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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 - Erik Kratz (MIL, C) - 0% owned

Krazt has bounced around the majors, filling in an as backup catcher over the course of his career. There is no reason to think that this stop in Milwaukee is any different. And yet, in a short spell so far the production has been there for Kratz. In three games, he is hitting .500 with two homers and three runs. With Stephen Vogt not near to rejoining the team, expect Kratz to hold down at least the backup role. With a good hitters park, good lineup context, and a low bar for success due to the position this seems like an easy dart to throw in most leagues.

1B - Christian Walker (ARI, 1B) - 0% owned

Walker has already been up this year and struggled in limited appearances off the bench as a late platoon bat. Triple-A has not been easy, as he is hitting .260, but some power is still there in the profile. Walker makes sense to add due to the Diamondbacks offensive struggles and the chance they try him again in that platoon role. The five-year pro has some track record to walking into power with over 30 HR in the minors in 2017. With not much else on the wire this week, this seems to be the best bat knowing what the team needs at the major league level.

2B - Miguel Gomez (SFG, 2B) - 0% owned

Gomez showed good skills at the plate in his brief spell, hitting .267 in nine games with the Giants. If Gomez makes it back to San Francisco, expect him to serve as the backup second baseman with Panik and Hanson already on the team. The only reason he is back at Triple-A right now is Pablo Sandoval looks like he plays a decent back-up at the spot, but if owners are willing to gamble on that playing for long-term then grab this player instead. Over his minor league career, Gomez has been a close to .300 hitter every year, with decent strikeout rate and runs scored. If he plays up, this looks like a better bat than Hanson but fewer steals and overall speed on the bases. Still, the chance to get on base is valuable in these leagues, and if Panda starts to play like Panda, this would be a good target.

3B - Wilmer Difo (WSH, 2B/3B/SS) - 6% owned

Washington is starting to heat up, and with Daniel Murphy still taking his time to come back from injury Difo will continue to see playing time. 55 games this year have resulted in a .245/.319/.36s slash with three homers and two steals. 26 runs scored put him on pace for 70+ this season, and this is all the more impressive due to his batting 7th most of the year. The other signs are there for overall improvements as the BB% is up close to four points, and the K rate is down about the same. Difo does not have the power numbers to stay at 3B in the fantasy line-up for long, but that eligibility will keep him in most line-ups throughout the rest of the season. Difo, at the very least, seems like an above average play at MI with some ability to mix and match as needed. The results should be a good indicator of future success, and .250 with 75 R plays.

SS - Jose Reyes (NYM, 2B/3B/SS) - 2% owned

Reyes seems to find himself at best in a time-share, and at worst in a bench role on a struggling Mets team. Luis Gillorme appears to be getting more of the playing time, and most of this is due to Reyes hitting only .140 so far this season. Why should owners expect a bounce back from the veteran? First, the K rate is down over a point, and the BB% is much the same. So no reason for concern, and mostly looks to be an improvement over last season. Second, a .150 BABIP should come up and with more playing time should be a crucial area to watch concerning improvements at the plate. Third, the OBP sits at .200 which is awful but still sits 60 points higher than the batting average. The separation is a good mark for most hitters and shows the connection between the AVG an OBP. If the BABIP goes up both of these numbers should return to normal.

OF - Nick Williams (PHI, OF) - 3% owned

2018 has not been as advertised from Williams after a strong 2017 campaign, but with Rhys Hoskins getting hurt what has been a platoon with Aaron Altherr should lead to more playing time for Williams. While only hitting .236 this season, the six homers are right on pace with last season and show that while the average might dip, there is a power floor with this profile. The walk rate is up from 5.8% to 7.4% this season, and couple this with a three-point drop in K% the supporting stats are moving in the right direction from last season. Most of the dip in average can be tied to pitchers getting more of a book on Williams, but expect him to re-adjust if given the playing time. Rest of season line of .240 with 12+ HR should be a good bet. Williams looks like a solid OF3 play in most roto leagues if for the counting stats alone, and if not worth the bench slot in case he takes advantage of more playing time.

