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NL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 16

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 - Jorge Alfaro (C, PHI) - 7% owned

While not the breakout season some expected, Alfaro has still shown well this season with both a potent bat and excellent glove behind the plate. Through 70 games, Alfaro is slashing .254/.300/.399 with six homers and 22 runs. Not a catcher who is much of a threat to run, this is much more of a power profile. Even still, that slash line shows decent production that will not hurt fantasy teams in most categories. The wart in the profile is the K rate at 38.9% which looks even worse with only a 4.1% walk rate. Even more, the BABIP sits at .403 so perhaps some regression is on the horizon, but with the ability to drive the ball, a higher BABIP is not a red flag on its own. The 51.1 GB% seems to limit some of the power, but might also be pushing up the BABIP line, so owners should keep an eye on this to gauge long-term value. When catchers are weak across the board, this is an upside play behind the plate.

1B - David Freese (1B/3B, PIT) - 1% owned

Getting regular playing time this season has paid off for Freese with solid numbers, and some solidity in the line-up as the deadline approaches. In 67 games he has slashed .286/.345/.435 with five homers and 25 RBI. Add to that a slightly decreased K rate, even if only a point or two, and this is at worst the same as last season, and at best, an improvement for the bench bat. The 111 WRC+ does offer a marked increase over the 100 line from last season, but that only counts for so much concerning fantasy value. The other exciting mark is his SpD score, which Fangraphs lists as a 1.0 last season, and this year they have him at 2.2. This places him at the average for the league, but another improvement to note from last season. More of a CI play than either starting position, Freese will provide recent production that can surprise owners in a good way.

2B - Wilmer Difo (2B/3B/SS, WAS) - 3% owned

Difo seems to be the beneficiary of most of the Nationals’ moves this season and has turned this into 91 games so far this campaign. While the form might be down at times from last season, the extended playing time gives his owners some basis for keeping him on the team moving forward. A solid but not spectacular campaign so far, as the 2018 slash sits at .244/.302/.338 with 36 runs and five steals. Those runs stand out the most, as even with the lower average he is still scoring and being productive when he gets on base. The other difference is Difo’s GB% is down to 43.1% from last year’s 50.8%. This means more balls in the air, and while not turning into hits yet, should be a trend that works for him over time. All signs point to Difo being a productive player, who when used correctly can add the compliment to most team’s lineups.

3B - Martin Prado (3B, MIA) - 1% owned

Coming into the 2018 season, Prado looked to be one of the best bets for fantasy production from Miami, but this has not panned out so far. This season he is posting only a .228/.280/.285 slash with one homer and 13 runs. Still, this production has been limited by injuries and only appearing in 33 games so far. With the contract, there is no reason he moves at the deadline, and the production means he will not be on any radars for deals. This means the job should be his after the break, and while splitting time will hurt the gross numbers, there is no reason to think that Prado will post a batting average down 25 points from last season. If he can be a .250 hitter with eight or more homers the rest of the way, this should be a nice steal off the wire.

SS - J.P. Crawford (SS, PHI) - 2% owned

2018 has not been the campaign that even owners who were low on Crawford expected mixing in the struggles and the injuries. While currently on the DL, Crawford is available openly and should be a target for a second-half bounce back for a few reasons. First, even with the batting average sitting at .194, the OBP sits at .312, which while not great on its own, shows that there is an on-base floor with the selective hitter. Expect that average to inch higher, and with that, the OBP will be playable on its own. Even with a sample size of only 34 games, Crawford has scored 14 runs. This means that is he was playing a full season at this rate, Crawford would be on a 60 run pace. While that math does not precisely worth, it does give a clear image that when with the lower average, the production is still there. Buy low on the former prospect, and expect a stronger second half.

