Fantasy Baseball: If You're Smart You'll Keep Your Eye On Will Middlebrooks

  • Michael Florio, RotoExperts

A few months back when I was given The Watch List, bi-weekly, my goal was to provide a large audience with the best Fantasy advice I could give. Now that I am taking over this column every week, I will be including a glasses ranking (glasses, because these are players you should watch, get it?).

By now, I hope you know the premise of The Watch List is that all of these players are owned in under 30 percent of polled leagues, and while they are lesser known, they are worth scouting to stay one step ahead of your league mates. However, some players are closer to being worth adding, which is where the ranking comes in. I’ll explain here:

One pair of glasses: Reserved for deep leagues.

Two pairs: Could be seeing a playing time spike soon.

Three pairs: Worth monitoring to see if he’s the real deal.

Four pairs: Stats show improvement, hot stretch coming.

Five pairs: Couple of good games away.

The simple basis is, the more pairs of glasses, the closer you are to adding them.

J.P. Arencibia (Texas Rangers, Catcher) While he has taken over first base for the Rangers, his value still lies at the catcher position. Over the past week, only Carlos Santana has scored more Fantasy points, while four eligible first baseman (including Santana) have outscored him. Since the All-Star break he is hitting .255/.300/.617 with five home runs, 16 RBIs and six runs. If only he could play the Yankees every day, as he has four home runs and 11 RBIs against them. These numbers may look great, but he is doing so with a 32 percent strikeout rate and only walking in four percent of at bats (numbers consistent with his career). He is a streaky hitter, which makes him hard to trust, but he can provide a ton of power at a position that doesn’t offer much.

Scout: Three pairs of glasses.

Kenny Vargas (Minnesota Twins, First Base) Today is actually Vargas’ 24th birthday. So Fantasy owners, hope as a gift the Twins give the recent call up a chance to showcase his talents. His main competitor for playing time will be Chris Colabello, who is sinking into another abyss, hitting .115 (three hits) since the All-Star break. Vargas hit .261/.360/.472 with 17 homers, 17 doubles, 63 RBIs and scored 50 runs in 100 Double-A games this year. He has done a tremendous job of getting on base and displaying some pop at every level of his minor league career. It’s hard to say since he has never had a big league at-bat, but if his numbers translate to the bigs, he would be worth adding in all formats.

Scout: Two pairs of glasses (if he steals the first base job he’d be bumped up to three).

Nick Franklin (Tampa Bay Rays, Second Base) The Rays view Franklin as Ben Zobrist 2.0, meaning he’s a very versatile utility player that can hit. His versatility should help him get in the lineup more frequently. While he wasn’t able to heat up in limited playing time for the Mariners this year, he has been raking in Triple-A, to a tune of .294/.392/.455, nine home runs, nine stolen bases, 16 doubles, 45 runs and 47 RBIs. That shows the 15-15 potential he has over a course of a full season. On the year (17 MLB games), he has a line drive rate of only 14.8 percent, down nearly 10 percentage points from 2013, along with an extremely high 40 percent strikeout rate, up over 13 percentage points from last year, all while walking half as often. Pair that with a .222 BABIP, down nearly 70 points from last year, and it’s easy to understand why he hit .128 with the M’s. It’s safe to say, the limited playing time had a negative affect of him. If he receives regular at-bats he could return to his 2013 form, when he was a viable starter at times.

Scout: Four pairs of glasses.

Stephen Drew (New York Yankees, Shortstop) Doesn’t it look weird seeing New York Yankees and Shortstop listed next to anyone besides Derek Jeter? Luckily, Drew will be manning second base from here on out, a position he has never played in the bigs. Over the past two weeks Drew comes in as the 13th highest scoring SS, while only tied for 21st at second base, which is why owners should continue to use him as a SS. Drew is hitting a modest .237 since the break, but is getting on base at a high rate (.341 OBP), and providing some pop (.474 SLG). The only reason to explain Drew’s .176 avg. this season is his .216 BABIP, but even that is hard to explain. He is hitting line drives and walking at rates close to last season, all while striking out a bit more than in 2013. While his lengthy hold out certainly has some impact on his decrease in numbers, bad luck has also riddled him. Hopefully a move to the Bronx will provide a spark (and his luck will change), but hitting in the bottom third of the lineup will limit his ceiling.

Scout: Four pairs of glasses.

Will Middlebrooks (Boston Red Sox, Third Base) After trading Drew the Red Sox will slide Xander Bogaerts back to SS and will play Middlebrooks every day at third. There are a few things you can almost guarantee from Middlebrooks, a high strike out rate and a lot of pop. He struggled early on this season, but for his career has proven to be a better hitter in the second half. He has hit .274 with 13 home runs and 41 RBI in the second half, compared to .234 with 21 home runs and 71 RBIs in the first half; in nearly half as many second half games in his young career. With third base being so fickle this season, Middlebrooks could come as a savior (if he gets hot) to those who lost Ryan Zimmerman or are sick of starting Pedro Alvarez. He has also been known to get hot and go on an absolute tear, so owners shouldn’t hesitate to scoop him if he begins to heat up.

Scout: Three pairs of glasses.

Grady Sizemore (Philadelphia Phillies, Outfield) One of the best comeback stories of the year has taken a turn for the better since signing with the Phillies. Originally thought to be nothing more than a fourth outfielder, Sizemore has been able to see pretty regular at bat’s over the past two weeks and he has not disappointed, actually outplaying Domonic Brown over that stretch, both in time and numbers. Over the past two weeks Sizemore has hit .347/.373/.490 with a home run and a stolen base. If he continues to see playing time, which will involve him continuing to produce, Sizemore could provide some OBP and the occasional home run or stolen base.

Scout: One pair of glasses.

Allen Webster (Boston Red Sox, Starting Pitcher) Here’s another player affected by yesterday’s trade deadline… starting to see a trend? Webster made his season debut last weekend and pitched solidly against a hot Rays team, going 5.1 innings, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out four. The blemish? He allowed four walks. Walks have been an issue for the 24-year-old in the past, and will continue to hinder his development, as it is hard to go deep in games while running up a pitch count. However, while allowing 3.25 BB/9 in 21 Triple-A games (20 starts) he pitched to a 3.10 ERA. Webster is certainly a work in progress, but the decimated Red Sox rotation needs to send someone to the mound every fifth day, meaning he can be used as a trendy starter, given the right matchup. Scout the young pitcher as he continues to develop at the big leagues.

Scout: One pair of glasses.

Drew Storen (Washington Nationals, Relief Pitchers) Welp… it looks like the days projecting what relievers may be dealt opening the door for a new closer are behind us. Luckily, the closer carousel never stops. Soriano was absolutely obliterated this week against the Marlins allowing four runs on three hits and walk, while only recording one out and blowing the save. We have yet to see him since. On Wednesday the Nats gave the save opportunity to Storen, electing to keep Tyler Clippard in the setup role. Storen struggled allowing two runs, three hits and a walk, but he converted the save. The Nats will likely give Soriano another chance, but being in a close divisional race they can’t afford to keep blowing games late, so if he struggles again expect more saves to go to Storen, who picked up 43 in 2011. He is a solid add in deeper Roto formats for owners that don’t want to spend too much FAAB if he gets the job later in the season.

Scout: Three pair of glasses.