This is the best time of the year. We are in the stretch run in Fantasy Baseball and gearing up for the upcoming Fantasy Football season. While you prep for your football drafts, it could be easy to lose track of players on the baseball waiver wire. That’s fine because I have got you covered. On the Watch List, I discuss players who are owned in 30 percent or less of leagues, unless otherwise noted.
There is another reason why I think this is the best time of the year. It is because my New York Mets have a six and a half game lead over the Washington Nationals. It has been a long time since I could be this excited about the Mets. While you may not be a Mets fan, it is worth noting just how well they have been hitting as of late, for Fantasy purposes.
Since coming off the DL, Michael Cuddyer has played in a limited role for the Mets, but he has been more productive than he has been all season. Since returning on August 11, he is slashing .350/.381/.600. Cuddyer has hit the ball hard all season when he makes contact, as his hard hit percentage in 2015 is the highest it has been since 2012. His hard hit percentage since coming off the DL is in that 2012 range. What held him back early in the season was his unusually high strike out rate. On the season, Cuddyer is striking out in nearly 22 percent of his plate appearances, compared to a career rate of 18 percent. In fact, his strike out rate this year is the highest he has posted since 2002, before he became an everyday player in the big leagues. Since returning from the DL,
that number is down 10 percentage points. He is continuing to hit the ball hard and making contact much more often now. He is owned in just over 30 percent of leagues, but in those where he is unowned, Fantasy owners should scout his playing time with the Mets. He can be most valuable in daily lineup leagues and in DFS against left handed pitchers.
Another Met to keep an eye on is shortstop Wilmer Flores. Ever since infamously crying after almost being traded to the Brewers, Flores has excelled. Since July 31, he is slashing .329/.361/.570 with four home runs, seven doubles, 16 runs and 14 RBIs. As you can see in the past month, Flores has contributed in four categories for those in Roto leagues and in head-to-head formats he has scored the 11th most Fantasy points amongst second basemen and seventh most amongst shortstops. Yet, he is only owned in roughly half of polled leagues. The belief may be that Flores no longer plays everyday, but he sees enough time between short and second in the Mets platoon happy lineup. As long as he is crushing the ball, he deserves to be on all owners radars.
Eduardo Escobar is another player that has been scorching the ball as of late. Since August 18, he has slashed .394/.412/.879 with four home runs, four doubles, 10 runs and seven RBIs. During this stretch, he has been striking out less and hitting the ball harder than he has all season. Sure, his .391 BABIP and .485 Isolated Power (ISO) are not sustainable, but you do not need it to be for Escobar to provide value. Owners can simply pick him up, plug him into their lineup for the time being and reap the rewards. It is not everyday you can add a middle infield with power. He has posted the 12th most points over the past week and owners are missing out. If you elect to add him, once you see him beginning to cool off, dump him for the next guy.
Thomas Pham has been seeing regular time for the Cardinals seeing time both in center and left field. Since August 19, he is hitting .387/.486/.548. During that stretch he has a .462 BABIP and .161 ISO, while scorching the ball with a hard hit percent of 38.5 percent. In the minors, Pham flashed the potential to hit double-digit home runs and steal double-digit bases. He won’t hit for much average but he makes up for that by getting on base. He can be useful to those in five outfielder leagues, especially those who use OBP as a stat. He is worth monitoring as long as he receives playing time.
Matt Shoemaker did not build off of his successful 2014 season and burned many Fantasy owners who invested a middle round pick on him, such as myself. However, it is worth noting that in his last start at Detroit, he went 7.1 shutout innings, allowing just one walk and one hit while striking out five. In the end of July and early August, he posted three straight starts where he went at least six innings and did not let up a run, striking out 10 twice. There were two really ugly outings in between that stretch and his latest start, but he could be righting the ship. There is no harm in keeping a close eye or even taking a flier on a pitcher who posted a 3.04 ERA, with 8.21 K/9 and 1.59 BB/9 last season. He is owned in roughly 40 percent of leagues, making him a great watch list candidate.
Twins closer Glen Perkins missed time last week due to a bulging disk in his neck. Since returning, he has once again hit the shelf, now with back spasms. I am no doctor, but I can tell you that those are two injuries that scare me. Kevin Jepsen has stepped up nicely in his absence, picking up three saves in the past week. Since joining the Twins, Jepsen has pitched effectively with a 1.42 ERA, 2.33 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), 7.82 K/9 and 2.84 BB/9. He also has the ability to miss bats, evident by his 11.5 swinging strike rate. Jepsen may not be the closer you pick up to win you the saves category, but he can contribute as long as Perkins is out, and will not negatively affect you ERA, WHIP or strike outs. Perkins owners should definitely pick up Jepsen for the time being.
If you have any questions follow me on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.