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NL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 25

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 - Curt Casali (C, CIN) - 1% owned

After spending most of his career in the American League, this year Casali has taken a shot with the Reds and turned it into 45 games. Over that time he is slashing .298/.362/.468 with four homers and 16 RBI. The batting line alone makes him worth a play at catcher, and with the park factors in his favor as well, that power should continue to play up for fantasy owners. The negative in the profile has been a few points dropped in the walk rate, but coupled with a higher OBP so far means that this is not a red flag for Casali. Not only should he keep getting time in the final two weeks, but might be playing for a starting gig next season with the Reds. At the very least, in a weak catcher week, take a .300 batting average from the spot and run with it.

1B - Ryan McMahon (1B/2B/3B, COL) - 4% owned

Finally getting his shot with the Rockies, McMahon entered this year as one of the hottest fantasy prospects. Sadly, with limited time and struggles when he did get a chance, 2018 has not worked out as planned. The critical piece with this add is that the Rockies might not use him much while being in a pennant race. This means shots off the bench, and some platooning at first, at best, in these last few weeks. Still, for owners in keeper leagues, this is an easy addition to keep that door open. For example, he walked off the Dodgers the other night, so even on the bench, he will get key chances. If playing in redraft leagues, McMahon could be a spark the rest of the way as well. So far, in 82 games, he is slashing .237/.311/.387 with five homers and one steal. All in all, not a lost season, and if he keeps getting shots, the power upside alone could make him worth a CI slot.

2B - David Bote (2B/3B, CHC) - 1% owned

While he has cooled off since his hot start, Bote looks to be one of the key adds this week as the Cubs figure out how they are going to approach a playoff run. At the very least, while Joe Maddon hurts most fantasy options, he has turned Bote into one. To date, in 63 games, he is slashing .229/.307/.414 with six homers and three steals. The second half has killed his numbers with a .200 average in 40 games, meaning that the .310 average to start the year is perhaps a fluke. Why then should owners buy low? Lineup context indicates he will still score runs, as even with that average, he has scored 13 runs in the past 41 games. Add to that twice as many doubles in the past few months, and when Bote makes contact, there is still production to be had. Bote also serves as a nice infield injury cover, so for owners needing to fill a gap late, this is the add this week. Expect Bote to have one more run in him, as that has been the pattern all year.

3B - Patrick Wisdom (3B, STL) - 0% owned

The Cardinal prospect has been turning heads in his hot start so far, meaning that interested owners need to move fast. That zero percent ownership rate will not remain for long if he continues to hit. Through his first 24 games in the bigs, he is slashing .231/.333/.538 with four homers and two steals. Add that to 11 RBI, and this has been an excellent start for the young power hitter. In his minor league career, Wisdom was mostly known for the bat but had a few double-digit steal seasons as well. If he can carry some of that over, and add both power and speed, the batting average can stay a bit depressed and still make him a useful fantasy player. This is one to keep in mind for next year as well.

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

A favorite on the list all year, for the stretch run, Saladino still offers a good mixture of positional flexibility and bat to make him a nice fantasy bench option at the least. Also add in that he is free everywhere, and owners should take this chance while they can. In 51 games so far with the Brewers and White Sox, Saladino is slashing .261/.315/.420 with five homers and two steals. Not only is he a multiple category threat, but Saladino also has chipped in 16 RBI showing how much he can add to most teams. The downside is he does strike out quite a bit, but this season the rate is much higher than usual, so a good week could see him take a point or two off that line. The other key is the SLG, which boosts a .160 ISO, showing the pop that this utility fielder offers. Saladino will not win you a league, but will offer a nice reserve option much like Bote that could be key to finishing a season.

OF - Austin Slater (1B/OF, SF) - 1% owned

With the Giants out of the playoff picture, Slater will be given a shot to prove his worth moving into next season. Boosting a league-average glove, according to ratings, Slater seems to be a good fit for the park factors, and also adds enough speed to make him a legit option in center. And yet, what will matter the most long-term are the offensive numbers. In 66 games this campaign, he is slashing .268/.348/.328 with one homer and six steals. The lack of power is made up for by 23 runs and 23 RBI over that time. He does strike out a bit, with a rate close to 30 percent this year, but this is an exception from his track record in the minors. More time with the Giants and increased exposure to top-flight pitching should help round out the profile. For owners looking for batting average with speed upside, this is the option down the stretch.

