Starters


Three September Call-Ups To Watch For

The calendar turns over to September this Saturday, meaning clubs will expand their rosters and call-up extra players for the stretch run. Most September call-ups are spare parts - third catchers, extra left-handed relievers, etc. - but every so often a team will bring a top prospect to the big leagues and give him a month's worth of playing time. David Price and Francisco Rodriguez are the two most notable September call-ups in recent memory, as both went on to become key components of a deep playoff run. Impact like that is the exception though, not the rule. Here are three high-end prospects who could make their way to the big leagues next month and actually have some fantasy value...

Jurickson Profar | SS | Texas Rangers

The 19-year-old wunderkind from Curacao has emerged as baseball's top prospect this summer. Profar has hit .280/.367/.452 with 14 homers and 16 steals in Double-A this season, which is insane production given his age relative to the competition. It's worth noting that he's played some games at second base lately and in each of the last two games, he was used off the bench as a pinch-hitter. It's very possible the Rangers are preparing him for a call-up, though Jeff Wilson of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram says it may not happen until the end of the Double-A postseason.

Fantasy owners should keep the plight of Mike Olt in mind when considering Profar's fantasy impact. Texas called up their other elite prospect in early-August and he's gotten just 32 plate appearances so far, including only six starts in 26 team games. Perhaps things will be different later in September after the Rangers clinch a playoff berth, but I would be skeptical right now. Profar is a definite keeper long-term, but his 2012 impact may be severely limited.

Wil Myers | OF | Kansas City Royals

After starring at the Futures Game in Kansas City and for most of the season in Triple-A, the 21-year-old Myers may finally get a chance to crack the outfield in Kauffman Stadium next month. He's hit a whopping .307/.384/.589 with 35 homers in 568 total plate appearances, pretty much confirming that he's ready for the next level. Calling up Myers could require the team to either finally bench Jeff Francoeur or sit Lorenzo Cain, the latter of whom might actually have a future with the team. If he does get the call and does play everyday in some outfield position, Myers could be a nice little late-season boost for fantasy owners, potentially chipping in something like 5-6 homers the rest of the way. That's nothing to sneeze at.

Shelby Miller | SP | St. Louis Cardinals

Earlier this week Joe Strauss of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (on Twitter) that there is a "strong sentiment" within the organization to promote Miller, the 21-year-old flamethrower who's pitched to a 4.89 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 130 2/3 Triple-A innings this year. Those numbers aren't all that impressive overall, but the right-hander has a 57/4 K/BB in his last eight starts and seems to have figured some things out.

If the Cardinals do recall Miller next month, they'll have the option to use him out of the bullpen or instead of Joe Kelly in the rotation. I wouldn't count on him replacing Jason Motte as closer, so he would have the most fantasy value as a starter. The September schedule is loaded with intra-division games as always, meaning a whole lotta games against the lowly Astros and Cubs. St. Louis also has a West Coast swing through San Diego and Los Angeles on their slate, adding two top pitcher's parks into the mix. Miller definitely offers some impact potential going forward, assuming the club actually decides to call him up and insert him into the rotation down the stretch.



D'Backs Turn To Skaggs As Latest Rotation Aid

The Diamondbacks came into the season with perhaps more high-end young pitching than any other team in baseball, and they've had a chance to cycle through pretty much all of it this year. Right-hander Archie Bradley is still several years away, but Patrick Corbin has settled in as a solid rotation fixture while the mega-hyped Trevor Bauer got a brief four-start audition earlier this summer. Yesterday Arizona turned to 21-year-old left-hander Tyler Skaggs to start game one of a doubleheader. He, like Corbin, was part of the Dan Haren trade, and yesterday's MLB debut featured two runs in 6 2/3 innings against the Marlins despite more walks (five) than strikeouts (four). Apparently it wasn't a one-start deal either...

