Great Deno tidbit, and not to be a poo-pooer, but it goes to show people over-rate his range on this site.
This week’s Strike Zone looks at some potential callups capable of helping out over the rest of the season. I’m limiting myself to rookies or at least near rookies here, so guys like Erubiel Durazo and Carlos Pena are left out. Also included are updated projections for each player.
The team-by-team notes will return next week.
Josh Banks - RHP Blue Jays - Age 23
1-1, 2.85 ERA, 36 H, 32/5 K/BB in 41 IP for Triple-A Syracuse
That Banks and Josh Towers have similar arsenals is one of the reasons that the Jays passed over the 2003 second-round pick when they needed to replace the injured A.J. Burnett in the rotation last month. Banks, though, might soon get a chance to replace the struggling Towers. Outstanding command allowed Banks to post a 145/11 K/BB ratio in 162 1/3 IP for Double-A New Hampshire last season. His fastball is a little better than Towers’, although it’s still below average. His splitter is his strikeout pitch, and he also has a decent slider. The package should be enough to make him a No. 4 starter. If his command is there, he could be very good his first time around the league.
Projection: 6 wins, 4.36 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 60 Ks in 95 IP
Daric Barton - 1B Athletics - Age 20
.285/.411/.447, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 20/27 K/BB, 0 SB in 123 AB for Triple-A Sacramento
Barton’s chances of contributing in 2006 hinge on the health of Frank Thomas. If Thomas needs to spend a good chunk of the second half on the DL, then maybe the converted catcher would be hauled up from Triple-A and given an opportunity to DH against right-handers. Barton has one of the best batting eyes in the minors. He takes walks, and he’s willing to use the opposite field to pick up singles and doubles. Home runs still aren’t a big part of his game, though he might be good for 20 bombs per year beginning in 2008 or ‘09. Since he’s also not a basestealer, it may be a while before he’s a fantasy stud. For 2006 alone, he’s one of the weaker bets listed here.
Projection: .268/.358/.390, 1 HR, 11 R, 9 RBI, 0 SB in 82 AB
Chad Billingsley - RHP Dodgers - Age 21
3-0, 3.44 ERA, 29 H, 43/14 K/BB in 36 2/3 IP for Triple-A Las Vegas
Since Cole Hamels received the call last week, Billingsley is now the minor league starter most likely to make a big impact in fantasy leagues this year. A 2003 first-round pick, Billingsley reaches the mid-90s with his fastball and features a pair of quality breaking balls. Once he eventually gets the call, he’ll have the advantage of pitching in Dodger Stadium and in the NL West. That hardly guarantees that he’ll dominate right away, but he’s someone who could contribute in shallow mixed leagues. By the end of 2007, he could be the Dodgers’ best pitcher.
Projection: 7 wins, 3.95 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 89 Ks in 107 IP
Jason Botts - OF Rangers - Age 25
.315/.366/.600, 8 HR, 28 RBI, 38/10 K/BB, 4 SB in 130 AB for Triple-A Oklahoma
An 897 OPS for Triple-A Oklahoma in 2005 didn’t put Botts into the Rangers’ plans for the start of this season. Phil Nevin was handed the DH job at the start of the spring, and even David Dellucci’s departure wasn’t sufficient to get him considered for an outfield spot. Botts is a tough player to figure. At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, he looks like a potential 40-homer guy. However, 25 is his high in the minors and it seems unlikely that he’d top that in the majors even given 500 at-bats. Also, while he runs quite a bit better than one would expect, he has a poor defensive reputation in left field and might be best off as a DH. The Rangers may give him a try if an injury opens up an outfield spot. He could help them right now as a DH against right-handers.
Projection: .272/.338/.441, 5 HR, 17 R, 20 RBI, 1 SB in 136 AB
Lance Broadway - RHP White Sox - Age 22
4-1, 1.42 ERA, 42 H, 42/10 K/BB in 50 2/3 IP for Double-A Birmingham
Since knuckleballer Charlie Haeger didn’t inspire much confidence in a rough major league debut Wednesday against the Angels, Broadway, a 2005 first-round pick, might be the choice if the White Sox ever need to reach down for another starter. Also, he’ll surely be pursued by other teams when GM Ken Williams looks to upgrade at the deadline. An exceptional curveball could allow Broadway to succeed in the majors right away. He currently lacks the plus fastball or changeup he’ll need to become more than a third or fourth starter, but until the league sees his curve a few times, he could be quite an asset.
