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Digger Deeper: AL-Only Waiver Wire Report for Week 20

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 - John Hicks (C/1B, DET)

1% owned, FAAB $3

While Jake Rogers is taking most of the starting time behind the dish, Hicks has found time at first as well this year. Starting the last four games, Hicks is still a vital piece of this team, and in fact, is one of the only power threats that is on the current roster. While he only has eight bombs so far this year, when he has only played in 72 games, the 20-homer pace looks much better. A question behind the plate, and a better first at first, the bat will need to continue if he is to be added to rosters this week.

To be fair, the rest of the line is not good. Hicks is at the bottom of the league in terms of xBA, xWOBA, and xSLG, limiting what owners can get excited about the rest of the way. Much like the Nl-version of this list, the fact that owners can target at least the power upside is enough. When catchers in the American League are posting a .220 average batting line, the .200 with pop is good enough for a dart.


1B - Brandon Drury (1B/2B/3B/OF, TOR)

2% owned, FAAB $7

Not a typical first basemen by trade, the playing time has opened new opportunities for Drury. Added at the deadline last year from the Yankees, Drury was expected to be a stop-gap for the young prospects. And yet, with a .227/.269/.409 slash over 94 games, Drury is still getting written into the lineup. With Cavan Biggio and others taking some time, the team still need a utility bat with some pop. In fact, he has played first, second, third, and the outfield all in the past week.

The breakout has come this year with the power return, as he has 14 homers already. Entering the year with 32 total over 308 games, the yield this year is well outside expectations. To help support the power run, Drury is not hitting the ball harder but has added a degree to his launch angle. Small tweaks might be unlocking some power, and if this keeps up, owners can stomach the batting average.


2B - Yolmer Sanchez (2B/3B, CHW)

1% owned, FAAB $12

While the White Sox have faded after a decent start, Sanchez stills looks to the favorite to start at second the rest of the way. Batting ninth, and starting six of the last seven games, Sanchez has functioned as a second lead-off hitter for Chicago. With a plus sprint speed rating, Sanchez is one of the league leaders in advancing bases on singles and can score from first on a gapper with ease. While not the base-stealing threat that the speed would suggest, with only five bags this year, the extra value on the bases will still count.

Sanchez is slashing .246/.309/.318 this season, and all of these numbers are better than his career averages. Add in an increase launch angle, and Sanchez is making his soft-contact approach work this year. Playing time is critical, and when Chicago can mash with the best, the ability to score via the longball adds a run floor to this profile. Cheap, and can play around the field, Sanchez is a good target at second this week.


3B - Matt Thaiss (1B/3B, LAA)

2% owned, FAAB $8

Entering the year as one of the better first base prospects in the game, Thaiss has found most of his playing time at the hot corner this year. Never a bat that could garner a top-five draft stock, the glove is there for him to be a productive regular in the Bigs. Repeating Triple-A this year, Thaiss posted a reliable .274/.390/.477 slash with 14 homers and a single steal. The power jump has not been there with the new ball, meaning owners are looking at a 15-homer ceiling over a full season.

While he is currently hitting .187 and has a .200 xBA, the sample size needs to grow before jumping to conclusions. Thaiss has been a solid bat in the minors, and no reason to think that this will not carryover eventually. Even more, in his first 14 hits, Thaiss has five homers and two doubles. Thaiss is also seeing 4.2 pitchers per at-bat and has a track record of patience at the dish. All of this means an easy buy-low for fantasy owners.


SS - Aledmys Diaz (1B/2B/3B/SS, HOU)

1% owned, FAAB $11

Entering the year as a utility option with some batting upside, playing time was the main issue with Diaz. When he is backing up a literal All-Star team, there is no way to force the issue, even if he was hitting. And yet, the season is long, and there have been opportunities for Diaz to play. To date, in 44 games, Diaz is slashing .271/.325/.481 with seven homers. While down a bit from his career numbers, this can be tied to the irregular playing time and is only a three-point drop in the batting line for example.

A decent enough glove to play around the field, Diaz has seen his value increase with the addition of Yordan Alvarez to this team. The fact that he is now the only option in the middle infield means that he will keep being rotated into the team, at the very least, to keep him timing up for the playoffs. With a .257 xBA and .395 xSLG, the current trends will at least continue. With more playing time comes more counting numbers, but for now, the rate stats be a decent starter up the middle on most fantasy teams.


