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Digging Deeper: AL-Only Waiver Wire Report for Week 22

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 - Austin Romine (C, NYY)

2% owned, FAAB $7

Gary Sanchez is back from the Injured List, and Romine has seen his playing time decline accordingly. With Sanchez also playing better behind the dish as well, Romine is even losing some time when the starter is DHing. Still, when looking to the position, the fact that Romine is batting .268 might be enough to make the addition. While not offering much more, with six homers and one steal, Romine is reliable at the plate. The fact that he gets on base in front of some big bats is the icing on the reliability cake. 

The good news is that Romine's fantasy value is not limited to being a boring catcher. So far this year, Romine has cut six points off his K rate and is hitting the ball a bit harder. While the sub-.300 OBP line hurts in all formats, the 20 runs in 57 games make up for that a bit. Team context is useful, with more players coming back from the IL every week. For owners in need of a second catcher, Romine is a safe add, who will not hurt the overall team line. 


1B - Brandon Dixon (1B/OF, DET)

1% owned, FAAB $17 

For owners looking for a replacement at first, the chances to find a player with both power and batting average are slim. Typically, the players who can be decent in both hover around the 22% ownership rate, meaning the bottom of the barrel offers .200 batting lines with double-digit power. And yet, Dixon stands out from the stat line alone, even when the skills are not there in comparison to his peers. Through his first 96 games in Detroit, Dixon is slashing .247/.288/.442 with 14 homers and five steals. In fact, Dixon might be the only young player that the Tigers can look to build around moving forward. That is how bad the Tigers have been this year. 

The expected numbers for Dixon are not great, with a .236 xBA and .308 xWOBA. Still, compared to other options at the spot, Dixon is adding value, with a good floor in all other rate lines. This means that even with a drop in average, Dixon is serviceable with decent power upside, even when the ceiling is 24 over a full year. Even more, Dixon has kept the same exit velocity but has added six points to his launch angle. This hints to small changes in the profile that have added clear value. He will not win owners a league, but the power and speed is hard to pass.

2B - Brock Holt (2B/SS/OF, BOS)

2% owned, FAAB $8 

While only appearing in 63 games for the Sox this year, Holt is enjoying his best year at the plate. Through 173 at-bats, Holt is slashing .329/.403/.468 with three homers and one steal. Always a run-scoring machine, Holt has been good for 30 to date. The limiting factor in past years has been the OBP, but this year, Holt has added 60 points to that line. The good news is that his xWOBA sits at .374 so owners can expect the good run to continue.

Not much of note that looks different under the hood, but he has been hitting the ball a bit harder. Last year his Hard Hit% sat at 30.4%, and this year, that is up to 34.3%. Also, Holt has historically underperformed his expected numbers. When he is batting above those so far this season, owners are getting the benefit of the sample swing. With Holt hitting well, and able to play around the diamond, expect Holt to continue seeing multiple starts a week. While the 2019 Sox don’t look like the 2018 team, the raw skills are there for a hot month.  


3B - Yu Chang (SS/3B, CLE)

0% owned, FAAB $7

With Jose Ramirez hitting the Injured List, Cleveland needs a quick replacement. Enter Yu Chang, who was expected to be the short term replacement for Francisco Lindor this spring. Not making the team, he has been stuck at Triple-A, while the All-Star has returned to form. In part, there were concerns on the glove that kept Chang in the minors this long, but also a knock at the end of spring limited his opportunity to make the opening day roster. With one star again headed off the active roster, the situation is back for Chang to make his mark. 

Power has been the calling card, and with the added ability to play around the field, Chang has a clear role on a team that loves to platoon. While only up for four games so far, and two of those as defensive substitutions late in games, Chang is hitting .286 with two runs scored already. The minor league numbers are passable, but he did struggle a bit this year. Taking into account hand and back injuries, Chang still offers a .260 batting line with power upside. 24 homers in 126 games are his career-high at Double-A, but owners can buy into the .400 slugging line for his career. The fact that he will get playing time, and looks to be hitting ninth in front of Lindor, means that runs alone are worth the FAAB dollars.


SS - Dylan Moore (2B/3B/SS/OF, SEA)

0% owned, FAAB $4 

As the Mariners struggle to finish off 2019 with any positive signs, players like Moore are getting more playing time than they should. In part this is due to injuries, but in this case, Seattle is a team with a roster crunch due to recent moves. Enter Moore who is only hitting .203, but does have a .300 OBP line in support. The good news is a .300 xWOBA, meaning what positive signs in the rate stats can be expected to continue. 

The other reason to buy is the value at the position, with power playing up to end the years. For owners chasing categories, Moore is a great risk to take. The “hidden” value, at least if you can get past the rate numbers, has been seven homers and seven steals. Even with the low batting line, the gross amount of games he is playing added to slightly above-average speed and power tools mean the numbers will be there. Moore is a perfect fit in points leagues with the positional eligibility and playing time floor. At the very least, Moore can offer power and speed from the shortstop position. 


