Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw discusses five players who are getting a chance to play in the majors and how valuable they may be to fantasy managers.
Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies
With a couple of outfielders on the move, Dominic Brown has returned to the Phillies. The former top prospect hit .310 with 20 doubles in just 65 games in the minor leagues this season. A month shy of his 25th birthday, Brown’s window of opportunity is closing, so it makes a lot of sense for the Phillies to give him a shot. If you are in need of some offensive support, Brown should be able to offer a decent average and respectable on base percentage, though the power and speed have not developed the way we thought they would so far.
Mike Olt, 1B, Rangers
A late first-round pick in 2010, Olt is a big-time power hitter who slammed 28 home runs with 82 RBI in 95 games at Double-A this season. He was desired by all teams when it came to blockbuster deals at the trade deadline, but instead the Rangers plan to have him contribute in the big leagues now. This is bad news for Mitch Moreland, who offers great power but has not been given much of a shot to play everyday.
Greg Holland, RP, Royals
A 27-year-old right-hander who throws hard but does not surrender many long balls, Greg Holland picked up his first save on Wednesday night with a 1-2-3 inning. Holland can still get wild at times and is not nearly as dominant as he was a season ago, but the Royals are at least providing him with the opportunity to succeed in the high pressure role of closer.
Brett Wallace, 1B, Astros
It took Brett Wallace more than 330 at-bats to rack up five home runs last year. He already has four this year in fewer than 50 at-bats after blasting two in his last start. Though his plate discipline is lacking, Wallace did offer some power at Triple-A this season while offering a .300 average. The soon-to-be 26-year-old will have every shot to contribute for the remainder of the season with the Astros in what could be his last chance at being an everyday player.
Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Pirates
The Marlins found no more use for the struggling Gaby Sanchez while the Pirates are eager to give him an opportunity. Sanchez has a .200 average with just three home runs this season, but this is a player who hit 19 home runs in back-to-back seasons and was batting .302 with five home runs in 34 games at Triple-A. With Casey McGehee dealt to the Yankees, Sanchez has first base to himself in Pittsburgh.
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by Eno Sarris //
You won’t find many fantasy baseball articles about the implications of Bill Hall joining the Houston Astros this off-season. That’s for good reason: Hall’s faults are well-defined, his upside muted, and his strengths not the kind that lead to fantasy dominance. What might be most notable about the acquisition is how well he will fit in that Astros infield.
Hall is who he is. Almost 3500 plate appearances into his career, we know he’ll take walks at about an average rate (7.8% career, 8.9% last year, average hovers around 8.5%), strike out way too often (28.7% career, 30.2% last year, average hovers around 20%), and put a charge into the ball (.193 ISO career, .209 last year, average hovers around .150). He’s versatile – in that he can play most positions without embarrassing himself, though he’s great with the glove. He’ll most likely start at second base for the Astros, but his history suggests he’ll rack up some games elsewhere by the end of the season.
Of course with that package, Hall’s usual place in fantasy baseball becomes clear. The lack of contact keeps his batting average too low to be a sought-after solution in mixed-league drafts (.250 career, .247 last year) but his ability to hit home runs and fill in at tough positions (Hall played 20+ games at LF and 2B, 5+ games at SS, CF, 3B, and RF) often becomes interesting at some point in the year. He’s mostly a waiver-wire, plug-in type. Maybe a late-round pick.
Remarkably, you might use that tag to describe each member of the Astros’ infield as presently constructed. On that infield, only Clint Barmes struck out less than 30% of the time last year, nobody walked
more than 9% of the time, and Hall’s 18 homers led the group. Dan Symborski’s well-respected ZiPs projections just came out for the Astros, and the projections for Brett Wallace (.261 BA, 17 HR, 59 RBI), Barmes (.245 BA, 11 HR, 8 SB), Hall (.234, 16 HR) and Chris Johnson (.269, 17 HR, 73 RBI) paint an ugly picture: The Astros are a good bet to field the worst fantasy infield in the game next year.
Caveats apply. The average qualifying second baseman put up a .276/.345/.414 line in 2010, and that resulting .138 ISO means that Hall will show well above-average power among his peers at that position. He could keep the starting second base job all year and hit 25 home runs with that short porch in left field, though he’s only once before hit more than 20 home runs. Even if he does top that power mark, the question remains how much losing those 30+ points of batting average will hurt your team.
If your league has corner infield spots, or you took a flier on a young or inconsistent third baseman ahead of Johnson, he could be a late-draft handcuff possibility – but in that case, there’s a chance that someone sees his batting average from last year and likes him better than they should. Wallace and Barmes – well, a wait-and-see approach is best for those two.
By Eno Sarris //
Biggest Surprise & Regression Alert: Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson was a revelation in an otherwise poor season for the Astros; Houston scored the third-fewest runs in baseball in 2010. His .308/.337/.481 rookie batting line is in the books, but can he make a repeat performance in 2011? It’s not likely. His minor league isolated power (ISO) was only about average (.152, major league average is .150), so the power he showed last year (.173 ISO) was a little high – not impossible to replicate, but don’t bet on it either. The bigger issues: Johnson’s plate discipline (4.2% career BB%, 26.7% career K%) and elevated 2010 batting average on balls in play (.387 BABIP last year, a number that trends towards .300 across baseball), point to a big potential drop in batting average next year.
Biggest Bust: Lance Berkman
Tommy Manzanella was terrible, but he was mostly known for his defense anyway. Carlos Lee also had a poor season, but turned it on late to get to 24 home runs and some respectability – at least from a fantasy perspective. Michael Bourn didn’t have a great batting average, but still stole 52 bases. That leaves Lance Berkman. He was injured much of the season, and didn’t crack 500 plate appearances for the first time since his sophomore season in 2000. His knee condition may be degenerative, and he’s seen a three-year decline in slugging and on-base percentages now. He’s best left for the deepest of leagues until he shows life again.
2011 Keeper Alert: Brett Wallace
Hunter Pence is the only no-doubt keeper on this offense, but Brett Wallace is the only interesting player who has yet to establish himself in the major leagues. Coming off his minor league record, in which he put up a .304/.375/.487 batting line, more was expected of him than his rookie-year stats (.222/.296/.319). Then again, many of his better power years in the minor leagues came in high-run environments, so his power might be suspect. In his 159-plate appearance major league debut, he didn’t show the ability to take a walk (5%), struck out too much (34.7%) and didn’t show any power. He’s a deep-league sleeper and an NL-only dynasty keeper at most, but he’s also a name worth remembering, if only for potential help in the batting average category if and when he gets going.