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Digging Deeper: AL-Only Waiver Wire Report for Week 24

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 - Kyle Higashioka (C, NYY)

1% owned

After serving as the primary reserve for New York during Gary Sanchez’s absence last year, Higashiola has not had much of a chance this year. After starting 29 games last campaign, he has just hit the 10 game mark this year. While sitting behind Austin Romine for now, when the Yankees clinch, he will start to see increased playing time. At the very least, any game playing with this roster is worth the add is daily leagues.

The fantasy value comes from the batting line, with a .256 mark so far this year. A career .246 batter in the minors, there is clearly some variance in his production at varying levels. He has a season batting .170 on the line, and a season with a .323 line as well. With 85 career homers in 657 total games, owners need the batting average to play. Based on context alone, when he plays, he will get pitches to hit. Take that risk, when the other options are all closer to .200 at the plate.

1B - Ji-Man Choi (1B, TB)

2% owned

With Tampa still clinging to the top Wild Card spot, the team will continue to play its best team on the regular. Currently, this means that Choi is platooning against right-handers, but also has played six of the last seven games. The production is not stellar, but the .255/.353/.418 slash is a tick up from his career norms. Even more, after hitting only eight homers last year, Choi has mashed 13 bombs this year.

The xBA of .252 predicts some decline, but still the best offensive year of Choi’s career. Hard Hit% is down, but only three points and his exit velocity is up to 90.6 from last season’s 90. The other good sign is that Choi has cut four points from his K%, while also adding a tick to his walk rate. While not a sexy pick by any means, Choi is a solid, under the radar option at first base.


2B - Travis Demeritte (2B/OF, DET)

1% owned

First appearing on our Triple-A version of this column back in May, and again after the trade deadline, Demeritte has been a bit of a fantasy disappointment. For one, after mashing 20 homers and batting .286 at Triple-A, Demeritte has struggled to a .230 start with only two homers. In fact, when looking to his track record, the 2019 numbers at Triple-A are well above his career mark. This means the bust score is rising, but the underlying skills might also have taken that development jump.

The reason to add is the playing time. With the Tigers not knowing what they are going to do this offseason, and not having many young pieces to build around, Demeritte will be given the chance to win the job at second. Projecting as an outfielder with the Braves, Detroit sees him in the middle infield. While he has struggled at the plate, while the batting line historically has not been there, the speed and power combo will play. A 15/15 threat with a starting role, he already has three steals this year. A flash in the pan option, but he will be a starting second baseman for the last 16 games.


3B - Chad Pinder (2B/3B/OF, OAK)

3% owned

After projecting Pinder to have a break-out year, the fact that he is making this list is telling. For one, the batting value has not been there with a .241 batting average. The excellent news is 12 homers in 112 games. Even better, 41 runs scored, and 44 RBIs, putting him in the top 30% of the league on both numbers-er-game.

With a .246 xBA, owners can bank on a bit more value the rest of the way, but also should not expect to move mountains. The significant change is that Pinder is swinging earlier in the count. With fewer pitchers per appearance, he is striking out less, but not seeing any real gains in offensive categories. Still, while playing mostly in the outfield this year, adding third was a useful addition for fantasy owners. That alone might be worth the add for the utility piece, but expect Pinder to keep in the rotation, and earn playing time and runs by association.


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

1% owned

As long as Holt keeps hitting, and is available in 99% of leagues, he will be on this list at short. In 75 games for the Sox, Holt is slashing .315/.382/.431 with three homers and a steal. The batting average is the main draw, but Holt has also scored 34 runs this year. Playing a bit all around the field, over the past week, Holt started at second four times, and once in right field. With Marco Hernandez being the only other option with Michael Chavis’s injury, Holt looks to be the definite starter.

The red flag is the .270 xBA, but even that would make him playable in most formats. While he does not make hard contact and has a 1.7 Barrel%, the value comes from team context. While he has close to doubled his launch angle, this has not turned into homers. And yet, he is on pace to match his career mark for doubles. A reliable option, who can move around as needed, Holt is at worst a filler who can add some value.


