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NL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 21

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 - Kevin Plawecki (C, NYM) - 3% owned

A former franchise cornerstone behind the plate for the Mets, Plawecki has never met expectations and now is free in almost every fantasy league. And yet, 2018 has not been all bad for the player aside from injuries that have kept him out of the team. In 51 games with the Mets this year he is slashing .241/.353/.405 with four homers and no steals. The OBP is what stands out, as, over his career, Plawecki has managed to ride a plus .350 OBP even with close to .200 batting averages. This means for fantasy owners in OBP leagues; this is the play at catcher with a good floor that might help in other places as well. The downside is that there has never been enough power, and with the other options on the team he would have to play out of his mind to gain more than a backup gig. And yet, for a catcher owned in only 3% of leagues, this is a profile worth taking a shot on if he does continue to hit a bit.

1B - David Freese (1B/3B, PIT) - 5% owned

Making a return to the list, this time at first, Freese is the crafty vet waiver pickup that teams are looking to add to their rosters. He has played more than expected for the Pirates and has produced more over that time as well. Since the start of the second half, Freese is hitting .306 with four homers and 12 runs. Both of those final numbers have already matched much of his first-half production to date, meaning that there is more to come down the stretch. The other good news is that he has played in 23 games in the second half meaning he is getting more regular playing time as he continues to hit. Freese is mostly an average hitter with some runs and power in fantasy but also serves as an excellent option to cover at 1B and 3B. Whatever the need, if Freese continues to hit, most teams can find a spot for him.

2B - Joe Panik (2B, SFG) - 5% owned

This one was a bit of a surprise to be honest, as owners have abandoned Panik quickly even when the underlying profile looks appealing. Through 69 games he is slashing .249/.308/.353 with four homers and 29 runs. While the batting line is down a bit, the run production is actually on pace to be a bit better than 2017. This means that what might be a down season for Panik should not scare owners away for the rest of this season, and into the next campaign. What owners should focus on is that Panik is walking in 7.1% of this ABs, and only striking out in 6.4%. He still shows good skills at the plate and is getting on base close to his career line so no real red flags outside of production. The significant change has been a 20 point drop in FB%, which also should be an easier fix than other issues with the profile. Panik seems to be a clear buy-low option this week.

3B - Colin Moran (3B, PIT) - 3% owned

This was the second pick that was a shock to see make the list, as it is not every day that owners can find starting bats in deep leagues for free. Through 111 games this season he is slashing .269/.334/.387 with eight homers and 45 RBI. While admittingly, a fantasy third baseman needs to show more power to be worth a roster spot, the batting numbers as a whole are at worst league average. No speed here to speak of at all, and perhaps the primary reason the singles hitter is so little owned. At the same time, the .303 batting average in August shows that this is not a failed season, and perhaps might even be a better second half than the first. A bit of power and Moran becomes one of the waiver wire steals this month.

SS - Adeiny Hechavarria (SS, PIT) - 0% owned

Another Pirate on this week’s list, and another player that has had a better season that it seems to date. For fantasy owners this is a player to add now as Jordy Mercer is still out with injury and Hechavarria is the clear starter in Pittsburgh right now. With both the Rays and Pirates in 2018, the shortstop is slashing .261/.296/.345 with four homers and 30 runs in 69 games. Taking the full season marks this would place him at nine homers and 64 runs, making him a valuable shortstop or MI at least. What keeps Hechavarria in the lineup is his glove, and while filling in right now for Mercer, he should be able to keep that spot with some output in the next week. The other reason to consider this play is that he has dropped his K rate by close to five points from last season, hinting at a better approach. For a shallow position, this is the player with playing time that owners should watch.

OF - Gerardo Parra (OF, COL) - 7% owned

Perhaps 7% is a bit high for the list, but Parra is the must add on this week’s list. In 111 games this campaign he is slashing .286/.339/.379 with five homers and eight steals. While even Coors Field has not added much to his power numbers, the rest of the line has gotten that boost in these last few years. The other good sign is that he is walking in 6.9% of his ABs, up from 4.7% last season. He will play more games this year than last due to staying healthy, and the Rockies seem to be okay with him earning a starting role if he continues to hit. An outfielder with a good batting line, and playing at Coors, should be an easy add for most teams.

