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NL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 17

Keith Allison on Flickr - Originally posted to Flickr as "20120613-0211j"

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 - Manny Pina (C, MIL) - 3% owned

Finally back from the disabled list, Pina seems to be the best bet on the wire regarding both production and playing time this week, at least in terms of free catchers. Even with the time away from the club, Pina has managed to appear in 62 games with a slash of .227/.291/.369 with six homers and 29 R so far this season. The batting average is down from past seasons, but owners should expect Miller Park to help boost the batting line a bit the rest of the way. Even with the drop in average, the K rate is down to 18.4% from last year’s 22% mark. The power is also on pace to pass last year’s mark of nine homers, so even with the average, there is pop in this profile. When the other options are a replacement level at best, expect Milwaukee to keep Pina in the lineup for the near future.

1B - Pablo Sandoval (1B/3B, SFG) - 2% owned

Sandoval is one of the hardest fantasy players to evaluate due to the rapid swings in production and playing time that limits his dependability. In fact, this season has seemed quite good from some angles, but at the same time reflect his struggles. While the batting average in the past month sits at a measly .203 mark, he has added three homers and 13 RBI which prop up the line so far. If Sandoval can start hitting closer to the .254 line he has for the season on a consistent basis there is even more value to be had. The other curious thing is that when Sandoval is hitting his RBI numbers go down. This means that he is better this season driving in runs with outs as opposed to hits. Not something that owners can plan for, and they should not cheer for outs, but that is something to watch moving forward. At the same time, with some production, and track record, the risk is worth the reward. 

2B - Brad Miller (1B/2B/SS, MIL) - 2% owned

Since his move from Tampa Bay, Miller has yet to take off with a .222 batting average in 24 games but has chipped in eight RBI and five runs. Not great, but there is still upside with the former second-round pick. The ability to move around, on a National League club, should keep him getting chances which is more than can be said about others with this low of an ownership rate. If owners are in need, the recommendation would be to go back to last week’s pick of Wilmer Difo, but if he has been snapped up Miller is the highest upside play this cycle. Like Pina, the park helps fantasy owners and should support what little power Miller brings to the table. The biggest mark is the 41.2% K rate which cannot continue, but if it does, as is always the case, this is the first cut on fantasy teams.  

3B - Yairo Munoz (3B/SS, STL) - 2% owned

A slow start to the season, followed by a hot two weeks, and now Munoz has drifted back in between the two marks. The play of Matt Carpenter takes away most of the fill-in chances in the lineup, but there still is some chance with the new management that Munoz finds his way into key opportunities. Also, it seems that Carpenter is playing a first, which might put Munoz beyond someone like Jedd Gyorko.  In 59 games this season he is slashing .298/.356/.447 with six homers and five steals. If he were playing on most other clubs, there would be a guaranteed shot to play, if not start, but again, this Cardinals team is a mess right now. With the team's defensive struggles, Munoz needs to show that the glove can play to get him onto the field. The good news is that Munoz is walking more than he ever did in the minors and has almost tied his minor league totals on homers in only half a season. Everything else is right in line, and rest of the way this could be an eight homer and eight steal play, which has value for most teams. With the flexibility play him at the MI position and expect him to a least produce what others in this spot will.

SS - Jordy Mercer (SS, PIT) - 1% owned

A hidden player on an up and down Pirates team, Mercer has kept the starting role since day one and has offered little reason to move on. In 88 games he is slashing .254/.316/.393 with 33 R and 31 RBI. The five homers this season are a bit behind the 14 pace from last campaign, but with the positional context, this is still quite appealing to owners. Never much of a steals threat he does have two this season after only one in the past two seasons combined. The area for concern is that he is chasing more than last season with an O-contact% of 55.6% after last year’s 69.7% mark. If he can keep most of the same production, and be a bit more aggressive, this does not hurt the profile, but if he can chase a bit less, expect those numbers to jump a bit.  

OF - Chris Owings (2B/3B/SS/OF, ARI) - 6% owned

To be fair, Owings does not play or hit like an outfielder, but the positional flexibility allows for him to slot in here on most teams. 82 games have resulted in a .198/.262/.287 slash, which is down from last season’s .268/.299/.442 line. The most significant drop is in the power context, as this season he only has three homers and last year he recorded 12. Overall he is swinging at five percent fewer pitches, which should have helped the approach, but seems to have taken away from of the aggressiveness. Even with the struggles, the main reason to keep an eye on Owings are the steals. So far this season he has eight, and while not on pace for 2016’s 21, or last year’s 12, this still offers some upside. He hits like a shortstop, but plays all over the place, and if it picks up this should be the nice bench add that teams need right now. When the MLB leader in steals only has 25 at the time of writing this, any steals are worth their weight in gold.  

