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Week 1 Waiver Wire Watch List

As important as it is to be active on the waiver wire, snagging that next hot bat or pitcher on a roll before anyone else can, let's be honest--there are only so many roster spots. That's why your watch list is just as important as your waiver wire activity, and perhaps even more so.

Throughout the season, you want to get the jump on your competition and sniff out the breakout players before they break out. That's what this list is all about--using some in-depth research and advanced analytics to find the players who aren't quite there yet but are on their way.

This is not necessarily a list of players you should add right away - it is a list of people to keep a very close eye on in most leagues, and to consider picking up in deeper formats. In some cases, we will even caution you not to pick up a widely-added player, and steer you away from the fool's gold. Use it to build your own watch list.

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Pitchers to Watch in 12+ Team Leagues

Pablo Lopez (SP, MIA)

Lopez was a bit of a surprise to even make the Marlins' starting rotation heading into the season, but he flashed some of his potential in his first outing this past week. Lopez's final stat line (5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 7 K) is going to fly under the radar for many fantasy owners, but those who are paying attention will see the positive takeaways. Lopez does have some swing-and-miss stuff, as evidenced by the seven strikeouts and his impressive 18.2 swinging strike percentage.

More impressive is the statistic that isn't represented in the above line--Lopez didn't walk a batter in his first outing. For a 23-year-old, he has a surprising amount of control, and that tracks back to his minor league career as well. He floated between 2.8 and 5.0 BB% at all levels, finally seeing a small spike during his 10 starts in the majors last year. The reason Lopez is a "watch" and not an "add" is because that affinity for the strike zone will likely lead to him getting beat with some big flies, but it's easier to work a pitcher away from the zone than it is to teach them control. Lopez's long-term prospects are bright, so keep an eye on him for the first few weeks.

Eric Lauer (SP, SD)

Another guy who was impressive in his debut, Eric Lauer tossed six shutout innings against the Giants on Opening Day. There wasn't much to love about his rookie season, in which he went 6-7 with a 4.34 ERA (backed up by a 4.62 SIERA), but he did strike out 100 batters in just 112 innings. That strikeout ability has followed him through the minors, with strikeout percentages well over 25% at almost every single stop he made.

Lauer carries a ton of upside and seemed to figure it out down the stretch last year, putting up a 1.07 ERA across August and September (just five starts, but still). If he can keep the homers and walks down, Lauer has some middle-of-the-rotation stuff that could make him a reliable fantasy SP3 moving forward. Don't get too hyped over one start though--see if this was Opening Day adrenaline or a true continuation of his spectacular stretch run from 2018.

Matt Harvey (SP, LAA)

I know, but hear me out. Harvey was far from dominant in his 2019 debut, giving up two earned over six innings in a no decision. He walked three and only struck out one--not the ratio you're looking for. However, Harvey had good life on his fastball, which hovered around 95 MPH, and he has continued to rely more on his slider than he used to.

Harvey is still making adjustments as he searches for a path to revitalizing his career since his days as "The Dark Knight". With as thin as the rotation is in Anaheim, Harvey will have a long leash to figure things out. Put him on your watch list and add him if he strings a few good starts together, even if your leaguemates will make jokes about him being washed up.


Batters to Watch in 12+ Team Leagues

Trey Mancini (1B/OF, BAL) 

Mancini is hitting cleanup in what I would argue is the worst lineup in the MLB, so the upside is always going to be limited with him--let's just get that out of the way. That does not mean he can't still provide value as a fourth or fifth outfielder or in your corner infield spot. Mancini has hit 24 homers in back-to-back seasons, and played in at least 147 games in each of those seasons as well. The 27-year-old is already off to a fast start, with at least one hit in each of his first three games and a homer already on the board.

Ultimately Mancini is going to provide you with safe, cheap production. I doubt you'll need to spend more than a dollar on him in any FAAB situation barring some obscene power surge. He will go under-the-radar in most formats, but there is something to be said for a quiet 24 homers with 60 runs and 60 RBI at the 1B position, which is not as deep as it has been in years past.

Kolten Wong (2B, STL)

Wong is going to be added in plenty of leagues following his two-homer 2019 debut, but I'll caution you not to jump on the train right away and to monitor instead. Wong has been one of the streakiest hitters in baseball for a couple of years now. I've seen him spoken about as a 20-20 candidate in years past, and while the hype is nowhere near that level right now the truthers will come out now that he has two jacks and two steals through four games.

Wong has only played in more than 127 games in one season, either due to injury or demotion, so that's one risk to consider right off the bat. The other is that aforementioned streakiness. When determining where to use your FAAB or waiver position, don't blow it on the flash-in-the-pan hot streaks. Instead, look for sustainable production from players who are showing true signs of growth. Wong is a known quantity at this point, and while there is occasionally some sizzle there is rarely any steak.

Jorge Soler (OF, KC)

Soler should be locked in as the Royals' primary cleanup hitter, and there is certainly some value to be found there. The Royals are not far above the Orioles in offensive fire power (or lack thereof), so Soler's RBI and run totals are likely to be depressed through no fault of his own. However, Soler carries top-50 prospect pedigree and has 25-homer power. The big issue is that we have no idea what Soler truly is. He has never come close to playing a full season, so we have almost no measuring stick on which to judge his performance. He looked pathetic in 35 games in 2017, then flashed his talent in 2018 before seeing his season ended by a toe injury.

Soler has five RBI through three games already, and has his role well-established as long as he stays healthy. Just don't get excited yet--he needs to prove he can be a five/six-day-a-week player and produce on a regular basis before he becomes worthy of a roster spot.

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