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NL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 13

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.

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NL-Only Team of the Week

C -  Nick Rickles (C, PHI) - 0% owned

Catching is the weakest category again this week with most of the names from the past columns (Kratz, Plawecki, etc.) returning to solid backup roles.  Accordingly, the recommendation this week is a dart from the minors, contingent on some injury news from Philadelphia. Andrew Knapp left a game over the weekend with a leg contusion, and at the time of writing this piece, there was no update or timetable for his playing time moving forward.  While Jorge Alfaro is the starting catcher as of now, with the NL, there is always a need to carry that back-up for pinch hitting and support roles. For that reason, if Knapp ends up on the DL, Rickles should be the short term option as he is the best hitting catcher at Triple-A for the Phillies right now.  Through 37 games he is slashing .244/.273/.398 with five homers and 16 RBI. Now a sure thing, but worth a shot if owners are desperate.

1B - Mark Reynolds (1B, WAS) - 4% owned

Cooling off a bunch since the start to his Nationals career, Reynolds is still an exciting fantasy option for bench power and other counting stats. The bad news? In the past seven games, he is slashing .000/.000/.000. The good news? That makes him available in most leagues as he has lost 15+ ownership points over that time alone. Even baking in this bad stretch, for the year, Reynolds is slashing .238/.297/.475 with six homers. The K rate is down four points from last season in Colorado, which is a good sign, but perhaps not a big enough drop to make him a must-add in mixed leagues. In NL-only though, when there is little power on the wire, Reynolds is the best bet to produce in limited times. He might hurt a team’s batting average in the short term but could chip in 15+ homers the rest of the year. That might be the high end of the return, but still within the scope of possibility.       

2B - Chase Utley (1B/2B, LAD) - 1% owned

Recently returning to the team after a stint on the disabled list, Utley has appeared in two out of three games and chipped in a hit in each which is only good news with that thumb injury. Utley is the play this week at 2B due to the potential for some runs and steals, at least compared to the field. Even when missing a bunch of time, the two steals so far put him second of players owners is less than 5% of leagues, and the 13 R are in third. Utley also will get more playing time off the bench than others on this list with late-inning appearances for pitchers while also “saving” him for the end of the season when the leadership matters as much as the bat. The .224 average is not great, but the close to 10% walk rate keeps a nice floor on the OBP. While not a starter, Utley could walk into some good ratios to support any team.

3B - Tommy La Stella (2B/3B, CHC) - 0% owned

La Stella is playing much more this season than expected and on pace to shoot past his 2017 game totals. So far this campaign, La Stella has played in 63 games and slashed .283/.347/.304 over that time. No power or speed with zero homers or steals so far, but the rate stats should keep him in the Cubs line-up, at least in a time-sharing role.  The bad news is that the K rate is up a few points, and the BB rate is down a few points, so not exactly good news for potential owners. In all fairness, the numbers across the board are down as evidenced by the drop in WRC+ from 126 last season to 82 this year so far. And yet, playing for the Cubs means he will score more than others on the wire and should be able to keep turning that walk rate into scoring opportunities. A bounce back to last year’s numbers the rest of season, and this could be 20+ R added to the underlying total for a team. At the very least, this is a solid AVG and OBP play to boost the bottom-line on most rosters.

SS - Alex Blandino (2B/3B/SS, CIN) - 0%

While not a regular starter, like La Stella, Blandino is playing more than might be expected with 56 games so far this season. That being said, not much offensive production so far to push him into the lineup in a starting role with a .233/.315/.277 slash so far this season. The WRC+ of 65 reflects the poor year at the plate, which is why is available in most leagues. Fantasy owners though should give this profile a good look, as with the Nick Senzel news nothing is pushing him from the bench role at this point. With that in mind, his current FB rate sits at 31.2% which is almost 15 points lower than his minor league average. While not major league numbers, there is no reason to think that Blandino will not add some of that back as he earns more time in the bigs. At the very least, the risk of an increase in fly balls makes him worth the stash as it could pay off in that park.

