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Digging Deeper: AL-Only Waiver Wire Report for Week 21

Keith Allison on Flickr - Originally posted to Flickr as "20120613-0211j"

Every week in baseball, a significant player will hit the injured 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 - Pedro Severino (C, BAL)

2% owned, FAAB $7

After starting the year as one of the hottest hitters behind the plate, Severino has cooled off just a bit. And yet, when comparing Severino’s numbers to the position, he has been one of the top-18 in the league in total points production. Over 74 games, he is slashing .254/.330/.421 with 10 homers and two steals. If he was playing a bit more, Severino would be a guaranteed starter in two-catcher formats, and perhaps, even in single backstop formats as well. Still, he has been one of the best hitters on the Orioles all season.

Future value comes from a few places. First, with a .263 xBA, the batting line is at worst expected to stay the same. Add in a 34.1 Hard Hit%, up from 19% last year, and the .411 xSLG points to continued success. Another good sign is that even with the increasing batting return, the K and walk rates have stayed much the same. This is not a hitter swinging early and getting a quick return, but instead, a player who looks much the same on the back-end but if getting more good contact at the plate. 


1B - Sam Travis (OF, BOS)

1% owned, FAAB $9

While sitting on the bench most of the year, Travis has found decent playing time at multiple positions for the Sox. Not a starter by any means, Travis offers the better right-handed bat on the Boston bench. A former second-round pick by the Sox, Travis was carried by a hit tool throughout his time in the minors. While the batting average has not popped in his limited time in the Bigs, the power is starting to appear. In his previous 113 changes, Travis had a single homer. This year he has six in 36 games.

A career .285 hitter in the minors, Travis has managed a .256 mark thus far in his career. Still, with a line this year at .265, the rate stats are moving in the right direction for fantasy owners. While he is not hitting the ball any harder this year, Travis has added close to 10 points to his launch angle. Combined with a 12% rise in his Hard Hit%, and the new ball or a swing change is affecting the base returns. Mostly a pinch-hitter for now, if the power keeps up, there can be two or three starts a week for the young bat.


2B - Nick Solak (2B, TEX)

1% owned. FAAB $6

Flipped at the deadline for Texas’s Peter Fairbanks, the prospect luster has clearly worn off Solak. Since he was added to the Ray’s system during early in 2018, the expectation was that Solak would be a long term option at second. While he lacks the ceiling of many top prospects, the hit and glove tools made him the perfect heir-apparent to Joey Wendle. And yet, that is not the case, based on Texas’s buy-low after a roster crunch in Tampa.

Only two games into his tenure in Texas, Solak seems to be back in the same situation. Good enough to pencil in, but always at risk for an upgrade. Still, after being assigned to Nashville, Solak slashed .347/.386/.653 over 36 games following the move. Add in 10 homers and two steals over that time, and Solak is playing the best ball of his career. Not too much to bet on without a track record in the Majors, but playing time and the park only add to other reasons to buy-low on Solak.


3B - Michael Brosseau (2B/3B, TB)

2% owned, FAAB $8

Reappearing on the list after some time away, Brosseau has continued to produce at the plate. Over his 38 games this year with the Rays, Brosseau is slashing .277/.319/.464 with five homers and one steal. The other good news is that Brosseau has added second base to his positional eligibility, and can play at either the MI or CI spots. When the team is still moving him around, that eligibility will keep into next year, and add some pre-season interest.

Moving forward, owners are betting on the batting line and hoping for the same power production. The red flags emerge in the expected numbers, with a .197 xBA and .316 xSLG. Still, the 34.1 Hard Hit% shows the impact with the bat, and 14 runs show the production so far. Lacking a clear carrying tool, the hit tool is enough with all the rest to make him a legitimate starter in the Majors.  Buy now, and if the batting line continues to slide, Brosseau is a cheap dart to throw.


SS - Jordy Mercer (SS, DET)

1% owned, FAAB $12

After nine strong years as a starting option in Pittsburgh, Mercer joined the rebuilding Tigers as a stop-gap option at short. Over 51 games, Mercer is slashing .256/.298/.411 with six homers. When this is right in line with his career marks, Mercer is as steady as always. Even his exit velocity and launch angle are precisely in line with career norms. This means that while he is not slowing down, Mercer is also not going to get much better. 

The added value has come from a declining K rate, down four points from last year. Add in that his xBA is right at .256, and owners can expect much of the same going forward. If anything, his xWOBA and xSLG are up a tick from his current line, so there might be even more run here. Not a sexy pick at all, but for owners looking for a start with some batting upside, Mercer is the best pick.   