OF - Brian Goodwin (OF, LAA)

2% owned, FAAB $17

A player who has seen no real rise in his ownership rate, Goodwin is a sleeper with good numbers so far this year. In 97 games, Goodwin is slashing .283/.335/.481 with 10 homers and three steals. Even when he looks to be the fourth outfielder on the team, Goodwin has appeared in at least five games a week for the majority of the season. Not an elite glove, Goodwin does offer an upgrade on the other veteran options holding positions until Jo Adell is ready to patrol the outfield.

With a .250 xBA and .407 xSLG, the metrics like Goodwin to keep up the current pace. Even if his batting line does drop, the .260 career floor offers at least replacement level production. Even more, while his K-rate is high at 25%, this is six points better than his career line. A player with the playing to keep up the value, and with a lack of name recognition in fantasy, Goodwin is the top outfield target this week.


OF - Robbie Grossman (OF, OAK)

1% owned, FAAB $21 

The switch-hitter is back on the list and has been playing much better since a tepid start Playing as a regular this year, Grossman has appeared in 102 games for Oakland. Over that time he is slashing .251/.349/.370 with six homers and eight steals. While the raw power is not there for the typical corner bat, the speed combo does give him a better-than-expected floor with a player that went undrafted in most leagues.

For the rest of the year, Grossman is a crucial bat for Oakland, with the switch-hitting playing into their match-up focus. Also, when he is grading out above-average with his “outfield jump” the defense is not a reason to move him out of the team. Even more, with an xBA of .268, the batting line should tick up to end the year. Add in a top 15% of the league walk rate, and there is something for every owner to like. Best suited to an OF3 role, Grossman can also be an OBP boost for team carrying some swing-heavy bats.


OF - Greg Allen (OF, CLE)

1% owned, FAAB $9 

Added the roster due to the suspension of Yasiel Puig, and injuries to Jordan Luplow. Allen might not have much of shelf life with the team. And yet, with some great defensive plays already, Allen might be the favorite to act as outfield cover during the playoffs. The main draw for Allen entering the year was his stolen base upside, and he did swipe 21 bags in 91 games last campaign. To date, playing in 53 games, Allen only has three steals and has been caught twice. When the team as a whole continues to run, expect there to be some value on the bases for Allen the rest of the way.

The principal limit on steals has been the .250 OBP line. That has jumped from under .250 before the All-Star break, so Allen is getting on base more often. This will mean more runs scored, more chances to steal, and all the rest that owners can expect from more production at the plate. While Allen is only cover in Cleveland and might be in the same role in fantasy, the hit tool still has some value with a .248 career batting line. If he can swipe a few bags, that would be gravy.


SP - Jacob Waguespack (SP, TOR)

2% owned, FAAB $7 

A 37th round draft pick by the Pirates, Waguespack was not listed on any prospect lists entering the year. In fact, over five seasons he has struggled to a 4.04 career ERA and 1.40 career WHIP. That all changed this year, as to start the year he was pitching much worse. The ERA shot to over five, and the WHIP to 1.40. Why then did he get the call, and why is he on this list? To be honest, it looks like an accident more than a plan, with injuries opening the spot in the rotation.

Even with all of that, Waguespack has pitched well in 2019 and has earned more starts accordingly. While the stuff is a bit down with 30 Ks in 39 innings, the ERA is down to 4.31 and WHIP to 1.34. The red flag comes from a 40% Hard Hit, but six homers in eight games is right in line with league average. If he can keep the walk rate in the 7% range, then Waguespack is at the very least a streaming option based on the park factors.


RP - Logan Allen (SP/RP, CLE)

1% owned, FAAB $11

Added as a piece of the Trevor Bauer deal, Allen has been called up to Cleveland for the first time since the move. While the team plans to use him as a starter next year, the plan for this year is to use him in the bullpen. With the length from starting in the minors, expect Allen to be mainly a long-relief option to cover for Adam Plutko and Aaron Civale, but also can be effective against the lefty-heavy teams in the AL central.

While Allen does not have elite stuff, he did strike out 63 batters in 57 innings before the trade. Even more, when he can command four pitches effectively, the mix is there to keep hitters off balance at the least. Expect Allen to help most with ratios, and a career 1.20 WHIP in the minors is the source of his fantasy value. Target for next year, but stream out of the pen the rest of this campaign.


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