Waiver Wire: NL, Week 21

As Jeff promised in his AL Waiver Wire column last week, we’ll feature players who have a chance at being promoted to the majors come Sept, 1 roster expansions.

Jenrry Mejia | New York (NL) | SP/RP
YTD: 3.25 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 5.53 K/9, 1.13 K/BB, 66.3 GB

In a somewhat surprising decision, questioned by some, the Mets had Jenrry Mejia open the season with the parent club in relief. Mejia was able to induce a drool-worthy number of ground balls (66.3 percent) using a three-pitch mix that featured his fastball (95.1 mph) 77.8 percent of the time, curveball (79.4 mph) 8.5 percent of the time, and his change up (86.8 mph) 13.7 percent of the time. Unfortunately, while his ERA looks good, his underlying stats, and 4.81 xFIP, indicate he was rather lucky. After he threw 27.2 innings for the Mets, they optioned him to the minors to get stretched out and continue his development as a starter.

Mejia has thrown 27.1 innings in Double-A for the Binghamton Mets to the tune of a 1.32 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP. As one would expect, his ERA was a bit luck-inflated, but his underlying stats are promising with a 61.0 groundball rate and a solid 8.07 K/9. The next hurdle for him appears to be reducing his walks as his 4.34 walk rate (BB/9), but given his age and the level he’s pitching at, time is on his side. In his last two starts, Mejia has gone seven innings, so there is a reasonable possibility the Mets allow Mejia to get his feet wet once again against major league hitters, this time in a starting role.

Recommendation: Should already be owned in dynasty and deep keeper leagues, and should be added immediately in others. Possible impact in re-draft leagues, but temper expectations for this season.

Jeff Locke | Pittsburgh | SP
YTD (Double-A): 2.89 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 9.06 K/9, 4.7 K/BB, 43.9 GB

Part of the widely criticized package that landed the Braves Nate McLouth, Jeff Locke has posted solid numbers both in High-A and Double-A this year. In a chat for Baseball America on Aug. 25, Jim Callis said he liked Locke and viewed him as a No. 3 or No. 4 in the majors thanks to a four-pitch mix. Baseball America’s 2010 Prospect Handbook had Locke just outside the top 10 prospects in the Pirates organization and described his fastball as operating in the low-90s with sink. As a left-handed starter, he has an outside chance of surpassing Callis’ chat view of him.

Locke has thrown only 46.2 innings in Double-A, but his rate stats—1.93 BB/9, 9.06 K/9, 4.7 K/BB—are almost identical to what he posted in High-A: 1.46 BB/9, 8.65 K/9, 5.92 K/BB. That means he’s transitioned almost seamlessly while making the jump to Double-A. It remains to be seen how aggressive the Pirates will be with Locke, and a September call-up would be the extreme end of the spectrum, but given their place in the standings, they may opt to reward Locke with some time facing major league hitters before opening him in the minors once again next year.

Recommendation: With his strong 2010 campaign, he should be on dynasty league owners’ radar heading into next season.

Rudy Owens | Pittsburgh | SP
YTD (Double-A): 2.67 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 7.07 K/9, 5.36 K/BB, 47.4 GB

Another Pittsburgh pitcher who may be considered for promotion, probably more so than Locke due to having spent more time in Double-A, is Rudy Owens. Owens just cracked the Pirates’ top10 prospects coming into the season according to the Baseball America Prospect Handbook. Owens has been every bit as impressive as Locke, but slightly differently, posting a marginally better walk rate to offset a slightly lesser strikeout rate and inducing more ground balls.

While both Owens and Locke have posted tremendous numbers in Double-A, and are left-handed, they are quite different pitchers. Owens is your typical “crafty left-handed pitcher,” throwing his fastball in the upper-80s and touching 90 with pinpoint accuracy. His highest graded pitch coming into the season was his change-up, but he also throws a developing curveball.

I’m not terribly excited about him, given the dearth of pitc hers of his type who are standouts in the fantasy game, but his strong underlying stats in Double-A have at least earned him a spot on owners’ radars. He probably isn’t worth owning in re-draft leagues even if he is promoted in September, but a September promotion could give a glimpse into his value going into the 2011 season. That may prove valuable for deep-thinking NL-only owners already preparing for next year.

