of a dumpster fire this week, all of this matters more than it should. While there are others with starting roles behind Romine on the list, none have nearly as good of a team context as he does. This means that even with questions on his own skills at the plate, Romine will score runs when he does get on base. Even more, with Gary Sanchez headed the Injured List, Romine is the primary backstop for the next few weeks.
So far, in 39 games, Romine is slashing .244/.262/.328 with two homers and one steal. While noteworthy for the position, owners are still staring at a .211 xBA and .255 xWOBA, offering a bit more context. While the smaller sample size influences the expected numbers, it is fair to say that .244 might be the ceiling. Still, Romine can run into some power, and with the starting spot, even without much production on his own, is the best option on the wire right now. At the very least the glove will keep him in the game, meaning owners can play on runs by team context alone.

1B - Greg Bird (1B, NYY)

1% owned, FAAB $6 
The second Yankee to populate the list this week, Bird has always been a fantasy darling. That is, when he has been healthy. While he has never matched the early-career hype and production, Bird still offers the rawest power on the wire this week. In 186 total games with the Yankees, Bird has 32 total homers, with a .424 career slugging line. Not the gross production some might expect, but the slugging line shows that there is pop in the bat. While health has been the main issue so far, Yankee Stadium still offers an ideal fit for this type of swing profile.
While currently listed on the Injured List, Bird seems to be on his way back in the next few weeks. If the Yankees do not add a bat at the deadline, with the mounting injuries to their other power bats, the team will look internally for that piece. This means that Bird will be given a chance to play his way into a playoff role, and this was the spot that shot him to fame his first go around with the Yankees. Even more, without a clear option at first in the minors ready to step in, the batting floor, at least with the power, for Bird seems to be the best real-life fit as well. All upside with this pick, the price will be low enough to throw this dart. Owners should move earlier if they want to add him for under $10 at this rate.

2B - Harold Castro (2B/OF, DET)

1% owned, FAAB $12 
After being thought of as minor league filler for the Tigers entering the year, Castro now finds himself batting second on most nights. With a hot start to the year, Castro might even be emerging as the answer at second base for the team moving forward with a full rebuild. At Triple-A, before his call, Castro was slashing .328/.371/.484 with four homers and 20 runs scored. This has continued with Detroit, as through 43 games Castro has slashed .295/.307/.418 with two homers and two steals.
Based on the career numbers, Castro looks to have a carrying stat in the batting but will need to find power and speed to emerge as a starter. The good news is that with a .285 xBA, this start seems to be likely to continue. Even more, with Gordan Beckham being the only other option on the roster at second, Castro is the player with a future on the roster. A low-ceiling, but high-floor option at second, expect a .280 batting line with some counting support the rest of the way.

3B - Matt Duffy (3B, TB)

1% owned, FAAB $16 
A former regular for the Rays in past seasons, Duffy has only played in one game this year due to an injury. For owners, this means there is a starting-caliber player, albeit with some flaws, on a team still hanging in the playoff race, free on the wire. Duffy is as good as a mid-season trade or call-up based on how he expects to play. Still, even with the situational value. Duffy has been one of the better contact hitters over the past few years. Last year, his .294 batting line placed him in the top 15% of the league, and a career .286 mark shows the success over the years.
While he does not have the big bat associated with third and might fit better as a bat at shortstop, there is still pop in the bat. With 67 career doubles and nine triples, Duffy can find the gaps at Tropicana and use above-average speed to push hits into extra-bases. Playing time is there with Yandy Diaz’s recent injury, and the floor is too high to be on the wire. The highest floor on playing time on the list, with the track record to back up some fantasy value, Duffy is a clear win this week.

SS - Luis Rengifo (2B/SS, LAA)

2% owned, FAAB $12 
Rengifo has been hard to add this year based on questions regarding both playing time and production at the plate. Still, with playing time has come production, and so, the floor seems to be ticking up for fantasy owners. With 63 games and 214 ABs, and with Zack Cozart looking to be out for the year, the playing time seems to only be getting clearer on this team. While he seems to be hitting at the bottom of the order, having Mike Trout drive him in makes it easier to count on runs. This means that owners can trade upside for a compiler, and a player that the Angels want to see play out the year.
On the bat, thee questions are tied to contact, as he seems to have more raw power than other second basemen. So far, Rengifo is slashing .262/.329/.393 with three homers and one steal. Like others in this ownership bracket, the main draw is a batting average floor, and owners will have to settle for mediocre power and speed numbers. For now, a safe profile, and with the team, owners can hope for some upside based on how the team is playing of late.

