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Digging Deeper: AL-Only Waiver Wire Report for Week 23

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 - Chance Sisco (C, BAL)

1% owned, FAAB $6

A former top catching prospect in the game, Sisco has not made much of an impact through his limited time with the Orioles to date. Still, with the top pick in 2019 surging through the minors behind him, Baltimore needs to make a decision or get off the pot. When Pedro Severino has started to cool off, there seems to be little holding Sisco go back from at least an extended look. Even more, there have never been concerns on the glove, and by all accounts there is nothing more to learn at Triple-A. 

In terms of what owners can expect for the next few weeks, to date, Sisco is slashing .221/.322/.423 with eight homers through 47 games. While the batting line is down, a .224 xBA at least shows that this will not drop anymore. The main change for Sisco has affected his exit velocity. In 2018, he only posted a 28.7 Hard Hit%, and this year that number is up to 39.8%. Even more, he has cut six points off this K rate, and the only lines are inching in the right direction. Excellent park and expected playing time makes Sisco the cheap dart this week.


1B - Seth Brown (1B/OF, OAK)

5% owned, FAAB $8

While the 5% ownership rate is a bit high for this list, there are real questions about where Brown is actually owned. While he has been a sleeper pick in deep dynasty and keeper formats all year, only recently has he even been appearing on fantasy radars in redraft leagues. This means, taking out the keeper formats, expect Brown to be closer to a real 1% ownership rate. Even with some ownership questions, the profile is unusual for fantasy owners in all formats. A solid corner bat, with power to all fields. Like the rest of the Atheltics he shows decent plate skills, but can also fill a variety of roles on the team.  

Drafted in the 19th round of the 2015 draft by the Athletics, Brown has been a quick mover through the system. His transition has also been fast, as through eight games, Brown has 13 hits, scored eight runs, and driven in nine. The minor league trends also offer some reason to buy now, with Brown adding batting average as he moved up the ladder. In fact, after .241 in his first year outside rookie ball, Brown now has a .274 career line. Add in two seasons with 30 plus homers, and the raw skills are there for fantasy owners to believe in the Oakland process. 


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

1% owned, FAAB $12

Before owners freak, yes, Brosseau was demoted to Triple-A last week. According to local media, the move was made to add another bullpen arm for this week. Still, he is expected to be back any day, and when he is already on the 40-man, there are no concerns about displacement when he does get the call. Through his first 42 games, Brosseau has flashed some power with six homers and a .806 OPS. Add in the fact that he can play, and is playing, around the infield, and he makes an excellent batting target for the corner or middle.

While the xBA sits at .201, and he is striking out in 25% of his chances, other skills are exciting in the profile. Brosseau might be the fastest player listed at third, and even without steals on the line, can push that batting line up. Over this 42 games, Brosseau is tied for the team lead with infield hits and is one of the best-graded base runners in the game. Add this with a team still in the playoff hunt, and the FAAB dollars are well placed.


3B - Jeimer Candelario (3B, DET)

1% owned, FAAB $3 

Another post-bust player to make the list, Candelario still has an outside chance of being the future at third for the Tigers. In part, this is due to the lack of other talents in the system, but also, to the fact that the skills are still appearing even without formal production. After injuries and demotions took some time away, Candelario has only appeared in 74 games for the Tigers. Over that time he has slashed .199/.288/.329 with seven homers and three steals. Not great for what was a major trade return, but at only 25, there is still plenty of time for growth. 

The underlying numbers are not good, with a below-average exit velocity, xBA, and xWOBA. Still, the drop-off is sharp enough for owners to bet on the injury as the main culprit. When is Hard Hit% is the same, and so are his batted ball metrics, there is something else going on. Either owners need to believe last year’s .203 xBA and stay away, or bet on the slills to rebound. While he will never be a prototypical power hitter, the batting average floor is much higher than what owners have seen so far. For owners sitting in forth, this is the sneak add with some upside.


SS - Mike Freeman (2B/SS/3B, CLE)

0% owned, FAAB $3

At this point in the season, the only thing giving me hope that Cleveland can turn the season around is Freeman. A player who is free everywhere, and is not even guaranteed to be on a roster next year is typically not the source of excitement. Still, Freeman has been a utility player who has embraced the role. Appearing in 52 games, and starting 38 of them, Freeman has slashed .290/.378/.435 with four homers and one steal so far. With Jose Ramirez out of the year, expect Freeman to continue to see one or two starts a week at the very least.

Freeman’s fantasy value comes from runs and rate numbers. Even without the regular playing time, he has managed to score 25 runs. A 2:1 K:BB helps that a bit, but also, Freeman is one of the best baserunners on the team. xBA is way down at .226, but chalk this up the weird sample size. Freeman is a player who can do something every night, and that type of grit can help cover for an injury this late in the year. 