Projection: 3 wins, 4.24 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 38 Ks in 51 IP
Cesar Carrillo - RHP Padres - Age 22
1-3, 3.02 ERA, 42 H, 38/12 K/BB in 44 2/3 IP for Double-A Mobile
Carrillo, a 2005 first-round pick out of the University of Miami, lacks Billingsley’s potential, but with Petco Park aiding him, he has a chance to be a $15 pitcher in NL-only leagues for a number of years. Especially since Tim Stauffer is performing poorly in Triple-A, it appears likely that Carrillo will get a shot this year. He’s not going to replace Woody Williams right now, but look for him to debut sometime around the All-Star break. Carrillo has three major league pitches in his low-90s fastball, curve and changeup. He’s not going to dominate, but he’s a safer bet than most pitching prospects to become a reliable pitcher.
Projection: 5 wins, 4.05 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 61 Ks in 80 IP
Nelson Cruz - OF Brewers - Age 25
.298/.369/.573, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 33/15 K/BB, 6 SB in 131 AB for Triple-A Nashville
It’s probably going to take a trade. Besides the starting outfielders, Cruz also has Gabe Gross, Corey Hart and maybe Bill Hall ahead of him in line for playing time in Milwaukee. The Brewers may choose to part with either Cruz or Hart to upgrade their pitching staff if they’re still in contention in July, and it’s possible Cruz could then play regularly for another team during the final two months. Cruz probably wouldn’t hit for average right away, but he has 25-homer power and he can also steal some bases. He’d be intriguing if he received an opportunity.
Projection: .260/.313/.433, 4 HR, 12 R, 15 RBI, 3 SB in 104 AB
Chris Denorfia - OF Reds - Age 25
.306/.379/.471, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 8/10 K/BB, 4 SB in 85 AB for Triple-A Louisville
.500/.556/.750, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1/1 K/BB, 0 SB in 8 AB for Cincinnati
The Reds recently added Cody Ross to their bench, but Denorfia will be more worthy of regular at-bats should a job open up. The 2002 19th-round pick began drawing comparisons to Brady Clark while hitting .310/.391/.505 in 91 games after moving up to Triple-A last year, and he’s hit .304/.396/.478 in 46 at-bats during three stints with the Reds to date. He probably doesn’t quite have the range to be an everyday center fielder, but he’ll be OK there in bursts and he may hit well enough to be an acceptable corner outfielder in his prime. The Reds will probably have need for him at some point in the second half.
Projection: .275/.343/.427, 6 HR, 30 R, 29 RBI, 5 SB in 211 AB
Stephen Drew - SS Diamondbacks - Age 23
.296/.350/.500, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 24/13 K/BB, 1 SB in 142 AB for Triple-A Tucson
Craig Counsell is both an injury risk and a candidate to be dealt in July, making Drew one of the better choices among the hitters on this list. Whether Drew will be a long-term shortstop is still up in the air, but the Diamondbacks are committed to giving him an opportunity there. His bat is nearly ready now. With strong on-base skills and 25-homer power, Drew may develop into a No. 3 hitter for the Diamondbacks. That he doesn’t steal bases probably won’t prevent him from becoming a $25-$30 fantasy infielder at his peak. Since he’ll have a ballpark that will aid him, he could be a factor in mixed leagues right away.
Projection: .268/.337/.443, 6 HR, 26 R, 29 RBI, 2 SB in 194 AB
Alex Gordon - 3B Royals - Age 22
.304/.379/.541, 7 HR, 17 RBI, 30/15 K/BB, 9 SB in 135 AB for Double-A Wichita
The Royals seemed steadfast in their belief in Mark Teahen at the beginning of the season, but that has changed now, as he’s in Triple-A and Esteban German is filling in at third base in Kansas City. That doesn’t make it a lock that Gordon will spend the final two months as the Royals’ third baseman or even that he’ll be a third baseman when he arrives in the majors, but it seems like a better bet than ever that he will remain at his natural position. Gordon should have the range to stay at the hot corner for at least the first half of his career, and if that happens, his bat will make him a legitimate superstar. My guess is that he’ll debut in August.
