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Digging Deeper: NL-Only Waiver Report for Week 23


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 - Elias Diaz (C, PIT)

1% owned, FAAB $8

With the sudden, but predictable, decline of Fransisco Cervelli, Diaz is now the primary option behind the plate for Pittsburgh. While the team has been willing to play Jacob Smalling in a 505/50 split so far, Diaz is the option with some offensive upside. Through 87 games he is slashing .251/.303/.311 with one homer and 27 runs scored. The lack of power is concerning, but the counting values are right in line with last year’s career season.

The other observation on Diaz has this year has been his defensive metrics. Always held back by the glove, the hit tool is what kept him around the team. This year, he has seen his pop time jump into the top 5% of the league. Add in 39 assists and a .983 fielding percentage behind the plate, and Diaz has been elite. While 2019 has not been his best season to date, the emergence of his defensive acumen adds a long leash for this Pittsburgh backstop. Add him for the playing time, even if it is lower than other starters.

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

1% owned, FAAB $11

Bouncing between the outfield and first on this list, today, Slater makes his way back to the infield. While his bat fits best in the outfield, the hit tool does offer enough floor for fantasy owners looking for value at first. Oracle Park will kill much of his power, but even in road games, Slater has not shown much pop yet in the bigs. While he does have five homers in 50 games, his minor league cap was 14, and owners can expect much the same.

Still, in terms of the rest of his line, Slater has slashed .282/.399/.524. Add in the 18 runs scored and 21 RBI, and Slater has been one of the better bench-platoon options for fantasy this season. With a .252 xBA, owners can expect a drop-off as the year goes along, but his .391 xWOBA shows that there are other skills to mitigate a disaster. When he plays, Slater bats second, and this only adds more reason to grab him to close off the season. A potential piece for 2019, Slater will at least keep up the same production the rest of the year.

 

2B - Robel Garcia (1B/2B/3B, CHC)

1% owned, FAAB $3

No longer the fantasy darling after a hot first week, Garcia has seen the season-long batting line drop to .210 as of this article. With Ben Zobrist returning from the Injured List, Garcia is the clear reserve infielder on this team. While that will limit his batting chances, the team context still supports owners looking for run-scoring value. While the rate stats did take a nosedive after a solid first week, Garcia still has bashed four homers for the Cubs. While power is not part of his game, this shows that the ability to hit translates and only time will tell how well.

Expected batting numbers are not great, with a .187 xBA. The sample skews part of this but also shows why Garcia was a waiver add by the Cubs this offseason. The good news is a 42.8 Hard Hit% demonstrates the impact when he does make contact. Even with his struggles in Chicago, Garcia has been mashing at Triple-A, with a .281/.361/.585 slash and 21 homers. While owners cannot expect this, a mean result would play nicely up the middle. A cheap add, with the ability to score when he gets on base, Garcia is a good target this week.

 

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

1% owned, FAAB $4

Cron is back in the Majors for what seems to be the fourth time this year. Always an exciting prospect due to the raw power, the questions on his hit tool has kept the stock down for now. Still, with Arizona out of the race, and in need of some offensive production from the corners, Cron will be offered a chance to win a job for next year. The best case scenario would be a carbon copy of his brother, but there might be even more power here.

In terms of his value at the plate, Cron has swatted five homers but is only batting .203 to date. The OBP does not offer much more hope sitting at .262, but with a .323 xWOBA, the expectations are there than he can emerge in the second half. Even without the batting average, owners can look to a 51.5 Hard Hit%, and see the tool grade in action. For owners chasing power numbers, this is the best bet on the list.

 

SS - Mauricio Dubon (SS, SF)

1% owned, FAAB $8

A “former” top prospect in the Brewers systems, Dubon was moved for Ray Black and Drew Pomeranz at the deadline. While Brewers fans were disappointed with the move, the fact that the system was so barren meant that Dubon was rated much higher than he would be in other systems. And yet, with the deal, there is a sudden urgency to see what he can do on a new team at an open position. The scouting grades on him like the overall package, but worry that he might be nothing more than a second-division regular. Even that can be valuable for fantasy owners over the final few weeks.

So far with the Giants, Dubon is batting .267 with one homer in four games. While his only run scored came off the solo-shot, Dubon has only stuck out once so far. In terms of what he can offer to fantasy owners, the main draws will be the batting line and speed. While he only has a 55 grade on each, in the minors Dubon had a career batting line of .300 with 127 career steals. Not an impact prospect, but a young bat who should give owners a solid return.

