WATCHLIST: Sneaky summer options for your roster

The WatchList is a quick-hit look at those minor-league prospects who may be on the verge of a call-up, whether it be due to injury on the big-league club or sterling performance. Many of the players on the WatchList are not top-level prospects, but are instead players who could hold some short-term fantasy value in the right situation. Of course, there are many unknowns when it comes to callups, but many of these are reserve-worthy players if your league rules allow minor-league pickups.

Bats

Ryder Jones (3B, SF)
Fantasy owners got a personal look at Jones during the 2017 season, during which he was a mainstay on San Francisco's roster essentially from the start of August through the end of the season. The then 23-year-old slashed just .173/.244/.273 with 2 HR in 53 games during his stay in the majors, and posted mostly underwhelming peripheral numbers (76 HctX, 90 xPX, 0.19 Eye, 65% ct%) predominantly as a third baseman. That position is currently manned by Pablo Sandoval with the Giants, who has been surprisingly productive in his return to the Bay Area. But Jones is giving the organization many a reason to promote him in the next few weeks. Jones is currently working on a .308/.353/.500 month of June with 4 HR in 20 games, including a .335 BA since May 6, which has brought his season slash to .297/.350/.440 with 7 HR in 67 games. There's not a true "standout" tool associated with Jones' game, but he does do a handful of things well enough to bring value to deep-league owners. Perhaps his best chance for impact is in BA, as he has produced average to solid-average ct% numbers in the upper minors, though pitches below the knees did give him a fit in his debut. He's also added roughly eight points to his fly-ball rate in Triple-A from a season ago, and he offers a pretty balanced batted-ball profile. Jones has made meaningful improvements against left-handed pitching in 2018, too (.698 OPS vL in 2017; .813 in 2018), which should help his cause as he battles for PT with Sandoval in the coming weeks.


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Raimel Tapia (OF, COL)
We all know the Rockies will be actively searching for offense at the trade deadline (Machado, etc.), but perhaps the biggest upgrade the org can make to what has been a struggling outfield to this point is promoting Tapia. The 24-year-old has been both incredibly consistent and productive in the PCL this spring and early this summer, posting three straight months with an OPS of at least .850 en route to an impressive slash line of .307/.354/.529 with 10 HR and a very underreported 18 SB/1 CS ratio. Between watching him perform at First Pitch Arizona 2015 and scattered service time at the major league level each of the last two seasons, fantasy owners should have a pretty good idea of what Tapia has to offer at this point. He has a chance to be a plus defender at any outfield position and has quality BA upside given some of the following attributes: above-average contact (84% ct% in the minors), consistently above-average line-drive rates (28% with Colorado last season; 22% this spring) and loose, fluid wrists that naturally lend themselves to solid bat-to-ball skills. Tapia's value in OBP formats gets dinged simply because he employs an aggressive approach (6.4% bb% in AAA; average is about 10%), but don't hesitate to pick him up if you need OF help in a 15-team league because of that alone. He's on pace to set career-highs in HR and x/h% this year, not to mention he can run and potentially offer 10-15 SB help for your roster in the second half. It seems only a matter of time before he's bumped up, so keep close tabs on him.

Matt Thaiss (1B, LAA)
Any news involving the Angels farm system this spring has been mostly dominated by Jo Adell (and rightfully so), but for all owners in redraft or one-year-only leagues, the name you need to know moving forward is Thaiss. The former first-round pick has spent all of 2018 in the upper minors and has been productive in both stops, combining to slash .298/.351/.529 with 13 HR and a 44.7% x/h% through 71 games (.922 OPS in AAA; .843 in AA). Thaiss was regarded as one of the best pure hitters in the 2016 draft class coming out of Virginia, and his best chance for impact in roto/H2H category formats is BA. From the left side, he displays easy bat-to-ball skills (84% ct% in 2018) and hand-eye coordination at the plate, and that has manifested into a very balanced batted-ball profile this year. Thaiss employs a level cut that isn't conducive to massive raw power, but he has plus bat speed knows how to spread the ball around the field well. He had the look of an OBP-format monster early in his pro career, owning walk rates from 10-16% prior to 2018, but he has become a markedly aggressive hitter this year (5.5% BB% in PCL) and that may be the root cause of why he's tapped into the HR/2B production more frequently. If there's one downside to Thaiss' game, it's that left-handed pitching has given him fits (.675 OPS vL; .948 vR), so the Angels may need to see a little bit more from him before they call him up. When they do, they can easily slide Albert Pujols to DH and have Thaiss man first base for the foreseeable future.