Projection: .261/.329/.441, 5 HR, 19 R, 22 RBI, 3 SB in 161 AB
Tom Gorzelanny - LHP Pirates - Age 23
2-2, 3.02 ERA, 32 H, 49/16 K/BB in 44 2/3 IP for Triple-A Indianapolis
Sean Burnett still isn’t all the way back from elbow and shoulder surgeries, so Gorzelanny is the top sleeper in the Pirates’ minor league system at the moment. Using a low-90s fastball, a plus slider and a splitter that acts as a changeup, Gorzelanny is able to rack up strikeouts against righties as well as lefties. He is an injury risk -- the Pirates were concerned enough about his elbow last year to send him to see Dr. James Andrews -- but he’s escaped any serious problems to date. I think he’s one of the most underrated prospects around.
Projection: 7 wins, 3.87 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 82 Ks in 107 IP
Scott Hairston - OF Diamondbacks - Age 25
.303/.392/.568, 8 HR, 23 RBI, 33/18 K/BB, 1 SB in 132 AB for Triple-A Tucson
Hairston, a converted second baseman, has made a strong return from the torn labrum that ended his 2005 season early. There’s no room for him in Arizona and there probably never will be, but any team bright enough to trade for him will have itself a fine left fielder and middle-of-the-order hitter for a few years. Hairston gets on base and has 25-homer power. My guess is that the Diamondbacks will sell him off for a pitching prospect in July, and he’ll get a chance to play fairly regularly in August and September.
Projection: .273/.341/.455, 8 HR, 24 R, 30 RBI, 1 SB in 187 AB
Brendan Harris - INF Nationals - Age 25
.333/.441/.524, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 17/13 K/BB, 2 SB in 84 AB for Triple-A New Orleans
The Nationals are set at second and third, assuming that Jose Vidro stays healthy, but they have toyed around with the idea of using Harris at shortstop, much like they did with Ryan Zimmerman last year. Due to his lack of range, Harris wouldn’t be a long-term option at the position. However, he’d likely handle the routine play and contribute enough on offense to be an overall upgrade from Royce Clayton. At this point, the team has absolutely nothing to lose by giving him an opportunity.
Projection: .275/.343/.391, 5 HR, 28 R, 26 RBI, 5 SB in 233 AB
Corey Hart - OF Brewers - Age 24
.309/.377/.553, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 24/10 K/BB, 9 SB in 94 AB for Triple-A Nashville
.333/.333/.333, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1/0 K/BB, 1 SB in 3 AB for Milwaukee
Hart was supposed to be the Brewers’ fourth outfielder and a backup at the infield corners to start this season. Instead, he fell out of favor after Gabe Gross got off to a terrific start and wasn’t written into the lineup even once before being sent down two weeks in. It seems clear that Hart is ready to contribute. He had a .308/.377/.536 line in Triple-A last year, and he’s doing just as well this season. The Brewers may let him play regularly if Carlos Lee is traded in July, though that’s something that seems less likely to happen with each passing week, or if someone gets hurt. Perhaps Hart will be the one to get traded when the Brewers are looking for pitching. If he plays regularly over the final two months, he’ll likely be valuable. He swiped 31 bases in Triple-A last year.
