Anthony Rizzo: Mining the Minors

As Tom Petty once sang: the waiting sucks. (I may be paraphrasing.) So while anticipation is brimming over a prospect who will make his major league debut later today, alas, there was ungood news about another elite ‘spect who was also ready to help fantasy owners, until as Phil Collins once sang, something happened on the way to the big leagues. (Paraphrasing again.) Plus? A whopping kit and a heaping caboodle of other callups.

Similar to the other version of this column, which drops on Fridays, the Thursday edition offers a quick take on players who recently made their MLB debuts or were recalled, from lesser-known farmhands and veteran minor leaguers to top-end prospects — all with a nod to their relevance and impact for fantasy. To help owners, I’ll include a player’s Talent Rating; but just as important is Cling Factor, which highlights the likelihood that a player will remain in the majors (or return, if sent down) during this season.

In case you haven’t heard, Blue Jays third base prospect Brett Lawrie, who was hit in the hand by a pitch last week, will miss more time than initially expected — about two-three weeks — after further tests revealed a fracture. Well, drat. So much for having one of the most impactful prospects, one who will contribute across the board and eventually be eligible as both 2B and 3B, come up right away. I still say you hang onto Lawrie if you’ve picked him up already and can spare another month with him on your bench. But in shallower leagues, if there’s another option that can help you through June in the meantime, then it’s an understandable drop. Now, onto the healthy folks.

Players listed in order of 2011 fantasy impact.

MIXED LEAGUE RELEVANT
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Anthony Rizzo, Padres 1B
Minor-League statistics: .365 BA; 1.159 OPS; 16 HRs; 20 2Bs; 63 RBIs; 48:27 K:BB over 200 ABs
Talent Rating: 9 (out of 10)
Cling Factor: 10 (out of 10)

The call-up actually hasn’t happened as of this post, so we’re jumping the gun a little bit, but the word is the Padres are promoting Rizzo to start at first base for them today. Fantasy owners have been clamoring for this for weeks, as the 21-year-old lefty-hitting power bat has been crushing the PCL since day one this year. In fact, he’s leading all of the minors with 63 RBIs and his 37 extra-base hits rank second in the PCL to that Lawrie guy mentioned above. So, yeah, even in a hitter-friendly league (.805 league-wide OPS), Rizzo’s bat stands out.

The 2007 sixth-rounder is absolutely up to stay (see: Cling Factor – 10) because while the Padres offense has picked up in recent weeks, it’s still last in baseball at 3.4 runs per game. Also? Rizzo is clearly a better option at first than the two guys currently manning the position, Brad Hawpe (.657 OPS) and Jorge Cantu (.525). It’s likely the Padres try to protect the Rizza against tough lefties, but he actually more than held his own against ’em at Triple-A this season (.324 BA, 2 HRs, 10:4 K:BB in 37 ABs), so I wouldn’t expect a strict platoon either — especially when that could hinder his development.

Much as I like Rizzo, I’m not quite as high on him as I was with Eric Hosmer upon his recall last month for three main reasons: 1) Rizzo is patient at the plate but is more prone to strikeouts (23% K rate in his minor-league career); 2) Petco isn’t going to do him any favors, especially since the park suppresses left-handed homers by more than 40%; and 3) he’ll probably have some trouble accumulating runs and RBIS, given his less-than-stellar surrounding cast.

That said, I do think Rizzo is worth adding in most leagues, if not all, particularly for owners who need some power or need to fill a utility or corner infield spot. As a guy who broke out last year with 25 HRs and 100 RBIs across Hi-A and Double-A — and who was well on his way to surpassing those numbers this season — Rizzo has a shot to post 15 bombs going forward, and he’s likely to wind up being one of the top five most impactful bats brought up between now and the rest of the season.

AL-/NL-ONLY RELEVANT
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Mike Carp, Mariners, OF/1B/DH
Talent Rating: 7
Cling Factor: 8
After pleading with the Mariners front office in last week’s column, I can’t help but think I’m solely responsible for Carp’s recall this week. (Thanks for reading, Jack Z!) Carp was tied for the minor-league lead in homers at the time, and he started his first game up at DH — he’ll also get some run in left field and at first base — so that’s a good sign that the M’s will actually use him. His bat makes him a must add in AL-only and someone to keep close tabs on in 12- to 14-team mixed.