Recommendation: Should be monitored by NL-only leaguers as a potential player of interest in 2011, and perhaps a desperate spot starter in September if promoted.

Mat Gamel | Milwaukee | 3B
YTD (Triple-A): .322/.396/.536
MLE: .282/.340/.448

A year after being touted as a popular summer impact promotion, Mat Gamel has yet to see a major league at-bat this year. Instead, he’s destroyed Triple-A pitching.

Gamel’s bat has never been the problem; it has been his horrendous fielding. With Casey McGehee putting together a fantastic season (2.9 WAR to date) at third base, it is unclear where Gamel’s playing time will come. One thing is pretty much certain: Gamel’s bat is ready, and he’s likely to get a September promotion to show off his stick. In August (84 at-bats) he has slashed .393/.453/.702 with five home runs and 11 doubles with a 10:10 BB:K.

Those in deep leagues shouldn’t wait to see where Gamel gets playing time, and should instead add him and hope his talent lands him on the field in a bit of a utility role (perhaps third or first base and corner outfield) to see how his bat plays at the major league level. Those in dynasty leagues where he is available should add him; he is likely to be a regular at the major league level next year, whether with the Brewers or elsewhere.

Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team or larger mixed dynasty leagues, should be added in deep re-draft leagues, and should be owned in medium to large NL-only leagues in anticipation of a September promotion.

Brandon Allen | Arizona | 1B/OF
YTD (Triple-A): .264/.407/.551
MLE: .220/.327/.434

Arizona’s offseason signing of Adam LaRoche spelled another season spent honing his skills in Triple-A for Brandon Allen. Those who are fans of Russ Branyan type three-true-outcome hitters should love Allen: He’s struck out, walked or hit a home run in just under half of his plate appearances this season.

Promoted last season for 116 plate appearances, he figures to see some time again this year as a near certain September call-up. LaRoche remains a possible waiver trade-deadline candidate as he’s signed only through this season, but even if he’s not dealt, Allen figures to see regular playing time at first base and likely the corner outfield, where he’s played in 28 games this season in the minors.

Allen is an immediate threat to make an impact in home runs, but surprisingly for a player of his slugging skills, Allen has also stolen 13 bases this season, meaning a stolen base or two isn’t out of the question. Right now he is a need based add in re-draft leagues, as power is the only tool I feel comfortable in touting as big league ready. That said, in small sample situations, like those presented in September, a power hitter with batting average issues has a chance to get hot before pitchers are able to adjust and take advantage of holes in his swing.

Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team or larger mixed dynasty leagues using a corner infielder, should be owned as a home run source in deep leagues, and should be owned in medium to large NL-only leagues in anticipation of a September promotion.

Wilson Ramos | Washington | C
YTD: .258/.281/.355
MLE: .220/.246/.317

Already up once this season, albeit almost entirely for his former employer the Minnesota Twins, Wilson Ramos looks to be a likely September call-up for the Nationals. His MLEs are rather putrid, and his limited major league time hasn’t inspired much confidence, but his raw power and high prospect standing make him a player of note both this season and in future seasons for those in dynasty leagues. In addition to his raw talent, Ramos’ 72 at-bats in Triple-A Syracuse inspire some confidence— his MLE slash there was .268/.291/.418 and he was able to rip three home runs and three doubles, hinting he might be tapping into his raw power.

Those in deep two-catcher re-draft leagues (think 14-team or larger) should consider adding Ramos as a rotational catcher to start when he’s scheduled to play behind the plate for the Nationals, or when one of your regular catchers is scheduled to sit. While shuffling catchers in daily change leagues can be tedious, it can be helpful in squeaking out wins in head-to-head leagues or a point or two in roto leagues.

Recommendation: Should be owned in some deep two-catcher mixed leagues, and should be owned in medium to large NL-only leagues. Should be universally owned in medium to large two-catcher dynasty leagues.

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