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August 31, 2005

Fantasy Focus

NL Call-Ups

by Randy Hale

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Roster expansion is right around the corner, and while most September call-ups will have little to no value for a fantasy team, in most years there are a handful of players who merit attention. How much attention depends on the answers to three questions:

  • Is he skilled enough to make an impact?
  • Will he play enough to make an impact?
  • Is he a high-end prospect on the verge of a major role next season?

From a fantasy standpoint, the ideal September call-up is a player for whom the answer is "yes" to all three questions.

Whether a prized prospect gets called up in September is a proposition that varies from team to team. Many teams are fearful of starting the MLB-service clock, and thus will resist calling up top prospects. Other teams believe strongly in rewarding solid performance in the minors, or want to give top draft picks that are nearly ready a taste of the bigs. This motivated Milwaukee's 2003 call-up of Rickie Weeks. Some teams experiencing a roster crunch may be reluctant or even unable to call up a player who is not yet on the 40-man roster.

Once on the roster, a call-up's playing time depends on a number of factors. A team with a solid lead in the standings may rest many regulars down the stretch, providing the call-up oportunities. A true prospect may get regular playing time as a trial audition for a major role for next season. In some cases, teams may take advantage of a specialized skill set, such as using a speedster frequently to pinch-run. (Look no further than Esix Snead in 2002: 17 games, 13 ABs, 4 SB.)

We've provided two lists in this piece: one based on keeper potential, and the second based on what numbers the players might put up in the season's last month. Depending on your league's structure and your place in the standings, players will have different value to you, so use each list accordingly.

Today, we look at the NL call-ups. Thursday, it'll be the AL's turn.

Keeper Potential

  1. Oliver Perez, SP, PIT - In the event that Perez was waived in your league after his infamous cart-kicking incident, by all means be prepared to pounce on him when he's activated.

  2. Andy Marte, 3B, ATL - Marte is probably already stashed on someone's roster in most leagues, but if he's not, make sure you get him stashed on yours. Remember, he was BP's #1 prospect just eight months ago.

  3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B/SS, WAS - Zimmerman has absolutely raked since being drafted; the Nationals' first-round draft pick has shot through the low minors to Double-A Harrisburg. Recently, he was shifted from third base to shortstop, with mixed results. He doesn't exactly have huge hurdles in front of him in Vinny Castilla and/or Cristian Guzman.

  4. Felix Pie, OF, CHC - Pie may have been called up already if not for the deep bone bruise he suffered in early July. The Cubs have stated that they will not call him up unless he is 100% healthy, so it's a long shot that he'll get the call. It's an even longer shot that manager Dusty Baker will play him full time.

  5. Jeremy Hermida, OF, FLA - Hermida, tearing up the Carolina League to the tune of .290/.455/.513, should man a corner outfield spot full time at some point next season, with Juan Encarnacion eligible for free agency. It's also possible that Miguel Cabrera will move out of left field to replace Mike Lowell at third base.

  6. Andy LaRoche, 3B, LA - LaRoche has displayed some of the best power in the minors, rapidly ascending from low-A to Double-A ball. Who blocks him on the Dodgers roster? Exactly. With the Dodgers falling out of the race and Double-A Jacksonville going to the playoffs, the team might wait until next year with LaRoche and most of his teammates.

  7. Ian Stewart, 3B, COL - Stewart got off to a slow start, then heated up in July. Garrett Atkins is decent, but he is not the long-term answer at the hot corner in Colorado. Stewart is currently not on the 40-man roster, so it's not too likely he'll get the call.

  8. Carlos Quentin, OF, ARI - Quentin was very close to Conor Jackson in a number of statistical categories at Triple-A Tucson. Again though, the Diamondbacks are not anxious to start his service clock, so unless they are still in the NL West race and are faced with an injury to a corner outfielder, Quentin will likely not be promoted.

  9. Lastings Milledge, OF, NYM - Milledge, the Mets' consensus top position player prospect, is likely already on reserve rosters in all but the shallowest of leagues. If he is available in yours, though, he's definitely worth a pick-up for your reserve roster. The Mets have stated that they do not plan to call him up, but stranger things have happened.

  10. Anthony Reyes, SP, STL - Reyes is widely considered to be the Cardinals' best pitching prospect and has posted an impressive 128/31 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 122 2/3 innings with Triple-A Memphis. He could win a spot in the Cards' rotation as early as next spring, posting double-digit wins with solid strikeout totals.