OF - Noel Cuevas (OF, COL) - 0% owned

Making a repeat appearance on the list from earlier in the season, Cuevas has not blossomed as expected. He is still getting playing time for the Rockies which is always a good sign for fantasy owners. Though 47 games he is slashing .265/.292/.343 with one homer and 10 R.  The key to the profile is the relatively low K rate at 14.2% that so far is a bit lower than his average in the minors, so Cuevas is getting making outs with the bat which should pay off. That being said, with a BABIP of .302 there is no real expectation that the batting line improves, and Cuevas needs more power to justify the .260 average so far. The good news is that Cuevas does not chase much with only a 40% O-Swing rate and an 81.6% Z-swing rate. Not chasing and swinging at strikes in the zone will keep that K rate down, and perhaps this is the hint that the overall line improves? If anything, owners might want him to swing a bit more as his current rate sits at a low 58.4%. Perhaps more swinging would result in more Ks, but also more big hits?  He does play at Coors so let it rip.

OF - Dylan Cozens (OF, PHI) - 0% owned

There was “some” fanfare when Cozens got the call to the majors to replace Rhys Hoskins, but shortly after his debut, he found himself away from the team on the injured list. Now back with the team, the starting opportunity is gone but seems like he will be used as a sub and power replacement off the bench. Now that the hype has died down, there will be less competition to grab this bat and should be a good power first stash.  The question will be can he hit enough to stick around, and the .226 AVG at Triple-A is not great, but 10 homers in 50 games are. With the extra power hitters expect to see at the majors this could be an excellent power source in the second half. Also, while he is not Hoskins, the Phillies have shown they are willing to play a sub-defensive player if they can hit.  

OF - Keon Broxton (OF, MIL) - 2% owned

Milwaukee is not the ideal place to be looking to add another outfielder as last week Domingo Santana was sent down to make room for Eric Thames. At the same time, Lorenzo Cain seems to be a bit banged up, and while not heading to the DL, shows that the one position the team is shallow is in center field.  Thames, Ryan Braun, and Jesus Aguilar are all fighting for first base and outfield time, but none can play up the middle. Christian Yelich can play there, but then the team is starting below-average defenders in both corners, and the math does not add up. Enter Broxton who has been playing well at Triple-A and might be in line for a shot moving forward. So far in 2018, he is slashing .261/.333/.418 with eight homers and 24 steals. That power and speed threat is worth the stash in case he does get the call, or at the very least, is appealing as a trade chip as the Brewers look to add another starter. All things to keep in mind as the deadline approaches.

P - Craig Stammen (RP, SDP) - 9% owned

Stammen is another reliever without a path to saves in the short term but might have the other skills to end up there sooner than later. First, Brad Hand is perhaps on the move to the AL with either Boston or Cleveland which would open the closer role to a player than the Padres seem to like. Second, a sub-one WHIP plays even if not in the closer role and will support ratios that might need a slight tweak to get back into contention. Third, a 1.96 ERA plays with that WHIP and does not require the saves to keep it rosterable. Overall, Stammen is one of the better-producing set-up men in the game and worth the roster slot even without a Hand trade.

P - Tayron Guerrero (RP, MIA) - 0 % owned

For this player look past the small sample ERA and WHIP to focus on the 12.5 K/9 so far this season. The wildness is there, and can hurt the other numbers, but the stuff plays well for owners who are looking to add Ks. While he also blew a save in the past week, the good news is that even with the lousy surface numbers he is being looked at for that role when Barraclough in unavailable. Guerrero is only a play for owners needing pitching counting stats, and who are willing to deal with the rest of the profile, but could pay off well. Add in the odd win here and there, and Guerrero is worth at least a bench slot.

P - Edubray Ramos (RP, PHI) - 5% owned

Well, the Philadelphia bullpen is a bit of a dumpster fire, and this collapse cannot be blamed on Gabe Kapler. So far, the pitchers just have not performed. With that, the recommendation is to grab the one player that is pitching with some consistency and hoping he slots into the closer role moving forward. So far in 29 innings, Ramos has posted an ERA of 1.24 with 9.93 K/9 with the odd save thrown in. These ratios play well without the save so he should be owned more than his current 5% rate at the very least. The 0.6 HR/9 rate is right in line with last season so owners should not expect any surprises there at least in the short term. The best piece is that the walk rate is down almost a walk per nine, meaning even if he runs into homers, the damage is limited by the new control. At the very least, current closer Seranthony Dominquez is on a short leash, and when that gets pulled, Ramos looks like the next in line.
Note: Ramos hit the 10-day disabled list shortly after publication. He is recommended as a DL stash or speculative add next week.


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