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NL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 26

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) - 4% owned

The first of the Pirates this week, Diaz offers good value at the position built on a better than expected batting line this campaign. Through 79 games he is slashing .285/.340/.448 with nine homers and 30 RBI. That OBP alone will keep him in most fantasy catching conversations. Even more, the walk rate is tipping up a few points showing the underlying skills are there to sustain this change. Also, if Diaz were not playing behind the plate he would be starting at first or CI for most teams adding to the value based on the positional context. The other good news has been a six-point drop in his K rate, adding another hint at a breakout for next year. After some time away with a bum hamstring, Diaz looks to be a safe bet this last week. Diaz should also top draft boards for mid-round backstops next year.  

1B - Aramis Garcia (1B/C, SFG) - 2% owned

This name was a surprise to see make the cut, as he might fit better as a fantasy catcher, but in the short term, looks to be a hot bat that teams looking for a last minute play can add. In only 13 games he is slashing .341/.341/.585 with three homers and seven runs scored. The park limits the long-term power upside, but the minor league numbers put him on a 20 a year pace. Ignore the 46% K line, as he has only played in 13 games, and in the minors, he seemed to be a bit more selective as he got promoted up the chain. This is a dart plain and simple, as most adds this week will be, but this seems to be an option with the Giants needing to cover for Brandon Belt and others over the final few games. If owners need catching depth, and Diaz is gone, Garcia is the next in line.

2B - Kolten Wong (2B, STL) - 1% owned

Wong is another regular on this list due to the low ownership rates, and to be fair, 2018 has not had a season to remember. Through 122 games he is slashing .251/.333/.391 with nine homers and six steals. Even with the slumping bat, and some injuries limiting his time this campaign, the fact that he has played in close to a full season shows the value that he offers to his team. With that, and the team being in a playoff race, expect Wong to get more chances to produce. The one hedge is that he missed some games over the weekend with a knock, and could be a better fit with daily rosters this week. Owners can expect the .250 average this week, but the 41 runs are there to be had. While a risk with playing time, when Wong is only owned in 1% of leagues, this should be an easy add.

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

And Moran is back on the list for the same reasons as he has all season: a good floor with the bat and playing time makes him fantasy worthy. (Insert usual rant on why 3% ownership is absurd.) In 138 games this year, with the Pirates, Moran is slashing .278/.340/.400 with 10 homers and 55 RBI. Both counting numbers are low for the starting spot, but with the batting average, will offer production at a steady rate. Moran walks enough at 8.7% and only strikes out 17.4%, again adding to the reasonable profile for owners. A key player into the future, expect Motan to keep it up this week, and add him to sleeper lists for next year. At the very least, roto owners looking to save the batting average category should add Moran now.

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

Keeping the run on Pirates going, Mercer might be on his way out of town but still offers the best option at short on the wire this week. In 115 games he is slashing .250/.315/.381 with six homers and two steals. While only posting an 86 wRC+, the production is hidden by the position, and in some cases, any output at the MI spot is worth the look. Overall this year, he is swinging at four percent more pitches, and this has helped boost the batting line to close to career average. While the numbers overall are down, the fact that he is still in the same range shows the skill set that remains in the late stages of his career. For owners looking to hedge at the shortstop position, Mercer is safe and offers upside that no other options can match.

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

Parra is back on the list, and with the Rockies still in the playoff hunt will get the same playing time he has been. With most of his final games at Coors as well, this seems to be a play for those park factors at the very least. Hitting at Coors should give Parra a higher production baseline versus others on the wire. In 136 games so far, he is slashing .281/.338/.363 with five homers and 11 steals. The speed has been the selling point so far, as he has never run that much in his career. If Parra was stealing at a 20 pace he would be owned everywhere, so take that discount and add him for free. While not something to rely on moving into next year, the final weeks should give him even more of a catalyst to steal. Parra is a good offensive player, with a good park, and the other factors needed to have a big final week.

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

Granderson is one of the darlings of the deep league with a decent line for the fantasy circuit, but also has enough supporting factors to keep his ownership low. Admittingly, he has struggled since moving to Milwaukee with only a .212 average but has chipped in three homers in close to 30 games so far. The play here is the offensive upside with a good park to add that bump to the numbers. Also adding in late-inning chances, this looks to be a match-up option as well for daily owners. It looks as if he has not attempted a steal since moving teams, so that does take away another area to rely on for fantasy categories. All is not lost, as the team context alone should be worth the risk. With a good track record, this seems to be a legitimate add for owners hoping for a hot final week.

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

Back in the outfield on the list after a stop at first a few weeks back, Slater might never be a top fantasy asset but still offers some upside that should excite owners nonetheless. In 70 games he is slashing .255/.336/.313 with one homer and six steals. While not a burner, the speed does allow him to add a few extra points with doubles to the gap, making up for the overall lack of power. The K rate is up this year to 30.4% from 2017’s 22.8% when he posted his best batting line. While 2018 might be the best he offers moving forward, owners will take what they can get for a player with time. The .381 BABIP is also not great, but might play up with the park, and should not be a red flag on its own. For owners looking for some speed and a fill-in, Slater is the option.

P - David Hernandez (RP, CIN) - 1% owned

While playing on the Reds is not typically encouraging for a reliever, Hernandez has been one of the top bullpen options this year. In 54 innings he has posted an ERA of 2.67 with 8.9 K/9. Five wins are also nice, but with the team, not a regular category for Cincinnati owners. The other exciting number has been the homer rate at 0.89 HR/9, which is low for the park and shows the approach that Hernandez offers. Not a closer yet, but next year could see him move into a role even with the age playing a factor. For owners needing ratio support this week, Hernandez looks to the option. Expect him to keep getting innings due to the lack of other true options even for a cup of coffee with the Reds.

P - Caleb Ferguson (SP/RP, LAD) - 1% owned

A few reasons that Ferguson is on the list this week. First, the Dodgers will clinch a spot in the playoffs soon, and expect Dave Roberts to begin to rest some of the starters. This means a chance for a spot start that can add one last outing for fantasy teams. This does assume that Ferguson is not close to the playoff roster. Second, even without the spot start upside, Ferguson has been quite good in his limited time. In 27 games, with two starts mixed in, he has posted a 3.45 ERA with seven wins. The ERA is a bit higher with a rough spot this weekend and should be closer to three than it is. The real selling point for the pitcher has been the stuff, with 11.11 K/9 this year. Even the walks are manageable for a starter with 2.30 BB/9 so far. Finally, Ferguson offers length in a potential bullpen game, and all of this will add value in roto leagues. For owners needing to make a flash, take the young arm with gas.

P - Kyle Crick (RP, PIT) - 1% owned

Crick has been the quiet success story of the offseason trades for Pittsburgh, and that should not ignore how much we love Moran. In 62 appearances he has posted a 2.47 ERA with a FIP of 3.27. Add to that three wins and two saves, and Crick should be one of the top non-closers to be drafted next year. The stuff is there with a 9.41 K/9, but the control is still a question with 3.55 BB/9. Even better, he does not give up homers with only 0.46 HR/9 so far. All of this makes Crick look like a versatile option with multiple category contributions for fantasy owners. There has been no real change in the pitch mix, and this means that the park might factor in a bit more than expected. All in all, Crick offers upside in the final week of the fantasy season that few others in the pen can match.

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