10 Watchlist Guys to Start the Season by Paul Sporer March 29, 2021 Most drafts are in the books and the NFBC even ran their first waiver period last night. It’s time to start focusing on the future a bit. Not too far out, April is our focus. Here are a couple guys to put on your watchlist and monitor in the early part of the season. Most platforms have a feature where you can click something by the player’s name to put them on a virtual watchlist. It is smart to use this feature before the season starts because once it starts you will likely be sorting by certain stats and you could miss out on someone you really want about to get a new role because you sorted by PA and he just didn’t show very high. SHALLOW LEAGUES (mixed leagues – 10 or fewer teams) Trevor Rogers | P, MIA I got to write the profile blurb for Rogers in this year’s Baseball HQ Forecaster and I pointed out how he allowed 13 of his 19 ER across two hideous outings while showing off above average swing-and-miss stuff in the other successful five starts (2.57 ERA, 32% K rate). The 23-year-old lefty has good velocity and three reliable pitches. Additionally, the Marlins are starting to establish a reputation for developing young arms. While Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López, and Sixto Sánchez draw the headlines, Rogers is much more affordable with plenty of upside, too. He raised his profile in the medium and deep league fantasy market with 29 strikeouts in 19 spring innings that fueled a 2.84 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. Watch for him to make an impact with the Marlins this year. Logan Webb | P, SFG I missed Webb on my latest SP rankings despite ranking 150 guys. He was in the 180s on my list from back in the winter and I never moved him up to account for a huge spring. It’s not just the 11 scoreless innings with 17 strikeouts and just 1 walk, it’s the sharp development of his changeup that could finally give him a strikeout pitch. Pitching in San Francisco never hurts, either. He has hit the Deep League radars for sure and he is rostered in a lot of Medium Leagues as well, but you can play some wait-and-see in the Shallow Leagues. MEDIUM LEAGUES (mixed leagues – 12-14 teams) Daulton Jefferies | P, OAK Speaking of impressive young arms coming off big Spring Training performances, Jefferies is trying to parlay his effort and a Mike Fiers injury into a starting role with the team. Nothing went right for him in a brief 2-inning sip of espresso last year (-8% K-BB rate… yes, negative). This spring he has shown off the plus command of a solid three-pitch mix yielding a 1.50 ERA and 0.89 ERA in 18 innings with 24 strikeouts and 6 walks – 3 of which came in one game where he lost the zone for an inning but got out of the jam and threw three more strong innings. See if he makes the team and go from there. Logan Allen | P, CLE I promise this list isn’t all pitchers, but I’m not going to force myself to go hitter/pitcher for each league type. If I like two pitchers or two hitters the most, they are going on the list! Allen gets raised by the Cleveland Wave of Pitching Development (CWPD… not to be confused with the police department of some two-named city that starts with C and W), but it’s not just a blind endorsement. This reminds me of the Brandon Woodruff v. Corbin Burnes battle a couple years ago. I had chosen Woodruff, but I was very much willing to pivot to Burnes if he had won the role. I’ve been a Cal Quantrill guy through and through, but Allen’s markedly better spring earned him the 5th starter role. He allowed just one run in 14 innings (0.64 ERA) with 18 strikeouts and just 3 walks while Quantrill struggled with a 9.00 ERA and 2.17 WHIP (including 9 BB) in 12 innings. The linked article mentions Allen possibly getting an opener which would be incredible for his fantasy value as it would put him in better position to rack up wins a la Ryan Yarbrough in 2018. After getting Quantrill in a couple leagues, I pivoted to Allen in my biggest draft of the year, the Main Event. DEEP LEAGUES (mixed leagues – 15+ teams) Akil Baddoo | OF, DET Baddoo is trying to be the next Victor Reyes for Detroit, a speedy Rule 5 outfielder who eventually sticks. Reyes is headed into his fourth season, hoping to build on sporadic success the last two seasons. Baddoo has made the team as a fourth outfielder, but his left-handedness should help him get into the lineup with a modicum of regularity, especially if he carries over some of his spring success: .324/.468/.703 in 37 AB with 4 HR, 4 SB, and 10 BB. Will Hinch allow the speed contingent of the Tigers run freely? Baddoo joins Reyes, Willi Castro, Niko Goodrum, and JaCoby Jones as the group with average or better sprint speed and the Tigers might be able to utilize speed to cover for the lack of premium power in their lineup. David Bednar | P, PIT I have been a fan of Richard Rodriguez as my second closer, but I’m not blind to the fact that he’s 32 years old and has all of five saves in his career. I think he will get a legitimate chance, but if he falters then Bednar – part of the Joe Musgrove deal – could be next up. He hasn’t done anything in his first 17 innings as a major leaguer, but he has dominated in spring, amping his velocity up as high as 99 mph with a nasty splitter en route to 8.3 scoreless innings allowing just 3 hits with 17 strikeouts and 1 walk. This is the kind of guy who becomes the next Devin Williams. AL-ONLY Sam Haggerty | 2B, SEA Haggerty will fill the super utility for the Mariners with the ability to capably play both the infield and outfield. It’s a light bat so the upside is limited. Hopefully he can use his solid eye to get on base regularly enough to flex his plus-plus speed. Julian Merryweather | P, TOR His value to the Jays may supersede what he does for us in the fantasy realm, but he could be an elite hybrid arm focusing on extended relief outings with an occasional spot start. Injuries have consistently derailed his ascent. Now 29 years old, he is poised to use his premium fastball and plus changeup wherever the Jays need him and post strong ratios with a boatload of strikeouts in the process. NL-ONLY Brad Miller | 3B, PHI Miller can be finagled into just about any opening in the Phillies lineup either by playing the position himself or setting in motion a chain of moves that winds up with him filling the open spot. In most AL/NL-Only leagues, you have at least one spot that is a part-time player so why not make it a good hitter like Miller? His 113 wRC+ is among the top 100 since 2018 (min. 595 PA) and he’s always good for a 2-4 week hot stretch where he winds up winning a Player of the Week or two. Drew Rasmussen | P, MIL If you are looking for the next Devin Williams, why not check his own team? And by that, I only mean the next great middle reliever. It has nothing to do with Williams’s profile or arsenal. Reliever volatility just makes it tough to buy a Williams at market price with no saves guarantee when so many guys will emerge and be free off the wire. Pardon the tangent! Rasmussen has had two Tommy John surgeries but has regained his velocity and seems primed for a multi-inning relief role this year. He did have a 30% K rate and 13% swinging strike rate in his 15-inning debut as a .368 BABIP and 1.8 saddled him with a 5.87 ERA. A big spring (0.96 WHIP, 11 Ks, 2.89 ERA in 9.3 IP) has ignited interest and he seems like a good fit for Freddy Peralta’s role as Peralta is getting another chance to start. Peralta threw more than one inning in 12 of his 15 outings, averaging 37 pitches per outing. Eric mentioned in his 2020 write up of Rasmussen that he excelled in 40 to 50-pitch outings. If he trims the walk rate, he can be a monster pickup in deeper leagues where 50-70 relief innings play really well.