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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.
Sometimes before we get started, I like to give some advice in addition to players to scout and this week is no different. This week’s advice comes for those of you in keeper leagues. You often hear the expression that baseball teams take a hard look in the mirror on Memorial Day. Well, now is the time for those of you in keeper leagues to identify your team. Do you want to bolster your roster and go all in on this year, or stock up for next season? My advice to those of you that want to bolster your roster is to do so now. Do not wait until the trade deadline, when every other owner in the race is dangling anyone with anything close to remotely good keeper value; do it now to avoid getting yourself into bidding contests with other owners and enjoy the rewards of so a month before the trade deadline. Trust me, it’s possible, as I just traded my great keeper in, Jacob deGrom for Felix Hernandez and Howie Kendrick. Now, onto the Watch List!
Catcher: Wellington Castillo
For Castillo’s sake, I hope he rents in Arizona. I mean three teams in a month? That’s got to be rough. The Diamondbacks have gotten next to nothing out of the catcher position this season, as all their catchers combined have slashed .223/.290/.316 with four home runs, 23 RBIs and 20 runs. After Tuffy Gosewisch tore his ACL, the D’Backs brought in Jarrod Saltalamacchia to join Jordan Pacheco. Now, with Castillo in the mix, he is expected to start at least against lefties, against whom he batted .301 last year. It is easy to forget that Castillo hit 13 home runs last season, and he could provide some cheap power to those in two-catcher formats or NL-only leagues. His playing time is definitely worth keeping an eye on, and at the very least the D’Backs now have a catcher whose name I don’t have to check to make sure I am spelling it right.
First Base: Garrett Jones
Jones has been dealing with plantar fasciitis since spring training. You may know that as the aliment that ruined Allen Craig or caused Corey Dickerson to land on the DL. However, Jones claims the injury has subsided and it has shown in his play. After getting off to a very slow start, he has begun to heat up in a big way over his past nine games. In that stretch since May 22, he has belted three homers, eight RBIs and five runs while slashing .455/.500/.864. Yes, his .538 BABIP and .409 Isolated Power (ISO) during that stretch are unsustainable, but the encouraging sign is that he is saying he is healthy and is working his way into the lineup. He can provide the Yankees with a power lefty bat; he has a swing that was made to take advantage of that short right field porch. Fantasy owners should keep a close eye on this.
Second Base: Ruben Tejada
What if I told you that over the past seven days, Brandon Phillips is the only second baseman to score more Fantasy points than Tejada. Would you believe me? Well, you better, because that is exactly what he has done. Tejada is getting playing time whether it’s at second or third base, and he has done nothing but hit since being awarded that job. Since becoming a staple in the current Mets’ lineup, Tejada has gone on a seven-game hitting streak, with 14 hits in that span, including four doubles, six RBIs and four runs. He is never going to set the world on fire, but chances are there are not many second baseman out there in deep formats, and Tejada is clearly hitting the ball well. His .519 BABIP and .138 ISO are not sustainable, but enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Shortstop: Javier Baez
Editor Note: Owned in over 30 percent of CBS Sports leagues.
Baez will be making the shift to third base in the minors this week, with the belief being that he could get the call up and play third, so that the Cubs can shift Kris Bryant to the outfield while Jorge Soler is on the DL. Even if that does not come to fruition, the Cubs will play three series in AL parks later this month and one consideration is to call up Baez to DH. Baez has been raking in the minors, slashing .313/.390/.523 with seven homers, 26 RBIs, 18 runs and six stolen bases. Yes, he is still striking out very often, as his K rate sits at 26 percent, but that is an improvement over the past two seasons. Baez may be forcing the Cubs’ hands to get called back up, and Fantasy owners should not hesitate to add him if it happens. He is displaying that 20/20 potential that very few shortstops can provide.
Third Base: Juan Uribe
Since joining the Braves, Uribe is hitting .304/.407/.609 with two home runs, five RBIs, five runs and get this, a stolen base! Yes, his .304 ISO is unsustainable, but his .333 BABIP is not and it appears that Uribe is returning to the player he was in 2014 after getting off to a slow start. Not that he blew anyone away last year, but he did bat .311 with nine home runs, 54 RBIs, supported by a .368 BABIP and .130 ISO. What do you get with those numbers? A serviceable corner infielder in deeper formats, who currently holds even better value in OBP leagues.
Outfielder: Joey Butler
Butler has provided a great amount of value to Fantasy owners in such a short time. In just 29-games this season, he is hitting .348/.376/.551 with four homers, 11 RBIs and three stolen bases. His .474 BABIP may make you think it is going to come crashing down, and while it is unsustainable, do not make the mistake of thinking he cannot sustain a high BABIP. In fact, at every level of the minors since 2011, his BABIP has been over .350, with most seasons being over .400. Looking at his minor league numbers, Butler has the ability to hit double-digit home runs and steal double-digit bases. He is especially useful in DFS where he can provide a cheap option especially against left-handed pitchers. Just be cautious on FanDuel, where you lose points per out, as he currently has a K-rate of 30 percent.
Starting Pitcher: Steven Matz
If Noah Syndergaard, Eduardo Rodriquez and Lance McCullers taught us anything, it is that it is better to grab a young stud pitcher before they debut rather than after. Those owners who did are reaping the rewards, and those who didn’t likely either missed out or had to pay a steep FAAB price. The next big debut on the horizon is Matz, who has pitched to a 1.98 ERA in Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League (PCL), which is often compared to pitching in Colorado since it’s so hitter-friendly. Matz has compiled 9.22 K/9 and has only allowed 0.4 HR/9. The left-hander is set to be the next Mets pitcher to take the league by storm. The only issue is that he is currently blocked by both Jon Niese and Dillon Gee, both of whom are underperforming, therefore making it difficult for the Mets to trade them. However, Matz is pressing the Mets’ hand; he is major league ready, and if the Mets are serious about competing, he will be up sooner rather than later.
Relief Pitcher: Tony Cingrani
Let’s just be blunt, the Reds have been awful this season. They appear to be entering a rebuilding stage and could be dealing both Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman this season. If so, someone would have to get saves for the Reds… when they win, that is. If so, it would come down to J.J. Hoover, Jumbo Diaz and my bet for the job, Cingrani. Cingrani has done well, pitching to a 2.91 ERA with a 3.16 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) in the setup role. He has the ability to miss bats that managers covet in closers, pitching to a 10.38 K/9 and 11.3 percent swinging strike rate (SwStr%). Cingrani’s issue as a starter is that he is a two-pitch pitcher, but he could thrive with that as a closer. He has the potential to be a must-own option if given the closer role.
If you have any other questions feel free to send me them on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.