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Digging Deeper: NL-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 - Stephen Vogt (C, SF)

2% owned, FAAB $14 

The choice this week was down to Vogt versus Tony Wolters. Both are excellent targets at the ownership rate, but Vogt offers a bit more pop at the plate. To date, Wolters has hit one homer, and Vogt has added eight. Even more, Wolters is batting .270, but Vogt is a tick higher at .271. The sample sizes are different, with Vogt having 100 fewer plate appearances so far for his team. Still, the power is the difference and would be a more considerable gap with the same playing time estimates.

In terms of reasons to bet on Vogt, owners can bank on a .250 xBA to show the floor for the final few weeks. When he does make contact, Vogt is seeing 48% of his hits go for extra bases, adding runs and RBI value. Even more, his walk rate is up close to a point since he joined the Giants. While Vogt will not be ranked entering next year at the spot, for now, the value per game is too much to ignore. Cheap bid should get it done this week, and at worst, is a great C2.


1B - Adam Duvall (1B/OF, ATL)

2% owned, FAAB $5

Added as a minor piece at last season's trade deadline, Duvall quickly played himself out of a critical role on this team. Playing most of the year in the minors, Duvall is up now due to roster expansion more than anything. The good news is that he is batting .250 and has slugged six homers in his 25 games when suiting up for Atlanta. The downside is a 32.2 K%, and three-point drop in his walk rate from last year. While some of this can be tied to the demotion and playing time limits, Duvall's stock is still on the way down.

Even with all of that, the price is low enough for a late-season FAAB dart. For one, his xSLG sits at .444, a career-high. Duvall only has a 25 Hard Hit% and is still seeing the ball leave the year. When his career norm is closer to 42%, there is positive regression on the way. When his role seems to a platoon in left field, the power-per-plate appearance is the key to Duvall's fantasy worth. Expect the homers to increase, and with a hot few games, so too will his playing time.


2B - David Bote (2B/3B, CHC)

3% owned, FAAB $12 

Bote is a bit of an unusual fantasy player and a good case study for the Cubs this year. Last week, he was demoted to Triple-A but is back due to the injuries affecting Addison Russell and Javier Baez. While top prospect Nico Hoerner will be the prime target on FAAB this week, Bote's 2019 has been a secret success. While his ownership levels demonstrate how the fantasy community has soured on the utility fielder, he has hit .260 with 11 homers this year. 

The expected numbers back up the moderate success, with a .253 xBA and .383 xSLG. The hard-hit rate is down, but a 52% line from 2018 was never going to be sustainable. The good sign is that even with a declining Hard Hit rate, Bote still passed his gross numbers for doubles and homers in fewer games to start the year. If he can keep making contact, any Cub will score runs based on how the team it hitting. Expect Bote to play five times a week between second and third, and at the very least be a reliable option the last few weeks.


3B - Johan Camargo (2B/SS/3B/OF, ATL)

2% owned, FAAB $6 

A bit of a fantasy enigma this season, Camargo is back since he is available in 98% of leagues. A disappointing 2019 for the utility player, with a series of demotions and cold stretches that have kept the season from ever getting started. Before looking to the stats, this a pick about the standing more than anything. With Atlanta still enjoying a 9.5 game lead in the division, once the clinch occurs, expect to see a series of rotations the rest of the year. Camargo is perfect, as he will play everywhere, and can shift in game if needed.

With a rising playing time expectation, the hope is that Camargo can recover a bit at the plate. Still, even with a few players taking a day off, there are runs to be had with the context on this team. Even more, the xBA of .243 predicts some improvement on the .223 line currently. While two weeks isn't enough to reclaim a season, there are enough games to make an impact in fantasy. At the very least, this a utility option with 19 homers last year, and there is no other player on the wire who can say that.


SS - Isan Diaz (SS, MIA)

1% owned, FAAB $6 

To be honest, Diaz has never been high on my prospects lists. There is too much swing-or-miss and not enough glove to slot him in up the middle. Still, he was having a great year at Triple-A, slashing .305/.395/.578 with 26 homers. After only batting .204 last season after the move from Milwaukee, there is a reason to be hopeful. Still, owners looking to 2020 need to take into account the Triple-A environment, and what Marlins Park will do to his power.

The reasons to buy are just as clear as the warts. Since he was called-up, Diaz has been batting second for the Marlins. Another good sign is that even when he is not racking up walks, and has 35 Ks in 31 games, he is seeing more pitches per plate appearance. This should start to translate as Diaz learns opposing pitchers, and can begin to jump on a pitch or hold out for the walk. Expected to play the rest of the year, Diaz is a lottery ticket but might have turned it around in the minors this year.