Projection: .282/.331/.447, 7 HR, 23 R, 27 RBI, 8 SB in 170 AB
Philip Hughes - RHP Yankees - Age 19
2-3, 1.80 ERA, 19 H, 30/2 K/BB in 30 IP for Single-A Tampa
0-1, 4.50 ERA, 12 H, 8/3 K/BB in 12 IP for Double-A Trenton
Hughes remains a long shot to contribute in 2006, but he has too much potential to be ignored here. The 19-year-old made the jump to Double-A after a total of 47 2/3 innings in the Florida State League and is off to a decent start in Double-A. Ironically, his best chance to make an impact this year might require him staying with the Yankees. A non-contender would be less wise to rush him. The Yankees will try to hold on to them even though it looks like they may need both a starting pitcher and a quality outfielder at the deadline. If they sell off prospects for the outfielder, it might be that they’ll try Hughes to give their rotation a lift in August and September. My guess is that it won’t quite come to that, and Hughes will enter 2007 as one of the game’s top-three pitching prospects.
Jon Lester - LHP Red Sox - Age 22
2-4, 4.05 ERA, 26 H, 29/11 K/BB in 26 2/3 IP for Triple-A Pawtucket
Lester had a rough spring and it carried over into the start of the regular season, but he’s thrown better at Pawtucket in his last couple of starts. Since David Wells appears unlikely to hold up for the entire second half and Jonathan Papelbon won’t be coming out of the bullpen to start, Lester could become a possibility for the Red Sox come July or August. He’s probably not going to be of a lot of help until 2007 at the earliest, but as a left-hander with a mid-90s fastball and excellent strikeout ability, he’s pretty exciting.
Projection: 2 wins, 4.62 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 33 Ks in 37 IP
Andy Marte - 3B Indians - Age 22
.240/.331/.336, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 38/18 K/BB, 1 SB in 125 AB for Triple-A Buffalo
Aaron Boone cooled rapidly after a hot start, but Marte hasn’t taken advantage. He only hit his first homer on Friday. Marte also played in the International League last year and hit .275/.372/.506, so it’s not like he can’t handle Triple-A. I still think he’s one of the game’s top 10 prospects. That said, it doesn’t look like he’s going to be ready to contribute during 2006. He’s going to have to go back to hitting like he did last year just to guarantee that he’ll be the frontrunner for a starting job in Cleveland entering next spring. He’ll be a Rookie of the Year contender in 2007, and he should approach 30 homers by 2008.
Projection: .258/.333/.409, 2 HR, 6 R, 9 RBI, 0 SB in 66 AB
Dustin McGowan - RHP Blue Jays - Age 24
1-1, 5.11 ERA, 13 H, 17/3 K/BB in 12 1/3 IP for Triple-A Syracuse
1-0, 7.94 ERA, 9 H, 7/6 K/BB in 5 2/3 IP for Toronto
The Jays had McGowan open the season in the pen in part because that was where he felt most comfortable, but after he struggled as a reliever following a late April callup, he’s going back into the rotation at Syracuse. It’s likely that the club will need him as a starter eventually, and if he pitches up to his ability, he could make more of an impact than either Casey Janssen or Josh Banks. He just needs to show better command of his hard fastball and plus curve. He could be a high-risk, high-reward pickup for AL-only leaguers in the second half.
Projection: 5 wins, 4.38 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 69 Ks in 76 IP
Lastings Milledge - OF Mets - Age 21
.291/.435/.457, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 30/24 K/BB, 8 SB in 127 AB for Triple-A Norfolk
Milledge has taken to Triple-A better than the Mets ever could have hoped. Most promising is the 27/23 K/BB ratio. The 2003 first-round pick entered the season with 166 strikeouts and 62 walks in 793 at-bats as a minor leaguer. Milledge still appears rather unlikely to contribute this season. Xavier Nady is in no danger of being replaced, and in the unlikely event that Milledge is moved for Barry Zito or Jason Schmidt at the trade deadline, there’d still be a good chance that he wouldn’t be used until September. It’s nearly certain that Milledge will be a starting outfielder in 2007. Since he could be a .300 hitter with 20-homer power and 20- to 30-steal ability by 2008, he’s an outstanding fantasy prospect.