Skaggs, 21, was considered the 13th best prospect in baseball before the season and the seventh best prospect at midseason by Baseball America. In their subscriber-only scouting report, they mention that he sits anywhere from 88-93 mph with the fastball and backs it up with two offspeed offerings: a sharp curveball "that's a true swing-and-miss pitch" and a changeup that is "at least an average pitch." PitchFX data from yesterday's game (available at Brooks Baseball) confirms Baseball America's report while noting that he also threw a handful of cutters as well.

Prior to being recalled, Skaggs pitched to a 2.87 ERA with 8.5 K/9 (23.1% of batters faced) and 2.7 BB/9 (7.4%) in 122 1/3 minor league innings. He made 13 starts with Double-A Mobile before moving up and making another nine with Triple-A Reno. This was the first year of his career in which he struck out fewer than a batter per inning, though few top prospects maintain their minor league 9+ K/9 in the show. Yesterday's five-walk, four-strikeout showing can be chalked up to jitters at this point, I see no reason to believe it's indicative of a long-term problem.

The D'Backs bounced Corbin back and forth between the rotation and bullpen and few times earlier this season, and right now Skaggs' role with the club is undefined. Veteran southpaw Joe Saunders is on trade waivers and prime candidate to be moved, so that could free up a rotation spot. The only left-hander in Arizona's bullpen at the moment is the shaky Mike Zagurski, who was designated for assignment and outrighted to Triple-A earlier this month only to be recalled when Takashi Saito was placed on the DL. If Saunders is not dealt, Skaggs could wind up working as a reliever for the next few weeks.

I like Skaggs quite a bit and think he could really help both the D'Backs and fantasy owners down the stretch. Certainly more than Saunders will, anyway. If they keep their young southpaw in the rotation, his next two starts figure to come on the road against the Dodgers and Padres, and those are two pretty decent matchups. If they stick him in the bullpen, then he's not worth a roster spot. It's not like he's going to usurp J.J. Putz or anything. Bauer's performance was disappointing given the hype, but I believe Skaggs is a better bet to have immediate impact given his lack of control and walk issues in the minors.



Mets (Finally) Turn To Matt Harvey

There was only so much Miguel Batista the Mets could take. After allowing eight baserunners and four runs in three innings to the Dodgers last weekend, the Amazin's cut ties with the 41-year-old right-hander and decided to finally turn the reigns over to 23-year-old top prospect Matt Harvey. He'll make his big league debut against the Diamondbacks in Arizona tonight, the Mets went so far as to recall catcher Rob Johnson from Triple-A with him just to make sure he's comfortable.

Harvey, the seventh overall pick in the 2010 draft, was ranked the second best prospect in the Mets farm system and the 54th best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America before the season. "Harvey holds his velocity deep into starts but has below-average command and presently lacks a reliable changeup, so evaluators project him as anywhere from a No. 2 starter to a high-leverage reliever," wrote the publication in their subscriber-only scouting report. He regularly runs his fastball into the mid-90s and will use both a slider and curveball when ahead in the count.

After splitting last season between High-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton, Harvey opened this year with Triple-A Buffalo. He's pitched to a 3.68 ERA in 110 innings across 20 starts, striking out 112 (9.2 K/9 and 23.7% of batters faced) while walking 48 (3.9 BB/9 and 10.1%). Data at First Inning shows that he gets a decent amount of ground balls (46%), but any pitching prospect worth a damn with have a solid ground ball rate in the minors. Harvey did allow nine homers in Triple-A this season (0.7 HR/9), a bit higher than you'd expect from a top prospect.

Harvey has a little Max Scherzer in him in the sense that it's overpowering raw stuff with less than stellar command. It remains to be seen if he'll have the same homer issues as the Tigers' right-hander, but the high-strikeout potential is there as well as the potential for frustratingly high ERAs. The Mets do not have a great defense - though it's better with Lucas Duda in Triple-A and not right field - and of course you can't really expect their bullpen to hold many of the leads given to them. It's a great young arm thrust into an undesirable situation, unfortunately.

