Ladies and gentlemen, we have made it to September! Football will soon be kicking off, the leaves will begin to change colors, oh, and the MLB rosters have expanded to 40-players. Do you know what that means? There will be an even larger pool of players for Fantasy owners to choose from. This edition of the Watch List will focus heavily on some of the bigger September call ups who arrived this week. While some of them may be owned in over 30 percent of leagues, it is important to keep Fantasy owners up to date, especially this time of the year when it is easy ignore the waiver wire.
Perhaps the biggest name to be called up is new Braves third baseman, Hector Olivera. Olivera has not done much in his short minor league career, slashing .272/.326/.376 with just two home runs. However, he did only play just 35 games in the minors and that short of a stretch is not enough to cancel out all the scouts who claim this kid is a legit power hitter. Maybe I shouldn’t call him a kid since he is 30 years old and older than me. That’s right, he played 10 years of professional baseball in Cuba during which he hit
96 home runs. He often hit around 15 home runs per season, which is shorter in Cuba, as he never eclipsed 90 games played. Olivera has a legitimate chance to hit 20 plus home runs in the big leagues, and the Braves should give him plenty of opportunities this month. Fantasy owners should keep a close eye on him.
Unlike Olivera, playing time could be an issue for Dodgers’ shortstop Corey Seager. Seager debuted Thursday at shortstop for the Dodgers, going 2-for-4 with a double, two runs and two RBIs. The kid knows how to make a strong first impression. He also knows how to rake, as he was batting .278 with 13 home runs, 61 RBIs, 64 runs and three stolen bases at Triple-A this year. He was hitting even better in his brief Double-A stint earlier this year. Seager has the ability to step right in as a starting shortstop or middle infielder in Fantasy; the only issue is his playing time. The Dodgers currently have a crowded middle infield with Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Howie Kendrick, who could return soon from the DL. However, Seager will start at third base on Friday to give Justin Turner a day off. The plan is to use him at third to give Turner some days off, and I imagine he will be used some at short and second as well. He is definitely worth keeping an eye on while his playing time is sorted out, and those in daily lineup leagues should look to add the youngster immediately.
A crowded middle infield scenario is one that will also affect the value of Javier Baez. I know Baez is no stranger to the Watch List, but he is finally back up with the Cubs and ready to show the world the new and slightly improved version of himself. At Triple-A this year, he slashed .324/.385/.527 with 13 homers, 61 RBIs, 47 runs and 17 stolen bases, despite missing time due to injury. He also cut down on his strikeouts, although he is still striking out 24.3 percent of the time. Baez presents a great power/speed combo for Fantasy owners, the only question is playing time. He joins a middle infield that already has Addison Russell, Starlin Castro, Tommy La Stella and Chris Coghlan vying for playing time. However, if Baez gets off to a hot start, do not be surprised if he earns the majority of ABs at second base. Plus, I guarantee you he will not get cheated.
Another young slugger returned from the minors this week, as the Rangers re-called, Joey Gallo, who is also no stranger to the Watch List. By this time, we all know the extreme power Gallo possesses, but we also know how frequently he strikes out. The simple thinking is that there is simply no place to play Gallo, as Mitch Moreland blocks first base, Adrian Beltre is holding down the hot corner and Prince Fielder is the everyday DH. However, not only can Gallo be used to give these veterans a breather, but he could see time in left field along with Will Venable and Ryan Strausborger. Keep an eye on Gallo’s playing time, as his power potential makes him worth owning even if he sits every couple of games.
Another rookie who is no stranger to the watch list is Michael Conforto. On the year, Conforto is batting .311/.396/.567 with five home runs, but he has been even better than that of late. He has hit all of his home runs since August third and is batting .338 with a .634 slugging percentage during that time period. The common thought on Conforto is that he is a platoon player, but that simply is not the case. He has been seeing more and more regular playing time, as he’s been able to handle both lefties and righties. The Mets outfielder is still owned in less than forty percent of leagues and that number is too low for a guy who will provide a good average and solid power. Fantasy owners in leagues that start five outfielders should look to add Conforto right away.
Tommy Milone is no rookie but Fantasy owners should be keeping an eye on him. I have never been a big fan of Milone; in fact, I’ve often debated against using him, but I cannot deny that he has been getting the job done for the Twins. Over his last five outings, he has pitched to a 3.04 ERA with a 3.36 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP). In his last start he went seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits while striking out seven. He does not have the ability to miss many bats, so he will not be as appealing to those in Roto formats, but he could be useful to those in points leagues, on a two-start week or given a good matchup. Also, keep in mind that pitching performances may become stronger in September, as many teams fill their lineup with young minor leaguers.
One closer to keep an eye on is Jean Machi in Boston. With Koji Uehara out for the season, the closer gig was given to Junichi Tazawa; but he struggled, showing that it was too much pressure for him. He has since been moved back into the setup role, leaving the closer gig to Machi. Machi is not an ideal choice for a closer, as he only averages 6.04 K/9, compared to 3.97 BB/9. He also has a horrible 5.29 ERA, but has picked up three saves in his last four, albeit ugly, outings. However, if you are in a Roto league and trying to close in on saves, Machi could be a gamble worth taking. Owners should keep a close eye on this situation the final month of the season.
If you have any other questions make sure to follow me on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.