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The Watchlist: Bubba Thompson, Chad Pinder, Curtis Mead (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

The Watchlist: Bubba Thompson, Chad Pinder, Curtis Mead (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

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.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Watch List

Bubba Thompson (OF – TEX)

Thanks to a number of new rules and changes, including larger bases, stolen base totals might be on the rise in the sport. That could lead to players like Thompson, whose primary fantasy contribution comes in stolen bases, seeing their fantasy value take a bit of a hit due to the potential increase in stolen bases elsewhere.

Still, that shouldn’t stop fantasy managers from adding the Texas Rangers outfielder.

Currently sporting an ADP of 442.47 per NFBC, Thompson hit .265 with a .302 on-base percentage and a home run in 181 plate appearances for Texas down the stretch last season. Most notably, he stole 18 bases during that span, turning the tide in a number of fantasy matchups in the process.

Thompson’s batted ball data wasn’t ideal last season, largely considering it was devoid of hard contact, with a .274 wOBA, a .203 xwOBA, and a .263 xwOBAcon to go along with a 21.6% hard-hit rate and 1.7% barrel rate pairing. The 26-year-old also struck out 30.9% of the time.

In most situations, that’d be a cause for concern for fantasy managers, but it isn’t necessarily for Thompson due to his stolen base upside, but also due to the possibility of a significant number of plate appearances.

With batters, consistent playing time can be the tide that rises all ships where counting stats are concerned, particularly stolen bases in the right scenarios.

Thompson, speculatively speaking, looked like a decent bet to get something resembling regular playing time in the Rangers’ outfield alongside Adolis Garcia and Leody Taveras.

However, now with Taveras reportedly dealing with an oblique injury, it could further cement Thompson’s role in the early part of the season.

The Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant tweeted the following on March 6:

“‘Leody Taveras has a ‘low-grade oblique strain’, per Chris Young. Sounds like a couple of weeks. Did not rule out OD roster, but also spoke highly of Bubba Thompson’s ability to contribute to team even if his defense is ahead of offense. Moving Garcia to CF also possible if needed.”

Thompson could bring significant value where stolen bases are concerned. We’ve seen it before last season, and we could see it again this season. However, if he maintains a full-time role for the bulk of the 2023 season, the outfielder could make a significant fantasy impact.

Chad Pinder (OF/1B/2B/3B – CIN)

If you’re looking for this season’s Brandon Drury, it might be Chad Pinder.

Pinder, like Drury prior to last season, signed with the Reds on a minor league deal.

Pinder, also like Drury, can play all over the field. Just last season for Oakland he saw playing time in left field, right field, and at all three infield positions not called “shortstop.”

Drury was one of fantasy baseball’s best waiver wire pickups last season due to his versatility and production at the plate.

There’s certainly a world where Pinder follows in his footsteps.

He’s hit above .245 just once in his career and probably isn’t going to hit .270 as Drury did with the Reds last season, but the power potential is definitely there.

To say Pinder is an ideal fit for Great American Ballpark is probably an understatement.

The former A’s player batted .235 with a .263 on-base percentage, 12 home runs, and two stolen bases in 379 plate appearances for Oakland last season. However, his expected home run tally for Great American Ballpark was 18. In the past two seasons, his expected home run number for the Reds’ home stadium (34) far outstrips his actual home run total during that span (18).

The same is true of Pinder’s career expected home run number for Great American Ballpark (100) and his actual home run total (64).

Pinder is only hitting .125 with a .222 on-base percentage in 27 spring training plate appearances this season, but baseball’s preseason is hardly over yet, and given the Reds’ roster, Pinder could be a candidate to see significant playing time early if prospects Spencer Steer, Elly De La Cruz and Jose Barrero either struggle or aren’t ready for the Majors. It’s a similar story in the outfield, where things are hardly settled outside of Wil Myers and perhaps Jake Fraley.

Dynasty Addition/Trade Target Of The Week

Curtis Mead (1B/3B – TB)

FanGraphsEric Longerhagen and Tess Taruskin wrote the following about Curtis Mead in their breakdown of the publication’s top 100 prospects in an article from February 22:

“He has impeccable hitter’s timing and a swing that is equal parts balanced and explosive, generating plus all fields power despite barely utilizing any sort of stride.”

Mead, it should be noted, ranked 27th on that list.

With a history of production in the minors, it only seems like a matter of when, not if, Mead makes an impact at the Major League level. And while he won’t make Tampa Bay’s Opening Day roster, having recently been optioned to minor league camp on Monday, the infielder has had an encouraging spring.

Entering play Monday, he owned a .918 OPS and a pair of home runs in 22 Spring Training plate appearances.

In the short term, the demotion combined with the Rays’ distribution of playing time among their infielders via platoons could lead fantasy managers to downplay Mead’s 2023 fantasy ceiling, but there’s so much potential here – both in the short term and in the long term.

Mead isn’t going to steal a lot of bases, but he’s going to essentially help with every other offensive category from batting average or on-base percentage to runs scored, home runs, and RBI.

That Tampa Bay has Isaac Paredes and Yandy Diaz on hand at both infield corners, not to mention Harold Ramirez at first base and Vidal Brujan and Jonathan Aranda at third base might cloud Mead’s short-term fantasy ceiling on paper.

It shouldn’t.

The Rays, at least based on past data, haven’t shied away from rookies who can make an impact. Dating back to 2015, only four teams have gotten a higher fWAR from rookies than the Rays (24.0) have. And Mead should be just that whenever he debuts, an impact rookie.

Considering Tampa Bay finished in the bottom third in the league in runs scored last season and didn’t make any significant additions to their lineup this winter, Mead could theoretically step into the middle of the lineup upon his Major League debut, which would give him plenty of run-scoring and RBI chances hitting alongside the likes of Wander Franco, Randy Arozarena and Diaz.

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