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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 of 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.

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NL-Only Team of the Week

C - Raffy Lopez, SD - 0% owned

With Austin Hedges hitting the DL for a few weeks Lopez has been given the opportunity to prove his worth to the major league club. So far the results are not excellent, but enough in terms of production to keep him on fantasy owners’ radars. Through eight games Lopez has two homers with five runs scored, which for a catcher is a reasonably good return on investment. The downside? A .217 AVG will limit the upside but should keep him free on the waiver wire for owners. A 38.5 K% is nothing to write home about either, but an 11.5 BB% shows that there are some tools to work with concerning the strike zone. If Hedges was already on a roster, the production does not change much with starting Lopez, and at the worst, the power should keep him on most rosters.

1B - Victor Caratini, CHC - 0% owned

A player with some helium coming into the season who has not reached those heights, Caratini offers value both in the box and with some flexibility on the roster. He will not be taking over for Wilson Contreras anytime soon, but he does not need to in order to play in deep leagues. In 21 games a .283 AVG offers some nice upside at catcher where the average tends to be palatable if above .250. On this list, though he is playing at first, mostly since there are not many others to recommend here. He profiles better as a catcher than an infielder on the offensive sides, but like Lopez will offer enough not to sink a roster. No power to be talked about in this profile, but three double and a 35% LD% show upside in points leagues with some gap power. Expect the 27.5 Hard% to improve a bit especially when it was over 30% last year. Roster flexibility and good team context make Caratini a smart but not spectacular roster play.

2B - Tyler Saladino, MIL - 0% owned

With Eric Sogard off to a rotten start to the year, the Brewers made a roster move to call up Nick Franklin to take his spot. The result? Franklin hurt himself running to first base on a ground ball versus Cleveland and is now himself out of a job and hurt. Up steps Saladino to cover the bench spot as Jonathan Villar looks set to take the starting second base job. In the meantime, Villar is perhaps a bit too expensive for just steals upside. That means that Saladino looks to be the best of the bad options in Milwaukee to play at the keystone for fantasy owners looking for short-term play. While not an attractive offensive profile with a .231/.281/.330 career line in 863 major league plate appearances, the defensive flexibility makes him an exciting play. At the same time, with Franklin out, Saladino is the next man up for almost the entire infield meaning one more injury and this bench piece moves into the starting role.  A home run against Colorado does not hurt either.

3B - Cory Spangenberg, SD - 0% owned

With the news that the Padres designated Chase Headley, the most significant beneficiary was Spangenberg with a second chance to prove himself to the big league club. In 22 games earlier in the season, Spangenberg posted a line of .190/.230/.345 with two homers and one steal. Not the production expected by a popular sleeper choice. The good news? Before his recall, Spangenberg was hitting .293/.328/.53 in 13 games at El Paso. When the Padres rank at the bottom of most offensive categories, there is no reason to see Spangenberg not getting a legitimate chance to prove himself, especially with the positional flexibility he offers. What limited his impact at the beginning of the season was a low 26 FB% compared to last season’s 35%. If the changes can are made, expect some power from a utility player that is one injury away from a starting gig. At worst, bet on the player that others bet on to begin the year, but this time for none of the cost.

SS - Pedro Florimon, PHI - 0% owned

Another utility player making the list, Florimon has been around longer than most would think playing in his age 31 season. Florimon has been the fill-in for an injured JP Crawford and has made Crawford look bad since taking over, or just putting Crawford’s awful start in context. So far through 23 games, Florimon is slashing .263/.333/.421 for a surprising wRC+ of 106. The nice standout stat is the best BB% of his career at 9.5% which makes him an excellent floor play in OBP leagues at the very least. Also, eight runs in 42 PAs off the bench is a nice return for a player taking advantage of decent line-up context. Why bet on Florimon moving forward? With Scott Kingery playing around the field, and Cesar Hernandez not looking to give up second, Florimon seems to be the go-to bench piece to fill-in. Not getting many pinch hits, and also not a defensive replacement, meaning that when he plays, expect three or four plate appearances.