OF - Sam Hilliard (OF, COL)

2% owned, FAAB $7 

Hilliard featured in our debut article last week, so here's to hoping there is some new stuff here. The primary reason to add Hilliard is the big bat with the big park. A bit of a pop-up prospect, Hilliard did not appear on many lists entering the year. And yet, after 35 homers in 126 game at Albuquerque, Colorado fans are starting to get excited. Add in a .262 batting line, and Hilliard is the perfect fit for the home park and the way Bud Black likes to play this team.

In terms of what he can offer the rest of the way, Hilliard is another pure lottery ticket. Through his first 11 games, he only has five hits but does have two homers on his line. The primary issue is the batted ball profile, with a below-average exit velocity and 1.7 launch angle. There is no reason to think that all of his power was a fluke, especially with the track record. When he starts to adjust the swing, this is an impact player to end the year. 


OF - Randy Arozarena (OF, STL)

1% owned, FAAB $3

Entering the year as the 10th ranked prospect in the Cardinal's system, Arozarena is one the lesser-known call-ups from the past week. Deep on the depth chart behind other young outfielders, such as Harrison Bader and Lane Thomas, Arozarena had to wait longer for his chance. The early returns have been mixed, with a .213 batting line through his first eight games. Still, a top 20% of the league spring speed is worth the look.

In terms of his production in the minors, Arozarena had been on fire since a promotion to Triple-A. In 64 games, the outfielder slashed .358/.435/.593 with 12 homers and nine steals. Flashing double-digit power, Arozarena will have to get on base and steal bags to be a fantasy asset. Still, with a history of batting success, and a good team context, this seems to be one the better bets for a dart in the outfield this week.  


OF - Tim Locastro (OF, ARI)

1% owned, FAAB $4

Earlier in the year, Locastro seemed to be a fantasy asset with some emerging speed. After a hot start, he quickly stopped hitting and found his way back in the minors. Back with the team now, and appearing in 81 total games this year, Locastro has found his spark again. The batting line is back up to .249, and he has stolen 15 bases. Only one homer on the line, Locastro will need to find value elsewhere to factor in fantasy leagues. 

The reasons to add are the speed upside, but also, a 16.4 K%. xBA is not in love, with a .239 mark, but there is not much of a drop expected. The OBP is the main sell with this player, sitting at .361. With that much of a gap between the rate stats, one will need to change, and owners are hoping for the former. When he is seeing 3.97 pitches per plate appearance, owners can at least be confident they are adding an average eye. If speed if the need at this point in the year, Locastro offers the best upside. 


SP - Daniel Ponce de Leon (SP/RP, STL)

4% owned, FAAB $11 

A break-out star with the Cardinals last year, Ponce de Leon has not found the same success this year. Finishing last year with 33 total innings, he has only recorded 45.2 innings in the Bigs this year. While he has not been as dominant this year, the results are still worth investigating. For one, the WHIP is up from 1.12, but only to 1.25. Similarly, the ERA is up to 3.94, but still well within the fantasy range. 

The issue has been homers, with six allowed this year compared to two last year. Good news for fantasy owners is that down at Triple-A he only allowed seven in 84.1 innings. One reason for the increased power might be down to the increase fastball use. While his top pitch last campaign, he is throwing fastball 70% of the time. Gone is the sinker, and the change-up is down to 7%. This looks to be a pitcher trying a new mix, and even with some bumps, is at worst replacement level.  


RP - Brandon Kintzler (RP, CHC)

2% owned, FAAB $7

With Craig Kimbrel joining Brandon Morrow on the Injured List, the Cubs bullpen is looking shakier by the week. While he has only pitched once in the last week, Kintzler had been taking on more of the load. With Rowan Wick looking like the seventh inning arm, and Steve Cishek the closer, the seventh would be a great spot for fantasy owners to target. The other selling point for the context is that Kintzler has been there before. Look for Joe Maddon to pitch him over some of the young arms if the wild card race stays close.

Appearing in 58 games this year, Kintzler has been a standard one-inning arm with 54 frames on his line. The value comes from the rate stats, with a 0.98 WHIP and 2.50 ERA so far this year. With three wins as well, he does tend to pitch the right innings for a 6th or 7th innings rally. While not the closer right now, there is no reason why he would not be thrown if one of the other arms needed a break. The floor is higher than the others, and the track record is there to buy Kintzler as a reliable bullpen addition.  


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