The season is winding down and fall is almost upon us. If you are reading this, you are either fighting for your Fantasy Baseball playoff life or have your eyes set upon your league’s trophy. How do I know this? If you were out of the race, you likely would have just clicked over to the RotoExperts Fantasy Football package, which I still recommend you do right after finishing this article.
By now, you should know what The Watch List does, but for those who are new, I identify players owned in 30 percent of leagues or lower and explain why they can provide value to your team in the near future, or perhaps long-term. Those in deeper leagues should be less hesitant to pull the trigger. Now, lets get started!
Everyone loves a good homecoming story, right? Well, one that has gone under the radar is Mike Napoli’s return to Arlington. Napoli posted a career year with the Rangers in 2011, when he batted .320 and slugged 30 homers. He was never able to repeat those numbers, but he did have a solid campaign in 2012 with Texas; he slugged 24 homers despite batting just .227. Napoli still possesses most of that power and it only took him nine games, largely in a limited role, to slug his first home run with the Rangers. With Prince Fielder manning the DH role and Mitch Moreland holding down first base, the lone question for Napoli will be whether he’ll get any playing time. However, with Josh Hamilton now injured, the Rangers could look to get some extra power bat in the lineup. Moreland does have some limited time in the outfield, so the Rangers could play him there and have Napoli cover first base. It is pure speculation, but Napoli is worth monitoring going forward.
All Fantasy owners are likely sick of hearing about the potential that Jedd Gyorko holds, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t point out how well he has been playing. In the last 19 games since July 29, he has slashed .289/.341/.461 with three homers, four doubles, and 16 RBIs. The most encouraging sign in this recent stretch is his .171 Isolated Power (ISO). Playing well in the second half is nothing new to Gyorko, who batted .260 with five homers in the second half of 2014 after batting just .162 during the first half. Gyorko may be the king of second chances, and I am convinced Nando DiFino is never, and I mean never, going to give up on him. However, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you ignored his recent hot streak. Finding power from a middle infielder is hard to do, and Gyorko holds the potential to slug 5-7 homers down the stretch. If you are in need of a power hitting middle infielder, he is your best bet off of waivers.
Since coming to the majors, Red Sox prospect Travis Shaw has done what he does best – mash. In just 24 games, Shaw has already crushed six home runs. Throughout several levels of the minors, Shaw displayed the ability to hit over 20 home runs in a season, but his raw power indicates that he one day can top 30 homers. So far this season, Shaw has posted a .309 ISO, which is slightly higher than Bryce Harper’s .307, which leads all qualified hitters. Shaw is not going to keep mashing homers at this pace, but he does have the ability to hit another 6-8 home runs over the final six weeks. If he can stay hot to close out the year, it will be a fun ride.
Speaking of hot hitters, do you know that the only hitter with more Fantasy points than Shaw over the past week is his Red Sox’ teammate, Jackie Bradley Jr? The once highly acclaimed prospect has struggled to put together a good season in the bigs. However, he has received playing time recently with the Red Sox evaluating for the future, and Bradley has made the most of it. Bradley has been “en fuego” since August 9, slashing .457/.513/1.114 with four homers, three triples, five doubles, 13 runs and 17 RBIs in that span. Obviously, his .545 BABIP and .657 ISO are unsustainable, but it is not every day you can pick up the hottest hitter in baseball off the waiver wire. Even if it only lasts another week or even just the weekend, those are valuable counting stats that could really help those in Roto leagues down the stretch. Do not hesitate to add him and enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Josh Tomlin looked great last night. Now, be honest; how many of you forgot the name Josh Tomlin in the past year? Its ok if you did, but he’s made sure to remind everyone of it with two straight quality starts. During that stretch he’s a strikeout rate of 7.43 K/9, with a walk rate of 1.35 BB/9 while pitching to a 2.03 ERA. He may be pitching a tad over his head, as his Strand rate (LOB) is currently 100 percent, since all his earned runs allowed came via the long ball. His Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) sits at 4.84 and his Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) sits at 3.52. Over his career, Tomlin has been a reliable pitcher whom Fantasy owners could use given the right matchup or a two-start week.
I swear I am not a Boston fan, but the next player to watch is again is from the Red Sox. His name is Wade Miley, and although he has struggled for most of this year, he has found a groove as of late. He has posted two straight outings in which he has gone at least seven innings while allowing two runs or less. He has also posted quality starts in three of his last four outings while striking out more batters per nine than his season rate. Both his 3.95 FIP and 4.10 xFIP are lower than his 4.41 ERA, which indicates that he has been slightly better than advertised. Miley will never blow owners away but he is a fringy starting pitcher while he is hot. Fantasy owners should keep an eye on him, as he could become a starter worth throwing out there in the right matchup.
It is only fitting that I end the article with another Red Sox player. With Koji Uehara on the shelf, Junichi Tazawa has taken over the closer duties. Tazawa has always been effective as a reliever who can miss bats. He limits both walks and home runs, making him a trustworthy closer for the time being. Tazawa has a very solid 11.9 percent swinging strike rate this year, which is consistent with his career numbers. He has already picked up two saves since Uehara went down with the injury, and at this point in the year it will be very difficult to find a reliever who can provide saves and strikeouts without blowing up your ERA and WHIP. Tazawa is a safe bet in the interim, and those in Roto leagues should not hesitate to add him.
If you have any other questions feel free to follow me on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.