OF - Gorkys Hernandez, SF - 0% owned

With Hunter Pence and Mac Williamson hitting the DL this season, Hernandez has seen more action than owners could have expected. Not much production to date, but as this column will always recommend, a body is better than a zero. 31 games, one homer, and one steal to compliment a .281 to keep the ceiling low but the floor playable. The best thing about the profile is that he seems to be the short side of the platoon in left with Gregor Blanco which should keep the stats playable with better match-ups. Not much to talk about in AAA means that Hernandez should be holding down this role for a while, making him a good roster add. At the very least, hitting near or around Brandon Belt should pay off with runs.

OF - Noel Cuevas, COL - 0% owned

This pick is based less on the player as opposed to who is playing around: Ian Desmond and Carlos Gonzalez are not the best versions of themselves, and if David Dahl can stay healthy the whole season then maybe removing a spleen is the key to health? No matter the case, this seems like a position of opportunity. Mike Tauchman was given a chance to lock-down the fourth outfielder spot and posted a .043 AVG in 15 games sending him back to AAA. The Rockies are Cuevas or bust at this point. Through 15 games he is hitting .333 with an excellent 11.1 K% giving him some staying power. By all reports a decent fielder as well, expect Cuevas to hold down the spot on the bench and take advantage when the Rockies tire of one of their vets. The other thing is that Bud Black has shown a willingness to play Cuevas late in games, which is why three of this seven appearances have come with one at-bat.

OF - Jordan Luplow, PIT - 0% owned

Recommending Luplow here is less an add now, but rather a "keep an eye on for later" note. Teased last week, Luplow is the top of the list for cheap players with keeper upside. Appearing in 27 games last year for the Pirates Luplow flashed power with three homers and a .385 SLG. This year at AAA, after a slow start, the numbers are looking ready for a call-up. In 29 games a .271/.372/.469 plays with a career-low 16.8 K% and career-high 13.3 BB% clip. The knock on Luplow was that pull heavy approach would be exploited in the bigs, and this year the PULL% is down a bit from 46% to 42.3%. Not a huge jump, but if he is seeing the ball better, the profile should play in the bigs. A fourth outfielder with power upside is a good roster in most fantasy formats, especially at PNC Park.

 

SP/RP - Seth Lugo, NYM - 2% owned

No player has more hype coming out of the World Baseball classic in 2017 that Lugo, and due to injuries never lived up to some high round picks by fantasy owners. If he stayed on a roster last year, it was not much to play, and unless streaming was a big gap and wasted spot. Due to that, he is almost not owned, but owners should take a second look for a few reasons. First, the Mets will always deal with starting pitching injuries, as will every team, but Robert Gsellman seeks to be locked into the bullpen. This means Lugo might be the next starter up. Second, even if pitching out the bullpen Lugo tends to get the longer appearances with 1.5 innings per appearance in 2018. If owners are in a roto league with an innings category here is a sneaky way to get an extra handful. Third, the GB% is up, the K/9 is up, and HR/9 is down. All signs point in the right direction for a flyer who might work out to be a streamer when the inevitable Mets’ injuries happen.

RP - Richard Rodriguez, PIT - 1% owned

Not the known name in the bullpen, and perhaps not in line to get save opportunities, this is a pitcher that will help a team’s ratios. So far in 2018 Rodriguez has struck out 23 in 13.1 innings. Those are numbers to expect from a lefty specialist out of the pen, but Rodriguez is a righty offering some long-term upside. The other interesting piece is a low 39.3 GB% but no homers in 2018. If this can continue not only is he a good pitcher for K/9 but also concerning suppressing ERA in general. This year a 1.35 ERA line is lower than minor league numbers, but not enough to say it is all smoke and mirrors. Buy now, as George Kontos is reaching the end of his tenure in critical innings.

RP - Kirby Yates, SD - 4% owned

Another reliever with no clear path to saves but nice rations to support a relief staff. Currently, behind Craig Stammen and Brad Hand in San Diego, Yates has help down the early firefighter role with crucial appearances in the fifth and sixth innings so far. The reward? 12.1 innings of 0.73 ERA pitching with 10.95 K/9 and a WHIP of 0.97. Owners should not trust Stammen, but if these numbers continue, expect Yates to get his time to shine. Other pieces to like are the 46.4 GB% and zero home runs so far this year. Some of that is pitching at PetCo, but enough seems to be the skillset.

 

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