Monday, May 5, 2008

“I’m coming up, so you better get this party started”

By: Ben Distler

Every year it seems a rookie call up decides the World Series. Last year, rookies Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury contributed just as much to the Boston Red Sox triumph as anything that Man-Ram and Big Papi did. In previous seasons this was a theme was well, with players such as the 2002 K-Rod, 2003 Dontrelle Willis, and the 2006 Adam Wainwright. The same can hold true for your fantasy team. In fantasy football, you can draft LaDainian Tomlinson and pretty much pencil yourself in for a playoff spot. In fantasy baseball, you can draft A-Rod with your first pick and it means absolutely nothing. If you can’t scan the waiver wire for the next big thing, you might as well not be playing. As an added bonus, you’ll always have an affinity for the midseason pickup who propelled you to the top. I still get misty eyes when I think of the Eric Gagne of old, and the mega rookies Liriano, Papelbon, and Braun. In order to help your fantasy team, you may want to write down the following names. (Stats as of 05/04/08)

Jeff Clement (SEA) – In the majors now
Clement was called up from the minors about a week before the team could have delayed his future entry into free agency. Not only that, but they cut Brad Wilkerson and his 3 million dollar guaranteed contract just to get Clement on the roster. All this points to Clement getting plenty of opportunity. With Jose Vidro batting the Mendoza line (.200), Clement should supplant him as DH sooner rather than later. As an added bonus, Clement may spell the struggling Kenji Johjima (batting a sub-Mendoza .190) at catcher. If Clement even produces slightly above average, he’ll be a great option at catcher. If he begins to fulfill his true potential, he could push your squad to a fantasy title.

Max Scherzer (ARI) – In the majors now
Arizona brought up Scherzer and intended to use him as a long reliever so he could get his feet wet. Well, that lasted all of one outing when Scherzer went 4.1 perfect innings with 7 Ks. It became apparent very quickly that this kid belongs in the rotation. He’ll get his first start on Cinco de Mayo against strikeout prone Philly, and it’ll be worth finding it on your MLB TV package in between margaritas and tequila shots. He has the potential to be the next Liriano, who as we all know, tore the league up in 2006. Drop your worst pitcher and go get Mad Max as soon as possible. Now if Arizona would just rename their stadium “Thunderdome”…

Jay Bruce (CIN) – ETA June
I have a theory that Corey Patterson has photos of manager Dusty Baker in compromising positions. This is probably how he managed to start in Chicago all those years, and now has a starting gig in the Queen City. Patterson is actually somehow managing to perform worse than his standard mediocrity, batting .202 with a .265 OBP. Sure, he can run, but as the old adage goes, you can’t steal first base. It is time to admit that he just isn’t that good, isn’t getting any better, and will always be the same Patterson he’s always been. Bruce however, is all upside. He’s batting .284 with 5 HRs in the minors. In the high school sized park that is Great American, he could end up with 25 or more home runs in an abbreviated season. Expect the Reds to be completely out of it by June, give up on Patterson, and call up “Bruce Almighty.” Pick up him the last week of May and make the other owners in your league angry.

Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – ETA mid-June
You have to love the NL West. Arizona (for as good as they are) is prone to strikeouts, Colorado is banged up, the Giants have a sub par offense, and the Padres play in a black hole of offense. With all the young pitching talent the Dodgers possess, it’d be crazy to continue to run guys like Hiroki Kuroda or Hong-Chih Kuo out there all season. They’re decent players, but they’re nothing compared to the potential of Kershaw. He’s a huge lefty at 6’3’’ and 220, and pushes the ball in the mid to high 90’s. He has a tiny 1.11 ERA in Double A (ignore the 0-3 record) and has a 36:11 K:BB ratio. He’s one of those prospects so talented that he may bypass triple A altogether. If you notice the Dodgers 4th and 5th starters starting to falter a big, see if you can pick Kershaw up and reap the benefits.

Homer Bailey – (CIN) – ETA July
Before we discuss the important things like his 2.29 ERA, how awful would it be to be named “Homer?” I’ve been watching the Simpsons for almost two decades now, and if there is any name more associated with ridicule and incompetence, I’d like to hear it. Besides George W. Bush, of course. However, Bailey is defying his namesake, and putting up incredible numbers in triple A. He currently has a 32:9 K:BB ratio, and his WHIP sits at a miniscule 0.99. Most relievers can’t muster a 0.99 WHIP, much less a starter like Bailey. He had a rough go at it in his September call up last year, but it seems it only served to season him more. As the Reds slip into their requisite mid-summer freefall, expect Homer “D’oh” Bailey to be called up and get an extended look.

Josh Fields – (CWS) – ETA August
The White Sox had a spectacular start to the season, but are starting to fade back into the pack in the competitive AL Central. As they slide further and further, more attention will be paid to Joe Crede. Crede has some good power numbers (7 HR, 22 RBIs), but is leaving a lot to be desired with his batting average, clocking in at .255. Also, since he is in the last year of his contract, with Scott Boras as his agent. If Boras can get Barry Zito a $126 million dollar deal, you have to believe he can spin Crede’s season into a price well beyond what the White Sox are willing to pay. Therefore, I expect them to deal Crede away before the trading deadline to a team that needs a boost at the hot corner. As a result, Fields would be in line for some late season at bats. While he’s not exactly killing the ball in triple A, he still has a lot of time to correct himself and contribute near the end of the season. If you’re on the South Side of Chi-town and you start hearing the rumors of Crede getting traded, it’s a perfect time to get Fields out of the pool, and get yourself a much needed boost, while messing over the Crede owner in the process.

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