Arms

Cy Sneed (RHP, HOU)
The Astros have been blessed with one of the healthiest (and most skilled) rotations in baseball up to this point, so prospecting for potential starters in the minors might seem like a futile exercise. Injuries often strike when teams least expect, though, and in this case, it's important to keep tabs on an arm that can potentially step in without much learning curve in Sneed. The 24-year-old righty might be the most qualified candidate in Houston's upper minors to tackle an spot-start or an extended assignment in the rotation, as he's been one of the most efficient pitchers in the PCL this spring, owning a 3.33 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 3.40 Cmd through 83.2 innings. Sneed's AAA debut last season was rough in a limited look (11.21 ERA, 1.81 WHIP in 17.1 IP), but his numbers have gotten significantly better in 2018, partially due to the fact that he has increased his Dom from 7.1 to 9.1 and has also managed to trim his walk rate by about two percentage points (9.1% to 7.1%). Expect Sneed to make average (7.0-8.0) Dom impact if he gets recalled this season, though, given a SwK profile that borders on below-average during his stay in the upper minors, and the fact that he doesn't own a true swing-and-miss offering right now. His fastball will sit anywhere from 89-92 mph and he shows some ability to locate in and out. He also comes at hitters with a CU-CT-CB combo, and all three should be useable major-league average pitches. Again, this isn't an arm with a ton of upside, but he comes with polish and will have one of the best offenses in baseball supporting him if he's called upon in a pinch. 

Colin Poche (LHP, TAM)
While Sergio Romo has effectively stepped into the hybrid opener/closer role for the Rays since the club dealt Alex Colome to Seattle last month, the org is probably looking for a more stable, long-term option in the ninth inning in the coming weeks. One undervalued and underreported candidate for that job could be Poche, who, arguably, has been the best reliever in the minors this season. The 24-year-old was one of two players-to-be-named-later in the trade that sent Steven Souza to the desert last winter, and has overpowered hitters to the tune of a 0.65 ERA and 0.65 WHIP as a late-inning arm across 41.1 innings in the upper minors this year. His seamless transition to the IL has been particularly impressive, as he owns a 1.07 ERA and 41.7% K-BB% in 25.1 IP with Durham, the latter of which is head and shoulders the best mark of any pitcher at the Triple-A level in 2018. Poche's Dom production is no joke, as the southpaw owns a 20% SwK% in the IL as a reliever, which is comparable to Josh Hader's pace at the back end of Milwaukee's bullpen right now. His stuff is not overpowering by any means, typically sitting anywhere from 89-92 mph with the fastball along with a sharp-breaking vertical slider, but Poche does a good job of hiding the baseball and particularly effective against left-handed hitters. There is some cross stride to his delivery that makes hitting against him uncomfortable, as well. It's not often that minor league relievers can come up and have SV opportunities, but Poche might be the guy for the job in Tampa Bay soon.

Trevor Oaks (RHP, KC)
The Royals acquired Oaks in the deal that sent Joakim Soria to the White Sox this past winter, just a few months after Oaks pieced together an impressive stay in the PCL (3.64 ERA, 4.00 Cmd in 84 IP). The 25-year-old has since been called upon a couple times to assist the major-league staff as a spot-starter and from the bullpen, but hasn't quite notched a permanent role. But given that the Royals will be sellers at the deadline and have uncertainties at the back of the rotation, Oaks figures to be a clear candidate for a promotion in the near future. Across 12 starts in the PCL, Oaks owns a 2.05 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, .254 OBA and has allowed just one home run in 70.1 IP. One of his best attributes is his batted ball profile, specifically in that he keeps the ball out of the air when he's on, holding true to a 51% ground-ball rate (PCL average is 43%) in 2018 and posting rates anywhere from 50% to 60% during his stay as a pro. The ground balls help make up for the fact that his whiffs/walks ratio has taken a step back this year, owning a 5.2 Dom/3.1 Ctl tandem thus far. You won't find many pitchers on the WatchList with such lowsy splits, but Oaks has a track record for quality control (1.8 Ctl as a pro) and at least average Dom ability in the minors. Oaks will sit anywhere from 91-94 mph and touch 95 with a heavy fastball and blend in a mostly SL-CU mix, as well as a solid CT that produces GBs frequently. Again, he's not a high-upside type starter, but the combination of track record, solid stuff and a heavy GB lean makes him an intriguing arm in deeper formats.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.