This time of year, most of the top prospect call-ups have already happened, and there’s not likely to be many more between now and September. There hasn’t been much action on the trade market yet, so searching for fresh talent for your fantasy roster isn’t easy. This week, I’m digging pretty deep, but for those of you in AL-only leagues, there’s someone working his way back to the big leagues who may be of interest.
Manny Ramirez (Ownership rates: Yahoo 0%, ESPN 0.3%, CBS 4%)
Feel free to snicker all you want, but I did tell you we were digging deep this week. We’ll get all the obvious caveats out of the way first. Manny is 41 years old and hasn’t produced at the major-league level since 2010. Sure, he put up some gaudy numbers and launched some ridiculous homers in Taiwan this year, but from everything I’ve heard, the Taiwanese league is approximately equivalent to High-A ball.
The other side of this issue to consider is that Manny hasn’t had a chance to succeed, or fail, at the major-league level since that 2010 season. His 2011 stint with the Rays was cut short after just five games due to a failed drug test, and he played in just 17 games last year in Triple-A for the Oakland organization after serving a 50-game suspension. If you want to read anything into those samples, be my guest.
He’s three years older than he was in that last productive season, when he posted a .298/.409/.460 slash line over 90 games, and that obviously should give any fantasy owner pause. He also hasn’t faced high-level competition for an extended period in those three years. There’s bound to be some rust to knock off, even if Manny has something left in the tank.
Still, we’re talking about a man with 555 major-league homers and a career .312/.411/.585 slash. He’ll never have to play the field, so all he has to focus on is hitting baseballs, which in case you’d forgotten, he used to be very good at. There’s probably some steroid-related noise in his career power numbers, but steroids have nothing to do with plate discipline, vision or mechanics at the plate, and those are all things that Manny always has excelled at.
Furthermore, if Manny can make it back to the majors and regain even a little bit of his former glory, he’ll be playing half his games in the hitters’ haven of Rangers Ballpark, and in the hottest months of the year at that. Also, there’s the fact that the Rangers need a right-handed bat and designated hitter in a bad way.
Lance Berkman has been playing essentially replacement-level baseball as the Rangers’ designated hitter, with a WAR of 0.1 on the season, and Adrian Beltre is the only right-handed or switch-hitting bat on the team who is hitting above .300 against righties, an area Manny always has handled quite well.
Realistically speaking, do I expect Manny to be a solid fantasy contributor in August and September? The answer is an obvious no, and I think any reasonable person would agree. I do, however, think there is still a chance that he has enough left to provide some value for both the Rangers and your fantasy team for a month or two.
Absolutely avoid him in any sort of mixed league or shallower AL-only format, but if you’re in a deep AL-only and you have some wasted space in your reserve slots or on your bench, he’s worth a speculative stash. You can’t just completely ignore a player with 555 career home runs in leagues that deep. Just make sure you’re not dropping anything of value, because the chances of Manny being Manny again are admittedly slim.