 

OF - Ben Zobrist (2B/OF, CHC)

2% owned, FAAB $7

Off the field, issues have kept Zobrist from the Cubs this year, but his return could not come at a better time. With the Cubs still in striking distance of both the division and Wild Card, Zobrist’s run-scoring is needed more than ever. Excluding this year for obvious reasons, Zobrist has scored at least 58 runs a year since joining the Cubs. Even more, in the past 10 years, he has scored more than 80 five times.

The floor is there, and while the bat might be slower than in years past, this is a smart player who can run the bases with the best of them. Zobrist also is a smart fantasy buy based on projections batting him first the rest of the way. With the hitters behind him, lead-off on the Cubs might be the best fantasy sport for a player who scores runs. While 21 games are a small sample, the K and BB rates are in line with career norms. Even more, with an xBA of .265, owners can expect to see the same old production from this utility player.

 

OF - Melky Cabrera (OF, PIT)

2% owned, FAAB $8

For a player that has hovered around 2% ownership all year, Cabrera’s stat-line is quite interesting. After making the team as a late offseason addition to cover Lonnie Chisenhall, Cabrera has been playing almost every day since. Appearing in 115 games, the “Melk-Man” has slashed .278/.311/.404 with seven homers and two steals. The counting lines leave some to be expected, but that rate stats are above league-average.

Cabrera is also a player that might be getting better as he gets older. After struggling with a .262 batting average over the past three seasons, he is actually hitting the ball softer this year. That has led to an increase in singles, but also sharp drops in power production. BABIP is up from last year, and the singles approach is paying off in the overall production. Even more, while speed is no longer a threat, but he still grades out as average on the bases. Owners are buying the .278 xBA, and with that, some counting value from a regular.

 

OF - Matt Joyce (OF, ATL)

1% owned, FAAB $18

Joyce is another platoon bat that creeps into fantasy consideration this late in the year. After bouncing from Cleveland to San Francisco before arriving in Atlanta, Joyce has had a usual season. And yet, even with all the uncertainty, once he was with the Braves, there has been a substantial and regular role for him. Over the past 20 games, Joyce has played 14 games in right field, and two others at the designated hitter. Even with all of the other talent on that team, the playing time seems to be increasing.

Joyce shows some positive signs under the hood as well. After a decade of average exit velocity and launch angle, he is now slightly in the plus on both accounts. Add in a five-year high .260 xBA, and Joyce is the best version of himself we have seen over the past few seasons. While there is a definite ceiling on the production, the former platoon hitter is becoming an everyday option. On a tremendous offensive team, the surplus-value is there to be had.

 

SP - Robert Dugger (SP/RP, MIA)

1% owned, FAAB $7

Well, we are now entirely in dart-throwing territory. Even with a recent wave of call-ups, most of the sexy arms are being held in the pen. That means that owners should head back to Marlins Park and willingly add a player with no run support to be seen. A former 18th round draft pick by Seattle, Duggar headed to Florida in the Dee Gordon deal. While a slow-burners, and not the best piece if the deal, Duggar does look like the next arm for Marlins fans to get excited about to finish the year.

Through his first two games and 12 innings, Duggar has allowed six earned but struck out 10. His bets offerings are fastball and slider, with the curve still needing some clear work. While the third pitch is vital for his long-term value, for now, the combo is effective enough. While he only tops out at 91 on the fastball, but slider sits at 90, allowing him to generate swings-and-misses. While he does give up hard contact, the park will be a crucial ally. Stream him at home, and hope the 1.08 WHIP can carry a lack of win upside.

 

RP - Rowan Wick (RP, CHC)

3% owned, FAAB $7

A former ninth-round pick by the Cardinals back in 2012, Wick has been on the enjoyable surprises in the Cubs’ bullpen this year. At times, based on his two saves, Wick has been the closer, and at other times, based on two wins, has been used earlier in games. As the bullpen, as a whole, returns to strength, expect the roles to keep moving, but the underlying value is still there.

Sitting at 94.8, Wick’s fastball is his best offering. So far in 2019, he is getting a 26 Whiff% off the pitch, and striking out 22% of opposing hitters with the fastball. While he offers four pitches in his mix, 30% of his other offerings have been the curveball. While this grades out well, the fastball is the money pitch. As the curve usage has jumped, the slider and cutter have fallen off. For now, Wick is a live arm on a good team, but if he can mix in one of the lesser-used pitches, this could be the next relief arm to stash.

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