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Digging Deeper: NL-Only Waiver Report for Week 20

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 - Tyler Flowers (C, ATL)

2% owned, FAAB $8

As usual, the bottom of the catching barrel does not offer much hope for fantasy owners. And yet, with nine homers so far, Flowers has been one of the better receiving options for power production. While the .220 might not play on all teams and formats, the OBP at .298 puts him in the middle of the catching options. Even more, with 25 runs scored, and 21 RBI in 67 games, Flowers is posting a 50/50 pace with fewer at-bats than others at the spot.

Flowers also offers some hope of a hot finish, with a .191 ISO. This line alone is up .41 from his career mark and can be seen with the increase in extra-base hits so far this year. While the xBA sits at .194, chalk this up to irregular playing time and the system not viewing him well in a vacuum. Effectively platooning with Brain McCann behind the plate, where he lacks the carrying offensive stats, Flowers will start three games each week.


1B - Edwin Rios (1B, LAD)

0% owned, FAAB $3

A name new to most fantasy players, and Dodger fans for that matter, Rios has been recalled after a short stretch back in July. Listed as a third baseman on most sites, Rios has been playing first so far with Los Angeles. With Tyler White and David Freese joining Jedd Gyrko on the Injured List, the team is all of a sudden facing a shortage of options at first. While Max Muncy and others can play there, there is a role for Rios, at least with a spot start or two a week.

The Triple-A numbers are not eye-popping, as he only hit .266 at Oklahoma City this year. Still, with 25 homers, the profile is there is be a replacement-level bat at first. For fantasy purposes, the third base eligibility can be critical, but Rios still slots best into a CI role for now. With only 13 games so far, the sample size is still small, but Rios has shown he can hit the ball hard. A 92.7 exit velocity so far and 61.5 Hard Hit% should excite owners. A buy-low with an excellent team context, Rios will not carry a fantasy squad alone but is a unique injury replacement for now. 


2B - Joe Panik (2B, NYM)

1% owned, FAAB $8 

Moving away from Oracle Park? Check. Moving into a starting role while a big-name veteran hits the Injured List? Check. Are owners now jumping to buy Panik? Well, perhaps not so much. While the first two pieces help the fantasy stock, at the same time, Panik has not shown the ability to hit for more than his .232 batting line so far. Still, even without looking to the details, owners should be targeting players on hot teams, and the Mets seem to be on their way to a playoff push right now.

The real reasons to target Panik have been the K rate and xBA. For one, Panik has been in the top 8% of the league with a career 9.1% K-line. This is much better than the league average at 21%, and show the plate skills are still there even as the contact rate has dropped. Panik is also posting a .240 xBA, so there should be a run of better play coming soon. Panik is cheap and looks to have playing time with Robinson Cano out. An easy buy-low move this week, and if he returns to form, one of the better MI the rest of the way. 


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

2% owned, FAAB $12

While no one expected Bote to be an All-Star this year, the fantasy community has been a bit disappointed with the lack of production. Through 103 games, Bote is slashing .256/.346/.425 with 10 homers and four steals. In part, the issue has been a lack of regular playing time, and hence, the batting average is stuck in the .250 range. This is down to Joe Maddon as much as the skill set of the player in question. In general, Cubs are hard for owners to target in these utility roles. 

Still, Bote has shown some flashes that can add value to the rest of the year. First, he is seeing more pitches per plate appearance with 4.02 this year, and a 3.9 mark last year. Also, the BABIP is up to .328 from .314, showing that the ball is finding spots in the field more often. While this is usually a red flag, the fact that Bote is a heavy line-drive swinger makes this work in his favor. Expect him to still get into five games a week, and with the batting floor can only offer value to all teams. 


SS - Yairo Munoz (2B/SS/3B/OF, STL)

1% owned, FAAB $16 

A favorite of the list due to this positional eligibility, Munoz has also managed to stick around with the Cardinals so far this year. Appearing in 69 games for the Red Birds this season, Munoz has posted a .265/.292/.367 slash with two homers and seven steals. A dobules-over-power type hitter, the ceiling seems to be eight or so homers over a full year. The below-average limit is tied to a 5.8 launch angle and below-average exit velocity.

And yet, what owners are trading in power upside they are getting back in steals and patience. While Munoz will never be a 20 bag player, without a starting role, the speed is there to at least add some run value to the profile. Lots of scoring from second with this type of runner, and the frame to turn third quickly. When he has also cut close to five points off his K rate, owners should expect the OBP line to improve as well. Not a sexy addition, but there is pop in the bat, even without it leaving the park. 


