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Digging Deeper: NL-Only Waiver Report for Week 14

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 - Curt Casali (C, CIN)

1% owned, FAAB $24

Emerging as the starter after Tucker Barnhart’s injury, Casali has played well enough to garner fantasy interest on the wire this week. Not only are there lingering questions regarding Barnhart’s status upon return from the Injured List, but Casali has just been the better player to date. With an above-average framing metrics compared to the league. Casali might even be the better defensive catcher as well. Even with fantasy owners viewing Barnhart as one of the safer options behind the dish, there is a changing of the guard happening in Great American.

The bat is what separates Casali from others on the waiver wire this week. Through 53 games he is slashing .254/.347/.400 with four homers. Add in the 15 run scored and 20 RBI, and he is on pace for a two WAR season. This is all after beginning the year as a reserve option. If the batting rate stats can keep up, expect Casali to be a top-eight option in NL-only formats. Easy add, and worth a bit extra with the park factors on those bids.


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

1% owned, FAAB $11

Back in the minors after a slow start to his career with the Diamondbacks, Cron is cheap enough this week that he should be stashed in more places. Expect a second-half run of games, with the team figuring out if it is competing with the Dodgers or not. If they call out of it, expect Cron to get some chances. Even if they hang around, he will have a chance to be a late-season power boost for a team in need of hits anywhere it can get them. Through 52 plate appearances, Cron is slashing .213/.269/.553 with four homers in the Majors. Add in the eight runs scored and 11 RBI, and Cron has made an impact, even without the rate stats.

The main sell with Cron is the raw power, with 139 total homers over 614 minor-league seasons. Even more, he did not hit for much power until his promotion to High-A, and since, has posted a 22 homer floor every year since. This shows that the gross numbers hide a bit of the recent power surge. The other piece is his career .343 OBP in the minors. This number would put him in the top 15% of the league right now, and is a skill shown to be predictive even after a promotion. Cron is a prototypical power hitter, with plus plate skills, and all of this will play out well in fantasy. When a spot opens for good, expect Cron to get the first chance.


2B - Daniel Descalso (1B/2B/3B, CHC)

1% owned, FAAB $3

Second base is a bit shallow this year in the National League, leading to mostly utility recommendations at the spot. The story is the same this week, with a regular in the form of the Cub’s bench bat. Descalso has only declined at the plate as the season has gone along. Currently, he is slashing only .186/.285/.269 with two homers and two steals. Even more, his playing time has dropped with the struggles, leading to a close to zero ownership rate. Still, a bench bat on a good team can still be playable for the right fantasy need.

Descalso’s rate line will be complicated, as he lacks the regular playing time to get on a roll, or heat up. Still, with the team around him, when he does get on base, he scores. Of the 51 times, he has been on base this year, Descalso has scored 19 times. With a 37% scoring rate, owners can settle for the batting line with the counting support. Expect him to keep getting some playing time with the positional flexibility, and if he starts to heat up, owners will have bought him on the cheap.


3B - Neil Walker (1B/2B/3B/OF, MIA)

1% owned, FAAB $12

Walker is still one of the only players in Miami worth a fantasy roster spot, but to date, he has exceeded even his minimal expectations. Through 57 games Walker is slashing .279/.357/.430 with five homers and two steals. Every one of his numbers is up from last year with the Yankees. With no one pushing him for playing time, expect Walker to keep getting playing time around the diamond.

The exciting piece is that the advanced metrics also have Walker right on pace with last year. The exit velocity and launch angle are much the same. His Hard% is within a point or two, and he is walking at the same rate. The only difference is with his xBA, a 20 point improvement to .268 from .248 last year. Fantasy owners should buy the underlying skills, and while Walker is not a season-changer, will be a solid veteran with playing time. A candidate for a move at the deadline, Walker needs to be owned in more places.


SS - Miguel Rojas (1B/2B/3B/SS, MIA)

3% owned, FAAB $17

The second Marlin on the list, Rojas has been an afterthought for most fantasy owners to date. Lacking the bat to compensate for the lack of an elite glove, Rojas is a bench bat without much fantasy upside. And yet, this year, Rojas has put together his best season at the plate. Though 80 games he is slashing .287/.350/.358 with six steals. Add in a top 20% of the league xBA at .273, and Rojas is a player that needs to be given a second look for the hit tool alone.

With a career .260 line, Rojas has been active at the plate, but mostly a singles hitter, so there was a clear limit on the upside. Still, he has continuously underperformed his xBA over his career, and this year things might be lining up for him. The key is the increase in extra-base hits. After only hitting 16 and 13 doubles in the years prior, Rojas has 20 so far this campaign. Even more, he has compiled those 20 doubles in the same plate appearances it took him to get to 16 at his best. Though he is 30 years old this year, Rojas is a player with a hit tool that finally might be matching up with the projections.


