Saturday saw one of the most anticipated call-ups of the 2009 season. The Cleveland Indians recalled one of the games top right-handed power prospects, OF Matt LaPorta. And promptly sat him on the bench so lefty hitting Dave Dellucci could DH against right-hander Zach Miner.
A week and a half earlier, the Los Angeles Angels saw their top power threat, OF Vladimir Guerrero, go on the disabled list with a torn pectoral muscle. With the team’s top power prospect Brandon Wood ripping up Triple-A, many in the baseball and fantasy industry saw his recall inevitably leading to the full-time at-bats we richly believed he deserved. Instead, manager Mike Scioscia batted the likes of Macier Izturis and Robb Quinlan in the three-hole and/or at DH and has used Wood in just three games over that period.
Other than the excitement of rostering the next hyped rookie, playing time enigmas like Wood and LaPorta mean close to nothing to the typical mixed league player. With an abundance of free agent hitters in the player pool, there is nothing to compel the mixed leaguer to add a player whose professional production consists entirely of rosy projections rather than one whose production has been demonstrated at the major league level.
In single league formats, though, rostering the next hyped rookie is imperative. With a player pool consisting of little used back-up catchers, fifth outfielders and obligatory back-ups in the middle infield, there exists only the potential of rosy projections. Even when those projections prove to be more thorn than rose, fantasy players in AL- and NL-only leagues still get more production than otherwise was freely available.
Addtionally, the AL/NL-only player cannot allow a potential full-time player to go to a competitor’s team because the free agent pool already reflects the number of these players at any one time: zero. Very rarely are there more than a team or two in an AL/NL Only league who doesn’t have a dead spot on their active roster. A typical mixed league free agent pool is filled with multiple starting players at each available positions, and every team has everyday players on their active rosters
Because the opportunity cost for hyped rookies is so low in AL- and NL-only leagues (losing nothing relative to the freely available players nor by cutting productive active players), getting excited about the chance to add a Brandon Wood or Matt LaPorta becomes an event in fantasy baseball. The question that remains unanswered at this point is why an industry currently dominated by mixed league formats generates any excitement at all about a prospect.
Others call-ups to watch who can still help AL- and NL-Only leaguers without a marquee role:
3B Mat Gamel, Milwaukee Brewers: The lefty masher is toying with Triple-A the way Matt LaPorta did. The Brewers currently play Craig Counsell at 3B against left-handed starters. Gamels’ bat would seem to be quite an improvement over that. Left sides of platoons make for quality options in single format leagues.
RP Daniel Bard, Boston Red Sox: The converted starter does nothing but strike out hitters or keep the ball on the ground (23 strikeouts in 13.2 innings with a 2.20 GO/FO ratio at Triple-A). He has no chance at closing in Boston but has the type of arm that makes LIMA adherents drool. Mixed leaguers need not apply.
OF Will Venable, San Diego Padres: The Padres have outfield at-bats for the taking. First baseman Kyle Blanks would be a no-brainer NL-only grab if the Padres played him in the outfield. That doesn’t seem likely as he only plays there before Triple-A games and not during them. Venable, however, is the starting center fielder and could help NL-only teams if recalled.
OF Justin Maxwell, Washington Nationals: In a week long stint with the Nats, Maxwell stole three bases to remind fantasy leaguers of the 27 home run, 35 steal season he had between Low- and High-A in 2007. There doesn’t appear to be anywhere for Maxwell to play with Lastings Milledge awaiting the end of his Triple-A banishment and Elijah Dukes currently in center field for the Nats. This would prevent any mixed leaguer from adding him, but NL-only ones can benefit from 10 at-bats per week if they come with a steal and a home run every other week.
Last Week Follow-Up: Kansas City Royals middle reliever Jamey Wright pitched in the ninth inning of a 9-1 loss and the eighth inning of a couple games but did not pitch in the ninth of any of the four games the Royals won while closer Joakim Soria was recovering. Juan Cruz received the only save opportunity and converted it successfully.