OF - Tyler O’Neill (OF, STL) - 4% owned

O’Neill is back with the Cardinals, and that means that owners desperate for power down the stretch have a dart to throw. While it does not look like he will start often, as the Cardinals are in a playoff race, if Sunday’s game is any hint, he will be one of the first bats of the bench late in games. If this is the case, then expect better match-ups, and more opportunities to swing away late in those situations. The other piece is that with harder throwers out of the bullpen, power plays up a bit as opposed to a soft-tossing starter. That being said, in 50 games this year, O’Neill is slashing .246/.289/.483 with eight homers and two steals. Even more, he has scored 22 runs in his short time, adding to the baseline moving forward. Power is the main sell here, but the risk of speed also makes this an easy add.

OF - Roman Quinn (OF, PHI) - 2% owned

Quinn is another name that has been on and off the list but looks to be up the rest of the way for the Phillies. In some ways, the fact that the team’s playoff shot might be over helps fantasy owners. This means more chances for Quinn to look forward to next year, but also to see what they have in the field as well. So far this campaign, in 36 games, Quinn is slashing .330/.358/.527 with two homers and eight steals. While that SLG will come down as the sample size increases, the speed seems to be the real deal. If Quinn can hit .300 with that same steal rate, he could be an OF2 at his peak. The rest of the way, look for him to be the top steals option in roto that is free on the wire, and owners will take whatever else he can offer at the plate. Quinn could have the most impact in the final two weeks of any players on this list. 

P - Richard Rodriguez (RP. PIT) - 1% owned

Rodriguez might be the breakout bullpen option in a non-closer role of the 2018 campaign. In 56 games, he has posted a 2.57 ERA with four wins. The FIP is only slightly higher at 2.72, so the ERA seems to be the real deal. The ratios are even better, with 11.29 K/9 and 2.43 BB/9 to date. His homers are also down for the year, at 0.71 HR/9 rounding out a complete season. While his ceiling is a bit low due to the lack of save chances, for owners looking to solidify the rest of the line, this seems to be an easy add. Perhaps the Pittsburgh pitching magic has moved to the pen? Watch Rodriguez to be th sthees sleeper next year.

P - Corbin Burnes (SP/RP, MIL) - 1% owned

Burnes is in an usual spot, as in the long term he looks to be a starter, but for now, is a crucial arm out of the Brewer bullpen. Fantasy owners are hoping he is not the next Josh Hader, but rather, is kept in the starting rotation for the stuff alone. Still, with the Brewers being in the middle of a pennant race, Burnes has been given the opportunity to contribute, and with such a low ownership rate owners should jump on while they can for a few reasons. First, in 24 games he has pitched in 31.1 innings, meaning there is a chance to rack up the innings for roto leagues. Second, even with no starts so far he has recorded five wins, which out of the bullpen are worth their weight in gold. Third, and finally, the ERA sits at a lowly 2.87, with a 3.69 FIP to boot. All in all, Burnes is a hard-throwing bullpen arm, with wins upside, and an excellent chance to keep adding to the K rate. Easy add in keeper leagues, and a nice late addition in re-draft leagues as well.

P - Victor Arano (RP, PHI) - 3% owned

Another bullpen arm to finish off the list this week, Arano has enjoyed a tremendous second spell with the Phillies and looks to be a key piece moving into next season. In 55 innings he has posted an ERA of 2.45 and a FIP of 2.90. These numbers are vital to the profile, and with the gross innings, should help stabilize most teams. Next, in those innings, he has been posting a 9.33 K/9 to round out a 2.45 BB/9. Both are good numbers, and the Ks might even be down a bit from his time in the minors. This means there might be more room to grow. Finally, the main issue for him in the minors was the home run rate, but this year, that is down to 0.65 HR/9. Arano is enjoying a great 2018 and should be a nice addition for teams looking for ratios and ERA the rest of the way.

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