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NL-Only Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 2

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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C - Tony Wolters (C, COL)

0% owned

With Chris Iannetta playing as the primary option for the Rockies, Wolters is the bench option for the time being. And yet, as the team continues to scuffle, the move could be coming. One reason to buy into a switch is the defense. Iannetta is not a bad option behind the plate, but still, Wolter is a clear upgrade on pitch framing and overall plate skills. Second, as the team seems to be drifting out of contention, and while the season is long, they do not seem to have the weapons to hold their own with the rebuilt Padres and slugging Dodgers. If that is the case, Wolters will get a chance to prove he is the player long term. 

At his best, this is a batting average option at catcher, with the park to turn four-homer power into eight. His xBA was .281 last year, so the peripherals like the bat as a carrying skill. While the Colorado offense is down, at home, they still score in bunches, so sneaky runs and RBI value here as well. Grab him now, and cash in during the July switch.


1B - Dominic Smith (1B/OF, NYM)

1% owned

Without being too mean to Smith, he has been a bust. There will never be the Mo Vaughn comparisons; instead, the question is can he stick around in the Majors for any length of time this year? Well, Smith is off to a hot start, with a .500 batting average through nine games. While he is yet to hit a home run, he has scored four runs and driven in four of his own. When looking to his minor league numbers, Smith was so well regarded due to the plate approach. Often, he would post a 2:1 K:BB line over a full year. During his time with the Mets, he had yet to post a good walk line and has been striking out 30% of the time.

Perhaps to fix this, the swing looks to be shorter this year, without the power swing that he had used in his past campaigns. While owners might need to settle for 15 homers, the batting line and overall production off doubles will be worth it.


2B - Kevin Newman (2B/SS, PIT)

0% owned

Newman appeared on some of my preseason list as deep option in NL-only, but there was not a hope he would debut with the club. While still down on the depth chart, Newman has the bat to be a solid second baseman in the Jason Kipnis mode. While he might not have the early career power of Kipnis, he does look to fit that doubles mold, with the ability to drive in lots of runs even deep in the order. Newman has shown the ability to get on base over his minor league career, so even if he still a bit green for the Pirates, the overall skills will not hurt a team.

The concern will be the number of chances at the plate, but, if he starts to produce, expect him to earn more opportunities. The other piece is that he looks to be playing a bunch at shortstop, so there will be more playing time coming, if the glove can come around. Newman will be a key target in 2020, but will also be worth his spot on the roster in 2019.


3B - Kyle Farmer (3B, CIN)

0% owned

Third base is not a position that owners should need this week, but if you do, there is not much to look at or add. Farmer does offer the most upside, with his only hit this year in 10 chances being a homer. Before a move to Cincinnati, his numbers have looked decent, but not a great fit for the position. So far, Farmer has been a good batting average option, with only two years below .300, but he has not shown the power as of yet.

Over a full year, if the numbers translate, expect 12 or so bombs, but the glove will make him stick with the playing time. The park is also a good fit, so perhaps there is a bit more punch to be had with the transition. All being said, Farmer will not play all that much moving forward, but he is the option to own if there is an injury before on the team he should be the next man up.


SS - Greg Garcia (2B/SS/3B, SD)

0% owned

To begin the year, Garcia was perhaps expecting to get more playing time, but with Ian Kinsler holding down the keystone, he has been stuck on the bench. Garcia is the type of player that every team needs, with the ability to fit most positions, but also having enough of a bat to not be a zero for the day or week. His career slash line, in 415 games, is .247/.355/.430, demonstrating the marginal value.

All of this production came with the Cardinals, but Garcia is expecting a similar role with the Friars. In fact, over the past two years, Garcia played in 133 and 114 games, so the durability is also there, even in the part-time role. For owners in needs of a utility option Garcia is the pick, but this is a move that works better in daily leagues for now.


OF - Mark Zagunis (OF, CHC)

0% owned

When Zagunis beat out Ian Happ for a spot on the roster to enter the year, owners were not expecting a .385 batting line through six games. While not starting right now, Zagunis is the only true outfielder on the bench, leading to chances late in games. Over his time in the minors, he never was a top option at the plate but produced across the board. Posting close to a 10/10 season every year, with a floor on the batting average at .267, he seems like a good fit for the Cubs.

When he plays, Joe Maddon has often been slotting him in ninth, which is better than eight for fantasy owners. Zagunis might not be up for long, but the approach has been good this year, and there is a clear path to playing time. Target him as a sleeper who is starting to get some run in the fantasy community.


OF - Ben Gamel (OF, MIL)

0% owned

Gamel’s move this offseason was a bit of a surprise, with Domingo Santana seemingly already winning that swap. And yet, Gamel is not a player to sleep on, as he does have 13 homers and 11 steals in 276 career games. Add in a career slash of .268/.330/.389, and Gamel is a solid replacement option. For this year, the fact that he is moving to Miller Park is only a good thing, as Seattle was not a great place to boost power.

Playing all three outfield positions, Gamel will have some time platooning with Ryan Braun in addition to other starts. This Milwaukee team will score runs, and when he plays, will be batting deep in the line-up so that he can make up for the lack of chances with context. If Zagunis is gone, Gamel is the next best pick for upside.


OF - Matt Joyce (OF, ATL)

0% owned

Joyce had an exciting spring. After signing with Cleveland, he looked to be a clear favorite to enter that outfield, only to find himself off to a lousy start and cut. From there he signed with San Francisco, who traded him for cash to Atlanta. At the end of all that, Joyce is the best lefty-bat on the Braves bench and expected to get his usual 200 ABs. Even after bouncing around organizations, and roles, Joyce has 139 career homers, with a .241 batting average to his name over a long career.

Owners in daily leagues can move him in and out based on match-ups, but for daily week players, Joyce has the power potential to make even one hit count. At the same time, he looks to be one of the more likely options to be moved at the deadline in return for a hitting upgrade. With this, Joyce might accidentally find his way into increased playing time due to context. At the very least, he is suitable for the usual, reliable production.


SP - Tyler Mahle (SP, CIN)

2% owned

Mahle did not look like the pitcher than many expected in 2018, but it now seems like he was hiding an injury. This offers some hope that 2018 was a fluke, and the real Tyler Mahle could get a run this year. The current number two starter in the staff, and with a start versus Miami this week, Mahle will have the chance to show what he can offer to owners this year.

Known as a control over stuff pitcher, Mahle did have double-digit K-BB% over his time in the minors. Homers did spike last year, and the park will not help repress this, but, Mahle does keep runners off base. Add in the sub-three ERA in his career, and Mahle has found a way to be effective even without the elite velocity. Add him now in case the breakout happens, but if not, at least look to play him as the Reds' offense has to come out of its funk sooner than later.


RP - Adam Morgan (RP, PHI)

1% owned

Morgan is an exciting mix for fantasy, with the length to be a starter, but the lack of stuff to make it two times through an order. And yet, with a fastball that tops out at 94, and a sinker that hits 93, the pieces are there for an interesting arm out of the pen. A starter in the minors, he has 75 carer starts to his name, and therefore shows the length to be a multi-inning arm versus lefty-heavy lineup.

Morgan has been used in different roles, with only three pitches on Sunday after 18 pitches on Friday. The other thing is that Morgan has also batted five times, and while he does not have a hit, this shows either the shallowness of the bench or that they do not hate him at the plate. Add Morgan as a speculative arm, but one that when he plays, will be a weapon out of the pen.

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