At this point of his career, as a rookie set to make his big league debut, Harvey shouldn't be considered more than a strikeouts guy for fantasy owners in traditional 5x5 scoring formats. The walks and spotty defense will likely lead to higher than usual WHIPs and that tends to results in runs. Wins figure to be hard to come by as well. Following tonight's start in Arizona, Harvey is lined up to start in San Francisco against the Giants then in San Diego against the Padres. Those are some pretty fine matchups in terms of the lineups he'll be facing, but keep his limitations in mind. Different doesn't always mean better, but it almost certainly will be in the case of Harvey vs. Batista. In terms of fantasy output, be careful not to fall in love with the hype.



Four Prospects To Watch In The Second Half

As we come out of the All-Star break, we're going to see a number of top prospects join their big league club down the stretch as they push for a playoff spot. Some may have a huge impact like Mike Trout has already had for the Angels while others may just be complementary pieces shoring up the bench or bullpen. Here's a look at four high-end prospects who could assume important roles in the second half and have real fantasy value. I've including their ranking among Baseball America's Top 50 Prospects midseason update for reference.

Matt Harvey | SP | Mets | Baseball America: #34

The Mets got some unfortunate news earlier this week when right-hander Dillon Gee had to be placed on the disabled list after feeling numbness in his fingers. He was diagnosed with a blood clot in his shoulder and may still need surgery. The team has yet to announce his rotation replacement, but right now it seems like the immortal Miguel Batista will be a temporary solution. With Harvey tearing up Triple-A, he becomes the prohibitve favorite to fill Gee's spot if he misses an extended period of time.

Harvey, 23, has pitched to a 3.39 ERA in 18 starts and 98.1 innings for the club's Triple-A affiliate this season. His strikeout (9.3 K/9) and walk (3.8 BB/9) rates are very good, though they're better measured in terms of percent of batters faced -- he's struck out 24.2% while walking 10.0% of the hitters to step in the box against him this year. The walks are a bit of a concern because they will boost his WHIP, but Harvey can miss bats and that will cure a lot of ills. Throw in a pitcher friendly ballpark and you're looking at a potential fantasy weapon down the stretch.

Wil Myers | OF | Royals | Baseball America: #3

The 21-year-old Myers has had a busy week, first starring in the Futures Game before winning the Triple-A All-Star Game MVP Award last night. He's hit a combined .327/.403/.676 with 27 homers in 363 plate appearances split between Double and Triple-A this season, and in reality he probably should have been up a few weeks ago. Lorenzo Cain is just coming back from a groin strain and Jeff Francoeur has been unable to replicate last season's success, so the Royals can make room for Myers if they really want to get him in the lineup. Either way, expect him to rake and become an instant fantasy starter as soon as he's recalled and given an everyday job.

Mike Olt | 3B | Rangers | Baseball America: #11

Olt, 23, has had a huge year - .292/.403/.574 with 22 homers in 348 Double-A plate appearances this summer - and he doesn't figure to need much Triple-A time before being big league ready. The problem is that there's no obvious opening for him in Texas with Adrian Beltre manning the hot corner, though they've had him work out at both first base and right field this season. Of course that also makes Olt one of the very best pieces of trade bait in the game. The Rangers could go big game hunting - Zack Greinke? Cole Hamels? Justin Upton? - with their top third base prospect going the other way. That could land Olt in the big leagues down the stretch and third base is a sneaky shallow position. Keep an eye on Texas and their trade deadline dealings, because they could have big fantasy implications for more than the obvious reasons.

Tyler Skaggs | SP | Diamondbacks | Baseball America: #7

The arrival of Trevor Bauer has been a little underwhelming so far, but he's not the only high-end pitching prospect the D'Backs have on the cusp of the show. Skaggs, a 21-year-old southpaw, pitching to a 2.84 ERA in 13 Double-A starts before jumping to Triple-A and making two starts. His strikeout (8.7 K/9 and 23.2% of batters faced) and walk (2.6 BB/9 and 7.0%) rates are excellent, it's just a matter of making room for him in the rotation. Daniel Hudson's injured elbow opens a starting job that will likely be filled when Joe Saunders comes off the DL (Josh Collmenter is filling in for the time being), but the veteran southpaw always seems to be involved in trade rumors. Skaggs probably has the most to overcome to reach the show in the second half, but he has fantasy impact potential once he does arrive.



