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Welcome to another edition of The Watch List, where I discuss one player at each position who 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.
What a boring week it has been with no baseball! I mean the Home Run Derby was great and my man, Jacob deGrom, dominated in the All-Star Game, but the rest of the week… It makes it difficult to scout players deeper in the player pool when there is nothing to watch, so the Watch List is a little different this week. There are plenty of players to suggest keeping an eye on, some are just owned in over 30 percent of leagues, and there’s a buy low and sell high sprinkled in as well. Let’s get started!
Catcher: Kyle Schwarber
Editor’s Note: His ownership rate jumped a ton yesterday in CBS Sports and ESPN leagues.
Schwarber has impressed at every level he has played at, including the big leagues. In his six game cup of coffee earlier this year, he hit .364 with a home run and six RBIs. Since returning to Triple-A he has slashed .333/.403/.633, which is an improvement from his slash line in Double-A this year, where he belted 13 homers in 58 games. There is no way around it, this kid can simply mash. He can provide power and average at a position that has been desperately poor for production this season. The only issue for Schwarber is his playing time, as reports indicate he may not be the everyday catcher. However, it is hard to see a scenario in which the Cubs call up the youngster to sit him on the bench, so pick him up right away if you can. David Ross (who should only catch when Lester is pitching, in my opinion) and Taylor Teagarden are nothing more than backups. It shouldn’t be long before Schwarber see’s regular at bats while Montero is on the DL.
First Base: Chris Davis
Maybe I just have expectations that are too high for Chris Davis, or maybe I insist on going down with the ship, but I believe he is a good buy low candidate at the moment. It is easy to look at Davis’ .235 average and 31 percent strikeout rate and say you want no part of him. However, if your team needs a boost in the counting stats, go out and add Davis! While I listed Davis as a first baseman, do not forget that despite not playing the position this year, Davis is third base eligible in most formats. His 19 home runs would tie for fourth at the position, and only five players with at least 100 plate appearances at the position (a relatively small sample size) have more than 12 HRs. His 52 RBIs ranks fourth as well, while his 44 runs ranks seventh. Davis still provides a ton of value at third base, but seems underrated due to his low average and frequent strikeouts. Go low ball his owner if you are in need of a third baseman or corner infielder.
Second Base: Steve Pearce
Pearce has been nothing short of a bust this season. He’s followed up his 2014 season, in which he hit .293 with 21 homers, by posting a .228 average and seven homers this year. However, last Saturday Pearce hit his first home run since May 27. There is not much to love about Pearce’s first half, but a bounce back second half could be on the horizon. His hard hit rate of 34.1 percent is on par with last year’s 34.6 percent, his line drive rate this year (22.5 percent) is actually three percentage points higher than last year’s. While his HR/FB rate has dropped nearly four percentage points, a 13.5 percent mark is still solid. It is fair to say luck has not been on Pearce’s side, and while his BABIP may not get to last year’s mark of .322, if it can approach his career mark of .290 it would be a huge improvement. At this point in the season there is no second baseman on waivers that holds the potential that Pearce does, so it is definitely worth keeping an eye on him.
Third Baseman: Alex Rodriguez
Here is my sell high player for the second half. Maybe it is me refusing to come around, or maybe it is the fact that I have never been an A-Rod fan, but I am still skeptical that he can keep up this production in the second half. Rodriguez has posted elite numbers in the first half, slashing .278/.382/.515 with 25 homers, 51 RBIs and 48 runs scored. However, his Isolated Power (ISO) currently sits at .237, the highest it has been since 2009 (was .236 in 2010). I have a hard time buying that a player who’s had multiple hip surgeries and will turn 40 this month can continue to maintain his best power season in five years. I would sell him while his value is as high as it likely will ever be.
Shortstop: Orlando Arcia
This is a scout for those in deeper formats and in keeper and dynasty leagues. There have been plenty of trade rumors involving Brewers shortstop Jean Segura, and a large factor in that has been Arcia. He has flashed a similar skill set as Segura, but with the ability get on base more in the minors. So far this year in 82 Double-A games, Arcia has hit .314/.354/.463 with five homers, 47 RBIs, 52 runs and 13 stolen bases. He can even improve upon the steals, as last year in High-A ball he stole 31 bases. The Brewers are out of contention and will likely look to trade assets in order to build up the farm system. If they do move Segura, do not be surprised if Arcia receives a call up, likely in September, but potentially sooner to get on the job training in the bigs.
Outfield: Aaron Hicks
We have seen this story a thousand times. A highly touted prospect gets called up, struggles and then is forgotten about and labeled a bust. However, we have also seen those prospects have a resurgence later in their career. Just think J.D. Martinez, for one example. Just two years ago everyone was talking about Hicks in spring training, and now he is nothing more than an afterthought. While he has never sustained success in the bigs, this year has been his best yet; he’s hitting .266/.333/.387 with three homers and nine stolen bases. Hicks will not blow you away but he is hitting the ball hard and getting results, evident in his career best 22.5 percent line drive rate. At his peak, Hicks has the ability to hit double-digit home runs and steal 20-plus bases. He is no guarantee for that production, but he is worth keeping an eye on while he is hot.
Starting Pitcher: Jon Niese
Niese has been over shadowed by the Mets youngsters this season, but it should not be overlooked just how well he has pitched in the past month. In his five starts since June 17, Niese has posted a 2.34 ERA, while going at least six innings and posting a quality start in each. It will be hard for him to sustain this success, as his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) of 3.83 and Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) of 4.28 both indicate that he is not pitching as well as the surface stats indicate. However, Niese has been known to go on hot stretches, and he also knows he could be pitching to prove his value to the Mets, so Fantasy owners should pay attention to his next couple of starts. Niese could be worth a flier to plug in depending on the match up, and on two-start weeks.
Relief Pitcher: Joaquin Benoit
Just a few months after the Padres won the offseason, they may already be tearing it down. There have been rumors that the Padres may make stud closer Craig Kimbrel available, and if so, I believe they will turn to Benoit as the team’s closer. Benoit has had a down year, pitching to a 2.39 ERA (4.06 FIP, 4.05 xFIP), while only averaging 7.88 K/9. Those numbers may not sound like a down year, but that shows just how good he has been in the past. Finding saves on the waiver wire can be difficult at this point in the season, and if you are in need of saves in a Roto league, don’t hesitate to add Benoit.
If you have any other questions make sure to follow me on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.