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NL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 18

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 Hundley (C, SFG) - 2% owned

Buster Posey is now officially back and healthy, meaning the run of starts for Hundley has dried up. Even with that, playing in 55 games, Hundley has slashed .255/.295/.484 with nine homers and 25 RBI. While not getting the same time as other catchers on the list, this is all about the rate of production when he does get playing time. Hundley is the best hitter at catcher with both a track record and decent line this year. This means that he might be as valuable in two games that others are in three or four. At the same time, he is the clear backup and not even a Posey slump will put him in the lineup. Still, a good fantasy play especially if owners are looking to protect batting average as opposed to earn more.

1B - Victor Caratini (C/1B, CHC) - 1% owned

Caratini is a tough add in most leagues due to low little time he has spent in the majors, but with roster expansion, only a month away, adding him now will keep him on most rosters. Even in limited time, he has produced with a .273/.336/.333 slash and 13 runs to date. While not a power threat that average is appealing for free, and should be worth the roster slot if owners are struggling with late-season injuries. What is also interesting is that Caratini is making a ton of medium contact with a 60.3% Med% line for the year. This seems to mean that he is making good contact even if the results have been average so far.  Instead, owners willing to gamble might see those number lead to more hard contact and more hits in general. If looking for upside at first, this is a good play for the next two months.

2B - Hernan Perez (2B/3B/SS, MIL) - 2% owned

Perez will perhaps be the fantasy player most affected by the Mike Moustakas deal this past week, but as always, with the National League, that does not mean that he will not see time on the field. To date, in 87 games, Perez is slashing .253/.287/.404 with eight homers and nine steals. Over a full season, this would put him on pace for a 15/20 season. In fact, compared to last year, the rate numbers are on par, and the counting stats are on pace to past last’s year's mark. Overall, Perez has been a productive utility infielder, and with fantasy plays, this is nice to have on the bench. Perhaps the rest of the way he is mostly used off the bench, but could be appearing every game at second for Travis Shaw with the defensive questions. Whatever the role, Perez is much better than his current ownership and will reward owners who add him.

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

Prado looks safe to stay in Miami the rest of the season, and yet, also has the benefit of not potentially losing other support in that lineup. While this means, on one hand, there is no one on the Marlins worth trading for, but also, implies that what Prado has done to date will not be impacted by a critical loss. In an injury-plagued season to date, Prado has appeared in 41 games posting a slash of .245/.287/.316 with one homer and 15 runs. The K rate is the same as last season, meaning that .287 BABIP is reasonably accurate. Rest of the way this is a batting average player who can walk into some production but will score runs at the position. Not much upside here, but with a floor at .250, owners can add Prado with confidence.

SS - Nick Ahmed (SS, ARI) - 7% owned

If the last few weeks are any hint, Nick Ahmed might be the second half breakout player of 2018.  Since the All-Star break, Ahmed is hitting .324 with two homers and 13 RBI. While that stretch is only 10 games, it is past the point of a small sample and might be the beginnings of a trend. While the line might drop, even .290 with power and RBI rest of the way is a literal steal at shortstop. His best stretch of the season has featured Colorado and the Cubs, so this is not a player beating up on the Marlins. At the same time, this is also not unexpected, as the offseason talk was a swing change, and attempting to get more fly balls. This season he has hit fewer grounders, with the rate down to 39.2% from 47.7% last campaign. Assuming that nothing major changed over the break, this might be the result of sticking with that process after meddling results in the first half.  

OF - Gorkys Hernandez (SFG, OF) - 5% owned

Appearing on this list at the beginning of the season, Hernandez has fallen off a bit, but not to the point that he should be available in almost every league. Still, in 92 games so far, he is slashing .269/.318/.448 with 12 homers and four steals. The power is the outlier this campaign, when, in the past, his career high for homers in the bigs was two. There was an eight spot in the minors, but this is a brand new addition to the profile. The increased production covers up the 26.3 K%, but owners will settle when OPS is close to last season. The slugging line is the most significant change from last season, and the benefit is that now Hernandez can hit more like an outfielder. In the past owners had to the settle for a shortstop in the outfield, but those days seem to be over.

OF - Harrison Bader (OF, STL) - 2% owned

Bader is a player to watch as the trade deadline approaches but, owners should not expect him to move, the idea that Tommy Pham or Dexter Fowler might go will open a starting role the rest of the way. If money was on the table, Pham moves to Cleveland which means younger prospects back. This is no Brett Phillips trade which would still limit playing time with a Quad-A player to split time with. Even in a part-time role, Bader has played in 82 games posting a slash of .269/.339/.406 with six homers and nine steals. While still growing into his own in the bigs, Bader already looks to be a productive OF4 in real life, with a glove that can play in all fields. This means three games a week, even without a trade. Owners looking to add an upside bat should look no further.

OF - Lewis Brinson (OF, STL) - 6% owned

The 2018 campaign has not been the year most expect from Brinson with a .184 batting average in 84 games. Even with the 10 homers to date, the rest of the line has been bad, and to the point, that the ownership rate might be a bit high. He is on this list for the same reasons, and the upside, if it all clicks can carry a team down the stretch. The other note is that he will continue to get playing time, as the Marlins want to see him and what he can do. In the short term this is nothing more than a stash, but in the long-term owners should be willing to take some chances based on matchups. He is much better facing lefties, so that is one way to slot him in, and he also plays a bit better at home. Perhaps not a roto play, but in points, he can win a week on his own.

P - Reyes Moronta (RP, SFG) - 5% owned

The 2018 season has been exceptional for Moronta with 46 innings, and an ERA of 1.76. Add to that a 10.57 K/9 and this one of the best setup players this year. With a homer rate of 0.39 HR/9 and the ball is staying in the yard, in part thanks to the park this is mostly due to approach. The BABIP is low at .200, so this might not be the line rest of way, but also the FIP is only at 3.01. As usual, not a saves choice now; this could be the player to watch as he could move into a new role after the deadline. Moronta is enjoying a quality season, and this can carry over to fantasy as well.  

P - Justin Wilson (RP, CHC) - 2% owned

A lefty matchup option usually does not get much, if any, fantasy play, but then this is Joe Maddon in charge. Through 46 games he has pitched 40.2 innings, meaning that while not going a full inning each time, this is more than one batter per outing as well. Wilson has recovered well from an unfortunate end to 2017, and to date, has posted a 3.10 ERA with a 12.39 K/9 rate. Pitching on an excellent team means there are wins to be had, boosting the value even more. Owners looking for ratios in roto, and Ks in points should be happy with what Wilson can offer to most teams.

P - Scott Oberg (RP, COL) - 1% owned

When 2018 started, there were plenty of other relievers that owners wanted in Colorado to add to their fantasy staffs. And yet, to date, Colorado has been one of the worst bullpens in the majors. Oberg has been on the consistent pitchers in Denver, with a 2.93 ERA over 30.2 innings. Not the flamethrower with only 7.63 K/9 this season, which is right in line with the career line. At the same time, the HR/9 is down to 0.29 which is ideal playing in Coors, and this is only a bit lower than last season’s 0.59 mark. While not sexy, when looking to add a productive reliever, who has earned high leverage innings, and been consistent, Colorado might be the place to go to find a pitcher.  


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