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8 Players with Game-Changing Potential Worth Monitoring

Last Monday, we addressed eight hitters off waivers to kick-start a struggling offense. But fantasy baseball is relentless, and its unrelenting managers understand the importance of hitting waivers every week. Thus, ready to offer up another octet of under-the-radar players available on the wire, I’m back.

The value in monitoring players, of course, is clear to any manager with first-place aspirations. However, it can be difficult to keep track. Not only do you need follow the entire league, but you’ve got to beat 8-15 other people to the punch when that diamond-in-the-rough finally does emerge. So without further delay, let’s explore: Eight players – all widely available but not yet viable as roster options – that demand your attention moving forward.


Eight Players with Big Promise Worth Monitoring

*Please note all stats are accurate entering play on Monday, June 24th*

Jarred Kelenic, OF, ATL

.270/.313/.444, 7 HR, 21 RBI, 2 SB, 23 R over 62 G (196 AB)

When Ronald Acuna Jr.’s season ended abruptly on May 26, it left a gaping hole in Atlanta’s outfield. And when Atlanta placed Michael Harris III on the IL with a hamstring strain on June 15, it only widened. As a result, all eyes in the last few days have turned to Jarred Kelenic – the former top prospect who has gone from platoon player to batting leadoff in their absence.

Although he’s been hot lately with a recent power surge since batting leadoff, Kelenic’s numbers don’t jump off the page. However, without a doubt – especially considering his lofty expectations as a prospect (the Mets took him sixth overall in 2018), the counting stats that come with batting leadoff, and the strength of Atlanta’s lineup – the outfielder is sure to become a hot commodity soon. Watch Kelenic closely in shallow leagues and consider claiming him pre-emptively in deeper leagues.

Michael Stefanic, 2B, LAA

.214/.290/.250, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB, 1 R over 9 G (28 AB)

It’s easy to forget (if you noticed in the first place), but Michael Stefanic finished last season by hitting .400 in his last 38 plate appearances as a September call-up. Additionally, his incredible ability to get on-base (where’s Brad Pitt?) led him to an exceptional 62-game on-base streak last season for Triple-A Salt Lake that highlighted a .365/.463/.467, 5 HR, 62 RBI campaign over 99 games in the minors.

Unfortunately, Stefanic suffered a quadriceps injury in spring training that cost him more than two months. Still, he’s back in the show now after 19 games in AAA (.344/.440/.426) and has every chance to pick up where he left off. At the moment he’s a part-time starter for the Angels – making him unviable as a roster option – but Stefanic is a terrific average-first hitter and could easily be on the cusp of fantasy relevance. One of the better options on this list, Stefanic is absolutely someone worth monitoring.

Edward Cabrera, SP, MIA

7.17 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 1-2 W/L, 31 K through 21.1 IP (5 GS)

Marlins pitcher Edward Cabrera – who began the season injured  – exited his May 7th start against the Dodgers with right biceps discomfort (a recurring issue). Since he got off to a tough start, naturally, the updates on his recovery have been less frequent and the RHP quickly flew under the radar. However, last week Cabrera made his first rehab start and – though he was just added to the 60-day IL, which implies a setback – is inching towards a return.

In spite of bloated numbers that make him difficult to roster, it’s important to remember that Cabrera screams upside. Known for his elite strikeout percentage (32% this season), a quick glance at his Savant page reveals he has electric stuff. That’s balanced by an egregious walk percentage and a concerning injury history – exactly why Cabrera is only worth monitoring right now – but with his stuff, absolutely watch and track his recovery status. If he can figure it out (kind of like how Luis Gil managed to lower his BB%), Cabrera could quickly become an elite starter.

Ryan Bliss, 2B, SEA

.265/.345/.429, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 4 SB, 8 R over 21 G (49 AB)

Ryan Bliss, the Mariner’s No.11 ranked prospect, got the call to the majors when Seattle placed struggling second baseman Jorge Polanco on the IL with a hamstring strain back on May 27th. Given roughly every day playing time, Bliss – managing 4 SB – overcame initial struggles and enjoyed a largely successful first big-league tenure. However, with Polanco expected to be activated today, it’s likely Bliss will find himself back in Triple-A as a result (although he’s been red-hot lately, so maybe not). But even in Tacoma, he’s still absolutely worth monitoring.