Projection: .277/.314/.404, 1 HR, 8 R, 5 RBI, 3 SB in 47 AB
Kendry Morales - 1B Angels - Age 22
.269/.317/.400, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 23/9 K/BB, 0 SB in 130 AB for Triple-A Salt Lake
Morales is right there with Marte. When Casey Kotchman was diagnosed with mononucleosis and proceeded to struggle, the opportunity was there for Morales to make the jump to the majors. However, he’s flopped in Triple-A to date. The good news is that he’s just 22. Expectations were probably too high both right after he signed prior to 2005 and again after he posted an 879 OPS following a move up to Double-A last year. Morales can and will hit for average and power. He’s limited defensively and probably should be a long-term DH. However, if he can catch fire in Triple-A at some point, the Angels have an opening awaiting him.
Projection: .283/.329/.442, 4 HR, 13 R, 16 RBI, 1 SB in 113 AB
Dustin Nippert - RHP Diamondbacks - Age 25
5-0, 4.11 ERA, 33 H, 33/15 K/BB in 35 IP for Triple-A Tucson
Juan Cruz’s solid work so far has lessened the Diamondbacks’ need to bring up their top pitching prospect, but Nippert figures to spend at least the entire second half in the club’s rotation. Now fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery that pushed his timetable back one year, he’s showing a 94-mph fastball and an excellent knuckle-curve that gets him a lot of his strikeouts. He avoids home runs, which will serve him well in Arizona, and while he doesn’t have great command, he’s good enough now to survive in a rotation and he has plenty of room for growth. He should have a little value in NL-only leagues once he’s promoted.
Projection: 6 wins, 4.24 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 81 Ks in 102 IP
Dustin Pedroia - 2B/SS Red Sox - Age 22
.256/.354/.349, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 11/13 K/BB, 0 SB in 86 AB for Triple-A Pawtucket
Pedroia is off to a slow start after missing almost the entire spring with a shoulder injury and he’s yet to show that he’s a realistic option as a regular shortstop, but he still could be next in line should either Mark Loretta or Alex Gonzalez get hurt this season. A potential top-of-the-order hitter in the majors, Pedroia entered 2006 with a .310/.398/.473 line in 617 minor league at-bats. His power is unlikely to hold up in the majors, but playing in Boston should help him become a very good fantasy middle infielder in time. If an injury gives him a chance this year, he’ll probably hit for a decent average. He might not contribute much elsewhere right away.
Projection: .275/.353/.385, 1 HR, 14 R, 9 RBI, 1 SB in 91 AB
Mike Pelfrey - RHP Mets - Age 22
2-1, 1.64 ERA, 17 H, 26/2 K/BB in 22 IP for Single-A St. Lucie
0-0, 3.78 ERA, 23 H, 21/5 K/BB in 16 2/3 IP for Double-A Binghamton
Pelfrey, who didn’t sign until January after being made the ninth overall pick in the 2005 draft, might eventually get an opportunity to fill the hole in the Mets’ rotation. He’s probably not quite ready at this time, but by July or August, he could be an asset as a five- or six-inning starter. Pelfrey works at up to 95 mph and shows an average curve and a plus change. The total package could make him a No. 2 starter in two years. He’ll just need to show more consistency with the curve in order to succeed in the majors.
Projection: 4 wins, 3.90 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 52 Ks in 60 IP
Hayden Penn - RHP Orioles - Age 21
1-2, 1.93 ERA, 16 H, 21/10 K/BB in 23 1/3 IP for Triple-A Ottawa
Penn was held back in extended spring training at the start of the year, but he’s pitched very well since joining Ottawa in the last week of April and it might not be long before he’s given the opportunity to replace Bruce Chen in Baltimore’s rotation. First, he’ll have to do a little better job of spotting his pitches. He had a 6.34 ERA and an 18/21 K/BB ratio in 38 1/3 innings after being hurried to the majors last year. Penn projects as a long-term No. 3. His low-90s fastball doesn’t generate an excessive number of swings and misses, but it grades out as a little better than average, and he utilizes a terrific changeup and a decent curveball. AL-only leaguers should expect him to have some value by the end of the season.