OF - Travis Jankowski (OF, SD) - 4% owned

With Franchy Cordero seemingly out the rest of the season, Jankowski looks to be the best defensive option in center for the Padres moving forward. The key is the glove and speed which offers some cover for Wil Myers and Franmil Reyes in that lineup. So far in 64 games, Janowski has 14 steals which places him at a close to 30-35 steal pace. While he will not get there due to some time off the roster and on the bench, but still should not be overlooked when steals are rarer this year than they ever have before. The added benefit is that unlike a player like Jarrod Dyson, Jankowski will not kill the overall batting line for a roto team. The slash sits at .261/.342/.336 which reflects the lack of power, but good on-base skills. Owners looking for an outfield starter should add Jankowski sooner rather than later.

OF - Aaron Altherr (OF, PHI) - 9% owned

Another disappointment regarding predicted and actual 2018 season production, Altherr seems to have moved from a platoon with Nick Williams to a solid lock on the bench during games. His production has not warranted more with only a .174/.294/.309 slash line to date, with only six homers and 22 runs. The good news is that the 36 RBIs still demonstrate some production and that all is not lost. Altherr is a player with a much better outlook due to the track record than others on the wire and should be the first buy-low most owners look at if the overall line improves.

OF - Preston Tucker (OF, ATL) - 2% owned

While no longer the breakout darling from the first month, Tucker has still established himself as a productive outfield bat for the Braves this season. In 58 games he is slashing .254/.301/.439 with four homers and 22 RBI. The reason he has exited a starting role, other than the emergence of Ronald Acuna, is the 26.8% K rate. Even with that, the overall batting numbers are much improved from the past few years in the Majors, so this might be the new normal moving forward. One of the factors to keep watching for owners is how little Tucker swings, as his swing rate is up this year, but only to 51.9%. While swinging at bad pitches is not good, the ability to take more shots seems to be preferable. That being said, Tucker is making 80.9 Z-Contact%, so a good ratio on those swings. More swings might lead to more production, but if that comes at the expense of the gains this season, owners are happy with the current profile.

P - Andrew Chafin (RP, ARI) - 1% owned

Mostly working as a matchup lefty out of the Arizona bullpen the innings have still been there for Chafin with 36 to date. Along with that, the 9.53 K/9 with a 1.59 ERA play well for the position and should give owners some reason to add the pitcher. Even if the ERA is low, the 2.53 FIP shows that there is more hope to the profile, and there is no cliff coming. The other note is that Chafin has not given up a homer this season, which is down from 0.88 HR/9 from last season. Some of this could be Chase Field, but also could be the matchups working out for Arizona. No saves here, but the ratios are good, and the match-up role should limit damage to the pitching line.

P - Kyle Crick (RP, PIT) - 2% owned

A former top pitching prospect for the Giants, Crick had lost enough value to be a secondary piece in the trade to the Pirates this winter. While the hope is to use him as a starter in the future, for the time being, he has a set role in the Pirate bullpen. 38 games and 36.1 innings show he is not a matchup pitcher, but also not going a full inning each time out. This means he is more of a middle reliever than a leverage arm out of the pen, but this still gives him a chance to impress with that big arm. The 9.17 K/9 line is up from 7.79 from his time with the Giants in 2017 and should be a good sign with PNC being a great place to pitch. Even more, the 1.98 ERA bodes well for owners and Crick also has two saves to his name. Another player who gets more value if other arms are dealt, in the short term this looks to be a solid bullpen arm to add to most teams.

P - Drew Steckenrider (RP, MIA) - 4% owned

Another flamethrower in the Marlin bullpen who has been connected to the American League in trade talks, which should be an opportunity for owners to cash in. If he is added now, he should be eligible for trade compensation in most leagues, and even if he stays there is upside to be had. Expect Kyle Barraclough to get dealt, and this should open up even a closer role for Steckenrider. On his own, the season has not been great, but still productive with 10.55 K/9 as the high point. Even more, a 3.38 ERA sits higher than the 2.96 FIP showing there is some bad luck this season. Three wins and one save in 46 games also shows that he is moving in some roles, and should be an option late with other deals.


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