Fantasy owners have made it through the All-Star break; now it’s crunch time. Whether your team is suffering from a few injuries or just needs an extra burst of life, this edition of The Watch List has you covered. All of the players on this list have seen a recent spike in production or playing time, or they will get their chance soon enough. These players are owned in less than 30 percent in CBS Sports, ESPN, and Yahoo! leagues.
Christian Vazquez (Boston Red Sox, Catcher) – Oddly enough, the Boston Red Sox need an injection of life just one season after winning the World Series. They recently released A.J. Pierzynski, giving catcher prospect Christian Vazquez free reign for the starting gig. Vazquez has impressed in his brief stint in the majors. In the three games he’s started, he has two multi-hit performances, which includes three doubles, and five RBI. He is regarded as more of a defensive prospect, but as long as he is getting the opportunity he is worth watching. One thing worth noting is that Vazquez fared well against both right-handed and left-handed pitching in the minors. He batted .267 vs. lefties and .284 vs. righties, avoiding lopsided splits.
Daniel Nava (Boston Red Sox, First Base/Outfield) – No, this is not the Boston Red Sox edition of the Watch List. The Sox are looking for production anywhere they can get it, even if it means giving different players the chance to play everyday. That is where Daniel Nava comes in. One year after receiving a career-high 458 at bats, Nava struggled mightily earlier this season. He spent his time in the minors and has rightfully made his way back into the lineup. In nine July games, Nava is batting .370, raising his overall average from .213 to .238. He isn’t going to wow Fantasy owners with tremendous power or speed but he is a player who could provide batting average, on base percentage, and runs scored categories. Owners might forget Nava hit .303 over the course of a full season in 2013, and actually finished with more Fantasy points than the likes of Giancarlo Stanton and Nelson Cruz. Obviously, he isn’t comparable to those players, but he has proven his worth in Fantasy.
Nick Franklin (Seattle Mariners, Middle Infield) – I am listing the Seattle Mariners as the team for Nick Franklin but that could be changing in the near future. This is one of those speculative situations to monitor in which Franklin could become Fantasy relevant if he is traded. With the trade deadline looming, the Mariners have been the center of a lot of trade talks, mainly with the Tampa Bay Rays. Whether they are shooting to acquire David Price or Ben Zobrist, Nick Franklin’s name has been mentioned as a trade piece and he could very well be on his way to everyday playing time if he moves. Franklin was one of the top hitting prospects for the Mariners, but neither Franklin nor Brad Miller has worked out for the Mariners to date. A change of scenery could be the best thing for Franklin, who has hit well in the minors this season. He has nine home runs and 42 RBI while slashing .300/.394/.481 in 63 games for the Mariners Triple-A affiliate.
Jake Smolinski (Texas Rangers, Third Base/Outfield) – The Texas Rangers are another team that has underwhelmed in 2014, thanks to a bevy of injuries. A player getting hurt is unfortunate, but it gives some other players the opportunity they need to get started, like Jake Smolinski. This journeyman has played for three different teams’ minor league systems and he’s just 25 years old. He made his Major League debut earlier in July and has put together some nice performances. He has four multi-hit games in only five games started, which includes three extra-base hits and five RBI. The Rangers are looking for run production and if Smolinski can provide that he will continue to get playing time. Ron Washington has inserted Smolinski into the fifth spot of the batting order already, behind the likes of Adrian Beltre, Alex Rios, and Elvis Andrus. He could be in a position to continue driving in runs for the Rangers and your Fantasy team.
Sam Fuld (Minnesota Twins, Outfield) – There might not have been a hotter outfielder on the waiver wire heading into the All-Star break. Sam Fuld is no superstar but boy, does he love the month of July. Since the beginning of the month, Fuld has hit safely in 12 of 13 games, including five multi-hit performances. Over the past two weeks, Fuld has raised his average from .213 to .269. He is also a sneaky source of stolen bases, with 11 on the season. He’s been one of the most clutch hitters in MLB in 2014, hitting .316 with RISP with two outs. He isn’t in the best of lineups with the Minnesota Twins but he should continue to get everyday at-bats for the team.
Shane Greene (New York Yankees, Starting Pitcher) – If you told any Yankees fan before the season that Shane Greene would be in the starting rotation by July, they would call you crazy. Unfortunately, that is the current state of affairs in the Bronx, given injuries to CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, and now Masahiro Tanaka. The Yankees are digging deep into their organization to find some sort of stability. That is where Shane Greene rolls in. Surprisingly enough, Greene has allowed just two earned runs over 13.1 innings while striking out 11 in his first two starts. Both outings came on the road against the Cleveland Indians and the Baltimore Orioles, two pesky hitting clubs. His average fastball velocity is nearly 94 MPH with a slider hovering around 87-89 MPH in those starts. His minor league ERA of 4.61 this season suggests regression could be in the near future but he has good stuff; it’s just a matter of putting it together.
Note: Greene recently climbed to 34 percent ownership in only CBS sports leagues
Neftali Feliz (Texas Rangers, Relief Pitcher) – As the trade deadline nears, there are many situations that could lead to players earning new opportunities. Neftali Feliz is one of those players. The Rangers’ current closer Joakim Soria has been the subject of many trade rumors lately, most notably with the Detroit Tigers. Should Soria be traded to another team, Feliz would likely step in to handle the closer duties. Now, the Rangers haven’t had too many save opportunities, but anytime a closer emerges this late in the season it’s a huge deal for Fantasy Baseball. Feliz has had success in that closer role in the past, racking up 72 saves over the course of 2010 and 2011 with a K/9 as high as 9.2 throughout a whole year. Should Soria go, Fantasy teams in need of saves in rotisserie leagues have to be willing to spend a good chunk of their FAAB budget on Feliz.