Projection: 8 wins, 4.31 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 91 Ks in 117 IP
Felix Pie - OF Cubs - Age 21
.277/.340/.460, 3 HR, 24 RBI, 27/11 K/BB, 4 SB in 137 AB for Triple-A Iowa
The Juan Pierre acquisition prior to this season was supposed to give Pie a full year in Triple-A before he was needed in the majors, but it may not work out that way. The Cubs first wanted to call up Pie last summer, but he ended up missing the second half of the season with an ankle injury. He wasn’t nearly ready then anyway. He still probably isn’t now, as he swings at too many bad pitches and is a poor basestealer despite his speed. Pie has the potential to be a Johnny Damon-type leadoff hitter and center fielder, but he’s unlikely to get there within the next couple of years. The Cubs should resist any temptation and leave him in Iowa until September.
Projection: .260/.297/.396, 2 HR, 11 R, 7 RBI, 3 SB in 96 AB
Anthony Reyes - RHP Cardinals - Age 24
1-1, 3.65 ERA, 43 H, 40/5 K/BB in 44 1/3 IP for Triple-A Memphis
Reyes might make his season debut this week as a replacement for Sidney Ponson, though that would be a short-term assignment. Since the Cardinals are unlikely to trade or demote any of their other starters, it will take additional injuries to give Reyes opportunities this season. After struggling this spring, Reyes has pitched better in Triple-A while utilizing the sinker that the Cardinals wanted him to focus on. With a quality offense and bullpen supporting him, he’ll likely be a pretty valuable fantasy pitcher when his time comes.
Projection: 5 wins, 4.06 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 57 Ks in 71 IP
Chris Snelling - OF Mariners - Age 24
.500/.643/.500, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 2/3 K/BB, 0 SB in 10 AB for Triple-A Tacoma
Snelling suffered a torn ACL just after taking over as the Mariners’ left fielder last August, and he only returned to Tacoma’s lineup as a designated hitter last week. He’s expected back in the outfield soon, and he should be the Mariners’ first choice over Shin-Soo Choo and Adam Jones if another outfielder is needed this season. Despite the vast amounts of time he’s missed in his eight years in the Seattle system, Snelling is ready to hit in the majors. He just needs to prove he can stay healthy for more than a month or two at a time. Should he remain off the DL, the Mariners will need to carve out a role for him in the second half of the season.
Projection: .292/.360/.431, 3 HR, 19 R, 18 RBI, 1 SB in 130 AB
Alay Soler - RHP Mets - Age 26
2-0, 0.64 ERA, 12 H, 32/8 K/BB in 28 IP for Single-A St. Lucie
1-0, 2.84 ERA, 11 H, 14/1 K/BB in 12 2/3 IP for Double-A Binghamton
Before Pelfrey gets his chance, the Mets might give Soler a look. The Cuban defector disappointed this spring after a strong showing in the Puerto Rican Winter League, but he’s been successful in the minors and he’s due to move up to Triple-A soon. My guess is that Soler’s fastball-slider combination will fit best in the bullpen, but that’s based on seeing him make one appearance. If his command holds up in the majors, it’s possible that he’ll be a successful starter. NL-only leaguers need to be keeping an eye on him.
Projection: 2 wins, 4.09 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 38 Ks in 44 IP
Jeremy Sowers - LHP Indians - Age 22
5-1, 1.21 ERA, 48 H, 29/16 K/BB in 52 IP for Triple-A Buffalo
Fausto Carmona was the choice when the Indians needed a replacement for C.C. Sabathia in April, but he struggled in three starts and is now with the club as a reliever. It’s still possible that he’d be the choice if the club needed another starter, but it appears more likely that Sowers will get the next opportunity. Sowers, a 2004 first-round pick out of Vanderbilt, has gotten better with each promotion. He had a 2.78 ERA in 13 starts at Single-A Kinston last year, then went 5-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 13 starts after moving up to Double-A at midseason. He’s opened this year with a 1.21 ERA in Triple-A. Sowers lacks a true out pitch, but with four offerings he should be comfortable using against major leaguers, he figures to turn into at least a No. 3 starter. He could be a very pleasant second-half surprise.
