10 Watchlist Guys: Vol. 2

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 be sorting by 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.

I ran one of these before the season started and I think it is worth updating throughout the season.

Akil Baddoo and Julian Merryweather graduated off that first list into pickups in leagues beyond the group they were under (Deep for Baddoo, AL for Merryweather).

SHALLOW LEAGUES (mixed leagues – 10 or fewer teams)

Luis Arraez | 2B, MIN

When the Twins signed Andrelton Simmons despite still having Jorge Polanco, it was a hit to Arraez’s outlook, but then the team mentioned that he would be their super utilityman, working in both the infield and outfield. While he is a known AVG asset, it is kind of a light profile for shallower leagues with runs being the only other category he excels in besides the standout batting average.

An early season injury to Josh Donaldson has opened the door for a full-time role at the outset of the season as he’s played in 6 of their 7 games, batting 1st in all but one. The one was against lefty Marco Gonzales and he batted 9th. His missed game was the day before that, also against a lefty.

Leadoff against righties in a good lineup with some sprinkled in games against lefties is playable in many formats, but still not quite a must-roster in 10-teamers. His 10-team viability is limited to those in need of AVG and points leagues where all of his contributions (specifically 2B and BB) are counted.

Trevor Williams | P, CHC

The Cubs brought Williams on this year with a clear plan on helping him improve which started with him getting back to the sinker that aided him to a 3.11 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 170.7 innings. The metrics were suspect of the season (4.68 SIERA) which always happens to weak contact guys and so his 2019-20 looked like natural regression (5.60 ERA, 5.01 SIERA). Some of it no doubt was regression as it was going to be damn near impossible to maintain a .227 AVG and 77% LOB rate with less than premium stuff, but he fell beyond even his 2017 season (4.07 ERA, 4.63 SIERA).

He also got away from the sinker.

His usage dropped from 22% in 2017 to 9% in 2020, with 3-6 point drops every year. The effectiveness dropped even more than that with an 11.1 pitch value in ’17 to 8.2 to 3.5 to just 0.1 in 55 innings last year. The Cubs were committed to getting him back to the good sinker:

It’s just one start, but he used it 21% of the time and started the season off nicely after a big Spring Training effort (1.32 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 11 K, 1 BB in 13.7 IP). It might not just be the sinker, either, as Brendan Miller highlights the added changeup movement in his 2021 debut:

If you’re in a daily moves league, consider him against the Pirates this weekend. If he dominates, he might jump to a “team streamer” (someone you use in the best spots but reserve afterwards instead of cutting like you do with normal streamers) as the interest will definitely rise. He gets Atlanta after that, though, so you might want to see another start against solid offense (first was the gem v. Milwaukee, who are at least good on paper, but have literally been the worst offense in baseball thus far) before making him a start in 10- and 12-teamers.

MEDIUM LEAGUES (mixed leagues – 12-14 teams)

Chris Owings | 2B, COL

He has only played four of seven games so far, three of them against lefties, which isn’t enough time for shallow leagues. That said, he has made the most of his opportunities hitting a cool .500 with 5 R, 3 RBI, and 2 SB. No homers, but five of his seven hits went for extra bases (3 2B, 2 3B).

Even if he finds a full-time role, he’s not an automatic pickup as he’s a career 70 wRC+, but he has 6 HR/13 SB per 400 PA and plays in the best offensive park ever. That 400 PA pace puts him in line with Jean Segura (7 HR/14 SB), Kolten Wong (7 HR/11 SB), and Elvis Andrus (6 HR/15 SB) and Coors could definitely help him close the massive AVG gap between Owings and that trio.

Edit: He’s now on the IL (sprained thumb). You can still put him on your watchlist, just wanted to update that he’s shelved for now

Travis Shaw | 1B/3B, MIL

Shaw got back on track a little bit with Toronto last year with a 92 wRC+ which is below average but welcomed after a 48 in 2019. He’s had a solid first week of action (141 wRC+, 1 HR… also a .417 BABIP) and will probably earn some 15-team interest this weekend. It has been some time since he was a stud, but 2017-18 isn’t so far in the rearview that he couldn’t rebound into a high-20s HR hitter with some decent R/RBI counts in the middle of the Brewers lineup (he has batted 2, 4, and 5 across his five starts).

Wade Davis | P, KC

It has been a rough start for Greg Holland, albeit in a whopping 1 inning across 2 appearances. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be locked in on the potential replacement should the 35-year old righty continue to falter. Yes, he was great last year in 28.3 IP, but that was after back-to-back seasons of 15% BB rates and 82 IP of a 4.61 ERA.

Davis is no youngster – he, too, aged 35 years – and probably not a top 4 or so RP in the pen on pure talent, but if he rebounds a la Holland – a former great Royal comes back and finds some of his past success – I think they’d go to him over the likes of Josh Staumont, Scott Barlow, or Kyle Zimmer. Again, this is simply a watchlist piece, not a pickups one so this isn’t a full throated endorsement of him. I just think it might not go to one of the “obvious” guys if Holland loses the job and Davis could be the discount option that clicks.

Mitch Moreland | 1B, OAK

There wasn’t much love at the draft table for Moreland, even in the deep leagues where he is particularly relevant. The 35-year-old slugger entered the year off a pair of standout platoon seasons, netting a 120 wRC+, 29 HR, and 87 RBI in 487 PA. Moreland is playing everyday in Oakland, batting 4th or 5th in 7 of 8 and 7th against the lone lefty they have faced.

