WATCHLIST: Hilliard, Rojas lead expanded coverage

The WatchList offers a weekly quick-hit look at position players and pitchers with potential to impact fantasy rosters throughout the 2019 regular season, whether that be due to injury or outstanding performance. The WatchList aims to illuminate prospects who are not regularly featured in "top prospect" columns, but rather, those prospects who are on the fringe of the HQ100 or lower. Call-ups are often difficult to predict, but these are players to keep in mind if your league rules allow minor-league pickups.

*All statistics current through August 15, 2019* | 2019 WatchList Production Tracker

Hitters

Joshua Rojas (UTIL, ARI)
MLBA19 Prospect Grade: N/A
5x5 Impact Category: AVG

Added to an increasingly improving D-Backs system via the Zack Greinke deadline trade last month, Rojas has quietly been one of the most dynamic hitters in the upper minors in 2019, slashing .332/.418/.606 with 23 HR and 33 SB across 105 games. The former 26th-round pick is now back with his hometown club, and projects to be eligible at several positions (2B, 3B, OF, SS), which will both earn him PT in Arizona's lineup while also providing some value for deep-league owners down the stretch run. We're banking on Rojas making most of his fantasy impact in AVG, as he is a career .288 hitter in the minors with a 82% ct%, generally above-average line drive rates, and solid plate skills (0.70 Eye). The University of Hawaii product possesses above-average speed and good instincts to corral a handful of SB down the stretch, and though his power is mostly limited to his pull side, he shows ability to distribute the ball to all fields consistently for high-volume doubles and is relatively platoon-proof (1.064 OPS vR; .874 vL in 2019). The beauty of his profile is that while it lacks an elite tool, it also lacks any apparent weakness, and combined with his defensive versatility, he should be on the radar of every owner moving closer to September.

Luis Robert (OF, CHW)
MLBA19 Prospect Grade: 9E
5x5 Impact Category: SB

One of the more coveted bats in the minors for dynasty owners heading into 2019, Robert should now be considered a potential option in redraft leagues for the remainder of 2019, as he has provided one of the best statistical lines in the minors in 2019: .333/.386/.612, 24 HR, 35 SB across 103 games and three different levels (A+/AA/AAA). The White Sox possibly didn't expect such a season from the 22-year-old outfielder, but regardless, he's now challenging for PT in Chicago's outfield and could be up relatively soon. Once that happens, Robert's best chance for fantasy impact will be with his legs, as his is a borderline plus-plus runner with quick-twitch athleticism required to steal bases right away. Robert's approach and plate skills remain a bit questionable (5.9% bb%, 0.22 Eye), as he is ultra-aggressive and is still refining his ability to recognize spin consistently, but the ball goes places when he connects. A former July 2 international signee, Robert's raw power is plus and it plays to all fields, and he has started to tap into fly ball trajectories more in 2019 (49% fb% in 2019; 35% in 2018). All in all, this is a prospect with potentially plus tools across the board, and despite the caveat of below-average plate skills, he should make some impact right away.

Darick Hall (1B, PHI)
MLBA19 Prospect Grade: N/A
5x5 Impact Category: HR

The Phillies found themselves in a free-fall toward .500 entering this week, and are now in fourth place in the NL East after an expensive offseason. At least part of the problem has been offense, or lack thereof, as the club has posted the sixth-lowest wRC+ in the majors (84) over the last 30 days. Hall could be in position to help at some point in the next few weeks, as he has been one of the best hitters in Double-A this season, slashing .249/.361/.495 with 20 HR in 113 games with Reading. This is the kind of bat that could take off with the adjustment in the ball at AAA/MLB, as he already possesses plus-plus raw power (he has eclipsed 20 HR in four straight seasons in the minors) that has manifested in both above-average fly ball rates and solid HR/FB marks. One of the more encouraging signs for Hall in 2019 has been a marked improvement in plate skills, as he has doubled his walk rate from 5.4% in 2018 to 11.6% in 2019 while improving his raw power production. Tall and hulking at 6-4, 235, Hall's contact skills aren't great, or even average (72% in 2019), and he doesn't bring speed to the table and is limited to 1B in fantasy formats. However, he hits LH and RH almost equally well, and with raw power and on-base ability, he's worth a look in 15-team or NL-only formats.

Sam Hilliard (OF, COL)
MLBA19 Prospect Grade: 8D
5x5 Impact Category: SB

First Pitch Arizona attendees got an up-close-and-personal look at Hilliard with Salt River last fall, a brief campaign during which the 25-year-old slashed .328/.389/.516 with 2 HR and 2 SB in 16 games. The Wichita State product is no stranger to being a stat-stuffing bat as a pro; over five pro seasons and 553 games, he owns an .824 OPS with 84 HR and 122 SB. Power and speed has once again come in bunches for Hilliard in 2019, where in the hitter-friendly PCL, he has hit .260 with 30 HR and 20 SB in 112 games and could be on the cusp of a promotion in the near future. There's a good chance that Hilliard's most playable tool for the remainder of the 2019 fantasy season is his speed, as he is a plus runner with potential to steal 25-30 SB over a full season despite a larger 6-5, 225 pound frame. After a down 2018 campaign, Hilliard's HR power production has ticked up this summer by way of an increase in fly balls (36% to 41%), and as a pro, he has shown ability to spray the ball to all fields consistently. The downside in the profile is that contact can be an issue (67% contact rate in the PCL; average is 75%), and his approach isn't refined (0.22 Eye in the minors). Overall, the HR-SB potential volume here is intriguing, but you may have to sacrifice AVG/OBP to get it.

