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The Waiver Wire Watch List: Week 6


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

John Brebbia (RP, STL)

Jordan Hicks gets the bulk of the attention in the St. Louis bullpen, what with the 105-MPH smoke and the closer role, but Brebbia might be one of the unsung heroes of the National League Central. The outright stats are impressive enough--seven holds, 0.49 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP--but his peripherals back them up, which is more important.

Working almost exclusively with his fastball and slider, Brebbia has shaved more than 12 points off his hard-hit percentage (just 26.8% in 2019). That's a significant improvement when batters are making contact, but Brebbia has also been missing more bats. His swinging strike percentage has jumped from 12.4% to 15.8% in 2019, which has helped him achieve the highest K% of his career (29.6%). Brebbia is likely the next man up for saves if Jordan Hicks goes down, but you'll take those ratios no matter what format you play in.

Chris Bassitt (SP, OAK)

The 30-year-old righty found himself in the A's starting rotation when Marco Estrada went down with a back injury, but with the way he's pitching the highly ineffective Estrada may not have a spot even when he is healthy. Bassitt has made two starts and has posted an outstanding 16:4 K-BB ratio in 12 innings, along with a 1-0 record, a 0.75 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP.

Bassitt is outperforming his career averages in just about every aspect, and we're only talking about two starts, which is why he's on the watch list and not the add list. With that said, Bassitt added a MPH to his fastball, and through two starts he's used his fastball more often while cutting back on his slider a bit. It's possible that Bassitt's made some real adjustments for sustainable success, but it's simply too soon to tell.

Tyler Mahle (SP, CIN)

Through 33 innings pitched (six starts), Tyler Mahle has amassed an 0-4 record with an unimpressive 4.08 ERA. While that sounds unspectacular, I'm more into the underlying stats. In those 33 innings, Mahle has racked up 33 strikeouts against just seven walks, and that's what I'm more interested in.

His SIERA is a tidy 3.64, implying that he's pitching better than that mediocre ERA and terrible record indicate. Mahle is using his curveball much more often this year, which has led to a career-high strikeout percentage (24.4%). There is some legitimate potential here, so keep a close eye on Mahle's upcoming starts.

 

Batters to Watch in 12+ Team Leagues

Hunter Pence (OF, TEX)  

The former All-Star is a shadow of his former self, and as such he's no longer even a regular starter--in 2019 he's the fourth outfielder for the Texas Rangers. He has been playing himself into more time as of late though and is producing in the at-bats he is getting. So far in 2019, he's posted a .858 OPS, and his three homers already are just one short of his season total last year with the Giants.

Pence is in his 13th season, and while there is virtually no shot at him regaining any of the form that made him one of baseball's best in years past, there's a route for him to regain a starting position and provide modest but useful counting stats. Delino DeShields has been abysmal at the plate so far, and while he offers more in center field than Pence would, there's little doubt that the surprisingly pesky Rangers would continue to roll him out there with Pence hitting well. Don't add him yet, but monitor the Rangers outfield situation.

Melky Cabrera (OF, PIT)  

The Melk Man! Feels like I haven't written about him in ages, which is probably because I haven't. But, Cabrera is forcing my hand lately. A blistering past seven games puts his OPS at a rock-solid .870 through 88 at-bats, and while there isn't much power there you'll take an average over .340 from just about anybody.

Cabrera has left field more or less locked down at the moment, and as long as he's getting regular playing time he'll have the opportunity to produce. That average is the big key here, and if it's not there then Cabrera won't hold much use in either points or roto formats. Wait a bit longer to see if this hot streak is real, then be ready to grab him as an outfield depth piece.

James McCann (C, CHW) 

In the vast, scorched earth of the Catcher Wasteland, where the very air you breathe is a toxic fume, James McCann is your oasis. The White Sox backstop has been quietly (silently) putting up a terrific line in 2019, batting .365 with an absurd .587 slugging percentage.

I'm not foolish enough to think these kinds of numbers are sustainable for the light-hitting 28-year-old, particularly with a .444 BABIP. However, given that there is so little production in the talent pool at the position right now, you'll certainly take anything near what McCann's putting up. I'm not cutting a top-12 catcher for him just yet, but McCann has my eyebrows raised.

 

Recapping The Waiver Wire Watch List

In the section, I will review the progress and current outlook of players that I wrote about in previous articles in this series.

Pitchers

Martin Perez (SP, MIN) - Add Now: Just baffled the Astros, QS in three of his last four starts. The adjustments for Perez in 2019 make this sustainable.

Adam Wainwright (SP, STL) - Add Now: Another QS, this time on the road against the Nationals. Wainwright is locked in right now and has plenty of value as a back-end fantasy starter.

John Means (SP, BAL) - Still Watching: Stung by the home run in his last outing, yielding four earned over five innings. Keeping an eye on him for now.

Daniel Norris (SP, DET) - Still Watching: Coming off another solid start, still don't feel confident enough to add him without seeing a few more strong showings.

Jorge Lopez (SP, KC) - Dropped: Four earned runs in each of his last four outings. There just isn't enough positive here to warrant a roster spot.

Jeff Samardzija (SP, SF) - Still Watching: Continues to be better at home than on the road. If you're okay with streaming him in only those starts, you can add now.

Pablo Lopez (SP, MIA) - Still Watching: The peripherals look better than the results right now, so we're watching closely but not ready to add him yet. Perhaps stash on your bench if you can afford the roster spot.

Eric Lauer (SP, SD) - Still Watching: Can't seem to get deep into games and doesn't have a ton of strikeout potential, but still avoiding blow-ups.

Lucas Giolito (SP, CWS) - Still Watching: A pretty decent outing against the Red Sox in his return from the IL. Not confident enough to add him yet, but there have been blips of potential in a few of his starts.

Batters

C.J. Cron (1B/DH, MIN) - Still Watching: Starting to cool off a bit, and if he's not hitting for power there isn't much to see here.

Eric Sogard (2B/SS, TOR) - Still Watching: Makes for an ideal injury replacement at the moment, and is a fine MI option while he's hot.

Dexter Fowler (OF, STL) - Still Watching: Dealing with an extended bout of flu, so tough to make an assessment since last week.

Mike Tauchman (OF, NYY) - Dropped: The starting Yankees are starting to heal up, so Tauchman will likely lose most of his regular playing time.

Brian Goodwin (OF, LAA) - Add Now: Looking like a legitimate breakout campaign. Has kept the hitting up for over a month now and showing no signs of slowing.

Danny Santana (OF/2B, TEX) - Add Now: He's got three homers and five steals in just 62 ABs, along with a batting average over .350. Even with the return of Odor, the Rangers will find a way to deploy him regularly.

Freddy Galvis (SS, TOR) - Still Watching: Cooled off since returning from a few days off with a stiff leg, but still plenty of roto value here along with regular ABs.

Jorge Soler (OF, KC) - Still Watching: Want homers? He can help there. Want anything else? Not so much.

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