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Digging Deeper: NL-Only Waiver Report for Week 11


Every week in baseball, a significant player will hit the disabled 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 of 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. With that, onto the Island of Misfit Fantasy Toys. Note: all FAAB bids assume a $1000 budget.

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C - Russell Martin (C/3B, LAD)

1% owned, FAAB $8

Martin is back from the Injured List, after a lengthy stay. With the recent addition of Austin Barnes, Martin returns to the time-share and will get back to playing three games a week. Martin is admittedly not the same hitter or OBP machine that he once was, but with the declining catching spot, Martin still needs to be a target in deep leagues. While limited a bit by health and role, Martin has slashed .284/.388/.395 with two homers this year. Even more, with a Dodger, there is a run floor with the power upside that the team brings. While not an elite OBP player, Martin is still a top 15% among catchers.

The expected numbers also like what Martin has done to date, and project a .253 xBA, with a .345 xWOBA, the rest of the way. This means that while the rate lines will drop, the value with the pop at the plate will still be there. Not an elite power hitter at the spot by any means, Martin does have a career average around 17 homers per year. This means that owners can expect a good run at double-digits, with the team context to add more run-scoring potential. A clear target, even in a 40/60 time split, do not let the age scare Martin off the radar this week.

 

1B - Dominic Smith (1B/OF, NYM)

3% owned, FAAB $31

The curious case of Smith continues this year, as the young slugger has finally started to flash the potential that had fantasy owners excited entering last year. To date, over 53 games Smith is slashing .360/.455/.587 with four homers and 19 runs scored. While he only has 88 PAs over that time, the uptick in value is hard to ignore. The only blemish so far has been a short stay on the Injured List, but he has been with the team the whole season otherwise.

The question for Smith will be playing time, as Pete Alonso will continue to block him at first, and the glove does not play for a full game in the outfield. The current version of the bat will not play up at DH, as the power has ticked down to accommodate the increased average. Still, owners will take the 19.3 K% with a .445 xWOBA, and expect the Mets to find him a spot. Smith is the break-out to watch the rest of the way, with an ownership rate starting to creep up.

 

2B - Kevin Newman (2B/SS, PIT)

1% owned, FAAB $8

Splitting time between second and short to start the year, Newman is emerging as the primary utility option off the bench in Pittsburgh. And yet, the bat is playing enough that he is making the team four times a week. After a slow start, Newman has turned the batting line around, with a .295/.346/.410 slash so far. Add in the 12 runs and 15 RBI, and Newman is keeping himself on the team at the very least.

The reason for the success seems to be the K rate, with a decline from 23.7% last year to 15% so far this campaign. While he is hitting the ball below league average in terms of exit velocity, Newman does not need the power to play in most formats. A batting average floor, with the run upside to play at MI, Newman will continue to play moving forward. Without another true second baseman on the roster, other than Adam Frazier, Newman will see regular playing time the rest of the way without other moves.

 

3B - Kevin Cron (1B/3B, ARI)

4% owned, FAAB $17

A bit surprising to see the fantasy community in on Cron in force to start his Big League career. Not a household prospect by any means, owners will need to move soon if they want to add the slugger based on early interest. While playing time will be a question, Cron does bring a big stick to the plate. Over his time in the minors he averaged 25 overs over a 120 game season, adding in a .283 career batting average. There are questions on the hit tool playing up, but scouts love the raw power as a carrying tool.

The other piece that should have owners interested is the sub-25 K% over his time in the minors. Low for a slugger, Cron does have the walk rates to support his skills, even when pitchers avoided him in the minors. Not only does this add some value at the plate, but will keep him in the team when he gets a chance. While added to play at DH last week for a series, Cron will play a role for this team moving forward, even if he gets sent down soon. Buy the power upside, and hope that the glove will play for Arizona.

 

SS - Brandon Crawford (SS, SF)

3% owned, FAAB $7

Another hitter rebounding after a slow start, Crawford is one of the better options with a playing time floor at short this week. No prospect to push him in the system means that Crawford will play 150 games, barring injury. So far the slash is lower than expected, at .209/.289/.320, but he does have five homers and two steals. Add in 22 runs scored, and what offense the Giants have had this year seems to involve Crawford.

For the rest of the season, owners should target the .231 xBA as a good mark for value. With Crawford also walking a bit more this year, the OBP line should be playable, and expect more than the .301 xWOBP. While he lacks a carrying tool to make him a definite fantasy starter at this point in his career, Crawford still has a bat that can be relied on for some value in all formats. While the numbers are down, the skills are there, meaning that owners looking for a shortstop should be adding Crawford on the cheap this week.

