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NL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 23

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 - Tyler Flowers (C, ATL) - 4% owned

After signing a new contract with the Braves, Flowers looks to be at the very least an essential piece for this team moving forward. As a fantasy asset he might be worth a look, but for teams with two catchers this is a key addition. This year in 65 games, he is slashing .224/.353/.343 with six homers and 28 runs. The power is the crucial piece as over a full season, Flowers is a 20 plus homer player. While being a catcher means he will not get all of these chances, this is a good line for behind the plate. The other good news for fantasy owners has been the walk rate which is up to 13.3% this year from 8.4% last year. This adds an excellent floor to the OBP and Flowers will offer more there than other catchers. This catcher is a safe pick with some pop, so a real fantasy option at catcher.

1B - David Freese (1B/3B, LAD) - 2% owned

Moving west to join the Dodgers, Freese will not be a starter but should be a fun bat to watch on the bench. So far, in the second half of 2018, Freese is hitting .278 with four homers. This has already matched his power line from the first half, and moving out of PNC will only help those power number. Even more, his 12 runs are close to the 17 from the first half, and this all comes with no real time missed due to injury. The Dodgers are adding a veteran bat who is hitting as well as he has in his career, and with that lineup should only help that production continue. For owners willing to play a bench bat at CI, this is the best option.

2B - Tyler Saladino (2B/3B/SS, MIL) - 0% owned

In limited time this campaign, Saladino has been quiet but effective bouncing between various teams and the minors. For the whole of his season, 45 games, he is slashing .272/.328/.439 with five homers and two steals. While mostly serving as a utility player, Saladino offers flexibility for his teams and fantasy owners while covering most of the infield. While his walk rate has dropped by a point from his last extended stay in the Majors, he has been able to add to the OBP line, keeping him in fantasy territory. Last season, the OBP was .254, and this year that has spiked to .328. If he can keep this up that is a steal up the middle. Owners should add him for the bench now, but if he keeps getting time make that change as needed.

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

As long as Moran is owned in only three percent of leagues, he will be making this list. Not to sound like a broken record, but as has been written in this column in past weeks, the ability to add a starter at a critical position for free is always worth whatever risk there is. In the case of Moran, there is little risk but a firm ceiling on what he can produce. For a third baseman, Moran does not hit for a ton of power, but the .280 batting average is good for the spot. Even more, in the second half of this season, he is hitting .320 with 11 runs. While he has no homers over that time, the rest of the line shows that not only is he getting playing time but using it effectively. With David Freese on his way to Los Angeles, there is no reason Moran is not the starter six days a week. Grab him now and ride that batting average to roto points.

SS - J.P. Crawford (SS, PHI) - 0% owned

In some ways, owners should feel bad for Crawford, and then immediately begin to feel bad for owners who bet on him for this year. Crawford has never reached the prospect hype from a former top-five player, and to date has failed to make an impact with the Phillies. He makes the list because there is little reason to add someone like Chris Owings this late in the year, and instead owners looking for the dart should look here. At the same time, being on the 40 man already, there is a good chance that he gets some time down the stretch. The key will be the standings as if the Phillies have a lousy week, and drop out of the race; this seems to be a next year move. If they stay hot, then Crawford will not get any time. At the very least, he might be a speed option off the bench, but again, not a lot to plan on for fantasy options. For owners looking for a dart, and hoping to get some keeper value, this is the pick.

OF - Curtis Granderson (OF, MIL) - 3% owned

Another player who was a regular on the AL version of this column, Granderson is now a Brewer and offers an excellent package for that ballpark. First, regarding fantasy implications, this seems to mean that Keon Broxton will not be getting time in the Majors down the way, apart from time on the bench. For Broxton owners, made this switch fast. Second, Granderson still has some power in that bat, and with a move to Miller Park can be expected to at least match the numbers to date. In 106 games he has 11 bombs and should be able to add a few more to that number going forward. Third, and finally, Granderson is no longer an elite defender, if he ever was, but gives the Brewers an OF4 who can play everywhere. This means chances off the bench even when he does not start.

OF - Rafael Ortega (OF, MIA) - 0% owned

Listed by some as a sleeper coming into this season, Ortega has not gotten the playing time expected in Miami so far. Still, through 20 games, the production is there to see this as a fantasy piece shortly. In 2018 he is slashing .286/.341/.333 with four steals and nine runs. No power to speak of, but the speed and batting average will keep him on most teams. For the Padres at Triple-A in 2017, he stole 26 bases in 121 games, so the speed is a real factor to take into account with this profile. The other good news is that he is only striking out 13.2% of the time, which fits well with the singles and speed hitter. With him playing down the stretch, this would be a good add for deep leagues.

OF - Mason Williams (OF, CIN) - 0% owned

Williams has been up and down with the Reds this year but is only now making his appearance on this list. Most of this has to do with limited playing time and now is not a great time either with Scott Schebler coming off the DL. Still, Williams has been playing well enough that the team cannot ignore him, especially when he might be a critical piece moving forward. In 31 games this year he is slashing .284/.315/.386 with one homer and one steal. Looking to his career there are some 20 steal seasons in the minors, but nothing close on the power front. He looks a lot like Ortega from above but might be the beneficiary of the park. Most players can add a few homers playing at Great American, and there is no reason that Williams cannot be that player this year. While fighting for playing time, the batting average alone keeps Williams in most fantasy lineups as of now.

P - Reyes Moronta (RP, SFG) - 4% owned

After a strong showing last season for the Giants, Moronta seems to have established himself as a critical arm in the pen this year. In 60.2 innings so far he has five wins and an ERA of 2.08. While the FIP sits a bit higher at 3.06, even that number is excellent from the pen. The key to Moronta is the stuff, with 10.68 K/9 this season. While the walk rate is high at 4.90 BB/9 and might hurt ratios, the upside with the Ks are worth the add. Moronta might be the closer starting next year, but in the short term, offers a power arm in a good park. At the very least, the lack of homers means those walks can only do so much damage.

P - Dan Straily (SP, MIA) - 4% owned

It is not often that a decent starter falls low enough to justify an add on this list, but Straily fits that mold. In 22 starts this year he has a record of five and six, but playing for the Marlins, owners need to look past that line. To date, his ERA is 4.12, which is much better than the 5.14 FIP, so owners need to rely on their own league scoring numbers to see if this is an add. The other reason he is available in most leagues has been the declining K line. Last season he averaged 8.42 K/9, but this year, that is down to 7.27 K/9. While for a starter this is palatable with wins, Straily seems to be the exception. His track record is that of a stable SP3, and owners looking for arms could do much worse the rest of the way.

P - Dominic Leone (RP, STL) - 3% owned

Entering this season Leone was the sexy closer pick in most drafts, but then Bud Norris and injuries got in the way. Only appearing in 19 games to date, Leone has been solid with a 3.24 ERA. Add to that 8.64 K/9, and this is a solid bullpen arm, with better stuff in his past. Owners can expect those Ks to rise with more gross innings, and a return to form. The good news is that Leone is walking fewer batters than ever before with 1.62 BB/9 this season. While not a pitcher in line for saves now, this could be a sneaky add down the line with the upside and role in flux for the Cardinals. Leone is a pitcher than hurt many drafts early this year, but for free, in 97% of leagues, seems to be a good bet for a solid last 30 games.  

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