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Welcome to another edition of The Watch List, where I discuss a player at each position that is primarily owned in less than 30 percent of polled leagues. Each of these players is worth keeping an eye on in all formats, but those of you in deeper leagues, 16-teams or more, should be less hesitant to pull the trigger on them. Let’s get started!
Catcher: Francisco Cervelli
Cervelli has been stroking a hot bat since the calendar turned to May, slashing .320/.393/.380 in that stretch. He has provided little pop, with an Isolated Power (ISO) of just .060, and only five runs and five RBIs in that stretch. Cervelli will never provide much power, but he holds low-end value in OBP leagues, particularly in deep AL-only and two-catcher formats. Owners in points leagues are likely to leave him on the waiver wire.
First Base: James Loney
Loney is currently in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak, with 12 hits in that span. He has slashed .278/.330/.392 despite his BABIP and ISO being nearly 20 percentage points lower than his career norms, which both show room for improvement. Loney has the potential to hit double-digit home runs, while adding in a handful of stolen bases at a position where very few can provide steals. He has been striking out less than 10 percent of the time, adding to his value in points leagues. Owners in 16-team leagues should definitely have Loney on their radar, especially those in OBP leagues.
Second Base: Jace Peterson
No, not Joc Pederson. However, Peterson has enjoyed some success of his own as of late, with three multi-hit games since May 12, in addition to hitting his first homer of the year in that stretch. Peterson is most valuable to Fantasy owners for what he can do once he gets on base. Although he only has four stolen bases so far this year, the potential for more is certainly there. He stole 39 bases in 2011, 51 in 2012 and 42 in 2013 during his minor league career. That number decreased in 2014, as he played at three different levels in the minors and saw a brief stint with the Padres. He has been getting regular at bats for the Braves, who would be smart to let Peterson run once he gets on in an attempt to manufacture runs. Fantasy owners should keep an eye on his stolen base total going forward, and don’t hesitate to add him if he begins running more often.
Third Base: Nick Castellanos
Too often a youngster comes up and struggles initially, and the Fantasy world and baseball in general, just write that player up to be a bust. Just ask Carlos Gomez, Scott Kazmir, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas this year. The same can be said for Castellanos, who is just 23 years old. Castellanos came up a highly touted prospect, and has gained plenty of on the job training, playing in 148 games last year. In his past 10 games, Castellanos has slashed .308/.341/.538 with two home runs, eight RBIs, three runs, and four multi-hit games. The most encouraging part is he is only striking out 14.6 percent of the time, compared to his career rate of 23.9 percent. It is easy to discount the past 10 games and say he is just on a hot streak that won’t last. Although his .323 BABIP in this stretch is on pace with his career rate, anytime a young, highly touted prospect gets hot it is worth watching. Castellanos could be coming into his own, and Fantasy owners should keep a very close eye on him going forward.
Short Stop: Daniel Descalso
Here is your yearly reminder that Troy Tulowitzki, unfortunately, does not have a bubble to play in just yet, making him very prone to injuries. Tulo gave all Fantasy owners a scare when he was removed last Friday with quad tightness, and then missed the rest of the weekend. Descalso played in his absence and slugged his first home run of the year. Descalso is not a player Fantasy owners will have to watch closely now, as he is relegated to backup duties, but if, rather than when Tulo misses time, he will get the majority of at bats. Any player receiving playing time in Coors Field is worth scouting, especially at a weak position that provides little pop.
Outfield: Slade Heathcott
I admit that prior to this week I did not know much about Slade Heathcott, other than he has a pretty awesome name. Heathcott is a former first round pick and has been a Top 15 prospect in the Yankees’ farm system for sometime now. Looking at his numbers will show he has a knack for getting on base, can steal 15-plus bases and hit close to double-digit home runs. However, the scouts have always said that he has more power potential, and to be quiet frank, those numbers do not scream out top prospect. It gets put into perspective when you learn that he has suffered from a history of leg injuries and alcohol abuse, both of which he has seemed to overcome. Heathcott is likely to receive at bats against righties, as Chris Young has never been able to figure them out. If so, he could provide value as long as Jacoby Ellsbury is on the DL, and is an intriguing player to scout in deeper formats.
Starting Pitcher: Mike Bolsinger
Bolsinger was highly overlooked by many after his call up, due largely to his pitching 5.50 ERA over ten games (nine starts) with the D’Backs last year. However, his 4.01 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and 3.31 Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) show that he may have been unlucky. The change in venue has helped him, as his HR/FB has dropped from 15.9 to 8.3 percent, which is largely the reason for his success. After dominating in Triple-A (1.42 ERA, 1.64 FIP), Bolsinger got the call up and has not disappointed. He has pitched to a 1.04 ERA, (3.47 FIP, 3.68 xFIP) with 7.27 K/9. Bolsinger is finding success by generating a groundball 58 percent of the time, with a very solid defensive team behind him. Yes, his ERA is going to increase, but he has the ability to pitch to a sub-3.50 ERA going forward, and is definitely worth scouting. Those in NL-only or even 16-team mixed leagues may want to add him now, just to be safe.
Relief Pitcher: Enrique Burgos
I hope you all listened to me during draft season and avoided Addison Reed in all leagues. The Diamondbacks have gone in a different direction this past week, as should Fantasy owners. On Monday, Burgos picked up the save, but many speculated that he only did so because Brad Ziegler had pitched two shutout innings in extra innings already. However, Burgos picked up the save again on Tuesday in a game that Ziegler did not appear in. To make things murky, though, Ziegler picked up the save on Thursday. It appears like a closer by committee situation, which all Fantasy owners love to hear. However, if I had to pick one up for the rest of the season, I would go with Burgos. The Diamondbacks are not expected to compete this season and should look to groom their closer of the future, which could be Burgos. He has been effective with a 15.43 K/9, and 13.4 Swinging Strike rate. He does have command issues, allowing 6.17 BB/9, but has been better than advertised with his 1.75 FIP and 2.35 xFIP being significantly lower than his 3.86 ERA. Ziegler has been plenty effective himself, sporting a 0.93 ERA, 2.56 FIP, 3.06 xFIP, but only 6.05 K/9, showing that he does not miss bats as often as managers prefer their closers to. Lastly, Burgos is 24 years old while Ziegler is 35, and I am inclined to believe a struggling team will give the younger player every chance to succeed and grow into the role.
If you have any questions make sure to follow me on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.