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NL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 24

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 - Elias Diaz (C, PIT) - 6% owned

The 2018 season has been a quiet but successful campaign for Diaz so far. In fact, if this season is a hint, once he finds a starting job, Diaz might be seen as one of the top fantasy catchers within a few years. So far, in 76 games, he is slashing .286/.337/.453 with nine homers and 31 runs. For a backup catcher, these are great numbers, and to be honest, offers more than most glove-first players in the second spot. Fangraphs rates his FV for fielding at 55, so this is not elite defense, but has done enough to keep him in the picture with the Pirates. What also stands out is the drop in K rate from 19% last season to 12.5% this year. All of this bodes well for fantasy owners looking for a short-term play at backstop, and one which might help them into next year as well.

1B - Dominic Smith (1B/OF, NYM) - 0% owned

The main reason to add Smith at this point is that Peter Alonso is not getting the call for service time reasons. Entering next year, Alonso seems to have the edge over Smith, even without as much time with the Mets. Smith has so far not emerged as the top prospect many expected, but still should be viable for fantasy owners the rest of the way. In 36 games to date, he is slashing .209/.244/.419 with three homers and nine runs. The SLG is the promising number, as with others to grace this list, owners are looking to balance warts with upside. In this case, there might not be much contact based on recent time with the Mets, but there is some pop. Nine bombs in 49 games last year show that the power is there, but the question will be what else can he offer to lineups? Smith is the power dart this week, and should be used that way going forward.

2B - Jose Pirela (2B/OF, SDP) - 6% owned

For owners who can look past a bit of a down year for Pirela there is still a decent fantasy player to be had. First, with that outfield and infield combo Pirela can plug most needs. While not as versatile as Brock Holt, he can fill a similar role for teams. Second, even a down year means that he is hitting .250 with three homers and five steals. This is not the .280 line from last year, but for a short-term fill-in, gives a nice floor to what owners can expect. Also, he has a bit of speed, so this is a three-category play for most teams, adding to the base value. Pirela plays at a park that will limit what power there might be, but down the stretch offers a nice batting average and speed play at the keystone.

3B - Tommy La Stella (2B/3B, CHC) - 0% owned

The Cubs are hard in fantasy due to the variety of line-ups that the team will put together, but in some ways this helps a bench bat like La Stella. This season, he has managed to appear in 111 games and has slashed .274/.345/.338. The downside is that there is no added production, with one homer and no steals. And yet, the OBP alone is worth the play, and with playing time will increase his run chances. Playing for the Cubs gives most hitters a boost, and especially those playing this often. Owners adding La Stella should expect a .270 batting line the rest of the way and expect a few runs due to context. This play is less about the player, and more about who he plays for.

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

Now the clear starter in Pittsburgh, Mercer has rebounded with a solid 2018 season that has helped patient fantasy owners. In 111 games he is slashing .255/.321/.389 with six homers and 42 runs. For a shortstop, this is much better than expected and shows some power upside even with PNC’s factors. While Mercer will never be a 20 homer type hitter, this seems to be a bit more power than other fielders can offer at short off the wire. What is also interesting for Mercer this year, is the K rate has gone up to 20.2% this season from last year’s 15.8% line. When he also hit for .255 last year, this means that even with 5% more outs in the box he is still keeping the overall offensive numbers the same. This is an excellent skill to watch and might lead to a bit more production the rest of the way if the numbers even out.

OF - Nick Williams (OF, PHI) - 8% owned

He is back with the Phillies and seems to have found something down in the minors. Since returning, he is hitting .274 with six homers in 45 games. The power is down a bit, but there is still enough for owners to be happy about, especially with the sharp rise in batting average. Overall the K rate is down close to five points from last year, showing an overall better approach. The risk with Williams is that his numbers are still down from last season, but the recent surge might be the adjustment to the sophomore adjustment from pitchers. If this is the case, then Williams could be a top sleeper the rest of the way and into next year. If not, this is a power play with some batting average in support. No longer thought of as a speed option, with three steals to date, there is no surprise with only a steal here or there. The hope is that the power makes up for this lack of depth in the profile. Williams is owned in a growing number of leagues, so owners with room should add now.

OF - Jon Jay (OF, ARI) - 7% owned

Since his move from Kansas City, Jay has been as promised with a .270 batting average and little to no power. What he does offer in addition to the batting line is some speed. While he does not have any steals so far with Arizona, before the move he had four, so with chances might add a few over a weekend. Owners looking at Jay should be adding him for the OBP line, which, while down from the career numbers, still plays well off the waiver wire at .341. Also, with a decent line-up context, he should add to his 71 runs so far. This is why Chase helps him, as there is no power to lose, and the speed still gives him the increased opportunity for doubles. Easy, safe pick here for most teams.

OF - Gerardo Parra (OF, COL) - 5% owned

Parra is still criminally under-owned this season, with enough production that he should be a regular starter even in mixed leagues. In 125 games to date, he is slashing .275/.332/.363 with five homers and nine steals. Parra offers limited power, but has 17 doubles so far. This shows how much Coors adds to his profile. He hits close to 40 points higher at home, making him ideal for daily leagues and home stretches. Even more, the walk rate is up two points, and he gets on base with a hot line-up behind him to add to 45 tuns to date. If a regular starter Parra might be a 20/20 player, for now, owners will be happy with what they can get. A bat with upside at Coors should never be owned in only 5% of leagues.

P - Scott Oberg (RP, COL) - 2% owned

Since he last appeared on this list, Oberg has continued to emerge as the surprise anchor in the Colorado bullpen. With how much they spent on the pen this winter, the fact that Oberg is a fantasy relevant player should tell owners all they need to know. The 2.47 ERA stands out the most, but he is also inducing fewer grounds. Typically this is not a great combo at Coors, but with only .57 HR/9, Oberg seems relatively safe. Add to that, the walks are down close to a walk and half per nine, and Oberg appears to have tightened up the approach. This is a good move for wins out of the pen with seven already, but there is little expectation of saves chances. Oberg will keep getting innings with the team in a division race, and fantasy owners should take those benefits.

P - Shane Carle (RP, ATL) - 1% owned

Back from the disabled list, the hope is that Carle can get back to what he was doing to start the year. After bouncing around a bit, Atlanta seems to be the spot for Carle with 58 innings after few chances with the Rockies last year. To date, he has a 2.95 ERA, with a 3.45 FIP so there might be some rise, but the numbers, in either case, are good enough. While there is not much stuff with only 6.52 K/9, the 0.31 HR/9 makes up, concerning overall production. Four wins so far are a nice find in fantasy and should keep Carle in the middle relief role like Oberg. Both pitchers play for teams who can strike fast and therefore turn that sixth inning into a win. This is not to be overlooked in fantasy. Finally, the 1.24 WHIP says it all. Not an elite pitcher, but good enough at avoiding runners that there is little risk to an ERA bomb. Carle is a solid pitcher to help solidify ratios or chase saves.

P - Chasen Shreve (RP, STL) - 0% owned

After bouncing around early in his career, a mid-season move to St. Louis seems to have opened a real chance for Shreve. In the second half, he has dropped his ERA from 4.54 to 2.57 and his walk rate nearly in half. What makes Shreve appealing is that he matches up with both lefties and righties well, and only has an eight-point difference in the resulting batting averages against so far. One of the keys since the change has been a steady increase in fastballs and fewer splitters. Since the move, he has been giving up the same amount of hits, but with fewer walks, has been involved in less run scoring chances. While still a middle reliever, Shreve has some sleeper upside in deep leagues.

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