You’re in the thick of it now. Halfway through the season, unhappy with your roster, and looking for something to do, you turn to the free agent pool. What will you find there in deep AL-only and NL-only leagues? Backup catchers, thirty-something corner infielders, middle relievers and rookies who didn’t appear in anybody’s top 100 (or 101) prospect lists. Playing the waiver wire week after week can seem like an exercise in futility as you spend half an hour deciding how to sequence your contingent bids on utility players and seventh-inning men, but that constant fine tuning can be the difference between finishing in the money and finishing out of the money. Keep at it.


Caleb Joseph

He hit eleven home runs and sixteen doubles last year in 354 plate appearances, but Caleb Joseph has no home runs and only two doubles in 75 plate appearances so far this year. Last week, he returned from a stint on the DL due to a groin injury and reclaimed his role as Matt Wieters’ backup. If he’s healthy, there’s no reason he couldn’t demonstrate the same kind of power he showed in 2015, popping five or six home runs the rest of the way while playing two or three games a week. That’s more upside than most of the catchers available in the free agent pool in two-catcher AL-only leagues.

Mike Zunino

How low does a player’s batting average have to get before it negates a double-digit home run total? I don’t know, but Mike Zunino was definitely on the wrong side of that line last year with eleven home runs alongside a putrid .174 average. The Mariners sent their first round pick from 2012 back to Triple-A for the first half of this season to retool his swing and approach. The righty-hitting backstop responded by hitting .282/.366/.516 in 287 plate appearances with fifteen home runs. For the time being, Zunino will be Chris Iannetta’s backup since Seattle seems pleased with Iannetta’s contributions on both sides of the ball. However, if Iannetta’s performance slips to its 2015 level and the changes Zunino made at the plate translate to the majors, Zunino could claim the starting role for himself over the next month or two.

Abraham Almonte

Before his 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, Abraham Almonte was expected to get a starter’s share of plate appearances for Cleveland. When he returned from the restricted list, he didn’t find much playing time available for the taking. Between Tyler Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall, Rajai Davis and Jose Ramirez, the Indians’ outfield has been surprising productive so far, leaving little room for Almonte. Add in the fact that it looks like Michael Brantley might be able to return from the DL before the end of the month and things don’t look too rosy for the 27-year-old. However, none of the players currently ahead of him on the depth chart are locks to sustain the level of performance they’ve shown so far, and Brantley’s return from the DL is no sure thing given his track record when it comes to health. If he gets the playing time, Almonte could offer a modest power-speed combination for owners in AL-only leagues.

Other Options: Nick Franklin, Christian Colon, Jefry Marte


Brian Flynn

Looks like the Royals have found yet another useful arm for their bullpen. Brian Flynn has posted a 3.00 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP in 21 innings with eighteen strikeouts and seven walks. Even with Wade Davis landing on the DL, the tall lefty won’t be seeing an save opportunities, but according to manager Ned Yost, he’ll move up a spot in the pecking order along with everyone else. That translates to more potential value in leagues that count holds and also reduces the likelihood that he’ll be sent down to Triple-A in the near future. The relatively low rung on the ladder that he occupies could even be a blessing, as it means he’ll mostly appear in games where Kansas City is tied or behind. That could translate into a vulture win or two, but don’t bet on it. Bet on solid rate stats and nearly a strikeout per inning and consider the rest a nice bonus if it comes.

Zach Duke

Zach Duke was a decent non-closing relief option last year, and so far this year, he’s been a little bit better than he was last year:

























If you look at FIP instead of the numbers above, and the veteran lefty’s improvement this year is more significant. He posted a 4.59 FIP in 2015 compared to a 2.60 FIP in 2016. His walk rate isn’t ideal, but his low hit rate and his ability to keep the ball in the park keep the rest of his rate stats low while he racks up more than a strikeout per inning. That’s definitely playable in deep AL-only leagues.

Neil Ramirez

The Twins are Neil Ramirez’ third team this year after starting the year with the Cubs and a two-game stint with the Brewers. His HR/9 rate this season is 1.9, near three times his rate from last year. If his home run rate for the rest of the season is closer to his career level than his rate from the first half of 2016, the strikeouts he gets will make him worth owning in deep roto leagues, although his mediocre walk rate makes him risky in terms of WHIP.