OF - Harold Ramirez (OF, MIA)

1% owned, FAAB $22

Ramirez was one of the quick risers to start the season, with some early success in Miami. Since then, the stock has dropped quite a bit. From a peak of 78% ownership, he is down to 1% now. Appearing in 77 games for the fish, Ramiez has slashed .261/.298/.392 with seven homes and two steals. Add in the 38 runs, and Ramirez has been the best offensive player in fantasy leagues from Miami.

For the rest of the season, Ramirez seems to have a lock on right field. Even more, with a .260 xBA, the batting line should hold steady, and might also push a bit. While Marlins Park will sap some, if not most of his power, the 14 doubles should still be there. Ramirez might not be flashy but hits the ball harder than league-average, and has the playing time to make that count. Add Ramirez as an OF4 and expect a bit more the rest of the way.

OF - Albert Almora Jr. (OF, CHC)

1% owned, FAAB $17

As the season has gone on, it appears that I might be the only Almore-truther left out there. While the numbers are admittedly down this year, the fact that he is still a starting outfielder on a playoff team is enough to add to most rosters. A plus glove in center, Almora is needed in this team, especially as they attempt to find roles for Nicholas Castellanos and Kyle Scharber. Even more, he has a top 5% of the league "outfield jump" rating, adding more credibility to the eye test in center.

Even with Almora not losing his gig, fantasy owners have to deal with the .243/.275/.397 sash with 12 homers and two steals. The speed is the real killer, like this profile, with a top 15% of the league sprint speed, should have a 15 steals floor at the least. The good news for owners is the batting line should improve as Almora Jr. has a .253 xBA. If owners need a center fielder or are looking for a .250 batting line with run-scoring upside, Almora is the best bet with playing time locked in.


OF - Roman Quinn (OF, PHI)

0% owned, FAAB $6

Another fantasy darling who has not made the transition without some bumps, Quinn still has the best speed upside on the wire. Not only he is he tied for the fastest sprint speed in the Majors, but Quinn also has a total of 186 steals over 440 career minor league games. While he has only stolen 22 bags in 106 career Major League games, he has only been thrown out five times. 

The principal limit on his speed upside has been the OBP numbers, with a career .313 line with the Phillies, and a .273 line this season. The batting average is also well below his career mark and currently sits below the Mendoza line at .192. Still, a .243 xBA and 34.3 Hard Hit% shows that the skills are seemingly there. While owners might be buying another Billy Hamilton with a moderate plate approach, the speed is still a selling point. Expect him to start hitting a bit better, and with the Phillies trying to stay in the race, begin to take a few more risks on the base paths.   


SP - Elieser Hernandez (SP/RP, MIA)

2% owned, FAAB $9

Miami starts are always underrated, based just on the fact that players do not realize how great Marlins Park is to pitch in. So far, only in 2019, Marlins Park has a 0.806 HR factor, placing it 26th in the league. Add in a league-average run environment, and the power numbers will keep fantasy pitchers in games. While the skills are not there to dominate, Hernandez and Co can still offer quality innings. 

Other than the park, Hernandez has also been good at generating weak contact. For example, his opponent's exit velocity is 85.2, or top 20% of the league. Add in a .202 xBA and strikeout rate that has doubled from last year, and the run can continue. While wins will be at a premium, Hernandez can offer five or six solid innings, and limit damage enough to be valued in an SP4 role.


RP - Drew Pomeranz (SP/RP, MIL)

2% owned, FAAB $11

Not the move catching headlines, but the deal that brought Pomeranz and Ray Black to Milwaukee has serious fantasy implications. For one, the expectation is that Pomeranz will be used in both the rotation and bullpen as needed. This makes him a clear target in innings leagues, as the volume of work will be there. Even more, the lefty does not have a great line but has pitched much better than it would appear on the surface. 

For one, the 5.70 ERA hides a career-best 26.6 K%. Add in a walk rate that is down three points this year, and looking to the rate lines, Pomeranz has been excellent. The main red flag has been 19 homers in 82 innings, and the move to Miller Park will not help that. Still, with the move to the bullpen, expect him to be able to control innings better than starts. With the stuff playing up, Pomeranz might be a two-inning arm to save Josh Hader. If so, expect to rack up wins and holds. 



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