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The Watchlist: Scott Effross, Dominic Leone, Luis Patino, Mitch Keller (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

by Ben Rosener
Jul 22, 2022
Scott Effross

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.

Scott Effross (SP – CHC)

The Cubs look like potential sellers once again this season, and while they won’t have quite the same number of marquee names to move, they should still be busy. Of course, that’s all purely speculative, but it’s hard to ignore the number of potential trade chips in the Chicago bullpen. Veterans David Robertson, Rowan Wick, Mychal Givens and Chris Martin all stand out as hypothetical trade candidates.

As it happens, Robertson, Wick and Givens have accounted for 18 of the Cubs’ 19 saves and 25 of the team’s 30 high-leverage, ninth-inning appearances, so there could very well be a new closer in Chicago come Aug. 3 and it could be Scott Effross.

Arguably Chicago’s best reliever in 2022, Effross has enjoyed a breakout season thanks partly to an increased usage rate on his slider. The right-hander is throwing his slider 41.1% of the time, which is more than any other of his pitches’ usage rates this season, let alone his 31.1% slider usage rate last season. Opponents are batting just .160 with a .149 xBA, a .195 wOBA and a .200 xwOBA against the pitch.

Overall, just seven relievers in baseball have an fWAR better than Effross’ 1.2 number. And while that’s not exactly relevant in fantasy, it can be relevant in how managers utilize relievers. That bit is obviously more relevant in fantasy.

Here are the blind resumes of three relievers:

  • Reliever A*: 38.2 IP, 3.03 ERA, 1.95 FIP, 11.41 K/9, 2.09 BB/9, 0.47 HR/9, 10.9% SwStr%, 1.2 fWAR
  • Reliever B: 38.1 IP, 1.41 ERA, 2.12 FIP, 9.63 K/9, 1.41 BB/9, 0.47 HR/9, 15.3%, 1.2 fWAR
  • Reliever C: 37.2 IP, 3.82 ERA, 2.24 FIP, 10.51 K/9, 1.67 BB/9, 0.24 HR/9, 12.8% SwStr%, 1.2 fWAR

Reliever A is, of course, Effross. Reliever B is Emmanuel Clase. Reliever C is Taylor Rogers.

*Effross has actually thrown 40 innings this season as he previously started a game. These metrics are his numbers purely as a relief pitcher.

Provided he steps into the ninth-inning role post-deadline, would Effross get the same volume of save chances as Clase and Rogers down the stretch? Probably not, especially on a Cubs team that could, speculatively speaking, trade away the likes of Willson Contreras, Ian Happ and Kyle Hendricks.

Still, saves are saves, and Effross has shown himself to be just as effective as some of the game’s best closers, albeit in a setup role. He certainly has the upside to become an effective ninth-inning option for David Ross and company.

Dominic Leone (SP, RP – SF)

Sticking with the bullpen theme, Dominic Leone has quietly enjoyed a strong season in San Francisco.

Entering play Thursday, only Edwin Diaz had a better swinging strike percentage than Leone among qualified relievers. That’s largely due to Leone’s slider, which had the 14th-best swinging strike percentage of any pitch this season with a 55.1% metric.

Overall, the veteran has pitched to a 3.31 ERA and a 3.66 FIP in 32.2 innings. He’s logged 35 strikeouts compared to 12 walks to go along with 10 holds and a pair of saves.

He’s certainly stepped into a relief role where ancillary saves are a possibility and part of the equation. Leone is second on the team in high-leverage, ninth-inning appearances and is one of just three relievers who has multiple saves for Gabe Kapler’s team this season. One is primary closer Camilo Doval. The other is Jake McGee, who is no longer on San Francisco’s 40-man roster.

With McGee no longer in the picture, Leone certainly looks like the next man up if San Francisco ever switched in another reliever as the top ninth-inning option in place of Doval. And it is worth noting that the 25-year-old has allowed 11 hits, six walks, five earned runs and a pair of home runs in his last 10.1 innings of work. He has a win, and a save in that span, but also a hold and three losses. He also struck out 14 batters in those 10.1 innings, but the results certainly haven’t been ideal as of late.