OF - Jake Fraley (OF, SEA)

1% owned, FAAB $5

As the Mariners are heading towards 100 losses, the team is starting to turn to its next wave of stars. The issue is that DiPoto’s deals have removed much of that talent. This means the big September call-up is Fraley, a light-hitting left-handed corner bat. Drafted by Tampa back in 2016, Fraley moved quickly after being added in the Mallex Smith deal. For his minor league career, the lefty posted a carer average of .286 with 70 steals and 26 homers.

The speed is the main draw, as it might allow him to play in center a bit as well. Fraley also fits into the organizational philosophy on hit over power in the outfield. All of this means that Fraley was added to play a role, and the team will give him a chance to factor into next year. While he has only played in nine games, Fraley has recorded five hits and scored three runs. For owners looking for a speed boost, this might be the best shot at the bottom of the wire. 


OF - Mark Trumbo (OF, BAL)

1% owned, FAAB $8

After featuring on a pre-season buy-low list for NFBC leagues, Trumbo is only just now getting his chance to play. Missing the first few months with an injury, and then hurting himself during the return, this has been a 2019 to forget for Trumbo. And yet, there is no better option for owners chasing power this late in the year. In 1087 career games, Trumbo has mashed 218 career homers. Add in the ballpark, and Trumbo should be a source the rest of the way as well.

The red flags for owners come from being in “game shape” and all the other timing concerns for a player who has missed a bunch of time. Still, even if he is only 75% of the player that baseball fans know, the ability to play in American League East parks is worth the shot. Also, while last year, Trumbo’s 2018 .269 xBA was the best mark of his career. Owners willing to bet on no sample size, but a track record, can make this an easy add this week.


OF - Daniel Palka (OF, CWS)

1% owned, FAAB $4

Palka is one of those players it is hard to get away from in fantasy. Even with all of the warts, there is legitimate 40 homer power in this bat. Entering draft season Palka was a favorite sleeper for many, but he has spent close to the entire season down in the minors. Now, with September call-ups, he is back with the Sox. Last year, in 124 games, Palka bashed 27 homers and batted .240. This year, he failed to get a hit in his first 27 chances at the plate. 

Still sporting a .020 batting average, Palka’s start should be thrown out when looking to the rest of the season. The main concerns with Palka are similar to any other basher. Even in a decent 2018 campaign, Palka struck out 34.1% of the time, and only walked 6.7%. The good news was a 49 Hard Hit% in 2018, and a 92.3 exit velocity. When he makes contact the ball flies, but he does not make contact often enough to be a reliable option. For owners chasing power, and willing to kill your batting line, Palka is the perfect boom-or-bust play this week. 


SP - Anthony Kay (SP, TOR)

0% owned, FAAB $7

To be honest, there is a decent chance that Kay is used out of the pen for the most part. Even if this is the case, he would still make the list based on his projected floor. If he is used out of the pen, expect him to be a multi-inning arm, with a clear track record of stamina in pro ball. Knocked a bit at the time of the trade bringing him to Toronto, Kay does not have the ceiling of other known arms. Still, the fact that he has a higher floor is precisely why owners should be targeting him this week. 

In seven starts with Buffalo, he posted a 2.50 ERA, a 1.53 WHIP, and 39 Ks in 36 innings. If he can keep up this run, SP4 seems to be a decent target for the young arm. The significant limit on his value comes from the development of his current arsenal. While he has a fastball, curveball, and changeup, none of the pitches grade out more than a 55. Decent offerings, but nothing to rely on in crucial situations. Kay is a stock on the rise and safe-ish for a rookie debut. 


RP - Drew VerHagen (SP/RP, DET)

1% owned, FAAB $7

The stat line does not jump off the screen, but based on the situation, VerHagen will be a much better fantasy arm than in real life. For the rest of the season, the Tigers have placed Daniel Norris on a three-inning pitching limit. This means that VerHagen has been used as the follower, with at least four innings in both appearances. While he might not produce as much per inning, with the gross innings adding up, VerHagen will be a reliable compiler.

Last year was his best, with a 1.14 WHIP over 56 total innings. With 53 Ks over those innings, he struggles to put hitters away, but is effective at generating outs. Not a risk-free fantasy play, as there are some issues with homers, the inning totals will be there. Also, the Tigers have tried to use him as a starter at times, so a return to the pen should see him recapture his 2018 form. A cheap buy with compiler upside, at this point, he might be the best fantasy option in Detroit.  

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