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Deeper Waiver Wire Pickups - AL and NL-Only Leagues

It is about four months later than expected, but the 2020 season is finally here! That also means it is time to get fantasy seasons underway, and with so many variables to what is surely going to be a strange 60-game season, there are a lot more questions about just how things will shake up this year. In AL or NL-only leagues, there is already a lack of options as it is, but this year, playing time is not going to be guaranteed, so players that may have been mid-round picks may see their playing time decrease should they get out to a slow start.

It is not going to be an easy season for fantasy managers, especially those who have already handicapped themselves by playing in an AL or NL-only league. Managers may already need to shuffle up their lineups due to injury, COVID-19, or rocky playing time situations, so this series should hopefully provide some help and inspiration to managers who are staring at a waiver-wire screen and not sure who to grab for this week's set of games. The players listed here aren't going to be household names, but in the right situation with the right matchups, may help a manager eke out an all-important win.

Time to get things started. First up, three American League options that should be available and should be able to help out from day one of this season. One note: all ownership percentages come from Yahoo and availability will differ upon format.

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Jordan Luplow (OF, CLE)

1% Owned

Take advantage of a platoon bat right off the get-go with Luplow. Not only does Cleveland face a weak Kansas City pitching staff to start the season, but the Royals are also projected to throw two left-handed starters, Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery in the first two games of the three-game series. This is a great opportunity for Luplow, who should be in the lineup for these two matchups, likely replacing Tyler Naquin in right field.

Luplow was a lefty-masher in 2019 with a whopping .320/.439/.742 triple slash against southpaws last season, good enough for a 198 wRC+, good enough for the third-highest mark last season, trailing only J.D. Martinez and Alex Bregman for the top spot. He's quite the contrast against righties, however, with a poor 48 wRC+ against same-handed pitchers last season.

He's not going to be an everyday player with such extreme splits like that, so he's not likely to be rostered even in deep leagues like this. He can still be quite useful for fantasy purposes though, so managers should keep him in the back of their mind for situations like this. Stream him for this week and monitor projected pitchers. If there's another stretch where he should face a few lefties in a week, he should be a great, readily available option.


Ryan McBroom (1B, KC)

0% Owned

Sticking with this Kansas City-Cleveland matchup, because why not? McBroom is a player that most probably do not know much about. After all, he is only penciled into the Royals lineup because the presumptive starter at the position, Ryan O'Hearn is out due to COVID. Alas, an opportunity is here for McBroom, who can win the job outright with a hot start in O'Hearn's place.

McBroom, 28-years-old, is going to be getting his first real look in the Majors, after being primarily a Quad-A type player, who was acquired in 2019 from the Yankees. He hit extremely well in the minors the past two seasons, with a .315/.402/.574 slash line with 26 home runs in 117 Triple-A games last year, albeit with a juiced minor league baseball.

He earned a late-season call-up to the Royals, where he didn't do too much with a .293/.361/.360 line but is in a good situation to get playing time and see if his power explosion in the minors last season was legitimate. He has also shown good on-base ability throughout the past couple of seasons in the minors and did as well in his short 2019 cameo. He is worthy of a flier in AL-only leagues to see if he has what it takes to stick in the Majors.


Cameron Maybin (OF, DET)

2% Owned

If Maybin is still available in AL-only leagues at this point, he should definitely be considered. The longtime Major League veteran has an everyday job locked down as the leadoff hitter for the Tigers, and while it is no doubt a downgrade from the Yankees lineup that he was in last season, he should still be able to contribute a good amount of runs scored as well as stolen bases. He is also coming off a resurgent season at the plate in which he went .285/.364/.494, which was the best offensive season of his career, as he made some tangible improvements on his swing to transition more from a speedy-groundball type of hitter to a more complete hitter.