The reason being, in this writer’s opinion, because of Red Sox infielder David Hamilton. Now slashing .283/.335/.434 with a whopping 21 steals, Hamilton began this season on the bench until suddenly he got a chance. Now on pace steal over 40 bases, he is a fantasy stud and a great asset to any lineup. Bliss, of course, has a nearly identical combination of power and elite speed (recall: 28 steals in just 50 AAA games this season) and given Polanco’s struggles at the plate (.195/.293/.302 over 159 AB), there’s a chance a similar situation could unfold in Seattle. It’s probably too late to capitalize off of the surprise that is David Hamilton, but Ryan Bliss could be the next diamond. That’s especially true if his recent hot streak is a taste of what’s to come. Definitely keep him on your radar.

Heston Kjerstad, OF, BAL

.300/.397/.601, 16 HR, 58 RBI, 2 SB, 49 R over 56 G (213 AB) at Triple-A Norfolk

Fantasy-wise, it’s a shame the Orioles are such a stacked team at both Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk. There are so many deserving prospects dominating the minor leagues for the O’s, and there simply isn’t enough room to give them a chance in the majors. Ultimately, the 25-year-old former second overall pick Heston Kjerstad probably headlines that list.

While he was given a few micro-stints with the Orioles at the end of 2023 (.233/.281/.467) and at the beginning of this season (.143/.294/.143), Kjerstad is getting the call for a third time after Baltimore was swept by the Astros over the weekend. It’s important to be patient with the O’s loaded roster (remember, Kjerstad didn’t see much playing time earlier this year), but within his bat lies enormous potential. With the approaching trade deadline also in mind (and the reasonable possibility that Kjerstad could find himself on a team with more playing time available), watch him closely and be prepared to act fast.

Emerson Hancock, SP, SEA

4.79 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 3-3 W/L, 24 K through 41.1 IP (8 GS)

Beginning the season in the majors because of a last-minute injury to starter Bryan Woo, Hancock struggled out the gate and was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma on May 8th after seven starts. However, the once-touted prospect has impressed since his demotion to the tune of a 1.91 ERA, 1.o3 WHIP, and 29 K through 33 IP.

Culminating in a spot start on June 14th against the White Sox, Hancock threw seven innings of 2-run ball with two walks and one strikeout. Perhaps not the most exciting outing, but it’s still indicative of the 25-year-old reaching his full potential. Given the Mariners are a first-place team that offer fantasy managers a lot of opportunity, making a point to watch Hancock in the minors could prove valuable.

*Similarly, fantasy managers can also look to Yankees sixth starter Cody Poteet*

Otto Lopez, 2B, MIA

.241/.274/.343, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 5 SB, 15 R over 47 G (137 AB)

Though a recent slump (.154/.182/.192 over his last 15) has brought everything down, Lopez provides skippers with an intriguing skill set. An average-first hitter who normally hovers around .300, the key for Lopez as a fantasy asset comes down to whether or not he can become a major stolen base threat.

Only worth monitoring for now, at his best Lopez can provide fantasy managers with average, runs and 20-25+ steals. With the Marlins currently in last-place and thus more open to stealing and aggressive play, watch closely for what Lopez can accomplish.

Spencer Schwellenbach, SP, ATL

4.98 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 1-2 W/L, 19 K through 21.2 IP (4 GS)

Obviously, it can be difficult for a lot of fantasy managers to roster a starting pitcher with an ERA of 4.98. However, the Braves’ 23-year-old No.3 prospect has a lot going for him. At the forefront, of course, would be the fact he pitches for an elite team with offense to spare. And beyond that, he’s slated for a favorable two-start week (@STL, vs. PIT) that could lower his numbers (remember, he’s thrown just 21.2 IP) dramatically.

His minor league numbers this season are also incredible (1.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP), but they were mostly at A+. In shallow leagues, Schwellenbach is definitely worth monitoring and may even justify a cautious add in deeper leagues ahead of this week. Monitor closely.

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