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September 12, 2013

Covering the Call-Ups, Part One

The Pitchers

by Ben Carsley, Jason Cole, Craig Goldstein and Jeff Moore


We’ve devoted full articles to the most promising prospects promoted to the majors late this season, but we’ll be offering scouting and fantasy takes on the best of the rest in a two-part series running today and tomorrow. First up: the pitchers, with position players to follow on Friday.

Brian Flynn, LHP, Marlins
Scouting Take:
Flynn, a former seventh-round draft pick (2011) out of Wichita State, was one of the pieces the Marlins acquired at last season’s trade deadline in the Anibal Sanchez/Omar Infante trade, and is the last of the trio to make it to the majors (following Rob Brantly and Jacob Turner). The 6’8”, 240-pound left-hander has seen his strikeout rates spike this season, precipitating a rise through the Marlins system that saw him start the season in Double-A Jacksonville and end it at Marlins Park pitching in front of a similar-sized crowd. He has good control for a tall pitcher and features a low-90s fastball with a good downward plane to go with a pair of usable off-speed pitches—a slider and changeup—and a show-me curveball. The improvement in his changeup is what helped him jump from striking out 7.0 batters per nine innings in 2012 to 8.2 in the 2013 season, and it gives him a chance to stick as a back-end starter. He should compete with Henderson Alvarez, Tom Koehler, and others for a spot in the back of the Marlins rotation next season. —Jeff Moore

Fantasy Take: If you can look past Flynn’s four-inning, three-earned-run, three-homer, more-walks-than-strikeouts flop of a debut, I suggest you do so. If you can’t? I guess I won’t blame you, but you’ll be missing out. Flynn generated a 21 percent strikeout rate in 138 Triple-A innings against a seven percent walk rate. His brief stint in Double-A was even better, with the numbers coming in at 29 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively. The left-handed Flynn attacks hitters with a fastball that can touch the mid-90s and has crude, if developing secondaries. He’s probably not more than a back-of-the-rotation starter, but pitching in the Marlins’ spacious ballpark for a team that will be good sooner than people think, he’s a solid depth option if your minor league system is bare. He’s a deep league add only. —Craig Goldstein

***

Heath Hembree, RHP, Giants
Scouting Take:
Often billed as a potential closer, Hembree more likely profiles in a middle relief or setup role, with one scout calling his stuff “good for the seventh inning, average for setup.” The 24-year-old righty, who was a fifth-round selection in 2010, dominated his way through the lower minors but has scuffled at times in two Triple-A seasons. Hembree has thrown more strikes this year, attacking hitters with a late-inning mentality while showing a 60-grade (plus) fastball and an average mid-to-upper 80s cut-slider. While he showed 95-96 mph velocity with more consistency in past years, he has sat more in the 92-94 mph range this season with good life. The Giants are working Hembree into their bullpen this month, and a competent showing should put him in position to crack the club’s opening-day roster next spring. —Jason Cole

Fantasy Take: Long hailed as the “closer of the future” for the Giants (a precursor to Proven Closer), Hembree is making his MLB debut a bit later than many expected. The right-hander put up a decent season in Triple-A, notching 63 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings and lowering his BB/9 to 2.6. With Sergio Romo safely entrenched as San Francisco’s closer, I wouldn’t expect Hembree to be of particular fantasy worth in non-holds leagues next year, but bullpens rarely shake out the way we think they will. Hembree’s a nice grab in very deep leagues now if you need strikeouts, and even if he doesn’t quite fit the profile, he should be on everyone’s closer watch list assuming he breaks camp with the Giants in 2014. —Ben Carsley

***

Erik Johnson, RHP, White Sox
A teammate of fellow White Sox September call-up Marcus Semien at Cal, Johnson should have an opportunity to lock down a full-time rotation spot in Chicago this month and early next season. The 23-year-old righty is perhaps the organization’s top pitching prospect, and while he doesn’t have a sexy profile, it’s plenty valuable to a big-league club. Johnson’s strike-throwing ability with solid-average stuff and 6’3”, 235-pound frame should enable durability at the back of a rotation, likely as a no. 4 starter. He’ll generally pound the zone with a four-pitch mix that includes two 60-grade (plus) offerings in his low-90s fastball (touching mid-90s) and upper-80s slider. Johnson also mixes in an average curveball and fringy changeup. The White Sox have seen Johnson struggle with his command in two big-league starts thus far, but expect it to improve as he settles into the level. —Jason Cole

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