This is The Watchlist.
The Watchlist is a weekly column designed to help you monitor and pick up players in the coming weeks. Whether they’re waiver wire or trade targets, these are the players you’ll want to add now before becoming the hot waiver commodity or trade target in a week or two.
Using underlying and advanced metrics, The Watchlist will help you get ahead of the competition in your league and reap the rewards later from your pickups.
The players could be anyone from a prospect in an ideal situation close to the Majors, a reliever in a saves+holds league, or even a starter doing well with misleading surface-level stats like ERA.
They might even be hitters with quality underlying stats. Or they could be none of those types of players and a different kind of player entirely. The point is that they’ll help you find success in your fantasy league while staying ahead of the curve of your league mates.
The payoff might not be immediate, but they should eventually provide significant value, more often than not.
These are some of those players for this week.
Known for his raw power as a prospect, Gorman has already mashed 10 home runs in 73 plate appearances for the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate.
It appears to be only a matter of time before he’s in St. Louis. While the call-up might not come immediately, Gorman’s power and proximity to the majors make him one of the more exciting prospect stash candidates.
Of course, the power alone might warrant Gorman a place in this column, but he’s also playing second base after beginning his professional career at third base.
Currently eligible at the hot corner in Yahoo leagues, Gorman should gain eligibility at second base once he regularly starts at second in the Majors. That gives him plenty of unique upside. Last season, only five eligible players at second and third base in Yahoo leagues topped 20 home runs: Max Muncy, Eduardo Escobar, Chris Taylor, Luis Urias, and Ryan McMahon.
Given Gorman’s raw power, which FanGraphs gave 65/70 present and future grades in their assessment of the Cardinals’ top 35 prospects in April 2021, he certainly has the potential to hit 20 home runs as a rookie, provided he’s called up relatively early in the season to get a significant number of plate appearances.
Duran impressed in Spring Training with his power stuff, striking out 10 batters in seven scoreless frames while allowing just two base runners – a hit and a walk.
The right-hander hasn’t disappointed in his first taste of action at the Major League level either. He’s pitched to a 4.00 RA and a 3.30 FIP in nine innings spanning six appearances for the Twins.
Duran entered play on Thursday tied with Pittsburgh’s David Bednar for the fifth-best swinging-strike percentage (21.2%) among all relievers. That’s thanks in part to the right-hander’s dynamic split-finger offering that averages 95.9 MPH and has a 48.3% whiff rate.
Jhoan Duran’s percentile rankings:
- Hard-hit rate: 4th
- K%: 98th
- Whiff rate: 98th
- Fastball velocity: 95th
- Chase rate: 83rd
With Taylor Rogers now pitching in San Diego, the Twins could do with another high-leverage arm. They got Emilio Pagan back in that deal, and while he’s seen some of Minnesota’s high-leverage looks this season, it’s Duran who’s the name to watch here with his stuff. The upside is sky-high, and he’s starting to establish himself in the Twins bullpen.
Twins Relievers In High-Leverage Situations*
- Joe Smith: Five appearances, 11 total batters faced, .090 wOBA
- Emilio Pagan: Four appearances, 12 total batters faced, .462 wOBA
- Jhoan Duran: Three appearances, five total batters faced, .000 wOBA
- Caleb Thielbar: Two appearances, four total batters faced, .572 wOBA
- Tyler Duffey: One appearance, five total batters faced, .699 wOBA
- Josh Winder: One appearance, one total batter faced, .000 wOBA
*As of the beginning of play Thursday
From a role standpoint this season, the right-hander’s ceiling is a top-10 fantasy closer. But even if he settles in as the Paul Sewald of Minnesota’s bullpen – he might not get always get the save opportunities, but he’s the team’s most dynamic reliever and could finish with 15-25 saves- he’ll be someone you need to roster.
At worst, Duran could be a useful reliever who can help keep your weekly ERA and WHIP down, regardless of league size, a la Collin McHugh and Garrett Whitlock in 2021.
But the ceiling and upside here are worth chasing. Roster Duran now, and you might have an elite closer as soon as next month.
One of the best stash candidates for saves alongside Duran, Munoz (like Duran) has a pathway to saves that is both clear and crowded all at the same time.
On the one hand, the Mariners don’t have a set closer. Seattle had three saves as a team entering play on Thursday, and Munoz had one. Diego Castillo had another. Drew Steckenrider had the third.
Paul Sewald is also in the mix. Erik Swanson has shown well early in the season, and Ken Giles will return at some point.
So, in short, Scott Servais has a lot of options and a lot of quality options at that. But Munoz might be the best of the bunch. And if he can at all distance himself, he’ll have league-winning upside.
The reliever has an elite bat-missing ability. For the season, the right-hander has a 21.6% swinging strike percentage.
Here are two names:
Ryan Helsley and Edwin Diaz.
What might they have in common? They’re the only two qualified relievers with a better swinging strike percentage than Munoz this season.
The former Padre averages 100.1 MPH on his four-seam fastball, but his slider is the superior bat-missing pitch. This season, Munoz has thrown it 63.3% of the time and has a sparkling 55.3% whiff rate on the pitch.
Servais might have too many quality options, but Munoz is simply too good to be kept out of save situations for too long. Even if he only finishes with 15 saves, his strikeout ability has the potential to make him a top-20 relief pitcher.
Atlanta’s outfield is going to look much different moving forward. Ronald Acuna Jr. is back from the injured list, while Eddie Rosario was recently placed on the 10-day injured list after having laser surgery on his right eye. According to a tweet from the Athletic’s David O’Brien, Rosario is expected to miss two to three months.
Elsewhere, Alex Dickerson, who soaked up 36 plate appearances at designated hitter while Acuna was sidelined, was designated for assignment.
Amidst all the changes, if Arcia can maintain a somewhat regular role, he could be a beneficial fantasy addition, and not just because he’d be a regular in one of baseball’s best lineups.
Though that would certainly help, Arcia has been productive when called upon. Entering play Thursday, the versatile 27-year-old is batting .269 with a .375 on-base percentage in 32 plate appearances this season. He’s made starts in left field and at third base and designated hitter and has considerable experience at shortstop.
It’s a small sample size for sure, but Arcia has also logged three barrels so far. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s more than Randy Arozarena, Ketel Marte, and Carlos Correa have combined so far in 2022. Most importantly, it’s also more barrels than he had throughout more than three times as many batted ball events last season.
Arcia is also hitting the ball significantly harder, which certainly doesn’t hurt. He upped his average exit velocity to 94.9 MPH in the early goings (it’s never finished above 89 MPH in each of his last six seasons), but he’s also logged nine batted ball events with an exit velocity north of 100 MPH. He only had 12 of those combined last season.
Another promising development for Arcia’s fantasy prospects has been his ability to do damage on four-seam fastballs. It’s been a problem for him at times in the past, but he’s fairing much better against the offering this season.
Orlando Arcia’s xBA and xwOBA numbers against four-seam fastballs:
- 2022: .353 xBA, .575 xwOBA
- 2021: .221 xBA, .263 xwOBA
- 2020: .265 xBA, .355 xwOBA
- 2019: .215 xBA, .292 xwOBA
- 2018: .208 xBA, .275 xwOBA
- 2017: .261 xBA, .314 xwOBA
- Orlando Arcia in 2017: 548 PA, .277 average, .324 on-base percentage, 15 home runs, 14 stolen bases
- Orlando Arcia in 2020: 189 PA, .260 average, .317 on-base percentage, 5 home runs, two stolen bases