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NL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 14

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 - John Ryan Murphy (C, ARI) - 8% owned

For the time being it looks like John Ryan Murphy will be the starting catcher in Arizona, or at the very least, will be getting the majority of the at-bats. For owners who have not jumped on the bandwagon, this might be the last opportunity. So far in 2018 Murphy is slashing .257/.306/.507 with nine homers and 23 RBI. Even with playing in the new Chase Field environment, that .507 slugging should get the attention of fantasy owners. While cooling off in June and only hitting .228, the underlying numbers are there for this to be the outlier as opposed to the norm moving forward. Even with that drop, the K rate was much the same, and hints that there was nothing “wrong” in June, and owners should expect this player to rebound in July.

1B - Rangel Ravelo (1B, STL) - 0% owned

Dipping into the minors as opposed to looking to the backup options at the position, Ravelo has been crushing the ball at Triple-A Memphis this season. For the 2018 campaign, he is slashing .313/.403/.522 with nine homers and 42 RBI. Both of these are up from last season in only a third of the games. The K rate is down to 11.1% from 16.2% last season, and the walk rate is up to 10.7% from the 9% line last season. The other interesting jump is the SLG from .480 in 2017 to .522 this season. The homers are up due to the 13.4% HR/FB rate, which is also up from 9.9% last season. As owners can see, Ravelo is showing improvement all across the board and if/when he gets the call should be an add due to the line-up and team around him. Playing time might be hard to find, but a minor leaguer is only on injury away from the call. Add him while you can.

2B - Carlos Asuaje (2B, SD) - 0% owned

Recently recalled from Triple-A El Paso, the numbers have not given owners much hope this season. The average sits at a paltry .196, but since he was sent down, Asuaje has been raking in the minors. In 35 games he is slashing .338/.408/.492 with 24 R scored. With Wil Myers serving as a constant injury risk, owners should expect Jose Pirela to play some in the outfield, and with that, open second for Asuaje. The other reason to stash Asuaje is the potential for speed and steals, as while so far with the Padres he has not run much, there is a track record of steals in the minors. Not that owners should expect 20+ the rest of the way, but even a handful is worthwhile in this season’s steals environment. Expect the bat to play a bit more than earlier in the year, and pray for additional stats to make this an essential addition.

3B - David Bote (3B, CHC) - 0% owned

With Kris Bryant ending up on the disabled list, the Cubs are looking to rotate a few players through the hot corner, and it seems like Bote was brought up to play. With that being said, his 13 games in the majors have been encouraging, and he is slashing .241/.314/.310 with seven R and one steal. The slugging is a good indicator of the type of player owners are adding, with more singles than anything else. The 11.4% BB% is nice to have as well, and no reason to think that the OBP will fall. Even better, when this is the clear weak link in a Cubs offense, Bote will get pitches to hit and if he takes advantage could be a nice play to add to the batting line. The seven runs are also an indicator that when he gets on base, the rest of the team will pick him up.

SS - Pat Valaika (1B/2B/3B/SS, COL) - 0% owned

For owners looking to roster Valaika the best selling point is the position flexibility with the ability play all over the infield. The batting line is stuck at .127, and the minors numbers hover close to .200 as well so do not expect much offensive production. That being said, playing at Coors means that he can run into a few runs even with low rate stats.  All it takes is for Nolan Arenado to keep hitting for this to pay off in the short term for fantasy owners. Also, with the positional ability, expect Valaika to be a late-inning replacement for a pitcher with the double shift, which should limit his AB but also limit the damage. Not much to spin here, but when the position is fragile this week, take a risk, and it could pay off.   

OF - Tyler O’Neill (OF, STL) - 3% owned

While it looks like O’Neill will only be up for a short bit, over that time, his ability to add a few bombs should make this a worthy look in NL-only leagues. The line this campaign is what can be expected of the power-only hitter, with a .237/.268/.500 slash. The silver lining is that the 43.9% K rate should drop with more chances, and if not, will be an excellent way to judge if this is a worthy long-term add. Even if it falls to close to the 25% line from the minors this could pay off with a bit more production, but also shows that the floor will be closer to 30 moving forward in the best case. The other number that should come down is the 42.9 HR/FB%, as this is high even for the power profile. For owners looking to stream homers, this is the best play.

