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Digging Deeper: NL-Only Waiver Report for Week 17

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 - Ryan Lavarnway (C/1B, CIN)

1% owned, $21

With both Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali on the Injured List at the time of this article, the catching situation at Great American is perfect for fantasy owners. While missing out on the top names due to their injuries, there is a starting spot open with an excellent park to boot. Even more, while the Reds have cooled off a bit from their mid-summer run, this is still a team that can hang in most games at the plate. While they are still not expected to make the playoffs for owners in need of a backstop, there is no better place to find one than a winning team.

On Lavarnway more specifically, this is not some young prospect. Lavarway has played for nine teams in eight years, at the age of 31, is yet to find a stable role. Still, through eight plate appearances this year, he does have two homers and three total hits. Always a bat with some upside during his time in the Bigs, Lavarway does have a .275 career minor league average, but the .211 average in the Bigs needs to come up. For owners willing to take a flier on a reserve option who is now starting, Lavarway at least will play up in that park.


1B - J.D Davis (1B/3B/OF, NYM)

1% owned, FAAB $17

Davis returns to the list after dropping back to the bottom of the waiver list with a 1% ownership rate this week. While he has not been the same player that was shooting up boards a month ago, the decline has been much too quick based on what he has been doing. Through 83 games, Davis is slashing a career-best .289/.349/.461 with nine homers. Perhaps some of the drop in ownership has been tied to lack of consistent playing time, but even with what he has done this year, Davis is a rosterable player.

The other good news is that Davis has a top 15% of the league xBA at .301. Even more, he is near the top of the league in terms of exit velocity, Hard Hit%, and xSLG. When the K% is down five points to 20.5% from last year, all signs are moving in the right direction as he develops into a patient hitter. While the numbers do not jump off the page, Davis seems to only be getting better as the year goes along. Over a full year owners would not be avoiding a .280 batting line and 25 homers, so why are they not taking the dive now? East add, and much cheaper based on the market ignoring Davis so far.


2B - Addison Russell (2B/SS, CHC)

2% owned

For readers who watched the Padres-Cubs game this weekend, this pick is a bit of a shock. In that game, Russell not only looked lost at the plate but also allowed two pop-flys to drop due to the sun. With all of the off-the-field factors that have caused the Cubs to sour on Russell, expect him to be on his way out of town before the deadline. If he does move, the best fit in the National League, with the ability to play off the bench as a defensive replacement on double-switches. At the very least his glove will play with a team needing top push more defense off the bench. The move is key for a change of scenery, but that is also the only option for playing time.

While his season is not close to the highs that caused him to become a fantasy darling in 2015 and 2016, the campaign has not a complete loss for the Russell. Through 54 games he is slashing .348/.331/.407 with six homers and 18 runs. The latter number will drop if he leaves Chicago, as the Cubs offense adds 10-15 runs alone. Still, the batting line is hovering in the playable area, and he can always flash a bit more pop than the average middle infielder. For now, not much interest, but with a move, and regular playing time expect Russell to finish the year off on a high note at least.


3B - Ke'Brayan Hayes (3B, PIT)

1% owned, $24

Currently playing at Triple-A Indianapolis, Hayes is one of the consensus top-50 prospects in the game right now. With a still developing power bat at third, Hayes should at least get a cup of coffee this year no matter how the Pirates fare. If that is the ceiling, it would still be an excellent time to add Hayes on the cheap. And yet, with the Pirates looking to sell and hang around .500 for the season, there is no reason that the future at third will not get a real run out this year. While this column has always been high on Colin Moran, the upside is higher with Hayes, and the Pirates know they have a real talent on their hands.

After struggling to start the year, Hayes has rebounded to post a .255/.335/.411 slash with six homers and nine steals. The power has been the question, as while the hit tool flashes plus, the raw power is perhaps a bit below average. The steals will compensate, as while not a burner, a very smart runner, Hayes could steal 15-20 bags. Still, the floor is .280 on the batting line, and with a plus glove, Hayes will stick at third when he makes his debut. When his walk rate has gone up in three consecutive seasons, this is a player learning how to hit professional pitching and will be an impact in fantasy leagues.


SS - Joe Iglesias (SS, CIN)

3% owned, FAAB $22

Another player with too low of an ownership rate for his production, Iglesias has been a critical player for the Reds this year. After signing from Detroit in the offseason, Iglesias was expected to hold down the spot for Nick Senzel. With the prospect's injury, and fit in the outfield, Iglesias has kept the starting role all year at short. Through 91 games he is slashing .281/.311/.384 with five homers and three steals. While the counting numbers are not great, an 8/8 player with a plus batting line will play up the middle and might start on most fantasy teams.

There are clear reasons to believe this will keep up for Iglesias. While his exit velocity is down at the bottom of the league, he does have a top 10% xBA to date. Even with light contact, Iglesias can get on base, adding an excellent floor to the OBP line as well. This adds another reason why owners should target players at Great American, for without much of a ceiling, Iglesias can still find power at home. With a career-best in homers, and on pace to at least post a career mark with doubles, Iglesias is a great fit for the team. With no real threat on his starting role, owners are buying a starter the rest of the way.