He isn’t doing well with a meager 18 wRC+, but only a few A’s have been above average at the dish and the rest have been impossibly bad, resulting in an AL-worst 58 wRC+ (28th overall). Once this team gets going – and they will… even if they don’t end up having a good season overall, there will be well above average stretches of offense from this group – Moreland can be a power catalyst in the middle of the lineup. Look to pounce once things turn around.

DEEP LEAGUES (mixed leagues – 15+ teams)

Zach McKinstry | UT/2B (depending on outlet), LAD

McKinstry didn’t have some giant spring that earned him a spot on the team and there was virtually zero buzz about him (I’d say flat out zero, but with the expanse of fantasy coverage these days, I’m sure at least someone was interested in him in some capacity). Eric tabbed him as a potential Enrique Hernández replacement and that’s exactly what he seems to be right now, albeit as a lefty vs. Hernandez as a righty.

The glove-first utilityman has played in 6 of LA’s 7 games, his first two as a replacement, but then four straight starts in a row from April 4th-7th. I still prefer Edwin Ríos in fantasy terms because his bat projects to be quite a bit better, but he doesn’t have the fielding flexibility (McKinstry logged time everywhere but 1B and C in the minors) or skill (for his part, Rios is a four corners guy – 1B/3B/LF/RF – but doesn’t play any of them nearly as well as McKinstry can) of McKinstry. Now McKinstry stands to be the fill in for virtually non-C injury that may hit the team and I’d take just about any bat playing every day in the Dodgers lineup.

Edit: He is more of a pickup candidate now that Bellinger is on the IL if you need a quick fill-in. Belly’s IL stint is backdated to April 6th and the expectation is that he will be back after the minimum 10 days.

Jed Lowrie | 2B, OAK

Lowrie has essentially been off for 2 years (8 PA in 2019-20) due to knee issues that plagued him and sullied his Mets tenure. Now 37 years old, he is at least healthy right now and the A’s are going to play him virtually every day. He has started 6 of the 8 games and made an appearance in the other two. The last time he was healthy, it was with Oakland in 2017-18 when he put up back-to-back 150+ games seasons hit .272/.356/.448 with an average of 18 HR, 84 RBI, and 82 R.

I almost put him in the AL-Only category, but surely a starter in what is expected to be a solid lineup (despite the early rough start) is rostered in all such leagues, right? Anyway, he is only 15% of the Main Event rosters so he is still not a must-pick up and he isn’t doing so well that he will draw a ton of interest in this week’s bids barring a big weekend.

AL-ONLY

Luis Torrens | C, SEA

The Mariners catching job looks like a clear split between Torrens and Tom Murphy which makes Torrens much more intriguing than he was during draft season. Torrens debuted in the majors at age-21, but that was only because he was a Rule 5 Pick of the Padres from the Yankees despite never playing above A-ball. In a way, that is a ringing endorsement of his potential. The Padres were willing to bury a 21-year-old catcher on their major league roster in order to get him on the cheap.

Since then he has been able to accumulate some more minor league experience with extended stints at High-A (515 PA of 94 wRC+) and Double-A (397 PA of 142 wRC+). He doesn’t have a standout fantasy skill, but a good plate skills profile could yield a nice AVG with a double-digit HR output, good for 1-catcher AL-Only leagues for sure and possibly more if he starts to eat into Murphy’s share of playing time. For 2-C leagues, Torrens is a 12- and 15-team watchlist guy and there is a path to him becoming an all-formats option in such leagues.

NL-ONLY

Nick Neidert | P, MIA

The Marlins are ascending to or have already ascended to the level of team where their starters automatically get a look because of their recent development track record. He doesn’t have the upside the fantasy darling trio of Pablo López, Sandy Alcantara, and Sixto Sánchez has, but he might actually be better than Elieser Hernandez and a lot of fantasy managers loved him this draft season. He has a deeper arsenal and better command of his stuff. Neidert’s fastball isn’t very good which could hold him back from finding value in shallower leagues as the strikeouts might not be there.





Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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OutOfTheBox
Member
OutOfTheBox

Arraez has the potential to be one of those guys gets picked up and dropped 10 times during the year.

Crazhurdlers
Member
Member
Crazhurdlers

Any chance he continues to be an elite hitter but develop ANY power or SB contributions?

OutOfTheBox
Member
OutOfTheBox

In my non expert opinion I would think no on the steals and it is possible if he changes his swing, but I think it is highly unlikely.

Jonathan Sher
Member

He was only 22 when he came up in 2019 and 24 now, and sometimes young players with elite contact skills add power in their mid-to-late 20s, but considering where started power-wise — near-nil — I would guess his ceiling for homers will be in the 10 to 12 range. As for stolen bases, players don’t get faster in their 20s, so I would not expect to see growth there.

All that said, he clearly has changed his approach at the plate: He swinging-strike rate has tripled from 2019 and doubled from last year (though that means he’s gone from almost never missing to missing once every 8 or so swings), his EV is significantly up (from 87 to 94), and he’s being more selective on pitches out of the zone ( he’s gone from being very selective to extremely selective). Put that together and it paints a picture of a player who has decided to look even more for his pitch and to drive it more even thought that will mean more swinging strikes. It’s a smart trade-off. If he keeps it up as pitchers adjust, who could hot that 10 to 12 HR level as soon as this year or next.

Balk off
Member
Balk off

I just added him. His launch angle is down, which isn’t good, but he’s pulling the ball more than he ever has and that has his EVs up so far. Slapping the other way instead of pulling for power has always been the knock against his power. I think he might be adjusting.