OF - Kevin Kaczmarski (OF, NYM) - 0% owned

Just added to the major league club in the last week, Kaczmarski should be available in all leagues. Regarding reasons to add, the minor league batting numbers look great with a .363/.413/.450 after the promotion to Triple-A.  Two steals in 24 games is also nice but should play if he continues to get the green light with the Mets. With that OBP there will be chances to run, and the ability to add eight or more the rest of the way should play. And yet, there is bad news. In over 1,400 minors league ABs he only has 11 bombs, and should not be thought of as a power play at all. Still, an outfielder with a good average floor who will get on base is an excellent replacement in the short term.

OF - Jarrod Dyson (OF, ARI) - 2% owned

For owners who added Dyson to begin the season this has not been a campaign to remember, and the batting average sits .191. The “good” news is that most of the damage happened in June when he batted .158 after a strong .260 line in May. What does make Dyson worthwhile to add are the 16 steals with only being thrown out three times. What is also interesting for this player is that most of his chances are coming against righties, but his best batting line is at home against lefties. In those matchups, he is hitting .333, a massive improvement over the rest of the season. Even more, that walk rate is up to 11.1% from last season’s 7.2%, meaning that he does still offer chances to get on base even without using the bat. When he gets on base Dyson should continue to provide speed on the bases. Pair with a high average, no speed player to get the most value here.

P - Richard Rodriguez (RP, PIT) - 1% owned

Making the list earlier in the year, Rodriquez has continued to put up superb numbers in the Pirates bullpen. With George Kontos moving to Cleveland, the opportunity for late-inning chances will be there for this arm. 12.06 K/9 will play in most staffs, and the 2.30 ERA means that owners are not sacrificing much to adds those punchouts. The command continues to be there as well with a 1.15 BB/9 rate to support the season line so far. The issue he has with Baltimore was a high 6.35 HR/9 rate, and while this happened in only 5.2 innings, much of the blame can be thrown at the ballpark more than anything. If he can keep the current 0.86 rate intact, this could be closer material with some deadline moves.

P - Wei-Yin Chen (SP, MIA) - 2% owned

With not much else concerning recommended starting pitching out there this week, owners need to take a risk, and this seems to be the best option. The season line is not great with a 6.14 ERA in 55.2 innings of work, but most of that damage came during June with a 6.20 ERA. The good news is that in his last start Chen was able to go six only allowing one run at home to the Diamondbacks. The previous start was not great with seven earned over four innings, but that was at Coors and needs to be avoided for most pitchers. With this team Chen will get starts, and if he can continue to play better at home the upside if there so some solid, but not great, production.  At home, he has a 2.30 ERA in 27.1 innings. Besides, against lefties, Chen is only allowing a .204 BA. For owners willing to take the risk, this is a home streaming option until he proves he can do more.

P - John Brebbia (RP, STL) - 0% owned

Any chance for saves makes relievers worth the shot, and there is no better place to shoot for that than in St. Louis. While Brebbia sits behind Jordan Hicks for right now, he does have two saves to his name so far for the year. Also, the 3.34 ERA for the season is moving in the right direction with a 2.08 ERA in June. Besides, in June, he held opposing hitters to a .204 average with a .228 wOBA. 15 strikeouts in June are also up from the 10 he had in similar innings in May, which all points to a better approach moving forward. The year line sits at 9.71 K/9 which is up from his 2017 line of 8.88. When walks are close to the same, there is no reason to doubt that his June numbers are for real. He might find himself even further back if the Cardinals add a closer at the deadline, but there is also a chance he is the one moved and finds himself in a better position to add saves.   


Bonus Player

Nate Orf (2B/3B/SS, MIL) - 0% owned

Orf’s promotion was announced after the article was drafted but should be an exciting addition to most teams looking to plug holes. At the time of publication, it appears he will be eligible to play the positions listed above, but might also start as only 2B eligible. Never before appearing in the Majors, Orf is off to his best season at Triple-A this season and will at worst be a bench bat for the club. In 74 games he is slashing .307/.412/.463 with six homer and 20 steals. Those steals are exciting, but the batting line on its own might play. Over his career, Orf has been close to .300 hitter, but has never been on this power and speed pace before. The K% sits right around 15%, and the BB% close to 10% consistently. For owners looking to add an unknown quantity, but with a good track record to back-up his recent success, Orf seems to be a player to keep an eye on and stash for the near future. If he has position flexibility, pick Orf over Valaika.  


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