Diamondbacks Finally Free Trevor Bauer

Before the season started, fantasy owners were counting down the days until Mike Trout and Bryce Harper joined the Angels and Nationals, respectively. Matt Moore of the Rays was a hot target on draft day and the Mariners' Jesus Montero was a sleeper at the catcher position even though he didn't have catcher eligibility yet. The fifth megaprospect everyone was waiting on was Trevor Bauer, the eclectic right-hander taken third overall last summer by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Having drawn Tim Lincecum comparisons because of a unique delivery (here's video) and workout/conditioning routine, Bauer was the Next Big Thing after those other four Next Big Things.

Ranked as the ninth best prospect in baseball by Baseball America coming into the season, the Diamondbacks sent Bauer to Double-A Mobile when they broke camp. He struck out 60 batters and allowed just nine earned runs in 48 1/3 innings across eight starts before Arizona decided hey, we have to promote this guy. Bumped up to Triple-A Reno, Bauer went on to whiff 56 batters while allowing 14 earned runs in 44 2/3 innings across eight starts. In 16 minor league games this season, he owns a 2.23 ERA and an 11.2 K/9, or better put he's struck out 29.4% of the batters he's faced. The league average is somewhere around 19.0-19.5%, just for perspective. Bauer leads the minors in wins (11) and strikeouts (116) as of right now.

Unfortunately -- I'm not sure for who, really -- he won't get a chance to pad those totals. Arizona is calling Bauer up to make his big league debut against the Braves in Atlanta tonight, replacing the injured Joe Saunders. It sounds like Saunders will be back sooner rather than later, but Daniel Hudson's torn UCL means Bauer is in the rotation to stay. His stuff is excellent and his arsenal includes a mid-90s fastball and a "plus-plus curveball" to go with a solid slider, changeup, and splitter according to Baseball America (subs. req'd). Dan Syzmborski's ZiPS system pegs the Bauer as a 4.18 ERA pitcher at the moment, albeit one with a fantastic strikeout rate (9.2 K/9). In a subscriber-only piece at Baseball Prospectus, Kevin Goldstein says the right-hander from UCLA is "among the best fantasy rookie pickups from here going forward," and I think that goes without saying.

As for the drawbacks, Bauer is known to be pitch inefficient, give out walks, and surrender some homers. He's averaged 101 pitches per six innings according to Goldstein, walked 60 batters in 118 2/3 minor league innings (4.6 BB/9 and 11.7% of batters faced), and given up eight homers during that time. That last number isn't scary, but Bauer has admitted to preferring fly balls to ground balls -- fly balls are more likely to turn into outs -- and not being afraid of the long ball on Twitter (@BauerOutage). Since he'll be playing his home games at the hitter friendly Chase Field, expect Bauer to serve up a few dingers. Given his propensity to walk people, more than a few of them will be multi-run shots as well.

Despite that, I still believe Bauer can outperform that 4.18 ERA projection and settle in as a 3.50-ish guy with a strikeout rate near one batter per nine innings, although his WHIP figures to be a little high given his walk issue. That puts his performance in line with guys like Jonathon Niese and Yu Darvish, though his ability to rack up wins will not be the same given the different teams these guys play on. Following his outing against the Braves tonight, Bauer lines up to make starts against the Padres and the Matt Kemp/Andre Ethier-less Dodgers (both games at home in Chase Field) before the All-Star break. Needless to say, fantasy owners should be salivating. He's a long-term fantasy star that figures to be among the highest drafted pitchers in the coming years, but for 2012 and he's a very good rotation option that might hit some bumps along the way.



Recent Call-Ups: Conger, Kirkman, Moore

Let's round up three recent call-ups and their fantasy impact. Two hail from the AL West, the third from the NL East.