Other Options: Trevor May, Drew Hutchison, Chad Green


Jeimer Candelario

Jeimer Candelario will fill Chris Coghlan’s role as a utility player for the Cubs for the next few weeks while Coghlan nurses a rib injury on the DL. This is his first exposure to the big leagues, but his stats from Triple-A suggests that he is more than ready for the opportunity: a .333 batting average with a .452 on-base percentage and a .600 slugging percentage, albeit in only 93 plate appearances. He put up a decidedly less impressive .219/.324/.367 line in 244 plate appearances in Double-A. Given the fact that manager Joe Maddon likes to use his bench players more frequently than just about any other manager, Candelario should get more playing time than the utility player on most other teams for the time being. He doesn’t hit many home runs or steal many bases, but he hits a lot of doubles and should hit for a decent average. He draws walks, too, which makes him a more intriguing play in OBP leagues than in AVG leagues.

Will Middlebrooks

He returned to the big leagues earlier this week with the Brewers, bringing a retooled swing with him. However, it’s not the first time that Middlebrooks has changed his swing or his approach in his up-and-down career. His line at Triple-A so far this year was a superficially good .282/.308/.508 with ten home runs in 264 plate appearances, but that was in the hitting-friendly environment in Colorado Springs. Of course, Milwaukee is on the hitter-friendly side, too, so maybe that won’t matter too much.

Despite the fact that it seems like he’s been around for a long time, he’s still only 27 years old, so he should be at or near his peak. Then again, his biggest problem has always been his utter lack of plate discipline, and his walk rate at Triple-A this year was even lower than it was in the majors with the Padres last season. He has also recently admitted that he doesn’t have the bat speed he had earlier in his career. Maybe his new swing is enough to overcome his subpar approach and his diminished bat speed, or maybe Milwaukee’s hitter-friendly leanings will mask his flaws. There’s no way to tell which outcome we’ll see, unfortunately. If you care more about certainty than upside, grab someone else. If you’re looking for upside, though, the most recent reinvention of Middlebrooks might be your guy.

Chris Johnson

He hasn’t hit the DL yet, but Marlins first baseman Justin Bour has missed the last three games with an ankle injury and could end up on the DL sooner than later. The primary beneficiary of the newly available playing time in Miami has been Chris Johnson, who usually only starts against lefties. With few other options, expect Johnson to receive most of the playing time at first base until Bour returns to the lineup and the good side of the platoon.

He doesn’t offer a ton of power, but Johnson has hit double-digit home runs a few times and has demonstrated the ability to hit for average. However, it’s been a few years since the 31-year old has done either, let alone both. Still, you need playing time to rack up counting stats, and Johnson will be getting a decent amount of playing time for as long as Bour remains out of commission.

Other Options: Cody Asche, Alex Dickerson, Brandon Barnes


Carl Edwards, Jr.

The lanky righty has been excellent for the Cubs this year: a 1.17 ERA with a 0.39 WHIP in 7.7 innings with ten strikeouts and only one walk. The question with Carl Edwards Jr. is whether this performance is sustainable. The superb strikeout rate is definitely for real, as the lanky righty has posted a K/9 over 11 at every level over the last two seasons except his brief 4.7 inning stint in the majors last season. The low walk rate with the Cubs this year, however, might be an anomaly:

























If the improvements that the 24-year-old has made to his control at the major league level this season are real, he’s an elite reliever. If his walk rate for the rest of the season ends up closer to the shoddy rates he’s posted at each of his other stops over the last two years, and it probably will, his strikeouts will give him value, but owners worried about losing points in WHIP will want to steer clear.

Jerry Blevins

There’s nothing exciting about Jerry Blevins from a roto perspective, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t valuable in deep NL-only leagues. This season, he’s doing what he’s done most of his career: get lefties out while posting a good K/BB rate. His numbers this year are more of the same: a 2.31 ERA with a 0.99 WHIP in 23.3 innings with 23 strikeouts and seven walks. The guy filling the last spot on your pitching staff won’t win your league for you, but he can lose it for you by blowing up your rate stats. Blevins won’t lose your league for you, and he might even help you move up a tick in rate stats.

Adam Ottavino

Last season, Adam Ottavino earned the closer’s role in Colorado. Unfortunately, he only held that job for about two weeks, racking up three saves before landing on the DL, undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing the next fourteen months. He returned to the majors earlier this week to find several pitchers ahead of him in the pecking order. Prior to elbow reconstruction, Ottavino posted elite strikeout rates with better-than-average walk and home run rates. If he can put up the same type of numbers he posted before surgery, he’ll provide value without any saves despite his unfavorable ballpark. Of course, there’s no guarantee he’ll return to that level of performance. He’s worth a gamble, especially since the options ahead of him in the Rockies’ bullpen aren’t sure things themselves, but be ready to cut bait on Ottavino if he doesn’t look like the pitcher he was before surgery.

Other Options: Mauricio Cabrera, Brock Stewart, Adam Liberatore

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