OF - Melky Cabrera (OF, PIT)

3% owned, FAAB $17

Cabrera continues to enjoy a late-career resurgence, with a .306/.339/.431 slash so far this year. Add in the four homers with two steals, and Cabrera offers the best value in the rate categories in the wire this week. While lacking the speed and athleticism that defined his early career success with the Yankees, Cabrera still provides enough for fantasy owners to consider a target this week. Even more, added to the Pirates as cover for their young stars, Cabrera is now a key piece in that clubhouse and is not going anywhere.

The other positive sign for Cabrera is his K rate. Over his career, Cabrera has a 21.5 K%, but this year, that number is down to 10.5%. In fact, his K% has gone down each of the past four seasons. As he loses some of the pop, Cabrera is making up for it with selective hitting at the plate. A batting average floor, for now, owners need to limit runs and RBI expectations due to the team. Still, batting fifth or sixth gives him access to some of the team’s value. An easy add this week for any owner needing hits.


OF - Tyler O'Neill (OF, STL)

2% owned, FAAB $7

O’Neil has bounced between St. Louis and Triple-A this year but finds himself back in the mix with Marcell Ozuna headed to the Injured List. Slotted as the starting left fielder, for now, O’Neil can play all three spots and can move as needed to fit the team’s needs. With the power upside, expect him to be hitting in the middle of the team, as he has hit in the five-spot in both of his games since the recall. Unlike most others on this list, O’Neil enters a team with some good offensive value, so the context also adds some stability to the stock.

The issue for O’Neil to start 2019 has been the batting average, with a .239 line to date. With only one homer as well, the offensive value has not been there. After going higher than expected in most drafts, owners were quick to cut bait on O’Neil, and now the blue chipper is free on the wire. When the tools are there to compete, and he showed well in his 2018 debut, owners should buy-into the skills and play for the upside. The .172 xBA is scary, but let that hold others back when the sample is only 48 plate appearances.


OF - Jose Osuna (1B/3B/OF, PIT)

1% owned, FAAB $14

Not a true outfielder, Osuna does get the nod in fantasy leagues. A career Quad-A player, Osuna has teased fantasy owners with stretches of production, only to fall off a cliff. True to form, this year, in 51 plate appearances, Osuna is slashing .326/.380/.739 with five homers. While small sample sizes can work both ways, look to O’Neil above, but owners should also be excited by the underlying metrics.

One key change is that Osuna is seeing more pitches per plate appearance this year. With a 4.02 P/PA mark this year, after posting a 3.7 career line, Osuna has made dramatic improvements in this part of his game. Even more with a .272 xBA, Osuna would be on pace for his best offensive year to date. With an increased exit velocity as well, Osuna’s power might be for real, after years of promise. While his hot start might cool off soon, the value is there for a league-average hitter with some ability to move around a team.


SP - Alex Young (SP, ARI)

1% owned, FAAB $12

Young is a name that has been floating around prospect community conversations, but mostly near the bottom of the organization lists. For example, he did not make the prospect list this year and is not listed in the top 20 on most sites. And yet, he is in the Bigs, and that counts for more than lists at this point. With one start to his line, Young allowed one earned run over five innings in his debut. He only walked one and struck out five, while allowing three total hits. With an effective, but not an exceptional, debut, Young is still in the mix to start as the team covers for Luke Weaver’s absence

Young has an SP3 ceiling, with a solid three-pitch mix that can be effective to both sides of the plate. The concern is that none of these pitches plashes plus, and Young will need to deal with low-90s velocity on the fastball. There does not seem to be much benefit with a move to pen, as he would be a LOOGY without elite stuff if anything. The good news is that the command flashes as a 50 as well, so there is an excellent stock to build upon. Besides, Chase Field is a good landing spot for any young arm and can help suppress runs. Even without elite skills, Young will be a cheap option to stream for fantasy owners this week.


RP - Trey Wingenter (RP, SD)

1% owned, FAAB $7

There are a few reasons to target Wingenter at the relief spot this week. First, even when the team claims they will hang on to Kirby Yates, expect the team to listen to offers. While Yates might be the best relief arm on the market, in terms of talent and contract, the Padres might just get the offer that causes them to pull the trigger. In that case, Wingenter is the closer in waiting. Even if the team is not in a playoff hunt, they will win more games than other teams, adding some stability to the saves from San Diego.

Even more, in 31 innings this year, Wingenter has a 3.77 ERA with a 1.10 WHIP. Add in the 34.6 K%, and he has one of the best arms in the game. While the BB rate is high at 13.4%, the WHIP shows that he is good at minimizing contact and hits. Without a closer role, Wingenter still can provide fantasy value with his elite stuff and usage. If he gets the part, then the stock only goes up. Buy now before the trade rumors start to swirl, and be willing to starting him in the meantime.

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