OF - Jake Marisnick (OF, HOU)

1% owned, FAAB $14 

With the rash of injuries hitting the Astros, team context is no longer enough of a reason to target a player on the wire. With Marisnick owners are targeting a player without a starting role, but offers multi-category impact instead. Over 94 total games this campaign, Marisnick is slashing .245/302/.446 with nine homers and 10 steals. Playing mostly in center, when he does get the start, Marisnick has appeared in at least 103 games over the past five seasons, so no reason to doubt the playing time so far.

Looking into the numbers, a few pieces stand out. First, is seeing more pitches per plate appearance, up to 3.9 from 3.76 last year. Second, even with an average exit velocity of 84, Marisnick does have a 32.9 Hard Hit%. Even more, the glove plays, and will keep him on the roster as cover for center field. Targeted mostly for the speed and power combo, owners can trade the rate line for some stat-padding with homers and steals.


OF - Victor Reyes (OF, DET)

0% owned, FAAB $6 

After playing in 100 games last year for Detroit, Reyes, this year, has only made it into 33 games. Most of this was tied to a demotion early in the year, but he is back and looking to compete down the stretch. After posting an anemic .222/.239/.288 slash last year, Reyes has improved the line to .282/.331/.411 so far this campaign. Last year, the value came from nine steals, but so far in 2019, Reyes only has one steal. The good news is that he has already matched his homer numbers from last year, with three so far in 2019.

The interesting piece of his metrics is that Reyes is only hitting the ball with an 84 exit velocity. Still, that is right in line with his disappointing 2018. Launch angle is also the same, even with a similar Hard Hit%. The only real change, other than the batting line, has been a doubling of his walk rate to 6.8%. Add in that he sees about .58 more pitches per at-bat this year, and a small amount of patience might be the key. Expect the speed to reappear, but for now, a good batting average floor to pair with a power option.


OF - Steve Wilkerson (2B/OF, BAL)

0% owned, FAAB $3

Right off the bat, the positional eligibility is key to this pick. While Wilkerson is not a starting outfielder right now at either spot, the fact that he can produce at MI is worth the add alone. Still, the base skills hint at a hot end to the season, and OF4 value at the least. After starting the year in the .250-.260 range, Wilkerson has spent the last two months batting in the .230s. Moving forward, with a .198 xBA, owners should expect to see much of the same. Still, the park plays into this, and adds some value with good run and homer factors. 

The value from Wilkerson comes from his power and run support to date. Even in a part-time role, and appearing in 89 games, Wilkerson has scored 33 runs. This comes after only two runs last year in 16 games. Even more, the 10 homers so far are more than the majority of his minor league career totals. Part of this is tied to the park, but also a 32.8 Hard Hit% shows that there is good contact as well. Owners are throwing a dart, but Wilkerson will play around the diamond and has the power to make up for his limited rate stats. 


SP - Kolby Allard (SP, TEX)

3% owned, FAAB $6

A former top prospect in the Atlanta system, Allard was dealt to Texas at the deadline this year. While he is only the 15th ranked prospect right now for Texas, the floor is much higher than other arms the list. The questions about Allard have always been tied to velocity, as he only tops out at 92.7 on the fastball. Still, with excellent command of a cutter, changeup, and curve ball, the pitch mix has allowed him to record 431 strikeouts over 471 minor league innings. 

The park is not great for a player who relies on fastball and cutter, but Allard only allowed 37 homers over his minor league career. If he can keep the ball in the park, a 1.24 career WHIP shows the upside with the command. A lefty-hurler, most of opposing damage has come inside to right-handers, so owners can watch for that spot to gauge his transition into the Majors. Allard is a player who can play above his prospect stock but also looks to be ready to compete right now. The stock is up in dynasty leagues next year with the move indoors, but owners might be able to squeeze some roto-value this year as well.


RP - Nick Goody (RP, CLE)

4% owned, FAAB $11

A bit of inside baseball here when talking about Cleveland. The team has hit a bit of a roadblock, and most of this is down to the bullpen’s recent issues. Adam Cimber has had first worst week since joining the team, and Brad Hand has also blown three saves in his past six outings. And yet, Goody has emerged as the trustworthy option in the pen for the skipper. Even more, when Tito is looking for match-ups and loves to pitch relievers for one or four hitters, Goody has the skills to pitch late in games. 

Through 26 games, and 30.1 innings so far, Goody has posted a 2.08 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. The fantasy community will get most excited for the stuff, with 38 strikeouts over that time. Another good sign is that opposing hitters have dropped their exit velocity by four points, and Hard Hit% by 20 points. While he is not in line for saves now, Goody is the option to add for stuff and innings. Holds are there as well, and with Hand’s struggles, the team could move to a dual-closer role based on match-ups. The stuff alone will make him worth the add, but changes are coming, and Goody is best positioned to take advantage. 

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