While managers shouldn't bank on those types of rates to stick in 2020, his performance last season was not just some fluke. Statcast also didn't see him as that type of hitter last season, but did still see him as a quality hitter, and by far the best season from him at the plate in the Statcast era:

Maybin has spoken about the improvements he tried to make. Essentially, he worried less about swinging and missing and instead just focused more on making his best swing each time. It definitely worked out for him last season, and even if Statcast didn't fully buy-in, if he hits more to those still-good expected stats in 2020, combined with a good helping of steals, he should be an overall productive fantasy option, especially in AL-only leagues. Jump in now before someone else does.

Finally, on to the National League.


Jake Lamb (1B/3B, ARI)

1% Owned

It seems like a lifetime ago when Lamb hit 29 and 30 home runs in consecutive seasons in 2016 and 2017, but it did happen. Since then, Lamb has battled injuries and underperformance but does appear to be fully healthy in 2020, and perhaps underlooked as well.

Lamb should have everyday playing time for the D-Backs this year, and projects to be their starting DH, which should hopefully help him stay healthy. In his limited playing time in 2019, he didn't do much, but he did manage a 41.8% hard-hit rate, a 90.7 miles-per-hour average exit velocity mark, an 8.2% barrel rate, a .377 xwOBA on contact, and a 14.2% walk rate, all of which were well above-average. He didn't get the results, but there should still be plenty of power in that bat, and hopefully, the health is there to go with it.

It also does not hurt that the D-Backs are set to open up the season against three right-handed Padres pitchers, which should help out a lefty hitter like Lamb. Although it is a tough start with Chris Paddack set to go for the Padres, but Lamb historically has been much better against righties than lefties with a career wRC+ of 110 against righties compared to 55 against left-handers. He's definitely worthy of a flier, definitely so in a deep format such as this. Hopefully, he stays healthy this time around.


Edward Olivares (OF, SD)

0% Owned

With the Padres recent trade of Franchy Cordero, a platoon role has seemingly opened up for the 24-year-old Olivares. While he has yet to officially make his Major League debut, that should come quite soon as he has turned heads in Summer Camp and already had a strong Spring Training performance under his belt. All signs point to him making the team and platooning with Trent Grisham in centerfield.

While a hitter on the short end of the platoon is not usually a hitter that holds much intrigue for fantasy purposes, as was the case with a similar option in the aforementioned Luplow, the Padres do open the season against two lefties. While not quite the more favorable matchups that Cleveland will see against Kansas City, Olivares should have the opportunity facing Madison Bumgarner and Robbie Ray of the D-Backs. Olivares also has a chance to carve out a bigger role for himself should he do well in this role, and others around him start to struggle. The Padres feel like they are ready to compete, so if a hitter such as Wil Myers continues to scuffle at the plate, it wouldn't be a huge shock for Olivares to start getting everyday playing time, should he get out to a hot start. For now, he's worthy of a stream for this weekend, with a close eye watching him in the future.


Wilmer Flores (1B/2B, SF)

1% Owned

Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria are both officially going to be on the injured list to start the season, so a player like Flores, not expected to be much more than a platoon hitter this year, is likely going to now be an everyday player to start the year. Flores should be a league-average hitter in an everyday role, as he was with the Mets a few years ago, but what really stands out about Flores are his strong platoon splits. Flores absolutely demolishes left-handed pitching:

Flores has historically been serviceable against righties, but his main claim to fame has been his ability to mash against lefties. Now, with this injury situation in San Francisco, a manager can grab Flores and be confident in getting decent enough overall production from him, at least good enough production out of a waiver pickup, considering the format. However, a manager with some extra flexibility can take advantage of some decent platoon advantages, and use him when there are a handful of lefty starters on the docket for the Giants, as is the case for them this weekend.

While certainly not an easy matchup by any means, the Giants should draw three Dodgers left-handers this week in Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, and Alex Wood. Again this is similar to the Luplow and Olivares deals from above, but Flores should offer more as he is now expected to be in there most days and should provide more value than those other two options. He shouldn't be at 1% owned for much longer, so grab him now if needed.

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