OF - Brian Goodwin (OF, LAA)

3% owned, FAAB $15 
Designated by the Royals earlier this year, Goodwin quickly found a role with the Angels. To date, he has played in 82 games and slashed .285/.341/.467 with eight homers and three stolen bases. Playing in all three outfield spots over the past week, Goodwin has moved to the reserve role since the return of Justin Upton. Still, when the bat has been this good, he will find those spots and get the benefit or normal rotation off the bench. His ability to play in center and the corners will help him remain on the team, and with Jo Adell a year away, there is no pressure for the spot.
The other reasons to buy Goodwin the rest of the way is tied to the .404 xSLG. For a player without much power over his career, any increase will push up his chances to jump up fantasy rosters. A good glove will keep him on this year, and with the playoffs still open, there is no reason for the team to move on from a productive hitter. Even more, if he can keep on the 15/15 pace, Goodwin is back to being a top-50 outfielder. While he is still capped on playing time, the skills are there for a fantasy bat in only-league at least.

OF - Tyler Naquin (OF, CLE)

4% owned, FAAB $18 
If there is a player who has changed minds in the fantasy community this year it has been Naquin. Still, with a current 4% ownership rate, the majority of players have not jumped on board. In July alone, Naquin hit .396 with three homers and a steal. For the year this pushed the season-long line to .288/.322/.505 with nine homers and four steals. While the power is not where it needs to be for a starter in a corner spot, the batting line growth shows that things are starting to click for the lefty.
Comparing this year along to his career marks, Naquin is hitting the ball two miles-per-hour harder, and with a five-point jump in his launch angle. This means that the 40 Hard Hit%, which is only up two points from his career mark, is putting the ball in the air more. With this comes for more power, but also for Naquin, more balls finding the field. Due to Cleveland's needs, there is a clear starting role the rest of the way for Naquin, and owners should buy before the price rises even more.

OF - Bubba Starling (OF, KC)

2% owned, FAAB $12 
Making a repeat appearance on the list, Starling has been impressive since his call a week back. Through eight games, Starling has eight hits, one homer, and seven runs scored. Even better, he has looked good in the field and has overall played better than expected. With the prospect pedigree still there, and a rebound over the past year, the hype should be back. As he has taken over in center, and is only 26, will play as he can factor into this rebuild.
The question is fantasy impact, as the Royals are just not that good. This means lots of empty trips to the bases, and a reliance on his limited power for runs. The silver lining is that since the break, the Royals have been one of the better teams offensively. A young team with obvious upside, this is the ideal fantasy spot for a toolsy outfielder. If the team continues to play well, Starling will get the bounce. If not, he has the tools to play on his own, and show what he has for 2020.

SP - Jalen Beeks (SP, TB)

2% owned
Added last year in return for Nathan Eovaldi, Beeks seemed like a good fit for the follower role in Tampa Bay. And yet, in his one start this year, he went seven strong innings. A starter in the minors, the report was that he lacked the stuff to churn a roster three times. Still, even in other relief appearances, with 21 total this year, Beeks has posted a 1.33 WHIP and 3.69 ERA. Add in an 8.5 BB% and Beeks looks to at least be a lefty with some length in the pen.
Still, the plan is for his to start this week, and then be the first option up for busy weeks ahead. While Beeks does give up a good amount of hard contact, with a 30% career line, he also has been able to limit the damage with only seven homers in 68 innings. Even more, the batting line sits at .268, so there is some room for improvement, but the current profile is a good fit for the Rays. A higher floor option with a good team in support, Beeks is a steamable option for the next few weeks at the least.

RP - Nick Goody (RP, CLE)

1% owned
While the Cleveland bullpen is as locked into their roles as any in the game, and Brad Hand will not lose the job, Goody still has definite fantasy value without saves. A former waiver pick-up from the Yankees, Goody was electric when he first got to the team. After an injury knocked out most of his 2018 campaign, Goody is back on the mount and flashing his elite stuff. With Cleveland, relievers earn their way into roles, and Goody has been a favorite for Terry Francona's. With the ability to pitch out of jams, Goody will end innings, with the ability to continue into the next frame.
For his career, Goody has posted a 21% K rate, but this year, that is up to 39%. In 2017, his first year in Cleveland, Goody had a 32.6 K%. All of this shows that the stuff plays, and he will be an elite option for counting stats in pitching categories. Even more, with a 1.25 WHIP, and a 1.03 line this year, Goody has great ratios as well. A reliable reliever, with a 12 K/9 upside, owners can start and forget this arm on their teams.


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