OF - Steven Duggar (OF, SFG) - 1% owned

Duggar is an interesting fantasy asset in that he does plenty of things well, but might not be a good enough ballplayer to get regular playing time to make him worth it. And yet, for the next month and a half, he does offer upside due to his speed. This year, in 32 games with the Giants Duggar has four steals, and before the call, in 78 games at Triple-A, he had 11. While he will not add the top steal numbers in the league, over 162 games, his average would be close to 20+ making him worthy of fantasy options as an OF4. The other nice thing is that unlike players like Jarrod Dyson he will not tank your batting average to get those handfuls of steals. With the Giants so far he is hitting .265, and in the minors, he tended to be .270+ which bodes well. Not a sexy pick, but the average floor and some speed upside makes him worth a look.

OF - Keon Broxton (OF, MIL) - 1% owned

Broxton is another frustrating fantasy player as the tools are there for all to see, but in his chances so far the production has not been there. To be honest, the .220 batting average with 20 homers and 21 steals from last year would make him a viable option. This year though, while shuffling between the minors and Milwaukee, he has managed only to hit .186 with the Brewers. Add to that two homers and four steals in 29 game and the production just has not been there. And yet, as the end of the season approaches, teams looking to find points should add Broxton. While the track record has not been there so far, there is no reason to think that he might not go off for a two-homer night, or steal a few bases, or even hit .300 in September. Those are the skills in the profile, and if owners are willing to roll the dice, this would be an easy play to justify.

P - Robbie Erlin (SP/RP, MIL) - 4% owned

Erlin is a useful pitcher, pitching in a good park, who will post decent ratios, so the fact that he is free in 96% of leagues is a bit intriguing. Unlike the hitters on this list who are fighting for playing time, which adds to their ownership rate, for a starter going every five days, this seems to be an easy add. Even the stats make a case for Erlin in most deep leagues. In 75.2 inning to date, he has made five starts, earned two wins, and is posting an ERA of 3.33. The FIP is a 3.12 so that ERA should be accurate and perhaps even a bit high. With the move to the starting rotation, this will be ratio and inning play as the wins are not expected with the Padres. And yet, the 7.02 K/9 rate dwarfs the 0.95 BB/9 and 0.83 HR/9 rates to date. For owners looking for a starter, this is the play this week.

P - Edgar Santana (RP, PIT) - 3% owned

Santana has flown under the radar most of the year, with 55.1 solid bullpen innings to date for the Pirates. What makes him stand out is the 0.81 HR/9 with only a 48.8% GB rate. This means that even when he is giving up fly balls, they are staying in the yard which goes a long way for a bullpen arm. Add to that a 7.97 K/9 line and an ERA of 2.77, and Santana is a nice non-closing arm with decent innings and some counting numbers to boot. To be more specific, Santana is posting a 17.7 K-BB% which is close to elite, and a good indicator of what the rest of the year might offer. No saves here, but good solid arms are critical at this time of the year.

P - Caleb Ferguson (SP/RP, LAD) - 2% owned

The final name on this week’s list could be a much bigger player in years to come if he moves back to the rotation. For the time being, Ferguson is assuming a mixed lefty matchup and long relief role. With Kenley Jansen returning, expect Scott Alexander to move back to the matchup role opening Ferguson for more extended outings. In 36.2 innings so far this year, Ferguson has saved two, won three, and is holding his own with 10.31 K/9 so far. Add to that an xFIP of 3.10, and there is a lot to like in the profile moving forward. He fits as a nice fantasy piece in that he can move roles, and might end up pitching five in relief to get the win, or three for a save in a blowout. If he ends up in the rotation again, this was a good stash as a relief arm, but if he stays in the pen, there is still value with that stuff and the whiffs he is getting so far.

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