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Every Monday we’ll be checking in on some names to keep an eye on and add to your watch list. Some may require quick action while others are simply options to keep in mind down the road.

We’re just days into the 2018 MLB season but we’ve already seen a number of outstanding performances worthy of a closer look. Injuries have bitten hard already too, opening up the door for others to step up and establish themselves early in the new campaign.

Here are some players to keep tabs on this week:

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Players to watch in 10-team leagues

Kevin Pillar (OF, TOR) - 26% owned

“Superman” has always taunted us with a solid all-around skill set but to this point Pillar hasn’t been able to put it all together. With stud prospect Anthony Alford nipping at his heels, the time is now for Pillar to step up offensively and so far in 2018 he’s done just that. Pillar has notched a hit in all four games including an opening day homer off Dellin Betances. On Saturday he pulled off the rare feat of stealing second, third and home consecutively, bringing the Rogers Centre crowd to its feet and helping the Blue Jays to their first win of the season. Pillar has had good stretches before, but he’s also coming off a solid spring during which he hit .438/.460/.667 in 48 ABs. Unbeknownst to many, he was also a career .324 hitter in the minor leagues, so the pedigree is there. Watch closely.

Michael A. Taylor (OF, WAS) - 40% owned

There was some doubt whether Taylor would be healthy come opening day but there he was, going 1-for-4 with a steal Friday in Cincinnati. Taylor was a near 20-20 player in 2017, smacking 19 HR to go along with 17 SB in just 399 ABs. His defence should keep him in the lineup, so a full season’s worth of plate appearances should be enough to get him over the hump and potentially approach 25-25 status. In 10-team leagues your bench should be all upside, and Taylor certainly fits that description.

Chad Green (RP, NYY) - 37% owned

Starting pitchers are throwing fewer innings than ever, and it’s players like Green who benefit the most from this trend. Manager Aaron Boone clearly feels more comfortable with Green available out of the bullpen, where he can be used as a multi-inning weapon a few times per week. Green made two appearances in the Yankees’ four-game opening set vs. the Blue Jays, throwing 3.1 innings and striking out 7 while allowing just a single hit. He proved last year he could be a force, striking out 13.43 batters per nine and pitching to a 1.83 ERA (1.75 FIP, 2.55 xFIP). With quality innings becoming tougher to find from SPs, the Chad Green’s of the league are quickly becoming extremely valuable. Add him to your watchlist if you don’t have space for a pickup right now and make him your first choice when you need some innings.

 

Players to watch in 12-team leagues

Randal Grichuk (OF, TOR) - 14% owned

Grichuk’s story is well-known: plenty of pop, tons of swing-and-miss. There’s been nothing to suggest that will change anytime soon, but one thing we know is that Grichuk has a guaranteed everyday role in Toronto, something he couldn’t say during his time in St. Louis. Grichuk has five strikeouts in his first 14 ABs but he also has a homer, so he’s proving consistent if nothing else. Given the guaranteed ABs, Grichuk should be a lock for 30 HR and passable RBI totals hitting in the middle third of the lineup. Keep an eye for now but be ready to pounce if he starts heating up.

Jordan Hicks (SP/RP, STL) - 6% owned

The Cardinals sure seem to know how to develop and utilize pitchers, and Hicks appears to be the latest project to come to life. The 21-year-old hadn’t delivered a pitch above A-ball prior to making his debut on opening day, but he possesses a skill set that could make him an effective reliever if the late innings if he gets a chance. Manager Mike Matheny will likely ease him into the high-leverage situations, but with a fastball that hits triple digits it shouldn’t be long before he’s making appearances in the 7th and 8th innings of ballgames. Hicks logged an inning on Thursday, allowing one hit and striking out one while touching 100.9 on the radar gun. A starter in the minor leagues, Cardinals management clearly believed he’d be able to contribute at the major league level or they wouldn’t have taken him north out of Spring Training. Remember when Roberto Osuna improbably made the Blue Jays opening day roster in 2015 and ended up finishing the season as the closer? Hicks has a few more obstacles than did Osuna - namely the recent addition of proven closer Greg Holland who will slot in the 9th inning role - but Hicks is worthy of a spot on your watch list, and possibly even more if your league counts holds. This is definitely a guy you want to get in on the ground floor with.

Yan Gomes (C, CLE) - 4% owned

It’s obvious catcher is a thin position, so it’s important to keep all options on the table no matter a player’s age or history. Enter Gomes. The Brazilian backstop had fine seasons in 2013 and 2014, hitting 32 HR and notching 112 RBI in 223 games for the Indians. Since then, he’s battled injuries and inconsistency but he was able to pop 14 HR in 2017 in just 383 ABs and he loves hitting the ball in the air (career 40.6 FB%). Gomes homered and drove in two runs on Saturday and is widely available in all leagues. He’s the Indians number one catcher so playing time won’t be an issue as long as he stays healthy. It’s certainly possible he could return to his 13-14 form, making him a potential top-10 bargain at the weakest fantasy position.

 

Players to watch in deeper leagues or AL/NL only

Jake Marisnick, (OF, HOU) - 1% owned

Once a heralded prospect in the Blue Jays organization, Marisnick lost most of his shine over the past few years with some poor performances at the major league level. That said, Marisnick has always been a toolsy player, possessing a nice power-speed combo with solid outfield defense. He earned the start in center field for Houston on opening day and homered, then followed that up with another home run Saturday to go along with two runs and two RBI. Strikeouts will always be an issue - he’s at 28.7% for his career - but he managed to go yard 16 times in just 259 at-bats in 2017 and stole nine bases to boot. He’s one of the newly converted extreme fly ball hitters, too - he raised his FB% to 47.8 last year and looks to be continuing that trend early this season. If he keeps upg his hot start, the Astros won’t have any choice but to leave him in the lineup. With playing time comes the potential for more counting stats, so keep a close eye and be ready to pounce if his name keeps getting penciled in the lineup every day.

Brian Anderson (3B, MIA) - 4% owned

Martin Prado’s injury has opened the door for Anderson, who has started all four of Miami’s games to date. He’s managed at least a hit in each game, going 6-for-18 overall with three R and five RBI. The nicest early development has been the plate discipline, as Anderson has notched an even 3/3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The 24-year-old wasn’t a huge power threat in the minors until he reached Triple-A in 2017, but he broke out with a .263 ISO and .602 SLG in 33 games with an 8.8 BB% and just a 19.7 K%. The caveat? He’s been a 50% ground ball hitter in the majors in his admittedly brief 29 game career. If he can reverse that trend to match his minor league batted ball profile then he’s worth a shot.

Derek Dietrich (1B/2B/3B, MIA) - 9% owned

Dietrich’s positional flexibility is huge in deep leagues and after a good spring he’s started off the regular season on the right foot as well. Through four games Dietrich is 6-for-19 (.316 AVG) with a triple, a home run, 3 RBI and 3 R. He’s never played more than 135 games but he’s also never slugged worse than .424, and his career 7.2 BB% and 21.3 K% are certainly respectable. Keep an eye on his FB% and HR/FB rate; if he can manage to stay around 40% and 12%, respectively, he’d be a sneaky 20 HR play provided he can amass a full season’s worth of plate appearances.

Tyler Austin (1B, NYY) - 4% owned

A journeyman of sorts despite being just 26 years old, Austin has inherited at least a share of the first base role in the Bronx for the time being after Greg Bird’s spring injury. Austin made a pair of starts in the Yankees’ four-game set in Toronto opening week and connected for a pair of homers Saturday while driving in three runs. Austin has always had some power, so if you’re looking for a corner option early in the season make sure to keep tabs on this bomber.

 

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