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Digger Deeper: AL-Only Waiver Wire Report for Week 19

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 - Martin Maldonado (C, HOU)

1% owned, FAAB $8

As the dust had settled on deadline day, Maldonado was back in a familiar place. After being added to the roster for the playoff push last year, Maldonado is now back on a team that values his defense. At least, they had better, with a career .219 career batting line. Still, with Robinson Chirinos being a bit of an issue behind the plate at times this year, it would not be a surprise to see Maldonado earn the starting role. With the rest of the team able to carry the bat, defense will lead to playing time behind the plate.

The direct fantasy value from Maldonado comes with his run-scoring rate. Even with a .291 OBP this year, the backstop has scored 32 runs. Right now this has him 14th at the position and the best line of those without a firm starting role. The thing to consider is that most of his runs and opportunities to create runs came as a member of the Royals. This means that when Houston is one of the better teams, and he has been playable on a struggling team, the floor will only move up. Expect the batting line to stay the same, or improve as he sees more pitches, but the value comes from scoring runs.

1B - Mike Ford (1B, NYY)

1% owned, FAAB $11

The first of a few Yankees to make the list this week, Ford is one of the emerging options for the team this year. While not listed as one of the top prospects in the system, Ford has been able to take advantage of injuries to earn playing time at first. With Greg Bird, Luke Voit, and Edwin Encarnacion all expected to miss substantial time; Ford will be the biggest beneficiary. While listed on Roster Resource as the DH, expect him to play most of the time in the field with an average glove. Even more, with the polish of playing in the minors for a while, Ford is not expected to need much time to ramp up to his floor.

While up due to the roster crunch, Ford was also enjoying his best professional season at the plate. In 79 games at Triple-A, Ford was slashing .303/.401/.605 with 23 homers. The most significant improvement has come in terms of his walk rate. Last year, Ford only walked 9% of the time. This year that number is up to 14%. When the power has never been in question, and Ford is adding to his batter’s eye, the profile will only be on the rise with the injuries that are killing this team. At the very least, Yankee Stadium will give me a good floor for homers.


2B - Breyvic Valera (2B, NYY)

0% owned, FAAB $4

It seems that every time the Yankees are playing on my TV some player is getting carted off the field or pulled due to an injury. With a staggering $120+ million in contract value on the Injured List at points this year, New York has somehow found a way to stick in this race. With the emergence of Giovanni Urshela and Mike Tauchman, this team has found pieces to plug-in. While Valera is not in that class, and is not an offensive force, with the run of injuries continuing, his role on the team in clear.

With four starts in the past week, Valera has been the primary replacement for Gleyber Torres at second. While only eligible there this week in fantasy, in the past, he has played all around the infield. This means that owners can expect him to add short or second by the end of the year as well. A career .220 hitter, Valera has pushed his line up to .235 in a small sample since joining New York this year. With an xBA of .240, owners should be buying low while they can, and expect the rate to at least trend up. With one more injury, or if Torres has to miss extended time, Valera is the starting second baseman on one of the better offensive teams in the game. That at the very least, makes him an upside MI in mixed leagues.


3B - Harold Castro (2B/3B/OF, DET)

1% owned, FAAB $17 

After playing in a total of six games for the Tiger last year, Castro has appeared in 55 already this campaign. While listed as an infielder and outfielder on the depth chart, Casto has played most of his time at first and third. This means that Castro might lose third base entering 2020, but he still fits there for the rest of 2019. Still, Castro has been hitting in the middle of the order, and is young enough to have a place on this team when they are competitive in future campaigns. For now, expect him to fall to the long side of a platoon, but still, get four or five games a week.

The production at the plate has also been there for Castro this year. In his 55 games, Castro is slashing .282/.299/.374 with two homers and three steals. While the counting stats are down from a starting role, with the platoon, expect to see more power. Castro slugs .419 when facing righties, and this drops to .171 versus same-handed pitchers. He also has a much higher strikeout rate when not in the platoon, so the current role fits best for him. While not a starter every day, the playing time is there, and with the platoon splits, a daily loves league is perfect for Castro.


SS - Ryan Mountcastle (SS, BAL)

0% owned, FAAB $18

Entering the year as the fourth-best prospect in the Orioles’ system, Mountcastle is one of the future building blocks for this team. While he might not get the call until rosters expand, with his year so far there is nothing left for him to prove. Through 103 games, Mountcastle is slashing .315/.343/.516 with 19 homers and two steals. While the power numbers are up across the level, Mounstaclse has shown a 15-homer year to be his floor. While the power pump is passing him a bit, there is still enough to count on some upside in the Majors.

The other reason to add Mouncastle sooner rather than later is the success of his move to short. Listed as a corner bat most of his career, the fact that Mountcastle has adapted to the harder position speaks to his athleticism. Secondly, Richie Martin will be on the team the rest of the way due to his Rule-5 status, but with a sub-.200 batting line, there is no reason to starter him with relevant alternatives. All upside with this pick and owners might have to wait for the impact, but this is the name to add before others find out.