OF - Tyler Naquin (OF, CLE)

1% owned, FAAB $12

Being the resident Naquin-truther on the site, the fact that he is still owned in only 1% of leagues is shocking. While lacks the upside that would make others a worthy stash, apart from some injuries, Naquin has been a great player this year. Through 87 games, the Cleveland outfielder is slashing .287/.325/.466 with 10 homers and four steals. Add in 34 runs scored and driven in, and Naquin is squeezing all the value out of an average team context.

In terms of value the rest of the way, Cleveland is shallow in the outfield department. With Jordan Luplow out for another few weeks, and Franmil Reyes not seeing any time in the field, left is there for Naquin. Also, while the team is still lefty-heavy, Yasiel Puig and Reyes have balanced the team enough. With Greg Allen serving as the defensive option off the bench, expect the playing time to at least continue as is. Batting average and runs are the main draws, but there might be a homer or two as well.


OF - Christin Stewart (OF, DET)

0% owned, FAAB $6 

A pick looking towards roster expansion, Stewart has admittedly been a fantasy disappointment this year. Expected by many to take a big leap with a starting role this year, Stewart dropped his batting average to .238 before a demotion. Still, even before looking at the numbers, he will be up and playing in September. Not only are the Tigers in desperate need of any pieces for next year, but they have no real blocks at any position. When Dixon might be the only sure bet in this team, Stewart needs to play up for the team to have any chance at a fun 2020. 

The underlying numbers all look bad, as Stewart is below-average in all the expected metrics. Add in that he only hit the ball 86.6 mph off the bat, and there is not much to be excited about. And yet, the K rate was still under 25%, and his numbers at Triple-A have been good. Over 23 games in the minors, Stewart has hit .338 with five homers. Add in a steal and 14 runs, and he played much like he did to end last year. While mostly speculation at this point, the upside is worth a cheap dart.


OF - Cameron Maybin (OF, NYM)

3% owned, FAAB $11 

Every week should be the last for Maybin but he just keeps hitting. Added for cash from Cleveland in April, Maybin has been a regular for the Yankees, apart from some time on the injured list. So far, through 64 games, the outfielder is slashing .291/.368/.490 with eight homers and seven steals. Even better for fantasy owners, he has scored 40 runs this year, and a 0.63 runs per games is in the top 20% of the league.

While he missed three games last week with a knock, when healthy, Maybin has been playing five times a week in left. While the K rate is up eight points, the walk rate is also up three ticks. When Maybin has been finding success on a Yankees team without most of its key players, the fact that he is still around with those pieces back adds even more to his floor. Expect the runs to continue, and if the batting line keeps up, Maybin is a .280 hitter with 15/15 upside. That type of player is taken in the back end of the teens during most draft seasons. Right now, he can be won with a cheap bid this weekend.


SP - Ross Detwiler (SP/RP, CHW)

1% owned, FAAB $3

The dart of the all darts this week, Detwiler makes the list only because he pitches in the American League central. Appearing as a starter tonight, Detwiler, based on local reports, will be given a chance to keep that spot in the rotation. If so, and nothing changes on the roster, he will start versus Cleveland, Kansas City, Detroit, and Detroit to finish the year. Cleveland is not the same without Jose Ramirez, and the latter three are fish in a barrel. While Detwiler might not have great ratios, the run support is better than most would guess. There are three easy wins to be had if the cards fall correctly. 

In terms of what he can offer, Detwiler does give up a ton of hard contact. With an 89 average exit velocity, there is a clear risk in the profile. Still, Detwiler has started to throw a curveball this year and is getting 38 Whiff% on the pitch. 40.7% of his Ks are coming off the curve, and this might be the key to reducing the bit hits. With a higher K% than his career line, owners can buy low on one pitch. 


RP - Oliver Perez (RP, CLE)

3% owned, FAAB $7

Another week and another Cleveland reliever to make the list. Like others, there is not a path to saves for Perez. Still, being used five times a week means that he has the aggregate value to factor in most leagues. To start the year, Perez was typically a one-batter reliever. As the year has gone along, Tito has gone to him more for full innings. While he will not come back into a game if he finishes the inning, the team has no issue putting him out there for two batters at the least.

For fantasy owners, the 1.17 WHIP is the calling card for the crafty-lefty. And yet, the 43 Ks in 35 innings is the main sell. Not a typical power-arm, Perez mixes his pitches well to both sides of the plate. The key since his move to Cleveland has been a decreasing fastball rate, down from career norms of 39% to 12% and 14% the previous two years. The slider has been his out pitch, with a 41.3 Whiff% this year. Wins are there, with Lindor taking off late in games. No risk in the profile and the Ks are there to factor in most formats.

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