  11. Matt Cain, SP, SF - Cain has a similar profile to Reyes, only with even higher strikeout totals. Alas, they also come with high walk totals. He had a 176/73 K/BB in 145 2/3 innings at Triple-A, and made his major-league debut Monday night, pitching well.

  12. Ryan Braun, 3B, MIL - Braun has a similar profile to Zimmerman. The Brewers' 2005 first-round selection has hit for average and power. A call-up would be along the lines of the Brewers' 2003 call-up of Rickie Weeks in September.

Honorable Mention goes to Josh Barfield, 2B, SD; Chad Billingsley, P, LAD; Larry Broadway, 1B, WAS; Gavin Floyd, P, PHI; Anderson Hernandez, 2B, NYM; Rich Hill, P, CHC; Chuck James, P, ATL; Fred Lewis, OF, SF; Dan Ortmeier, OF, SF; Yusmeiro Petit, P, NYM; Jeff Salazar, OF, COL; Adam Wainwright, P, STL

Impact

  1. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, WAS - If Zimmerman does get the call, it's not hard to see him getting significant playing time, even if the Nationals are still in the NL wild-card race. It's not a huge stretch to expect Zimmerman to produce more in September than Castilla and it's possible he could see some playing time at shortstop, giving the Nationals addition by subtraction with the removal of Guzman.

  2. Oliver Perez, P, PIT - Assuming Perez can build enough arm strength to throw 100+ pitches before September is over, he is capable of posting great strikeout numbers. If he can find his lost form, he can even garner some wins and make contributions in ERA and WHIP.

  3. Andy Marte, 3B, ATL - It's likely that Marte will see enough at-bats in September to make a meaningful impact, if not to the Braves, then certainly to your fantasy team. The Braves will certainly want to rest Chipper Jones down the stretch run, so it's possible Marte could approach double-digit totals in RBI and runs scored in September.

  4. Luke Scott, OF, HOU - The Astros are in a dogfight for the NL wild card so Scott will not see many starts unless they can pull away from the pack. If that happens, Scott could see enough at-bats to contribute in the home run and RBI categories.

  5. Hong-Chih Kuo, RP, LAD - All Kuo has done to merit consideration is post a K/9 rate just over 14.5, striking out 84 in 52 1/3 innings between High-A Vero Beach and Double-A Jacksonville. If Kuo gets the call and you need strikeouts, you could certainly do worse.

  6. Todd Self, 1B, HOU - Self could see enough playing time to help out in runs scored and RBI, but the Luke Scott caveat applies here as well: if Houston can't pull away in the wild-card race, Self is less likely to get enough at-bats to make an impact.

  7. Ryan Shealy, 1B, COL - Shealy performed very well while filling in during Todd Helton's recent DL stint. If Shealy can pick up two starts a week, he can post meaningful numbers in all offensive categories but stolen bases.

  8. Jeremy Hermida, OF, FLA - Hermida would likely have been inserted as an everyday corner outfielder had the Marlins completely fallen off the pace in the NL wild-card race. Given a chance, Hermida could potentially out-produce either Encarnacion or Lowell in September.

  9. Shane Victorino OR Chris Roberson, OF, PHI - The Phillies will call up either Victorino or Roberson, possibly both. If only one of the two gets the call, it would be a clear signal that there would be enough at-bats and pinch-running opportunities for the player to make an impact. If both are called up, the situation would require monitoring to determine if a meaningful usage pattern develops.

  10. Kazuhisa Ishii, P, NYM - Ishii is unlikely to reclaim a spot in the rotation, but if Willie Randolph can figure out the proper usage pattern for Ishii, he could certainly contribute in the strikeout category, albeit at a cost of ERA and WHIP.

  11. Chad Billingsley, P, LAD - Assuming he gets the call, Billingsley could see enough innings in middle relief for the Dodgers to produce meaningful strikeout numbers, along with a decent ERA and WHIP.

  12. Rajai Davis, OF, PIT - Davis is currently out with a broken hand, but it's not a stretch to imagine the speedster being used entirely in a pinch-running role and contributing enough steals to be worth a pickup.

Honorable Mention to Josh Anderson, OF, HOU; Jeff Baker, 3B/OF, COL; Bryan Bullington, P, PIT; Kyle Davies, P, ATL; Rich Hill, P, CHC; Andy LaRoche, 3B, LAD; Fred Lewis, OF, SF; Scott Olsen, P, FLA; Dan Ortmeier, OF, SF; Esix Snead, OF, ATL; Rich Thompson, OF, PIT; Adam Wainwright, P, STL; Brandon Watson, OF, WAS

Randy Hale is a contributor to Rotowire.

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