OF - Teoscar Hernandez (OF, TOR)

4% owned

For owners chasing power on the wire, Hernandez might be the best bet. Through 112 games, the righty has mashed 21 bombs. Add in 51 runs scored, with 16 doubles, and this has been a solid year at the plate for the young outfielder. The reason he can be had in 96% of leagues is the batting line. After batting .239 last year, Hernandez has seen the line drop to .215 this year. The good news is that the OPB, while low at .298, is close enough to last year’s .302 not to worry owners. While even that is not a great line, when last year was a solid season at the plate, owners can look for small clues for success.

The xBA is not a good look, sitting down at .204. And yet, this means that Hernandez cannot get any worse? At least the xWOBA shows some hope at .310. The rest of the package is not good, but the 21 homers are the top at the position on the wire. Pick your own poison.


OF - Brandon Dixon (OF, DET)

2% owned

Dixon is the lone bright spot for the Detroit offense, and he was not even a draftee of the team. Acquired this offseason as a waiver add from Cincinnati, Dixon quickly has become the first name on the team list every day. Playing in 104 games so far this year, Dixon has played every day since the All-Star Break. The Tigers have been rewarded with a .247/.290/.446 with 15 homers and five steals.

The main difference between his previous stints in the Majors has been the batted ball profile. Not only has he moved from below to above-league average in exit velocity, but Dixon has also added six points to his launch angle. Add in that his K% is down two points, and the walk rate is up a tick, the overall profile has gone from cuttable to startable. Like the Tigers, fantasy owners can rely on Dixon to be a solid OF3.


OF - Austin Hays (OF, BAL)

1% owned

After weeks of speculation, and a two-year absence, former top prospect Hayes is back in the Bigs. While he is hitless in his first three games back with the club, Hayes seems to be a platoon option in right and left fields. Over Double and Triple-A ball this year, he has batted for a .263 average. While down from his projections two seasons back, this is an improved line for Hays looking to the past years.

The value needs to come with the pop, but he has only hit 14 homers this year. He did hit 18 doubles, so there should be substantial value in the holistic profile. The main reason to add is the opposing schedule and home park. Not only do owners know the importance of Camden for a bit of a power boost, but getting to play at Comerica is just a good. A solid dart for the last 14 games, Hayes only offers upside for fantasy owners.


SP - Anthony Kay (SP, TOR)

3% owned

After a solid 5.2 inning start versus Tampa Bay on his debut, it is hard to believe that Kay was not added in more leagues. Not only is Tampa good offense, but Kay struck out eight, answering some questions on his stuff. While he did allow two runs, those came on only four hits, and three walks. Since the trade, and moving to Buffalo, Kay had been on fire. For example, his ERA dropped from 6.61 with Syracuse, to 2.20 on his new team.

The question long term will be his pitch mix, with only three true offerings. Good enough for a starter, but none of the pitches grades out better than a 55. With average command, the skills need to play up for him to stick around. And yet, since the trade, he has been focusing more on his changeup. From past reports, this pitch tended to hang up, and now, he is throwing it down and away to hitters. The best skills this low on the wire, and with the best situation, Kay is the easy add.


RP - Tyler Clippard (RP, CLE)

3% owned

Another week and another Cleveland pitcher to recommend out of the bullpen. Not only has this squad been one of the best in the game so far, but Clippard has emerged as the new anchor. With Nick Goody losing some trust from the skipper, and Carlos Carrasco being used in the eight, Clippard is the solid seventh inning arm. For his part, over 43 games, Clippard has posted a 0.81 WHIP and 2.54 ERA.

The advanced metrics are a fun page to check out. Every single category is in the red on Baseball Savant, and Clippard has genuinely been an elite arm. Opponents are posting only a .179 xBA, and 84.4 exit velocity. Even more, when the launch angle is 20.2, hitters have not been able to drive the ball at all this year. In fact, in the era of the longball, Clippard has only five homers all year. While no saves, Clippard is the next best are for roto owners.

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