Fantasy Baseball: John Jaso Powering Up

This is the second installment of The Watch List, highlighting players to scout for the upcoming weeks of the Fantasy baseball season. It goes without question, but one of the best ways to compete in your league is to always be one step ahead of the other owners. All of the players listed below are on the verge of contributing, albeit by a teammate injury or just receiving consistent playing time. These guys are all owned in less than 30 percent of CBS, ESPN, and Yahoo leagues with one exception but I will touch on that.

John Jaso (Oakland Athletics, Catcher) isn’t really a household name, which is something you will come to realize with a lot of the players on this list, but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute. As the weather is starting to heat up, so is Jaso. Over his past nine games, four were multi-hit performances, raising his average from .276 to .293 over that span. He also clubbed two home runs over that time, which is very valuable from a weak catcher position in Fantasy, especially this season. Jaso’s six homers in 2014 are more than the likes of Wilin Rosario, Salvador Perez, Jonathan Lucroy, A.J. Pierzynski, and Russell Martin. He is on pace for a career-high in home runs and his .195 Isolated Power is currently his best ever. I know Derek Norris was hot but he has cooled off, and the Athletics organization likes Jaso’s bat in their lineup as he regularly starts at designated hitter when he isn’t catching. He plays almost exclusively against right-handed pitchers but luckily for Fantasy owners, that nets him more at bats in the platoon.

Lucas Duda (New York Mets, First baseman) is the lone player that exceeded the percent cutoff, as he is owned in 38 percent of CBS leagues. He is likely one of the better-known names sitting on the waiver wire. Like Jaso, Duda is going to provide teams with some home run pop and at this point in the season, that isn’t easy to find. It seems like every year Duda is poised with potential but would split time with former teammate Ike Davis. With Davis gone, the job is all Duda’s. His current pace of 21 home runs and 79 RBI would be a career best for him and barring a major slump, he could get to that mark. Over the past 14 days, Duda has more Fantasy points than Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, Victor Martinez, and Freddie Freeman. Last I checked, Duda, for the most part, wasn’t even drafted. Don’t worry about Citi Field, his spacious home ballpark, as six of his eight homers were launched there. His .243 average is right around his career-mark, although, his .171 average at home should definitely improve. It seems as though he does this every season, which is what makes him a player to watch for now.

Jordy Mercer (Pittsburgh Pirates, Second baseman/Shortstop) is one of the deeper league players to watch on this list. Some of you may read this and say, “The only Jordy worth paying attention to in Fantasy is Jordy Nelson.” It’s not fair to compare Mercer to an accomplished NFL wide receiver but there are reasons to be optimistic about him.  His eight home runs over 333 at-bats last season are an indicator that he has double-digit home run potential over a full season. Not to mention, he smacked 19 home runs over two different levels of the minors in 2011. He is currently on a modest four-game hitting streak and is 9-17 with a home run and three RBI over that span. Mind you, that home run came in the never-ending Petco Park. Mercer isn’t a player that is going to wow anybody, but there is a chance he could provide 8-10 homers with a few stolen bases over the course of the rest of the season. From the middle infield position, that could be useful.

Wilmer Flores (New York Mets Shortstop/Third basemen) is likely the deepest speculative player to watch on this list. It seems like it’s been years now that Wilmer Flores’ name has been mentioned as a top hitting prospect in the Mets organization, and maybe that six RBI game on Monday has something to do with it. If there was “garbage time” in Fantasy baseball like there is in Fantasy football, Flores definitely made the most of it. He hit a grand slam in that game in the 9th inning when the Mets were already up 7-2. While he isn’t a huge power bat, he has proven to be a consistent threat to drive in runs over the course of his minor-league career. He has driven in at least 75 runs in three different seasons. A shortstop with the ability to drive in runs like that doesn’t come along often. The problem with Flores’ situation is that he is currently blocked by Ruben Tejada and the upper brass in the organization is worried about his defense. Should Tejada suffer an injury or begin to scuffle in the field as well as the plate, Flores could get his chance as an everyday player and provide Fantasy owners support in the hitting categories.

James Jones (Seattle Mariners, Outfielder) is what I like to refer to as a spark plug. Unlike James Jones of the Oakland Raiders in the NFL, the Mariners’ James Jones actually has speed, and a lot of it. The Mariners tried their luck with Abraham Almonte as their leadoff hitter early in the season but that didn’t work out, presenting an opportunity for Jones. Since being called up, he’s done everything you could ask for in a leadoff hitter with a slash of .282/.330/.373, six stolen bases and 17 runs scored. His four stolen bases over the past two weeks rank third amongst outfielders during that time, behind the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury and Billy Hamilton. That is some pretty elite speed company to be associated with. The production he has put together this season isn’t a fluke either, as his minor league career .282/.363/.442 with 99 stolen bases backs that up. The Brooklyn-native could provide support in the stolen bases and runs categories for a deep outfield position moving forward.

Jesse Biddle (Philadelphia Phillies, Starting Pitcher) is the only player on this list still playing at the minor-league level. Biddle is currently enjoying a productive season with the Reading Fighting Phils (Phillies Double-A affiliate) with a 3.14 ERA with a 64:26 K:BB ratio in 63 innings pitched. While the walks can be an issue at times, Biddle has swing-and-miss stuff, posting at least six strikeouts in seven of his 10 starts this season. The southpaw is the Phillies top pitching prospect and regarded as one of the most effective young lefties in the minors right now. He has an above-average fastball with a big, nasty hook of a curveball, which is considered his best pitch. With rumors of Cliff Lee being dealt towards the trade deadline and players like Roberto Hernandez and David Buchanan in the current rotation, owners may see Biddle up as soon as July.

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Photo via Press Democrat