Projection: 6 wins, 3.86 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 45 Ks in 84 IP
Jason Stokes - 1B Marlins - Age 24
.294/.367/.529, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 33/11 K/BB, 0 SB in 85 AB for Triple-A Albuquerque
Mike Jacobs’ average has been below the Mendoza Line for three weeks now, opening up the possibility that Stokes might soon get a look at first base. It probably won’t happen right away. While Stokes is hitting for average, he’s still striking out a lot and his power numbers aren’t that impressive after taking into account the environment in Albuquerque. Stokes has 35-homer power. He’ll have to learn how to lay off bad breaking balls if he’s going to succeed in the minors, but he has more offensive potential than Jacobs if he can remain healthy.
Projection: .248/.315/.436, 6 HR, 15 R, 19 RBI, 0 SB in 133 AB
Ryan Sweeney - OF White Sox - Age 21
.298/.368/.423, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 19/12 K/BB, 1 SB in 104 AB for Triple-A Charlotte
With Brian Anderson hitting .180 and fallback option Jerry Owens at .226 in Triple-A, the White Sox were giving Sweeney time in center field before he suffered a strained hamstring and went on the DL at Charlotte last week. Sweeney doesn’t have the range to be much more than a stopgap in center field, and if the White Sox were to call him up at some point, they’d probably be better off with him in left and Scott Podsednik in center. Sweeney is unlikely to be ready anyway. For the long-term, he projects as a quality everyday right fielder. The power just isn’t there for him to be an average regular now.
Projection: .272/.318/.383, 1 HR, 11 R, 10 RBI, 1 SB in 81 AB
B.J. Upton - SS Devil Rays - Age 21
.285/.396/.415, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 30/22 K/BB, 18 SB in 130 AB for Triple-A Durham
Upton is ready offensively. He hasn’t even gotten hot in Triple-A yet, and he’s still getting on base 40 percent of the time. It’s Upton’s well publicized issues with the glove that still have him toiling in the International League. Since he’s committed 13 errors already, the time is approaching at which the Rays may have to reconsider their decision to keep him at shortstop. Upton has all the tools to handle the position, but he botches too many routine plays to be an option in the majors right now. If Upton is switched to third base, he may have a better chance of contributing in the second half, even though Julio Lugo is about as likely as Aubrey Huff to be traded. The Rays are going to need his bat next year, and they shouldn’t wait until the winter to make a decision on where his future lies. If Upton gets called up to play regularly this year, he’ll be worthy of an immediate pickup in mixed leagues.
Projection: .283/.357/.428, 4 HR, 21 R, 18 RBI, 8 SB in 145 AB
Merkin Valdez - RHP Giants - Age 24
0-0, 4.96 ERA, 17 H, 14/12 K/BB in 16 1/3 IP for Triple-A Fresno
In Valdez and Brian Wilson, who was called up on April 23 only to go on the DL with a strained oblique sustained in his major league debut, the Giants have a couple of candidates to eventually replace Armando Benitez in the closer’s role. Since Benitez has done solid work since returning from a knee injury, it appears less likely that any of the Giants’ young relievers will begin getting saves this year. However, Benitez is hardly guaranteed to hold up. Valdez’s power arsenal should eventually make him an excellent reliever now that the club has finally settled on a role for him. It’s just probably not going to happen until 2007.
Projection: 1 win, 0 saves, 4.15 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 21 Ks in 26 IP
Jered Weaver - RHP Angels - Age 23
3-1, 2.79 ERA, 35 H, 50/6 K/BB in 42 IP for Triple-A Salt Lake
Instead of reaching down to Triple-A for Weaver, the Angels have tried Hector Carrasco and Kevin Gregg as injury replacements in the rotation. Weaver should be next in line. That he’s an extreme flyball pitcher makes him a weaker prospect than his outstanding peripherals suggest. However, he should be a quality third starter and he’s about ready now. Even if he isn’t an asset in ERA in AL-only leagues right away, his above average WHIP and strikeout rate will give him value.
