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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 - Devin Mesoraco (C, NYM) - 6% owned

At this point, it is hard to call the Mets the winners in the Matt Harvey deal, but over the past week, Mesoraco has looked more and more like a legitimate return for the former ace. In his past eight games, Mesoraco is slashing .292./.346/.458 with one homer and three RBI. This is much higher than the combined batting line of .236/322/.427 so far this season, and while a small sample should always be questioned, in this case, there are other numbers to support at least an improvement going forward the rest of the season. First, the hard contact is up to 21.8% from last season’s 16.3%. Second, Mesoraco is making more contact on pitches outside the zone, at the same time he is swinging at fewer balls. While it is hard to see if the New York move affected this line all that much, there are enough moves here to make the add worth it for fantasy owners struggling behind the plate.  

1B - Miguel Rojas (1B/3B/SS, MIA) - 6% owned

While ending up at first only due to the weak options this week, owners should take advantage of the position flexibility to look at Rojas at the CI spot, and perhaps 1B if the need is there. At short he is a great option but should be productive wherever he plays. With playing time this season, Rojas is well on pace to improve from last season, and has already passed his homer and steals numbers in a similar amount of games. The batting line is down to .259 from the .290 number last season, but with the other improvements, owners can stomach this easily. For the rest of the season, expect Rojas to improve that batting average, and continue to add five or more homers with a few extra steals to finish off a solid campaign. It also seems like he is one of the main RBI plays in that line-up so if owners are looking for counting stats, this would be a smart pick.  All it takes is a short run of form to push Rojas up on the fantasy lists.  

2B - Alen Hanson (2B/OF, SFG) - 4% owned

Hanson continues a surprising campaign and should be owned in more than four percent of leagues. So far in 2018, he is slashing .284/.313/.532 with six homers and four steals, which much like Rojas, is well above his past season marks. With Joe Panik hurt, it looks like Hanson is the primary second baseman moving forward, and there is no reason to expect the production to drop with playing time. In eight games in July, Hanson is hitting .308 with five runs, and chipped in a homer to boot. If looking to streaming, make sure to play him at home, where he owns a .333 average and has scored more runs than on the road. Even better, at home versus righties, he is hitting .383 with all of his bombs. If that batting line keeps up, and the speed finally emerges, Hanson is a top 12 at the position in the NL easily.       

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

The afterthought in the salary dump deal between Atlanta and Los Angeles this winter, Culberson has produced to the point that he looks to be staying with the big league club down the stretch. The worry at the beginning of the season was that he would be passed over due to the rebuild, but with the team playing well there seem to be no plans to move on. In 61 games he is hitting .260/.326/.440 and has a WRC+ of 105. Add in four homers and three steals, and there is multiple-category production here as well. He is striking out in 23.8% of the time, but this is down from 26.7% last season. While not playing every day he does get his share of chances late in games, coming in for both the outfield and infield due to that positional flexibility which also bodes well for owners.  The most significant change in the profile is this season he is swinging at 74.2% of pitches in the zone, up from 63.6% last season. While he is also making 15% less contact, this approach has led to more batted balls which can only be a good thing when the overall line looks better.  

SS - Nick Ahmed (SS, ARI) - 5% owned

Another player who came into the season with a swing change Ahmed does indeed look like a different hitter. While unlike others he has not used the switch to jump into the top of the position, at the same time, he has hit 11 homers in 85 games, as opposed to the six in 52 last season. At last year’s pace, he would be hitting 18, and with this year’s, he is looking at closer to 22/23. Not a huge jump, but enough to keep him the lineup almost every day. Even better, the K rate is down a few points, and the walk rate is up a few.  How much is the swing, and how much is other factors, is hard to tell but the approach is much better. The other significant change is that he is on pace for career highs in R and RBI, meaning that even with the declining batting average there is value in the profile to be had. When power at the position is worth its weight, Ahmed looks to be the play.