Hank Conger | C | Angels

Had it not been for an elbow strain earlier this season, Conger would have been up a long time ago. Chris Iannetta broke his wrist in early-May and the Angels had to turn to Bobby Wilson and John Hester to replace him while their top catching prospect was out. Now that he's healthy -- and Bobby Wilson is on the 7-day concussion DL -- Conger is in the big leagues but playing second fiddle to Hester. He's only started three of eight games since being recalled, including just one of the last six. Hester's solid batting line -- .256/.333/.349 with one homer in 48 plate appearances -- is a hindrance, as is manager Mike Scioscia's affinity for defense-first catchers.

Conger, 24, is seen as an offense-first backstop with a line drive swing from both sides of the plate according to Baseball America. He has more over-the-fence power from the left side and his minor league plate discipline rates -- 14.4% strikeouts and 8.7% walks -- are evidence of his contact-oriented approach. This isn't another Mike Napoli situation but it's similar, the Angels are focused more on defense than offense behind the plate and that works against Conger. With Wilson expected back as soon as this weekend, Conger might find himself back in Triple-A. He's a fantasy non-option until we know he's going to get regular at-bats.

Michael Kirkman | RP | Rangers

The Rangers have lost Derek Holland (shoulder), Neftali Feliz (elbow), and Alexi Ogando (groin) to the disabled list in recent weeks and with Roy Oswalt still a few weeks away, they had to dip into their farm system for a replacement starter. Kirkman, 25, has 29 appearances and 48 2/3 big league innings to his credit already, but all of them have come in relief. He's worked primarily as a starter in Triple-A but his performance hasn't been anything to write home about: 5.25 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 5.8 BB/9. The walks are a problem now and have been throughout his career based on his 4.9 BB/9 in over 600 minor league innings.

I like Kirkman -- who Baseball America ranked as the teams 28th best prospect coming into the season -- more than most because he's a four-pitch lefty with some funk and deception in his delivery. He's slated to start at home against the Astros on Saturday, making him a fine end of the week candidate if you're desperate for counting stats or need to roll the dice on someone for help in the rate categories. Kirkman might not be long for the rotation with Holland reportedly on the mend, but if he sticks around he'll pick up SP eligibility soon enough.

Tyler Moore | OF | Nationals

Bryce Harper garners all of the attention and rightfully so, but the 23-year-old Moore has two straight 30 homer seasons to his credit in the minors and tagged Triple-A pitching to the tune of .310/.372/.660 before being recalled. He hit two homers yesterday -- the first two of his big league career -- and has started three of Washington's last five games after coming off the bench for the previous month. Baseball America only ranked Moore as the team's 16th best prospect coming into the season because of his high strikeout rate (23.5% of all minor league plate appearances) and defensive shortcomings, but they do acknowledge that his right-handed pop is very real. He's totaled at least 70 extra-base hits in each of the last two minor league seasons.

With Steve Lombardozzi starting to come back to Earth a bit -- .238/.289/.333 in the last 33 team games -- Moore could see more time in left field, particularly against left-handers. He's not going to give you much average or even OBP, but Moore will hit some homers and drive in some runs if given the playing time. Keep an eye on their lineups the next few days, if Moore starts to see more and more playing time, grab him if your team is power-starved.



Jered Weaver's Back Brings Garrett Richards Back

Initially it looked like a hamstring or ankle injury, but earlier this week the Angels lost ace right-hander Jered Weaver to the disabled list with spasms and a strained muscle around a disc in his lower back. It sounds -- and looked -- pretty painful, and right now it's unclear how long he'll be out.

"Hopefully it won't be too long before he's out there pitching, but we don't know what the timetable is going to be," said manager Mike Scioscia to Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles. "I think everyone believes it's going to be manageable, and hopefully it won't be too long, but we have to give him enough time ... It's significant enough where it's going to take a couple of weeks. When he's back in the rotation is when he's healthy, and when that time frame comes isn't certain."

