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The Watchlist: Mitch White, C.J. Abrams, Dustin May, Brad Boxberger (Fantasy Baseball)

by Ben Rosener
Jul 1, 2022
Mitch White

Mitch White has pitched well in every role the Dodgers have asked him to play.

This is “The Watchlist.”

“The Watchlist” is a weekly column designed to help you monitor and pick up players in the coming weeks. Whether 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.

Mitch White (SP – LAD)

With Walker Buehler and Andrew Heaney currently on the injured list, the Dodgers rotation has a vacancy alongside Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin, Tyler Anderson, and Julio Urias. Or they did, as Mitch White seemingly stepped into the void created by the injuries.

He’s found success this season pitching in various roles for Los Angeles this season, at times as a multi-inning reliever and most recently as a starter. He’s yet to top five innings in a start this season but could be a priority addition once he gets fully up to speed from an innings standpoint.

Entering play Thursday, White had pitched to a 4.25 ERA and a 4.07 FIP in 29.2 innings this season. He had made 10 appearances for the Dodgers, five of which were starts. Elsewhere, he’s struck out 30 batters compared to just 10 walks and four home runs allowed.

The pitcher win upside is obvious here pitching for the Dodgers, but there’s more to it than just that with White, who is sporting a 35% or better whiff rate on his slider (35%) curveball (35.3%) this season.

Before his last outing on Saturday against Atlanta, White had turned in an encouraging pair of starts in just his third and fourth outings of the season.

The 27-year-old struck out seven batters while scattering four hits, two walks, three earned runs, and a home run in five innings against the Pirates on June 1, logging an impressive 36% CSW rate. He followed that up by allowing just a pair of hits in five shutout innings against the White Sox – five shutout innings that included five strikeouts.

That he struggled somewhat against Atlanta on Saturday – allowing five hits, three earned runs, two walks, and a home run in four innings while striking out three – might allow you to pick him up on waivers, especially without any FAAB money spent if your league employs that sort of waiver system. Suppose White continues to stick in the Los Angeles rotation. In that case, he’ll be a pitcher to roster in almost all fantasy formats, given the Dodgers’ propensity for winning and his upside and ability.

C.J. Abrams (2B, SS – SD)

Abrams started the year on San Diego’s Opening Day roster but struggled in an extended look in the Majors. The team eventually optioned him to Triple-A, and while there, we got to see a bit of why Abrams is one of baseball’s best prospects.

Minor league numbers certainly aren’t the end all, be all, and should probably be taken with a grain of s. Still, the infielder’s stat line at the minors’ highest level seemed like a preview of the kind of numbers Abrams could produce in a few years in the Majors.

In 151 plate appearances with the Padres’ Triple-A club this season, Abrams hit .314 with a .364 on-base percentage, seven home runs, and 10 stolen bases.

The infielder, who is now eligible at second base and shortstop in Yahoo leagues, has logged just 33 plate appearances in his return from his stint in the minors, so it’s hard to draw any conclusions from the small sample size. That he’s playing consistently in the Majors is a good sign.

Entering the season, FanGraphs ranked Abrams as the sport’s 16th-best prospect, ahead of Jeremy Pena, George Kirby, and Hunter Greene. Abrams’ current and future grades for fantasy-relevant tools like hitting, power, and speed were as follows, per FanGraphs:

Hit: 50/70

Game Power: 30/50

Raw Power: 45/50

Speed: 80/80

The more he regularly plays in the Majors, the sooner he’ll start making an impact where fantasy baseball is concerned, especially from a stolen base standpoint. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s hitting in a Padres lineup that entered play Thursday tied for seventh in the league in runs scored.

Dustin May (SP – LAD)

Abrams has a chance to be one of the game’s best fantasy contributors in the future; he’s yet to show it due to only making his Major League debut. Dustin May has that same potential, but he’s already flashed it in a significant sample size, unlike Abrams.

From 2019 to 2020, May threw 90.2 innings for the Dodgers, working to a 2.98 ERA and a 3.96 FIP while registering 76 strikeouts compared to 21 walks and 11 home runs.

Then the 2021 season happened, which was a bit of a “good news, bad news” situation.

The good news was that May seemed to be establishing himself as an upper-echelon, elite starter – both in fantasy baseball and real-life baseball.

Through five starts and 23 innings, he owned a 2.74 ERA, a 3.30 FIP, 35 strikeouts, and six walks. If you’re doing the math at home, that spits out to 13.70 strikeouts per nine innings and only 2.35 walks per nine frames.

The bad news, however, is that May landed on the injured list and eventually needed Tommy John surgery.

Still only 24, May is working his way back from the surgery and might be ready for minor league rehab in the coming weeks. The Orange County Register’s Bill Plunkett tweeted the following on June 24: “#Dodgers Dave Roberts said Dustin May has begun throwing to hitters in AZ. Fastball at 98 to 101 mph. Will repeat this every fifth day for a few weeks. Could start a minor-league rehab assignment in mid-July.”

If May is anything close to the pitcher he was in 2021, he’ll be a fantasy difference-maker down the stretch. It’s hard to find starters with his upside on the waiver wire at this point, or any point, during the season, which is why, although the wait might be lengthy, it’s worth it to stash him on your bench or in an IL slot.

The hurler is still rostered in only 27% of Yahoo leagues, so there’s a good chance he’s still available in your league. Pick him up now. He’s the type of player who could have league-winning potential down the stretch.

Brad Boxberger (RP – MIL)

Devin Williams and Josh Hader will rightfully draw most of the headlines in the Brewers’ bullpen, both in real life and fantasy. Both are very good at what they do. Case in point, just 11 relievers in baseball currently have an fWAR of 1.1 or better, and two of those 11 are Williams and Hader.

Brad Boxberger might not have the same fWAR as either of his teammates, but he’s quietly been a holds machine for Craig Counsell this season. And that, not fWAR, is crucial for fantasy managers in saves+holds leagues.

The 34-year-old hasn’t logged gaudy strikeout numbers this year, with just 7.89 strikeouts per nine frames and an 8.4% swinging strike percentage. But he’s routinely gotten outs, minor damage, and recorded saves.

Boxberger entered Thursday with a 2.28 ERA and is allowing barrels (3.9% barrel rate) lower than he has since the 2016 season. He’s also holding opponents to an xwOBA under .300 for the second year running, and his .317 xwOBAcon is on track to be the veteran’s lowest since that 2016 campaign.

Among all relievers in baseball, Williams is the only pitcher with more holds than Boxberger, who has 16, as of the beginning of play on Thursday.

He might not draw the same headlines as his teammates, but he certainly should in saves+holds leagues. After all, a high hold total is nothing new for the former Rays hurler, who had 23 last season in his first campaign with the Brewers.

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