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The dog days of summer are upon us - at least in the fantasy baseball world. If you’re deep in the hole it takes a lot of effort and discipline to stay focused but it’s important to remember there’s still time to make up ground whether you’re in a rotisserie or head-to-head league.

There’s plenty of help out there on the waiver wire and it all starts by identifying players of interest and tracking their progress. If you’ve been following along with this column all season, you would have been alerted to Phillies surprise starter Zach Eflin way back in week 6 when he was just 1% owned. Now, he’s on two-thirds of teams in Yahoo leagues and could carry a sub-3.00 ERA into the All-Star break. These are the types of players who can help teams win fantasy championships.

On to this week’s watch list:

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Players to watch in 10-team leagues

Johan Camargo (2B/3B/SS, ATL) - 22% owned
Camargo fell off the radar a bit when the Braves promoted Jose Bautista to take over at third, but he’s starting to generate some buzz with his recent efforts. The versatile infielder has hit .364 with a pair of home runs over the last seven days and has upped his season triple slash to a modest .256/.359/.453. He gets a boost in OBP leagues with his 13.1% walk rate and his multi-position eligibility makes him attractive in all but the shallowest of leagues.

Kevin Gausman (SP, BAL) - 46% owned
It’s hard to trust Gausman given the ups and downs he’s experienced over the last few seasons, but he’s improved his control greatly from 2017 and it now betters his BB/9 from his breakout 2016 season. His 3.83 xFIP and 3.92 SIERA both check in just under his 4.05 ERA and while his strikeouts are down, he’s actually inducing swings and misses at the highest rate of his career (11.5%).

 

Players to watch in 12-team leagues

Elias Diaz (C, PIT) - 16% owned
Amazingly, Diaz hasn’t appeared in this space until now which really proves how overlooked he’s been. His production over the last two weeks has seen his ownership rise into the double digits, but it’s hard to envision him getting much playing time once Francisco Cervelli returns. That said, if Cervelli were to miss an extended period of time, Diaz and his .859 OPS from the catcher position would be an immediate add in all formats. Other things to like: a league-average .298 BABIP that’s right in line with his .301 average, an impressive 11.5% strikeout rate and 7 HR in just 148 ABs.

Andrew Suarez (SP, SF) - 7% owned
Keep reading if you’re an xFIP believer. Suarez is not only on a hot streak - he’s posted a 1.38 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with 11 K over the past week - but also due for even more positive regression if things keep going the way they are. Suarez’s season ERA of 3.92 is quite higher than his 3.18 xFIP, which suggests his recent performance could just be the beginning. He’s not a high strikeout pitcher but the 25-year-old rookie could still be a useful back-end rotation piece with solid ratios.

Dereck Rodriguez (SP/RP, SF) - 19% owned
Where’s all this pitching coming from in San Francisco? The son of Hall-of-Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez is starting to turn some heads with his performance on the mound and is coming off a terrific outing last Saturday against the D’Backs. Rodriguez pitched 6.1 innings of scoreless baseball while striking out five. The hits and elevated WHIP (1.32) are a concern, but a .325 BABIP is partly to blame. That said, be wary of some regression. The virtual opposite of teammate Suarez, Rodriguez’s xFIP of 3.98 is much higher than his real-world 3.16 ERA. Continue to monitor his progress.

Jorge Polanco (SS, MIN) - 14% owned
The Twins starting shortstop from last season is back after missing the first 80 games due to suspension and he’s starting to shake off the rust, going 4-for-14 with an .804 OPS. Polanco is coming off a 13 HR, 13 SB season where he really only took off in the second half. Many were pegging 2018 as a breakout until he got suspended, so don’t sleep on the 25-year-old.

Jordan Zimmermann (SP, DET) - 13% owned
The veteran Zimmermann is back, but is he BACK? Zimmermann was last fantasy-relevant in 2015 when he was a Washington National and has had a tough time staying healthy in Detroit. Since coming off the DL in mid-June, however, Zimmermann has posted a 2.05 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 19 K in 22 IP. He won’t win many games, but he could provide help in the other categories.

 

Players to watch in deeper leagues (14-team or AL/NL only)

Antonio Senzatela (SP/RP, COL) - 1% owned
Senzatela had an up-and-down rookie season and started 2018 in the Rockies bullpen but was sent to the minors on April 27. In his first start of the season at the big league level last Tuesday Senzatela was sharp, picking up the win with seven shutout innings over the Giants while allowing three hits and fanning four. He’s no lock to remain a starter but his performance will surely dictate how long he sticks around. Just 23, Senzatela offers some upside.

German Marquez (SP, COL) - 7% owned
Another Rockies starter, Marquez has had a turbulent 2018 but his most recent start provides some hope going forward. Marquez dominated the Dodgers last Saturday with eight innings of one one-run ball while allowing just two hits and striking out nine. Despite the 5.14 ERA, a 4.01 xFIP paints a rosier picture, not to mention the 9.20 K/9. Now in his second season at just 23, Marquez needs to be monitored closely, especially in dynasty leagues if he’s available.

Willians Astudillo (C/3B, MIN) - 3% owned
Much has been made of Astudillo’s uncommon approach - he barely walks or strikes out and makes a ton of contact - but the bottom line is he’s working his way to fantasy relevance. Playing time hasn’t been consistent since his promotion, but he’s hit .357 with 3 RBI in 14 ABs and could see more action if he keeps producing. Anyone with catcher eligibility who shows promise at the dish is worth watching.

Edwin Jackson (SP, OAK) - 5% owned
We all know how streaky Jackson can be and he’s in the midst of a good run right now. He’s pitched consecutive quality starts while allowing only three earned runs and striking out 13 in 12.2 IP. It never hurts to have potential options at the ready in case of emergency.

 

Graduated

Jose Peraza (2B/SS, CIN) - 65% owned
We alluded to a potential post-hype breakout for Peraza last week and it looks like fantasy owners are getting on board. Peraza continues to hit and run - over the last 14 days he’s batted .321 with 3 HR, 10 RBI, 12 R and 5 SB, enough to graduate him from the watch list.

Zach Eflin (SP, PHI) - 66% owned
Eflin hasn’t cooled off at all and his stock has soared. He looks like a solid back end starter for the rest of the season but you may want to proceed with caution: that 3.71 xFIP looks a tad ominous next to his shiny 2.97 ERA. Specifically, his 7.0% HR/FB rate is low and he gives up more fly balls than grounders, so his luck could change down the stretch. Still, he needs to be owned and started.

 

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