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Digging Deeper: NL-Only Waiver Report for Week 21

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 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 - Stephen Vogt (C/1B, SF)

2% owned, FAAB $11 

The first of a few Giants on the list this week, Vogt joined the Giants in spring training via the Brewers. Not expected to be much more than a reserve option, Vogt has forced his way into 72 games since a call in early May. Over that time he is slashing .281/.364/.517 with six homers. While is he striking out more this year than past campaigns, Vogt is also walking a bit more. All in all, the offensive numbers are up a tick, and no apparent red flags limit his chances to keep this up.

The main reason to buy Vogt has been the change in park. While in Milwaukee, he got to play in one of the better hitters parks in the game. This added some rise to his offensive baseline and led to questions on eight homers in 45 games last year. While the homers-per-game are down this year, the fact that his batting line is up after the park change in only a good sign. With playing time expected to continue, Vogt is a batting average target behind the plate at the very least.


1B - Josh Naylor (1B/OF, SD)

2% owned, FAAB $6 

A former top prospect in the Marlins system, Naylor was dealt in a weird trade involving Andrew Cashner back in 2016. Since the trade, Naylor has added outfield eligibility to his repertoire and seems to be putting it together at the plate. Since he was drafted, the hit tool has been the carrying skill, but this is the first year since rookie ball that he is batting above .300. The power has been slow to develop as well, but with 27 in his last 178 games over Double and Triple-A, the numbers are starting to add up.

Over his first 58 games with the Padres Naylor is slashing .247/.311/.417 with six homers and one steal. Admittedly. the batting line is down from his minor league numbers, and the .311 xOBA predicts the same outcome the rest of the year. And yet, with the power starting to tick up, the batting floor at .240 can play in the Bigs. While this is not the player that many prospect lists predicted, the return to start his career fits in fantasy. Imagine a different player, and Naylor is owned in more leagues without the name recognition.


2B - Donovan Solano (2B/SS, SF)

2% owned, FAAB $16 

After featuring a month back during a hot stretch to start his time in San Francisco, Solano has done nothing but continue to hit in the meantime. Over his first 59 games with the Giants, he is slashing .335/.366/.476 with four home runs. This comes after six seasons of yo-yo-ing between Miami and the minor leagues, only to land in a starting gig. With Joe Panik out in Queens, Solano is the clear option at the position. If the Giants continue to play well, the playing time is the highest of any out there on the wire.

In terms of his return the rest of the year, owners should plan on average and hope for power. To date, Solano only had nine career homers in 300+ games. While Oracle Park is not a great place to hit, the four-homer return to so far is well beyond expectations. Still, the new ball and the increased velocity might be enough to push him into double-digits. With a .321 xBA, the metrics like him to keep up the current pace. Even more, while he is playing much better than he ever did in Miami, the changes are well within his range from the minors. While no speed, the bat is worth the add this week, if for nothing more than the plate appearances.


3B - Ty France (3B, SD)

1% owned, FAAB $2 

Drafted in the 34th round in 2015 by the Padres, France was one of the fantasy sleepers entering the year. With legit 70-grade raw power, the skills are there for impact, but the rest of the profile has not been. Through his first 38 games with San Diego, France is batting .218 and only has two homers. Still, with nine runs, four doubles, and a triple, it has been a loud, quiet season so far. The clear reserve at third, and perhaps only up due to the impending roster expansion, France will need to hit his way into playing time.

While the expected numbers are not great and expect much the same production, the power is shining through so far. With a .346 xSLG, and 39% Hard Hit rate, the ball is jumping when he does make contact. The issue has been a 13.4 launch angle, which is almost too much loft for Petco. If France can start producing more line drives, expect the doubles to increase, and turn into power on the road. For owners chasing a category, France is an upside pick who is still putting it together.


SS - Charlie Culberson (2B/3B/SS/OF, ATL)

1% owned, FAAB $11 

Since joining the team as a throw-in during a salary swap with Los Angeles, Culberson has been critical to this team’s return to contention. Not only do reporters note that he has worked well with the rookies, but the ability to play around the diamond has made even Johan Camargo expendable. The bat has also improved since his time in Dodger blue, as this year, Culberson is slashing .293/.325/.474 with four homers. At his best, Culberson is an elite MI option, and his floor plays to at least a direct injury replacement.

In terms of his value the rest of the way, since the demotion of Camargo, Culberson is the reserve option around the team. Even more, while he has played in the outfield most commonly, there is not another infielder on the Atlanta bench. Add in that he is hitting the ball harder than last year and has added four degrees to his launch angle, and the profile is hard to ignore. For fantasy, Culberson is Brock Holt with a bit more bat, and the team around him to push up the floor.