Projection: 6 wins, 4.21 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 78 Ks in 92 IP
Chris Young - OF Diamondbacks - Age 22
.250/.345/.417, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 5/7 K/BB, 0 SB in 48 AB for Triple-A Tucson
Young, acquired from the White Sox in the Javier Vazquez trade, should be Arizona’s center fielder in 2007, and he might get a head start in August or September if the club falls out of contention. Hurting his chances was a broken right hand that prevented him from impressing the Diamondbacks in spring training. Young, though, already has plenty of support within the organization. His combination of speed, power and defense will make him a quality regular even if he strikes out too much to hit for average in the majors. If it looks like he will have a job, I’ll be recommending him next spring. For 2006, he’s a long shot.
Projection: .241/.308/.414, 2 HR, 7 R, 7 RBI, 1 SB in 58 AB
Delmon Young - OF Devil Rays - Age 20
.329/.368/.392, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 11/4 K/BB, 12 SB in 79 AB for Triple-A Durham
As a result of the bat-throwing incident and subsequent 50-game suspension, it’s quite a bit less likely that Young will arrive before September, if the Rays even give him a callup then. Still, let’s not rule it out. If he’s a model citizen after returning and he hits up to his ability, perhaps he’ll get a chance to start in right field over the final two months. That’s the way it was supposed to play out. Young is a phenomenal talent, and his indefensible behavior on April 26 appears to have been an isolated incident. Maybe he’ll find his power sometime before he returns to Durham’s lineup on June 19 and turn in a big month or two. If he’s called up, his fervor for stealing bases should give him immediate value in mixed leagues.
Projection: .281/.320/.427, 2 HR, 11 R, 12 RBI, 4 SB in 89 AB
Others to watch for: Larry Broadway (1B Nationals), Shin-Soo Choo (OF Mariners), Joey Devine (RHP Braves), Elijah Dukes (OF Devil Rays), Ryan Garko (1B Indians), Angel Guzman (RHP Cubs), Charlie Haeger (RHP White Sox), Craig Hansen (RHP Red Sox), Justin Leone (3B Padres), Anthony Lerew (RHP Braves), Evan MacLane (LHP Mets), Greg Miller (LHP Dodgers), Jerry Owens (OF White Sox), Omar Quintanilla (2B-SS Rockies), Anibal Sanchez (RHP Marlins), Joe Saunders (LHP Angels), Luke Scott (OF Astros), Mike Thompson (RHP Padres), Edinson Volquez (RHP Rangers)
It’s not a complete list. … The troubled yet talented Dukes could be an option for Tampa Bay if Young is slow to get going after finishing his suspension. … Guzman should be better prepared for the majors next time the Cubs call him up. His struggles were mostly about command. … Leone would outplay Vinny Castilla if given a chance. That Paul McAnulty was called up over him last week wasn’t a good sign. … Quintanilla would have been in pretty good position with both Luis Gonzalez and Clint Barmes off to poor starts in Colorado, but he has a 625 OPS in Triple-A. … Thompson has a lot more in common with Brian Tollberg than Jake Peavy, but Petco Park could make him useful in NL-only leagues if he replaces Woody Williams in the San Diego rotation this week.
Already in majors: Jose Bautista (3B Pirates), Melky Cabrera (OF Yankees), Fausto Carmona (RHP Indians), Andre Ethier (OF Dodgers), Dana Eveland (LHP Brewers), Cole Hamels (LHP Phillies), Justin Huber (1B Royals), Chuck James (LHP Braves), Howie Kendrick (2B Angels), Yusmeiro Petit (RHP Marlins), Ryan Shealy (1B Rockies), Brian Wilson (Giants)
Especially now that Chris Duffy has been sent down, Bautista’s stay in Pittsburgh might last. He can act as center fielder against left-handers and a reserve infielder, giving him some value. … Ethier and Huber probably aren’t up for good this time, but they might be everyday players in the second half. … Hamels can’t be left unowned in even the shallowest of leagues after being called up last week. … James, who is currently on the DL, doesn’t have any value while working out of the pen, but he’ll be needed as a starter at some point, and once it happens, he could be a big-time asset in NL-only leagues. … The Angels said after Sunday’s game that they were sending Kendrick down. He’s in the same boat as Ethier and Huber. … Petit is just up as a middle reliever now. He and Anibal Sanchez will likely make their rotation debuts by July or August.