OF - Franmil Reyes (OF, SD) - 1% owned

When Reyes was first called up to the Padres, the fantasy community was split regarding how much he would offer. The consensus was there is plus power in the profile, but the hit tool and glove might not play. So far in his appearances with San Diego, this seems to be what has transpired. In 37 games he is slashing .223/.273/.427 with six homers and 14 runs. That power would put him on a season-long pace of 26, which would fit well, but the batting average would not. When outfield is shallow this week (see the fact that Owings made the list) any potential to catch lightning in a bottle plays up. The K rate is absurd at 37.3%, but in his minor league career, the number has been closer to 20% most seasons. A rookie in the majors will strike out a bit, and perhaps, this will calm down, at least for next season. In the short term, the .427 slugging line is the best bet for fantasy owners. For a short-term, OF3/4 Reyes should get a look.

OF - Austin Slater (OF, SFG) - 0% owned

Another unknown quantity to make the list, Slater has only appeared in 21 games this season and does not have the prospect pedigree that would keep him on most stash lists. Still, in that limited time, Slater has managed to post a slash of .326/.434/.395 with five runs and three steals. Little to no power, as can be seen by the lack of a single homer so far this season, but the OBP plays up with a 15.1% BB rate so far. This could play better in San Francisco than a power hitter who would lose some ability with the park conditions, and instead, a slap hitter can take advantage of the gaps for hits and some run production. This is how Slater seems to be playing, with a 74.2 GB% so far this campaign. With the rumors of some pieces moving on from the Bay, Slater has played well enough to get an audition the rest of the way. Average and speed play at the very least, and at best, there is production in four out of five categories.  

P - Craig Stammen (RP, SDP) - 8% owned

This might not be the opinion of the industry, but expect Stammen to replace Brad Hand in the closer role for the Padres as opposed to Kirby Yates. The first reason is that Yates should be the next player on their way out, as the over 30 reliever market seems to be more valuable for pieces than waiting around for the rebuild to finish. Second, and this is coming from someone who has been low on Stammen for the past few years, he is pitching well, and well enough to be a reliable closer with the park. This season he is posting his best K/9 number since 2011 with 10.08 rate as opposed to his previous high of 10.45. Since then the numbers are mostly eights and nines, so there is a definite bump. Besides, the ERA sits at 2.85, but the FIP is at 1.89. If that is not encouraging, then there is nothing to convince owners to grab this arm. All signs, other than the news, point to this being the closer the rest of the way in San Diego.

P - Scott Alexander (RP, LAD) - 7% owned

When he was added from the Royals in the offseason most expected Alexander to serve mostly in a match-up role for the Dodgers, and to date, he has done a bit more. In 44 games he has pitched 44.2 innings, with one win and one save. Moving forward, when the Dodgers are unable to go to Kenley Jansen, Alexander could be the option against lefties in the ninth. At the same time, even without the saves, he has a 7.86 K/9 rate with an ERA of 3.22. Not ideal on the K numbers, but he is holding lefties to a .188 average with 24% K rate in those matchups. Also, he has posted a 75.2 GB% so far, meaning the ball is staying in the yard. If owners are looking for a dart for saves, but also some support in other areas, Alexander seems to be the safe pick.

P - Silvino Bracho (RP, ARI) - 0% owned  

Bracho has been up and down to the majors since 2015, but this season has pitched well in limited opportunities. So far this campaign, in 18 games, he has a 2.04 ERA with a 1.19 FIP. Park factors are at play here, as the improvements are noticeable from the past season in Arizona, but there is also a hint of skills playing through as well. The big difference has been the homers, as in 2017 he was giving up 2.18 HR/9, and that is all the way down to zero this season. The stuff has always been there with this year’s mark of 11.72 being lower than past seasons, but the homers killed his chances in those seasons. The fly balls are still there with only a 37.8% GB mark, but this has not hurt him yet. Throw in two wins, and this seems to be a solid relief arm to grab those punchouts.  


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