Last week I looked at where each team stood with regard to the playoffs, and what that might mean for how they manage their big league roster over the season’s final two months. One hallmark of August and September, for teams that are either out of the race, barely hanging in it, or who live and die by the fruits of their farm systems, is late-season auditions for top prospects. The recent promotions of Conor Jackson and Felix Hernandez were just the first of many golden tickets to the majors that will get handed out in the coming weeks.
Most fantasy owners don’t need to be told to go get a Hernandez or Jackson though, assuming they’re even available and not already squirreled away on someone else’s reserve list. Below are some of the lesser lights who, from a fantasy perspective, might end up having just as much of an impact as the bigger names–and will certainly come a lot cheaper.
- Joe Borchard: With Frank Thomas out for the year, Carl Everett starting to remember that he’s injury-prone and Ken Griffey Jr. still in Cincinnati, the White Sox may have to look for help at DH internally. Brian Anderson is the team’s top hitting prospect (.291/.359/.473 at Triple-A Charlotte), but Borchard (.260/.332/.472 for the Knights) may get the call first, for two reasons. One, the team seems to love him; and two, Borchard’s already on the 40-man roster and has already seen the majors, while Anderson’s service time clock has yet to start ticking. At best Borchard will probably be a low-batting average slugger (he’s hit .182 with 12 home runs in 286 big league at-bats). But if all you need is power and can afford a hit in BA, he could be your man.
- Juan Cruz: Expected to be part of the Oakland bullpen when he came over from Atlanta in the Tim Hudson deal, Cruz struggled badly before being shipped down to Sacramento. There he’s rediscovered the form that made him a more highly regarded starting pitching prospect than Carlos Zambrano back in the day–2.15 ERA, 63/17 K/BB ratio, just 30 hits allowed in 46 innings over eight starts. At the moment, given Dan Haren‘s turnaround and Kirk Saarloos‘ continued usefulness, there’s no room in the major league rotation for Cruz, and it is only eight Triple-A starts. But Cruz may yet make an impact in the AL West pennant race before it’s over.
- Jake Gautreau: The former Padres top prospect was felled by colitis a few years ago, and ended up getting swapped to Cleveland. Over the last two seasons, however, he’s posted a combined .269/.337/.492 line in 145 Triple-A games (535 at-bats), with 26 home runs and a decent 50/109 BB/K ratio. Those aren’t superstar numbers, but he would probably be a solid bat at the major league level as a second baseman or even a third baseman. Ron Belliard‘s been nothing more than adequate, and Aaron Boone not even that, for the big club, so at some point the Indians may want to see exactly what they have in Gautreau.
- Corey Hart: The poor guy. As a Milwaukee prospect he’s always been overshadowed, first by the awesome pop legacy of his name and then by fast-tracked wunderkinds like Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks. He’s still only 23 though, and Hart has been an offensive force at Triple-A the last two years (.292/.358/.509 in 227 games, with 31 home runs and 41 stolen bases). Geoff Jenkins is all that’s standing between him and a run of 20/20 seasons in the majors. Unfortunately Jenkins has one more year (plus an option) left on his contract, the Brewers showed no inclination to trade him at the deadline, and Jenkins may now be the hottest hitter in the majors. Hart’s power/speed combination can’t be ignored if a spot does open up for him, however.
- Nate McLouth: Prior to 2004, McLouth was nothing more than a slap-hitting speedy outfielder, one of dozens of minor league stolen base whizzes who would be lucky if they ended up with Matt Alexander‘s career, much less Juan Pierre‘s. A 40-double campaign at Double-A Altoona put him on the prospect radar, though. He hasn’t followed up that display of nascent power this season (.395 SLG, .103 ISO at Triple-A Indianapolis) but the Pirates, currently carrying both Tike Redman and Chris Duffy on their 25-man roster, clearly have no qualms about playing outfielders who lack thump in their bats. McLouth, hitting .292 with a .360 OBP and 32 steals, would be next in line if Pittsburgh finally pulls the plug on Redman (.253/.294/.348 and just three SB in 221 at-bats). McLouth could provide a nice stolen-base boost if given the chance.
- Brandon Watson: Another potential base stealer for your stretch run, Watson is the latest in a long line of wannabe Tim Raineses for the ex-Expos, following in the not-so-impressive footsteps of Peter Bergeron, Endy Chavez and others. Called up Sunday night to fill in for the injured Jose Guillen, Watson (.357/.403/.423 with 26 steals for Triple-A New Orleans) has a small but viable window to establish himself as an on-base threat with speed. Where Watson might play if and when Guillen returns is an open question, but Nick Johnson and Preston Wilson have a habit of providing answers when at-bats are in short supply. If Watson does all the little-ball things jackrabbits like him are supposed to do, Robinson will find ways to get him in the lineup.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now