OF - Jordan Luplow (OF, PIT) - 0% owned

Appearing on the list earlier in the year, Luplow took longer than expected to get the call, but now he is with the Pirates and serving as cover for the outfield.  In some ways, this is an addition for keeper leagues as he should be around next season, and relatively cheap if owners want to make that move. If playing for this season, Luplow should be a high average batter with limited, but not zero, power and speed. At Triple-A this season he was slashing .297/.382/.487 with eight homers and seven steals. The other good news for owners is that Luplow only struck out 17.8% of his at-bats, and walked 11.8% of the time this season. While mostly speculative without much of a track record in the bigs, this is a good upside play, who with playing time could chip in production across the board.

OF - Harrison Bader (OF, STL) - 3% owned

Most of Bader’s outlook moving forward will rely on the club’s decision with Dexter Fowler, as he seems to be the main block for Bader’s regular playing time right now.  That being said, in 72 games Bader is slashing .271/.340/.414 with six homers and nine steals. These numbers are all marked improvements from his limited time in the majors in 2017 and should get the attention of owners.  Bader is a bit more selective this time around, as in 2017 his swing rate was 48.8% and this season it is down to 45.1%. At the same time, the contact rate has stayed the same, which explains the jump in batting average from .235 last season. Bader looks to be what Luplow might be, and with the better team offers even more upside. If Fowler sticks around expect the much of the same regarding production, but if the spot opens up, this could be a profile with helium.

OF - Nick Williams (OF, PHI) - 3% owned

The Williams experiment has worked to some effect this season, with the power numbers keeping him around the starting lineup, and the supporting stats making him worth much more than a 3% ownership rate. Hits in six of his last seven games, with two homers and six runs, should be what owners expect in a good week, so while not elite, reliable production all the same. In almost the same amount of games from the 2017 campaign, Williams has seen his walk rate jump from 5.8% to 8.2% and the K rate drop from 28.3% to 25.4% this season. At the same time, the limited playing time shows as he is behind pace on the counting stats. And yet, the excellent production last season shows that if this year is the floor, there is still room to improve. If he can get back to the double-digit steal campaigns from the minors, this stock would increase even more.

P - Michael Lorenzen (RP, CIN) - 0% owned

If only owners could start Lorenzen as a DH in the Angel’s model, and this would be an easier sell. A few reasons to buy in just for the pitching. First, there is no reason to think that Rasiel Inglesias is on this team past the trading deadline, and when that deal is made Lorenzen should be the closer moving forward. Second, in his past 13 appearances, he has gone longer than a single inning nine times, and those innings add up. For a pitcher with a below average K rate, those innings help add to the bottom line and add the counting stats. For example, over those games, Lorenzen is only striking out 5.75 per nine but had one K in eight games, and more than one in four. Volume matters and that will add up to good ratios for owners.  Saves will be there, and in the meantime, celebrate the regular production. 

P - Anthony DeSclafani (SP, CIN) - 7% owned

Excuse the cliche this time, but there is little to no pitching in NL-only leagues without major warts. With this in mind, owners should take the biggest risks to be the biggest payoffs. Six starts this season for DeScalfani has resulted in three wins but an ERA of 5.08. The good news is with an xFIP of 4.14 this is not as bad as it looks on the surface. The stuff still plays with 7.75 K/9 up slightly from his 7.66 line in 2016.  The primary hope for Reds fans in that he gets moved to the bullpen as the stuff works best in smaller doses, and with the stamina could be an excellent compliment to Lorenzen. With the Reds playing better baseball so far since the manager change, this could pan out concerning the overall team and boost the profile. Watch the Cleveland start on Monday to see how he matches with better teams and then make the call.  (After the Cleveland start he looks even more like an add off the wire with a solid outing versus one of the best offenses in baseball.)

P - Randy Rosario (RP, CHC) - 0% owned

An afterthought in most evaluations of the Cubs this season, Rosario has shown potential in 19 games so far.  In 24 total innings, he has a 1.50 ERA with 5.25 K/9 and has picked up four wins. While the wins are more luck than anything with the bullpen, the high numbers mean he is getting placed in good situations, and the low K rate is not hurting him all that much. The ERA should jump due to the 4.41 FIP, but until it does owners can rely on regular usage and good overall support for the line. The other thing is that the HR/9 sits at 0.75 which could reflect that the ERA is holding steady even with the bombs, or there are more to come. This is a stash and watch for teams needing ratios, but there is upside with team context and those wins.

 

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