Luis Patino (SP – TB)

The centerpiece of the Blake Snell trade, the talented 22-year-old hasn’t fully established himself in the Rays rotation yet, though that may be changing.

Luis Patino has been limited to just two starts this year due to injury but logged a 4.31 ERA, a 4.51 FIP, 74 strikeouts and 29 walks in 77.1 innings last season. He also registered an 11.4% swinging strike percentage, and while it was in a slightly smaller sample size, it was better than those of Max Fried (11.1%) and Sonny Gray (10.6%) and right behind the likes of Walker Buehler (11.6%), Pablo Lopez (11.8%) and Lance Lynn (12.0%).

Opponents hit just .228 with a .338 xwOBA against Patino’s four-seam fastball last year, which checked in with an average velocity of 95.7 MPH. That offering and his slider (33.3% whiff rate in 2021) will be crucial moving forward with Patino back in the Rays’ rotation mix.

And the right-hander probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Not with Shane Baz on the 60-day injured list recently and Jeffrey Springs on the 15-day injured list.

As long as Patino can get consistent starts in Tampa Bay, he’ll have a chance to be a quality fantasy contributor, especially considering the pitcher win upside. The Rays entered play Thursday with 51 wins, the seventh-most wins in the league. And while Kevin Cash’s rotation has just 24 pitcher wins on the season, 21 of them come from the team’s three most utilized starters: Shane McClanahan, Corey Kluber and Drew Rasmussen. All three have at least five wins.

It’s not hard to imagine Patino finding similar success, especially considering that Tampa Bay plays 28 of their first 32 games in the second half against teams in the league’s bottom half in runs scored. Of those 28 games, 15 are against the Angels, Royals and Tigers, three teams in the bottom five in the league in runs scored.

Mitch Keller (SP – PIT)

Mitch Keller hasn’t quite been able to put it all together after a promising 11-start debut during the 2019 season.

After posting a 3.19 FIP in 48 innings during those 11 starts, Keller struggled at times in the next two seasons, working to a cumulative 5.59 ERA and 4.74 FIP in 122.1 innings throughout the 2020 and 2021 campaigns.

But things are turning around for the 26-year-old, especially as of late.

Keller owns a 4.55 ERA in 89 innings this season, but his 3.86 FIP tells a much different and more accurate story regarding his effectiveness. The former top prospect has given up just one earned run in his last 13 innings. Turn the calendar back even more, and you’ll see a pitcher producing at the same level as some of the league’s most effective starters.

Just like with Effross, let’s look at some blind resumes.

Since May 18 (through the beginning of play on Thursday):

  • Starting Pitcher A: 56.1 IP, 3.36 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 8.15 K/9, 3.51 BB/9, 0.48 HR/9
  • Starting Pitcher B: 59 IP, 2.59 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 8.39 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, 0.76 HR/9

Starting Pitcher A is Keller. Starting Pitcher B? That would be Joe Musgrove.

Want more blind resumes from May 18 through Thursday compared to Keller’s numbers? You’ve got them.

  • Mitch Keller: 56.1 IP, 3.36 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 8.15 K/9, 3.51 BB/9, 0.48 HR/9
  • Starting Pitcher C: 72.2 IP, 2.60 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 7.93 K/9, 1.98 BB/9, 0.87 HR/9
  • Starting Pitcher D: 47.2 IP, 2.83 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 8.87 K/9, 2.08 BB/9, 0.94 HR/9
  • Starting Pitcher E: 60.2 IP, 2.82 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 10.09 K/9, 2.08 BB/9, 1.19 HR/9
  • Starting Pitcher F: 48.1 IP, 3.72 ERA, 3.07 FIP, 6.89 K/9, 1.49 BB/9, 0.56 HR/9

Those starting pitchers, beginning with Starting Pitcher C, are Alek Manoah, Frankie Montas, Julio Urias and Sonny Gray.

There are some slight differences, whether the innings or Keller’s slightly higher walk rate. Still, the Pittsburgh starter makes for an ideal waiver wire or trade target for fantasy managers searching for quality rotation options.

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