OF - Jason Heyward (CHC, OF) - 3% owned

Fantasy owners might wish that there was a category for speeches during rain delays, but sadly are stuck with the husk of a player that is Jason Heyward. Dropping from a top fantasy outfielder to this list is painful to watch, but perhaps the story of the fall has been told too early. Through 42 games, the batting average is up five points from last year all the way to .264. Other good news? Much like Williams, the walk rate is up a few points and the strikeouts are down a few. All signs pointing to a good year at least better compared to last. The concern is no steals yet, an after previous year’s four this seems like the end of Heyward as any speed option. Still, Heyward is on pace for more than 60 R and RBI, which would again show some slight improvement over last year. Is he can stay healthy this seems like a safe play to get that average, and some counting stats off the waiver wire. At the very least, when in doubt, count on line-up context and most players could score with a supporting cast of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and the rest of the team.

OF - Joc Pederson (LAD, OF) - 3% owned

If the rumors are true, and Cody Bellinger is heading to the minors for time away, Pederson is the biggest beneficiary. No longer will there be fighting over the backup lefty in the outfield, and with playing time Pederson should chip in his fair amount of production. With 55 games so far Pederson is playing more than many expected and has turned that time into a .261 average with three homers. While the power is down, the average is up almost 50 points and shows a remarkable change for the free swinger. His K% is down seven points, which again show a very different hitter. In the past, he took the Russell Branyan approach with either a K or a HR, but this year the profile is much more a decent contact hitter with some power. While perhaps a less attractive fantasy profile this line should keep him in the lineup moving forward.

P - Tyler Anderson (COL, SP) - 6% owned

The first note on Anderson is that many of Colorado’s next games take place at Coors, so the current numbers might change a bit, but last year he was decent at home. So far in 12 starts, Anderson has racked up three wins with a 7.91 K/9 in support. While the K rate is down a bit from the 8.48 line last year, this is not enough of a drop to be concerned. The pitch mix is much the same, and he seems to have entirely dropped the slider that was thrown 26% of the time in 2016. No recorded usage last year, and the same story this season. The change in approach sticking shows a pitcher willing to move away from pitches that are not effective, as the slider was a neutral pitch when it was used. Smaller arsenal worked for Anderson last season, and even with the park factors, there is no way he should be this little owned. The ratios are good, and the club should get him at least ten more wins.

P - Derek Holland (SFG, SP) - 2% owned

While no longer a reliable fantasy play in mixed leagues, Holland pitches in a great pitcher’s park, and so far has taken advantage of injury opportunities. In 11 starts, he has won three games and decreased his walk rate from a flat 5 BB/9 last season to 3.70 BB/9 this year. With the ballpark reducing homers, he has gone from 2.07 HR/9 to 1.49 HR/9 this season. Fewer homers mean those walks matter less, and even better when there are fewer walks, what homers Holland does give up are affected by batted balls more than free passes. With opponents only hitting .238 against him, the risk factors are contained with this new approach. The K rate is up almost 4%, again at least showing movement in the right direction. Holland seems to be a good pick-up for home starts, and if the Giants start to hit the right road matchup, he could net a win.

P - Tyler Glasnow (PIT, SP, RP) - 4% owned

Another top prospect to make this list, Glasnow has disappointed to the point that the starting pitcher is stuck in the Pirates bullpen. The good news is that the usual impacts on a pitcher moving to the bullpen are happening, and the K rate is up from 8.13 last season to 11.61 this year. The walk rate is also down two per nine, and overall the approach looks to fit this role better for Glasnow. With the FIP sitting at 2.92 the 4.35 ERa should drop as well. From the log, it seems like the limited relief innings have made one or two bad starts play up more, and with the recent track record, this should change. The numbers make Glasnow look like a version of Kyle Barraclough but with fewer walks. With the latter getting the closer job in Miami, might this be a similar path for Glasnow? For the time being, this is a good play for strikeouts and innings, with the length always being an option out of the pen. Trust the stuff and grab him for the short term, the long-term either looks to move back to the rotation or the end of the bullpen, which means that either is good for owners.

 

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