September 12, 2013
Covering the Call-Ups, Part One
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
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
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
Fantasy Take: Fantasy owners might be familiar with Johnson, who was mentioned in The Sporer Report preview of September call-ups and who hasn’t posted an ERA higher than 2.74 at any level since a 2011 stint in rookie ball. He’s thrown 9 2/3 innings in the big leagues so far, and while I wouldn’t expect him to be of any use in 2013, as a 2014 stash (if you have a minor league), I like him. (I placed a waiver claim on him in my own league, but it wasn’t high enough.) He could be a solid fourth fantasy starter in due time, but he’ll need some room to open up in the White Sox rotation first. —Craig Goldstein
Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Brewers
Fantasy Take: Nelson is projected to pitch out of the bullpen for the remainder of 2013, and in that role he has little fantasy value. However, those looking toward 2014 should at least flag the big right-hander, as his ability to keep the ball on the ground and strike batters out might make him a mid-rotation starter some day. That “might” is largely predicated on Nelson’s command, which was great in Double-A and then not so great in Triple-A this season. Nelson doesn’t have a huge ceiling, and I don’t expect him to be handed a job in the major-league rotation out of spring training. He should see some MLB starts at some point in 2014, though, and that’s when NL-only owners desperate for Ks should go Full Nel … no, I won’t do that to you. That’s when NL-only owners should pick him up. —Ben Carsley
James Paxton, LHP, Mariners
Paxton is the least likely of the trio to make an impact at the top or middle of a big-league rotation—I recently wrote him up as an arm-strength middle reliever—but he does have upside. A long-limbed 6’4” southpaw, Paxton can produce serious downhill plane on his big fastball, which worked anywhere between 88-96 mph (sitting 92-94) when I saw him last month in Triple-A. His velocity ticked up in his MLB debut last week, as the pitch averaged just a shade over 95 mph. He’ll also mix in a curveball that flashes plus, a promising cutter, and an occasional below-average changeup.
Paxton’s long arms and overall issues in his delivery have caused inconsistent command and results this season. While that may always be the case with him, it’s possible that he’ll improve enough to stick at the back end of a rotation or work into a setup relief role. The Mariners will likely enter this offseason with three 2014 rotation spots up for grabs, and Paxton is beginning his audition for one of them this month. —Jason Cole
Fantasy Take: Probably the most notable prospect on this list, Paxton made his MLB debut on Saturday and tossed six innings of two-run ball against the struggling Rays in Safeco Field. Said scenario represents when fantasy owners would be wise to play Paxton for the rest of the season: when he’s at home and facing a bad or slumping offense. The only real exception to this rule would come if you have a big cushion in WHIP and are desperate for strikeouts. But be forewarned that while gambling on Paxton comes with some upside, he’s also capable of walking the world and giving up runs in batches. He’s a candidate for spot starting in the majority of mixed leagues, but don’t fall in love with him just because of name value. —Ben Carsley
Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @bencarsley