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Welcome to another edition of The Watch List, where I discuss one player at each position that is 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.
I can’t remember a season quite as dominated by prospects as this one. The Mets announced yesterday that Steven Matz would be called up as the sixth member of the starting rotation. If he is unowned in your league, you clearly don’t follow my work, but go add him! Expect more prospects to appear on the list this week.
Catcher: Josh Phegley
Phegley has seen an increase in playing time as of late, as the A’s often elect to put Stephen Vogt at first base or DH. Phegley has slashed .305/.362/.568 in 105 plate appearances, which is quickly approaching a career high. His current .312 BABIP and .263 Isolated Power (ISO) both seem high for him when looking at his minor league numbers, but he has been a reliable source of power the past two years in the minors, displaying the ability to hit 15-plus home runs if given the opportunity. Either way, Phegley is making the most of his added playing time and should be on Fantasy owners’ radar as he is getting his first real chance in the bigs.
First Base: Ben Paulsen
While Justin Morneau has vowed to return from his concussion this season, it remains murky about just when he may do so. Morneau is no stranger to missing long periods of time with a concussion, and while he is out Paulsen will see the bulk of the playing time. You would not guess this by looking at him, but Paulsen has displayed the ability to be a high BABIP hitter in the minors, making me think his current .279 average is sustainable. However, the intriguing aspect of his game is his power stroke. In just 114 plate appearances, Paulsen has hit five homers and slugged .529 with a .250 ISO, which will likely come down but not by too much. In the minors he displayed the ability to hit 20 homers, and playing in Colorado can only help him do it as long as he continues to receive steady playing time.
Second Base: Omar Infante
There is an All-Star unowned in your Fantasy league? What kind of league are you playing in? Oh, wait… it’s just Omar Infante. While Infante continues to be a running joke due to his All-Star game vote status, he is only hitting .236 on the year but could provide some Fantasy value. In 10 games since June 15, Infante has collected 15 hits, including four doubles, and only gone hitless in one game. In that stretch he has slashed .395/.395/.500 with nine runs and five RBIs. He is not going to ever blow Fantasy owners away and will not continue to hit like this all season, but while he is hot he can be a good source of average and runs.
Third Base: Cesar Hernandez
You won’t see anything special if you look into Hernandez’s numbers, but he has actually been playing well the past two weeks. In the 11-games since June 10, Hernandez has slashed .300/.378/.400 with 12 hits, four doubles, two stolen bases, seven runs and six RBIs. He has also been slotted in the two-hole for many of the Phillies’ games and should receive more of an opportunity to steal bases. In the minors, Hernandez flashed his speed, twice eclipsing the 30-stolen base mark. If the Phillies let him run more often he could provide double-digit stolen bases down the stretch, and he is a high source of OBP. He is more valuable in daily lineup leagues or in DFS, as he crushes lefties but struggles mightily against righties.
Shortstop: Trea Turner
It only took 10 Double-A games for the Nationals to promote Trea Turner to Triple-A. In those 10 games he batted .359 with four stolen bases. Add that onto the 58 Double-A games he played as a member of the Padres organization, in which he slashed .322/.385/.471 with five homers, 11 stolen bases, 35 RBIs and 31 runs, and you get the picture that this kid is a five-tool player at an extremely thin position. It is no secret that the Nationals have Ian Desmond blocking Turner, but Desmond has been very disappointing this season. Desmond did homer last night and should heat up to post respectable numbers down the stretch. While it is hard to see the Nats moving him to call up Turner, since the Nats have made it clear they are going all in this year, I wouldn’t put anything past the franchise that shut down their best pitcher in the playoffs a few years back. Turner is worth monitoring and should already be owner in deep keeper or dynasty leagues.
Outfield: Kevin Kiermaier
You know how Hunter Pence is not great at any one particular category, but is so valuable because he contributes to all five categories? Well, consider Kiermaier the waiver wire version of Pence. What I mean by that is, he will not blow you away in any category but will do enough that he won’t hurt you either. Currently, Kiermaier is batting .267 with four homers, 32 runs, 15 RBIs and eight stolen bases. None of those numbers are blowing Fantasy owners away, but there is just enough in each category that it won’t completely bury you if you ever needed to start him. Kiermaier will never win you a championship, but he could be a solid band aid to stop the bleeding for an owner who lost Jacoby Ellsbury or Matt Holliday in deep leagues.
Starting Pitcher: Andrew Heaney
The Angels surprised everyone on Wednesday when they announced at the last minute that Heaney would get called up and start. It may have been one start, but Heaney did enough to impress the Angels, going six innings and allowing one run on four hits and one walk while striking out five. After struggling in spring training, Heaney was sent down to Triple-A, where he posted a 4.71 ERA with a 3.09 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. However, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said Heaney pitched much better in the minors than his ERA shows; he’s worked out some of the kinks in his delivery. Heaney will get at least one more start for the Angels next week against the Yankees, and could force their hand with another strong outing. He could press for a spot in the rotation over either the struggling Matt Shoemaker or Jered Weaver when he returns from the DL. This is definitely a situation worth watching for Fantasy owners.
Relief Pitcher: Roberto Osuna
Man, this has been an interesting year for Blue Jays closers. After a month of zero save opportunities for Brett Cecil, he struggled before being removed from the job for a committee approach. But as everyone knows the saying goes, if you have multiple closers, you don’t have a closer. While the Jays may fill the void through trade (KRod and Papelbon are two names to watch), Osuna should pick up the bulk of the saves in the time being. The 20-year-old throws gas, with a fastball averaging 95.1 MPH. Most importantly, he has the ability to miss bats, posting a strikeout rate of 10.49 K/9 and a swinging strike rate (SwStr%) of 13.4 percent, both well above average. Osuna has been dominant in his brief MLB stint (2.10 ERA, 2.12 FIP), and while many saw him as a potential closer in the future, he could be thrown into the fire right away. He has already picked up a save this week, and even if the Blue Jays make a trade for a closer, the saves he will pick up in the meantime, plus the strike outs, make him a name Fantasy owners should be very close to adding.
If you have any other questions make sure to follow me on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.