Taking his place in the rotation will be 24-year-old right-hander Garrett Richards, who appeared in seven games (three starts) with the Halos last season. He wasn't very good in his first taste of the show, pitching to a 5.79 ERA with nearly as many walks (seven) as strikeouts (nine) in 14 innings. Richards jumped right from Double-A to the big leagues though, and early this year he was able to get some Triple-A innings under his belt to continue his develop. He's pitched to a 4.31 ERA with unimpressive strikeout (7.67 K/9) and walk (4.63 BB/9) rates in 52 1/3 innings across ten starts. I have to think the Angels would have preferred to give him more minor league time, but duty calls.

Baseball America ranked Richards as the team's third best prospect before the season, saying "a No. 3 profile is the most likely outcome" in their subscriber-only scouting report. PitchFX data available at FanGraphs corroborates their report of a legitimate mid-90s fastball with a hard, mid-80s slider and a nascent mid-80s changeup. It's the kind of stuff that makes you wonder why Richards didn't rack up more strikeouts in the minor leagues, when he posted a 7.9 K/9 and whiffed just 21.1% of the batters he faced. Most hard-throwers are up around 25% in the minors thanks to pure velocity.

Coming into the season, Dan Syzmborski's ZiPS system thought Richards was a true talent 5.48 ERA pitcher at this point of his career. That's really harsh and despite his status as one of the club's top prospects, it's very much in line with what you'd expect given his recent minor league performance. The schedule will help him a little bit in the coming weeks. Richards will start against the Mariners in a few days (the Halos took advantage of today's off day to rearrange their rotation) after throwing a perfect tune-up inning last night, then he lines up for dates against the Dodgers, Giants, and Dodgers again. One of those three games (the first Dodgers matchup) will be in an NL park. You can use him as a matchup guy if you're desperate for counting stats late in the week, but otherwise Richards is unlikely to contribute much in a standard 12-team mixed league with 5x5 scoring. Sit this one out and hope one your opponents decides to roll the dice.



Athletics Turn To Jarrod Parker For Rotation Help

Trading for prospects is nothing new for the Oakland Athletics, who turned the duo of Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez into seven prospects in separate trades this past offseason. Left-hander Tommy Milone, who came from the Nationals in the Gonzalez trade, has been in the A's rotation since Opening Day. Last night he was joined by the recently recalled Jarrod Parker, who came from the Diamondbacks in the Cahill trade. Replacing the generally ineffective Graham Godfrey, Parker held the White Sox to one run in 6 1/3 innings yesterday afternoon. He struck out five and walked just one, getting 17 of his 19 outs on the infield. It was a strong if unspectacular debut.

The 23-year-old Parker came to the Athletics with some big league experience. He threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dodgers is his first (and only other) big league start last September before making Arizona's playoff roster. In his lone appearance in the NLDS against the Brewers, Parker allowed three of the four batters he faced in relief to reach base. He pitched to a 3.79 ERA in 130 2/3 innings Double-A innings before the callup, showing the typical control problems associated with recent elbow surgery; Parker walked 3.8 BB/9 in the minors last year after missing all of 2010 with Tommy John surgery. In four Triple-A starts before his callup, he struck out 21 batters and walked just six in 20 2/3 innings. The performance is there, and the scouting report backs it all up.

Baseball America has long touted Parker as a future high-end starter, ranking him no worse than 46th on their annual Top 100 Prospects List every year from 2008-12. They ranked him as the top prospect in Oakland's farm system following the trade, saying he "has true frontline-starter potential and isn't far away from reaching it" in their subscriber-only scouting report. Reports of a mid-90s four-seam fastball, low-90s team-fastball, mid-80s slider, and mid-80s changeup are corroborated by the PitchFX data from his start last September as well as yesterday afternoon. Parker generated 11 swings and misses with 99 pitches yesterday, an excellent rate even if it came against the team with the third highest strikeout rate -- 21.8% of plate appearances -- in baseball.

So what does this all mean from a fantasy perspective? For one, Parker has the stuff to miss bats and rack up strikeouts. Keeping the ball out of play is a great way to escape jams, as is playing in a huge ballpark. The Coliseum in Oakland is one of the pitcher-friendliest parks in the Majors, as is Safeco Field and Angels Stadium. Outside of the Rangers lineup and the ballpark in Arlington, it's a pretty good division for a pitcher. The only problem is that while Parker will get some help keeping his ERA and WHIP down, he won't win you many games. He's a three-category asset in a standard 5x5 scoring league.