OF - Lane Thomas (OF, STL)

1% owned, FAAB $14

Even after emerging as the replacement for Harrison Bader after the latter’s tepid start to the year, Thomas is under-owned across the fantasy community. Part of this might be down to a weird batting line. While he has appeared in 26 games so far, Thomas has only batted 31 times. Still, with 11 hits, three homers, and five runs scored, the value has been there. A decent glove, with the ability to play all three spots in the outfield, Thomas fits well in leagues with specific outfield requirements as well.

Bader has been recalled and puts Thomas in a tougher spot, but all the metrics like the latter's first 30 chances. Add in that he is seeing four pitches per plate appearance, and Thomas is taking enough to buy into the skills. With the Cardinals on a roll, perhaps they have found their super sub. At the very least, this is a hot bat, who has produced when called upon in crucial spots. Owners in daily leagues should have no problem stashing for the short term.


OF - Adam Haseley (OF, PHI)

1% owned, FAAB $12 

While entering the year as the fourth-best prospect Philly’s minor league system, concerns over his playing time emerged after big money off-season additions. And yet, with Andrew McCutchen hitting the Injured List, Halsey has walked into a regular role. Over 31 games, the outfielder is slashing .255/.303/.402 with three homers and one steal. While the batting line is down from a .297 line at Triple-A, Haseley has scored 15 runs over his first month with the team.

Batting eight is not a great spot for team value, but as the best center fielder on the team, owners will trade protection for chances. Even more, if Haseley gets on base, the bunt is going to get him to second, and with Rhys Hoskins batting lead-off, there is an excellent chance to score. While the bunt might not be cool anymore, it does help add value to eight-hole hitters with some speed. While there is still a slump coming as the league adjusts, expect Haseley to play through most of the concerns. A relatively safe option for teams on the wire this week.

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

1% owned, FAAB $7 

Another of the Giants this week, Slater re-appears after a hot start to start his 2019 campaign. Since then, he has slumped for a stretch but is returning to form. In 38 games to date, Slater is slashing .294/.410/.510 with three homers and a steal. The other good news is that while a 27% K rate is high for the position, this is down three points from his previous career norms. Mixing in some time at first and in the outfield, Slater plays best in an OF4 or corner role. Even more, when none of the San Francisco outfielders are mashers, Slater is not a clear downgrade on any of the current options above him on the depth chart.

In terms of his batted ball date, Slater is slightly above league average across the board. The limiting factor has been the launch angle, with only a 4.7 mark. This means that the 89.1 exit velocity is hitting the ground sooner than hoped and sapping most of the power. A swing change might be in the works based on some recent trends, but for now, the batting line seems safe. With a .249 xBA, owners should expect some regression, but not enough to ignore the underlying skills.


SP - Tyler Beede (SP, SF)

3% owned, FAAB $9 

Looking for a starter this week leaves owners with a few more options than usual. Still, with so many National League teams remaining in the hunt, there is no team taking a series off. Enter Beede and the Giants, one of those teams right in the mix. The fact that Beede is getting another shot in the rotation says a lot to what the team thinks about his future value, and adds some stability to the spot moving into next year. Even more, with the Pirates, Padres, Rockies, and Marlins coming to town, the matchups are excellent for owners looking to stream.

While 2019 has not been ideal for Beede, the 5.57 ERA is a bit misleading. For one, 17 homers in 82.2 innings is a clear outlier from his career line. While there are seasons with 15 or more bombs on the baseball card, all of those games over a full season in the Pacific Coast League. This means that the doubling of his Hard Hit rate also needs to make taken into context. While this could be a new trend, and owners will need to cut bait soon, outliers are no reason to ignore a starter with a spot in the rotation. At the very least, sit him versus the Dodgers, and start versus everyone else.


RP - Reyes Moronta (RP, SF)

2% owned, FAAB $12

If there were still a Rolaids Relief award for non-closers, Moronta would be leading the race right now. Only 26, Moronta has been one of the best right-handed arms in the leagues since his debut, and without the critical role, often falls into the background. In 127 career games, Moronta has posted an ERA of 2.51 with a WHIP of 1.16. For comparison, this year, the ERA is precisely the same this year, at 2.51, and the WHIP has only increased to 1.23. Add in the 30% strikeout rate, and Moronta has been reliable and effective since his debut.

The fantasy impact is heavily reliant upon the Giants continuing to play well. Without run support, there are no wins, and therefore no holds to count on. The stuff is not elite in fantasy but still offers a solid floor to boost the category. The other reason to like Moronta is that he can play outside of Oracle Park. Even outside of the pitcher’s friendly home park, Moronta is giving up league average exit velocity, and only eight career homers in 127 total innings. For a reliever who can limit the damage, and can be a plug-and-play each week, Moronta is the cheap option with a critical role on a team still playing decent ball.

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