OF - Travis Demeritte (OF, DET)

1% owned, FAAB $14

Added to the Tiger’s system in the Shane Greene deal, Demeritte appeared on out Triple-A lists two weeks ago. At the time, he was having one of the best offensive seasons of any Atlanta prospect, and now with a move, has no blocks for playing time. Since the move, Demeritte was immediately called up to Detroit and has split time in left and right field. Batting sixth or seventh shows what the team thinks of his power, and the numbers support an emerging fantasy star.

In 96 games at Triple-A, Demeritte had been slashing .287/.387/.558 with 20 homers and four steals. While, like others on this list, the power numbers are a bit inflated, the same ball should allow for some success this year as well. In his first 30 plate appearances with the Tigers, Demeritte recorded five hits, but also stole two bags. Sprint speed numbers put him in the top 20% of the league, so there is a fantasy bump that can come with extra chances to run. While the impact might be limited this year, as he seeks to adjust while playing for a lousy team, the skills are there for a great run into the offseason.


OF - Tyler Naquin (OF, CLE)

3% owned, FAAB $14 

With the additions of Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes, there is a bit of a squeeze in the Cleveland outfield. And yet, with Jordan Luplow headed to the Injured List, and Greg Allen recalled, Naquin is the clear starter in left for now. While there will be platoon moves that could limit full starting time, Naquin has played well enough that the team has plugged him into the roster when they could. Even more, with an improving glove, and the ability to play in left as well, Naquin is critical for the team to build match-ups in their favor.

In 71 games, Naquin is slashing .284/.315/.482 with nine homers and four steals. Not only is this an across-the-board improvement on his career lines, but this is also coming without protection from lefties. In fact, Naquin is batting .280 versus left-handed pitchers, up 100 from his career average. Even more, Naquin has always hit the ball hard, but this year he has doubled his launch angle. All signs point to regular playing time and a hitter who can flat hit.


OF - Derek Fisher (OF, TOR)

1% owned, FAAB $9

While the player he was traded for will appear below, Fisher’s move to Toronto might end up being the most impactful of those at the deadline. Always considered a good outfield prospect, there was no room for Fischer on a crowded Astros roster. The minor league numbers have been great, with a .279/.374/.486 slash over 505 total games. And yet, his production with Houston was not there. Over 11 games, he has only managed to hit .200 when up in the Bigs.

Fantasy owners can look past the early returns, and look to the direct playing time opportunity that he has. While listed on the bench, Fisher has played in four games this past week and played in every outfield spot. If he can emerge as an OF4 for this team, based on the sound defensive metrics, then the park will help push up his power numbers. When Rogers Center is the best place for home runs this year, and this is the piece that Fisher has yet to find in the Bigs, owners can throw this dart and hope for a quick return.


SP - Zack Godley (SP, TOR)

13% owned, FAAB $19

While the 13% ownership rate is a bit high for the list, this does not appear to be an accurate number. For one, when there has not been a steep drop after his DFAing, there might be some lag in terms of drops processing. At the very least, with the year he has been having, there is no way that 13% of owners have held him for this long. Even more, assuming that Goldey is just now being added to Al-only formats, there is no reason to think he has been held to this point in those leagues. Whatever the case, Godley is back on a team, and looks to at least have an audition for next year.

The red flags that will scare most owners away are all tied to the park factors. So far in 2019, Godley has allowed 12 homers in 76 innings, which puts him near the top of the league. And yet, the issue for Godley has not been homers, but instead, runners on base. With a walk rate that is three points higher than his 2017 breakout year, Godley is allowing more runners to score via the long ball. When looking to walk numbers, Chase Field has a .980 factor, and Rogers Center has a .943 mark. While Godley will still give up homers, as will every starter, the key will be minimizing damage. If that is the case, Godley is a definite add, with a chance to return to form in a better environment for his skills.


RP - Joe Biagini (RP, HOU)

3% owned, FAAB $12 

While not the most significant addition in the deal between Houston and Toronto last week, Biagini will only see his fantasy value climb after this move. For one, the team offers him a real chance to earn some wins in late-inning roles, and also, will have a better context around him to support underlying value. To begin his career in Houston, Biagini has been used in a middle-relief role, but also seem to be the first arm that will turn to in crucial innings. In this role, spelling starters earlier in games, and even with longer outings later in the game, Biagini is primed for wins and holds galore.

To date, in 52 games and 53 innings, Biagini has an ERA of 3.74. While he has already walked as many batters as he did all of last year, Biagini has also seen his WHIP drop from 1.43 to 1.38. While not a steep decline, this does show that there have been fewer hits for Biagini to deal with this year. No path to saves from the start but holds and ratios are the key plays with Biagini. With more than a strikeout per innings, the counting lines will also be there, and make Biagini the best option on the wire.


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