Parker's upcoming schedule isn't all that great, so you're going to have to keep him glued to the bench if you pick him up right away. If you don't pick him up right away ... someone else will. Parker's next start will come at Fenway Park against the Red Sox, then he lines up for home dates against the Blue Jays and Tigers before going on the road to face the Rangers. If another owner in your league doesn't play the matchup  game and gets frustrated by Parker's performance against those clubs, I'd look to buy low on him in about three weeks. Other than Matt Moore, I don't think there's a more fantasy-ready pitching prospect this season than the former Diamondbacks right-hander.



Recent Call-Ups: Frazier, Pomeranz, Smyly, Wilk

Three teams have made a quartet of interesting call-ups in recent weeks, but are any of the players worthy of a spot on a fantasy roster? Let's dig in...

Todd Frazier | 3B | Reds

Frazier, 26, was Cincinnati's last roster cut before the start of the season and now he's back with the club following Miguel Cairo's hamstring injury. He's hit .261/.335/.453 in parts of four seasons at Triple-A but didn't get his first taste of the show until last year. Baseball America has considered Frazier as one of the team's ten best prospects for a half-decade now, ranking him ninth this year because of his "plus power to all fields."

The problem for Frazier and fantasy owners is playing time. He's a corner infielder and outfielder by trade, and the Reds have those spots covered with Joey Votto, Scott Rolen, and Jay Bruce. Even the unconventional left field platoon of Chris Heisey and Ryan Ludwick has no room for Frazier because like those two guys, he's a right-handed hitter. Rolen looks pretty much done - .171/.209/.244 so far - plus he isn't exactly Mr. Durable, but it will probably take an injury to get Frazier into the lineup with an regularity. Dan Szymborski's ZiPS system thinks he can hit 20 homers with 13 steals given regular at-bats in the show, but that's just not going to happen right now. Unless injury earns him a steady lineup spot, Frazier is a non-option in 12-team mixed leagues.

Drew Pomeranz | SP | Rockies

Part of last summer's Ubaldo Jimenez trade, the 23-year-old Pomeranz got his feet wet with the Rockies last September and allowed eleven runs in 18 1/3 innings across four starts. The southpaw made the team's rotation out of Spring Training, though he was sent to the minors for one start because off days allowed Colorado to avoid using their fifth starter. Pomeranz was recalled to make his first start of the season against the Diamondbacks on Sunday, allowing five runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Considered the 30th best prospect in the game before the season by Baseball America, Pomeranz has frontline stuff but must master his control to realize his potential. He walked 38 batters in 101 minor league innings last season (3.4 BB/9), but he also struck out 119 for a 10.6 K/9. Walks can be problematic when Coors Field is your home park, but the strikeouts do mitigate the risk somewhat. The NL West is also full of big-time pitcher's parks, which will help further. Pomeranz can be useful to your fantasy team if you pick and choose your spots. His next two starts are likely to come against the Brewers and Mets, but after that the Rockies run into a slate of games against the Dodgers, Braves, Padres, Dodgers (again), Giants, Diamondbacks (sans Chris Young and maybe Justin Upton), and then an interleague series with the Mariners. I'm buying Pomeranz right now, both for that short-term stretch and for the long-term upside in a keeper league.

Drew Smyly & Adam Wilk | SP | Tigers

The runners-up to Duane Below in the fifth starter's competition, both Smyly and Wilk are back in the big leagues and in Detroit's rotation. Doug Fister is on the shelf with an oblique strain and the team decided to keep Below in the bullpen after two early-season relief appearances. Smyly, 22, allowed one run in four innings to the Rays in his first start before shutting out the White Sox over six innings the second time out. The 24-year-old Wilk allowed two runs in five innings to those same ChiSox in his only start so far.