OF - Matt Beaty (1B/3B/OF, LAD)

2% owned, FAAB $14

While not really an outfielder by trade, fantasy owners will thank Dave Roberts for a few spot starts and therefore the positional eligibility. An afterthought entering the year, Beaty has managed to play in 42 games for the Dodgers so far. Over that time, Beaty has slashed .303/.325/.513 with five homers and one steal. Playing at both first and in left based on the platoon, Beaty has a role with this team and playing time to boot.

The critical sell is a 13.8% K rate. While he is only walking 3.3% of the time, the fact that he is so aggressive, and making outs in the field is a great sign. Besides, with a plus .300 batting line, Beaty is showing excellent bat to ball skills. Power has been the question over his development time, but he is posting a 90 exit velocity. While the power has a clear floor looking to minor league numbers, the bat will play, and owners can take power as it comes. With good bat-to-ball skills, expect him to drive in runs, and start to fall into a bit more power the rest of the way.


OF - Adam Haseley (OF, PHI)

1% owned, FAAB $17

A former first-round pick by the Phillies from only 2017, Haseley has been a fast mover through the system. While never being considered one of the top prospects in the system, Hasely does offer a floor than many others will not. While the ceiling is as an OF4, there is fantasy value here as well. Through his first 11 games, Hasely has eight hits and two homers, and five total runs scored. Always considered a contract-first hitter, Hasely will see the batting line rise as he adapts with more experience in the Bigs.

The question will be the power and other run support. Even for a corner bat, as Hasely does not have the glove for center right now, Hasely will perhaps be a 10-12 homer player over a full year. There is a belief that the overall profile might play as a regular in center, but the arm will make this hard this transition harder. Still, what owners are buying is a .292 career batting average in the minors, with a good team that can drive him in. A batting average anchor with run-scoring upside, Hasaely will only get more expensive as the year goes along.


OF - Austin Slater (1B/OF, SFG)

1% owned, FAAB $18

Slater is a player that seems to drift to the top of my lists, even without the track record to back up the value so far. Not that he has been a break-out so far, but the first seven games for Slater were a great way to make your debut. Over those games, Slater had nine hits in 20 plate appearances. Add in three homers, three doubles, and a triple, and Slater made an immediate impact. Even more, at Triple-A he was hitting .308 with 12 homers. However the year ends, owners should be interested in a deep-dive before draft season next year for this potential sleeper.

For the rest of this year, expectations should be kept in check, but also owners should recognize the value. While Oracle will sap some of the power, Slater also can play often on the road in a pinch-hitting role. This past week, in Colorado, while he did not start many games, he did appear most games off the bench. This means that owners are adding a corner bat with upside, but that is an easy cut if the playing time drops. A clear buy-low, but a player than could add eight homers  with 20 RBI the rest of the way.


SP - Erick Fedde (SP, WAS)

3% owned, FAAB $7

Shifting between the bullpen and rotation this year, Fedde has not been in the ideal development situation for a young arm. While he is 26 and was drafted back in 2014, Fedde is not a new arm to the Majors. With 14 starts to his name over the past few years, Fedde has been in the picture for the Nationals. Still, fantasy owners hope that he sticks in one role, as without, the development of his sinker will suffer.

When he has moved to the bullpen, Fedde has shortened the arsenal. This explains why he has jumped from 40% sinker usage in starts, and close to 10% in bullpen outings. He does seem to fall back on the curveball out of the bullpen, at least among his breaking offerings. Still, the curve has been working with a 21% Putaway line so far. The value here without elite stuff is the rotation, and so, the third and fourth pitches are key. If he makes it back into the rotation, Fedde has a better floor than other options on the wire. The hope is that the short-term usage will still allow him to compete next year.


RP - Alex Claudio (RP, MIL)

2% owned, FAAB $9

Typically relievers who max out at in the mid-80s on their fastball do not last very long in Milwaukee. With one of the better hitter's parks in the game, stuff is vital, and why the Brewers have has success with young arms in their pen. Still, Claudio does not actually throw a fastball, with 48% of his offerings being a plus sinker. With only an 18% Whiff rate, he does not use this pitch to put hitters away, but rather, to generate light contact for his fielders. While batters are hitting .306 against the sinker, they have only hit one for a bomb this year.

The other piece to note is that Claudio gets used in crucial roles early in the game, allowing him to post 16 Holds this year. When the team wants to save Josh Hader for later innings, Claudio offers a match-up lefty who can stay in for a full inning if needed. Moving forward, expect Claudio to throw his slider a bit more. When it is generating a 30% Whiff rate and 40% K rate this year, there is a reason he is throwing it 5% more this year. No risk of saves, but owners will love the ratios, holds, and occasional win.


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