Pitchers

Nate Pearson (RHP, TOR)
MLBA19 Prospect Grade: 9D
L5 PQS (AA): 2 4 2 2 2 

Pearson was arguably the talk of the Arizona Fall League last year when he touched 104 mph on multiple radar guns, a feat that masked an otherwise pedestrian statistical campaign in the desert (6.20 ERA, 23 K/13 BB in 20.1 IP) after missing almost all of 2018 with a broken arm. His first season at presumably full health has been encouraging for TOR and fantasy owners, because he could be in for a cup of coffee in the near future given he way he has pitched. The 22-year-old righty owns a 2.84 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 9.9 Dom across 15 starts at Double-A this summer, and his above-average 12.5% SwK supports the strikeout totals thus far. Two encouraging things for Pearson moving forward are A) the fact that he has toned down his walks (2.8 Ctl; down from 5.8 in the AFL), and B) the fact that he has worked a bit deeper into his starts recently, averaging 88 pitches/start over his last three starts compared to just 50 prior to that. Given Pearson's health history, TOR may take things easy on him moving forward, but he has the ability to make some impact as a reliever in September given his power fastball-slider combo. If not, bank on a 2020 promotion to the rotation with a chance to be productive right away.

David Peterson (LHP, NYM)
MLBA19 Prospect Grade: 7B
L5 PQS (AA): 4 3 1 3 2

A productive three-year starter at the University of Oregon, the Mets nabbed Peterson with the 20th overall pick back in 2017 and he pitched sufficiently well in the low minors, going 7-10 with a 3.16 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and a 8.1/1.7 Dom/Ctl mix across 128 innings in his first full season last summer. His 2019 campaign in AA has been a mixed bag, as his walks have increased, but so too have his strikeouts, as his 9.3 Dom ranks 11th-highest among qualified Double-A starters this season. Tall and strong at 6-6, 240, Peterson works from a lower 3/4 slot and offers a four-pitch mix that includes a 90-92 mph fastball with moderate sink, and he shows good command of the pitch down in the zone. His change-up and slider both have flashed above average in two pro seasons, and he will also blend in a mid-70s curveball as a pace-changer. Two things about Peterson that are intriguing long-term are firstly his ability to miss bats (13.1% SwK in AA this year), and secondly, his penchant for ground ball contact (52.2% gb%; fourth-highest among AA arms). This is an arm that won't get publicity given that he doesn't have plus stuff, but he brings two key attributes to the table, and may be an option in deeper formats moving forward.

Scott Moss (LHP, CLE)
MLBA19 Prospect Grade: 7C
L5 PQS (AA): 2 4 1 3 4

Moss was acquired by the Indians in the three-team deal that saw Trevor Bauer jump ship to CIN at the deadline, and his first two starts with Double-A Akron have not been unimpressive, registering PQS 3 and 4 in those starts with a pair of winning decisions. The University of Florida product has been a workhorse of a starter at the Double-A level in 2019, going 8-5 with a 3.13 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and the third-highest Dom (10.9) among qualified pitchers in the upper minors this summer. There's no doubt that Moss has upside both as an SP or RP long term, as he has posted SwK% as high as 15-16% in the pro ranks, even if that comes at the expense of some control issues that could eventually place him in a late-inning bullpen role down the road. His arsenal lacks a true plus pitch, but he has three useable offerings at his disposal, including an average low-90s fastball with arm-side movement and a late-breaking slider that misses bats at a healthy rate. His change-up lags between the two aforementioned pitches, as it lacks consistent action and location. Moss is a fly ball pitcher whose strike-throwing can be iffy, so proceed with caution before investing in an otherwise fringe arm overall, but the durability coupled with SwK% should catch our attention.

Bowden Francis (RHP, MIL)
MLBA19 Prospect Grade: N/A
L5 PQS (AA): 2 2 5 2 2

With half of their starting rotation on the IL and the July 31 trade deadline in the rearview mirror, the Brewers will assuredly look to the minors for help in the interim as they chase a postseason berth. Trey Supak was one option we profiled last week, but Francis could be another in line for a promotion in the next few weeks. The 23-year-old righty has spent time at both A+ and AA this season, and across 100-plus innings holds true to a 4.02 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and above-average marks in Dom (9.9) and strikeout rate (26%). Tall and strong at 6-5, 225, Francis works from a low 3/4 to traditional 3/4 slot, and can run his fastball up to 94 mph and hum consistently around 90-93 mph with moderate sink and run. A horizontal slider in the mid-80s is Francis's go-to pitch, which is particularly difficult on right-handed batters and has allowed him to record a well above-average 13.3% SwK% overall this season, which is sixth-highest among qualified AA arms. His change-up is a fringe-average third offering, but allows him to change pace against left-handed hitters enough to keep them off-balance. Overall, this isn't a high-ceiling arm, but one that brings SwK% and Dom to the table and could be productive right from the get-go over the next few weeks.


Click here to subscribe

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