 

OF - Dexter Fowler (OF, STL)

2% owned, FAAB $27

After the fantasy community seemingly ran Fowler out of the league after last year, the Cardinal outfielder has been better than expected in 2019. So far, he is slashing .241/.361/.376 with five homers and four steals. Still a bit of a sunk contract for St. Louis, fantasy owners can use that to expect the playing time to continue. In fact, for owners looking for a gauge just how much the Cardinals want to play Fowler, look to Tyler O'Neill still being stuck in Triple-A. The future will have to wait a year, as Fowler is looking to have a bit left to pay off his contract.

The other changes can be seen at the plate are an increased launch angle and exit velocity. With a bit more loft and velocity, it is natural that Fowler would at least improve on last year's issues. For example, the xBA is up to .264 from last year’s .209. All of the underlying numbers support what he is doing so far, and this should be the new, expected floor moving forward. For owners in need of a bit of everything from the outfield, Fowler will be the best target this week.

 

OF - Hernan Perez (2B/SS/3B/OF, MIL)

1% owned, FAAB $18

He's not really an outfielder but Perez can fit in fantasy, so he makes the list here this week. A versatile player for the Brewers, Perez has disappointed a bit to date after some draft hype. While not thought of as a fantasy star, there was an expectation that he might be in for a big year due to his fit and role on the Brewers. Still, after a slow start, Perez has started to hit, pushing his season slash to .269/.315/.445. Add in five homers with four steals, and Perez might just be having that season that many expected.

The red flag has been the K-rate, up to 27.6% from 21.3% last year. With a career 21.5% mark, owners should expect the line to regress down to a palatable level. Even more, Perez is hitting the ball harder this year, and has added two points to his launch angle. All of this means that the early-season issues are behind him, and Perez should work his way into a starting role on fantasy teams soon. With the current value, the floor is a bench utility option with upside, and the ceiling is a league changer at second or the outfield.

 

OF - Carlos Gonzalez (OF, CHC)

2% owned, FAAB $6

At the time a confusing move, Gonzalez has looked to be a different player after a poor stretch in Cleveland. Thought his first six games he is batting .211 with a homer and four runs. Even without the eye-catching line, the key plays have been in the field and clutch spots. While Gonzalez is not the former-MVP option, the bat can still play. Add in the protection that the Cubs offense can offer, and that that he lacked in Cleveland, and at the very least expect a surge in production. Always a plus glove, CarGo can play in the field and serve as an upside OF4 for the Cubs.

The other reasons to buy back in on the fallen star are tied to the bat speed and batting eye. While his bat has slowed down with age, it still seems to be right at league-average, adding to confidence that he still has something left. Even more, in Cleveland, the K-rate shot to 31%, so owners can expect some regression there as well. Without a real spring training CarGo might just finally be getting up to speed on the year. For owners with a bench spot, this is the dart to throw.

 

SP - Antonio Senzatela (SP, COL)

2% owned, FAAB $7

This pick could look like a good or bad idea once the piece goes up, as Senzatela pitches versus the Cubs tonight. That might make him harder to add, or make him virtually free on the market. Whatever the case, while a Colorado pitcher, the Senzatela offers the right tools for a fantasy risk. The biggest piece is the team around him is finally starting to hit. After two seasons of bottom-of-the-league run production, this year, they have been in the top-5 since May 1st. With the surge, the Rockies are a good bet for run support. Therefore, pitchers will be in line for more wins even with some WHIP and ERA damage.

Senzatela is not a starter moving forward and is best suited for a long-relief role in the pen. Still, with some injuries, a spot has opened up, and it seems to be his for at least one start. With a 4.95 ERA through 60 innings, there is room for improvement, with the 12.5 K% being close to the bottom of the league. The silver lining has been the slider, which is up two miles per hour over this time last year. With a 25.9 Whiff%, there is a gem of a pick in the arsenal, and, can be the source of value for increases Ks the rest of the way. Worth the risk for now, Senzatela plays best for owners chasing wins.

 

RP - Sam Dyson (RP, SF)

2% owned, FAAB $11

Dyson has been frustrating over the past few years, with emerging stardom, and the lowest of the lows with blown situations. Still, he has been playing well this year, even without much from the Giants in support. With nine SV+Hs, Dyson has been in the fantasy conversation to start the year, with critical innings adding some value. Perhaps the closer if Will Smith is dealt, Dyson could be a trade target of his own.

What has helped Dyson this year is the 0.97 WHIP coupled with a career-low 3.4 BB%. Add in the declining exit velocity on balls in play, and Dyson has returned to the peak of his skills, but without the closer role to make it count. Without much change in terms of individual pitches or his mix, Dyson is just playing better with the same skills from the last few years. Add now as an RP3, but expect some value with the impending deals at the deadline.

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