Neither Smyly or Wilk offers the same upside of Pomeranz, though Baseball America did rank Smyly as the Tigers' third best prospect before the season. Not only was Wilk much further down the list at 22, but he was also listed as a reliever. Below was 21st. Smyly is a bit of a personal fave as a true five-pitch - four-seamer, cutter, curveball, slider, changeup - left-hander with a strong but short minor league track record. He walked just 36 of the 501 batters he faced last season (7.2% and 2.6 BB/9) while striking out 130 in 126 innings (25.9% and 9.3 K/9). He also advanced three levels after being a 2010 draft pick. Smyly's next two starts are must-sits against the Rangers and Yankees, but after that the Tigers will go on to play the White Sox, Mariners, Athletics, White Sox (again), Twins, Pirates, Indians, and Twins (again). There is some definite fantasy value to be gained but matching up with Smyly over the next month.

Wilk will enjoy that same cushy schedule, but he has much less margin for error as a finesse southpaw - low-to-mid-80s fastball, curveball, change. His minor league walk rates are fantastic (1.2 BB/9 in 2011), but he doesn't miss many bats (just 6.7 K/9) and AL hitters will punish his mistakes. You might luck into a decent start or two next month, but Smyly is the better play both in terms of probability and upside. Fister suffered a bit of a setback in his rehab recently, so both Wilk and Smyly appear to have some short-term job security.



Moseley's Injury Opens The Door For Joe Wieland

Right-hander Dustin Moseley missed a big chunk of last season with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, but the news is much worse this year. The 30-year-old suffered "extensive damage" and "changes to the labrum" in his right shoulder in his first start of the season last week according to manager Bud Black, when he allowed five runs in five innings to the Dodgers. Last night, the Padres pulled right-handed pitching prospect Joe Wieland from his start for Triple-A Tuscon after just two innings. Baseball America's J.J. Cooper confirms that Wieland was lifted from the game and told he's headed to San Diego to fill Moseley's rotation spot. As you'd expect, he was thrilled when he got the news.

The Padres have yet to confirm the move, but it appears that Wieland will make his big league debut against the Dodgers this Saturday. San Diego acquired the 22-year-old from the Rangers in the Mike Adams trade last summer, and Baseball America went on to rank him as the seventh best prospect in baseball's third best farm system. "Wieland profiles as a classic No. 4 starter, but his exquisite control suggests he could be a No. 3," wrote Matt Eddy in the subscriber-only scouting report, and he's not kidding about the exquisite control. Wieland walked just 21 batters in 155 2/3 innings last year, a 1.2 BB/9 and 3.4% of the hitters he faced. Just for some perspective, the best walk rate in the big league last year was Josh Tomlin's 3.2%. No one else was below 3.5%. 

Based on the batted ball data at First Inning, Wieland is a bit of a fly ball pitcher and that plays right into his home ballpark. He's a four-pitch guy - upper-80s/low-90s fastball, curveball, slider, changeup - with very strong strikeout rates in the minors, including an 8.7 K/9 and 24.4 K% last season. Dan Szymborski's ZiPS system thinking Wieland can muster a sub-4.00 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning as a big leaguer this season, and that guy is rosterable in a standard 12-team mixed league with 5x5 scoring. As with any extreme strike-thrower, the risk is too many pitches in the strike zone resulting in lots of hits allowed. Hits have a way of turning into runs, though I still don't think it's crazy to expect a lower ERA than ZiPS projects given Petco Park. Wieland is certainly more usable in fantasy than Moseley, a low-strikeout ground ball guy.

Assuming he starts at Dodger Stadium this weekend, Wieland's next start would come at home against the Chase Utley and Ryan Howard-less Phillies. A date with the Nationals in Petco would follow next. That's three straight pretty favorable matchups, making Wieland a nice early-season waiver wire add. I wouldn't count on him or any Padres' hurler to provide many wins, but he's capable of a lowering your ERA and WHIP rates while chipping in a handful of strikeouts. For a spare rotation piece, those are pretty solid traits. Most fill-in types will kill the rate stats and boost the counting stats, not the other way around. 


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