Charlie Blackmon, Rockies OF
Talent Rating: 7
Cling Factor: 7
Another former MTMer, Blackmon got the call when Dexter Fowler hit the DL with a strained abdominal muscle. The soon-to-be 25-year-old was well on his way to establishing new career-bests in the power cats (.572 SLG, .965 OPS, 10 HRs, 49 RBIs) and also posted 12 steals, so his all-around game will help NL owners. Whether Blackmon sticks when Fowler gets healthy likely depends on how he performs more than anything else; Fowler was only hitting .238 and hasn’t gotten any better since his rookie year in 2009, so if Blackmon proves capable, he could seize the starting left field job (with Carlos Gonzalez moving to center).

Cord Phelps, Indians 2B/3B/SS
Talent Rating: 6
Cling Factor: 8
I’ve been a Phelps phan (yeah, I just did that) for a while now, and I’m psyched to see him get his shot. He’s not the most talented Indians infield prospect by a long shot, but he’s going to have value in fantasy because he has enough pop (.190 ISO) and should get enough position eligibility (2B, 3B and even SS in leagues with 5-game requirements) to be a very serviceable AL-only option as a plug-and-play type who won’t hurt you. But he does need to prove he can hit in the bigs soon because Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis could be up later in the year to take over the regular jobs at third and second.

Dee Gordon, Dodgers SS
Talent Rating: 6
Cling Factor: 7
Gordon got the Golebiewski treatment earlier this week, and his more in-depth analysis is worth checking out. As for my brief version: I actually prefer Gordon to the next guy on this list because he’s a shortstop and he’s got the wheels to steal bases in bunches. Gordon won’t hit for any power, though — he’s got just 7 homers and 54 doubles in his four seasons — and he might struggle to hit for much of an average right away, too. Then there’s his unimpressive 7.3% BB rate. So he’s basically just for NL-only folks hoping to score some steals in the short term while Rafael Furcal is doing what he does best these days: not playing in baseball games.

Jemile Weeks, A’s 2B
Talent Rating: 6
Cling Factor: 8
Mr. Golebiewski also did a fine job covering Weeks, so I urge you to read his take again. Mine: I prefer my players to be able to do at least one thing really well or several things well enough, and I’m just not sure Rickie’s bro is ready to help owners much this year. Although he has missed chunks of time to injuries, his best homer and steals totals in the minors were 9 in 2009 and 16 in 2010, respectively, so he’s more of a “warm body” type that can be used to plug a hole in AL-only middle infield spots (think: a poor-man’s Orlando Hudson from 2008-10). But he’ll be useful enough because he’s got a good shot to stick around for a while since Mark Ellis is terrible (.211 BA) and now hurt (hamstring), and Scott Sizemore and Adam Rosales — Weeks’ main competitors at the keystone — have moved over to third, where Kevin Kouzmanoff (aka the “Flushin’ Russian”) was OPSing .615 before getting demoted.

Rex Brothers, Rockies RP
Talent Rating: 6
Cling Factor: 7
Another MTM grad, Brothers throws hard and has good enough stuff to help the Rockies’ vanishing bullpen (Franklin Morales and Felipe Paulino were traded; Matt Daley is on the DL) as the second lefty behind Matt Reynolds. There’s big strikeout potential here — he had 45 in 28 innings at Triple-A — but until he figures a way to get his walks (4.9/9) under control, it would be surprising to see him in many pressure situations that would allow him to also pick up some holds.

Greg Halman, Mariners OF
Talent Rating: 7
Cling Factor: 6
It’s too bad there’s no “K” in his name because, well, dude strikes out. A lot. Like 35% of the time a lot. Once the Mariners’ top prospect, according to Baseball America, the Netherlands-born Halman does offer a legit power-speed combo — he’s topped 20 homers four times and 30 steals twice — and he’s gone 6-for-7 in his first action this year. But the 23-year-old righty is going to have to figure things out fast to be more than bench fodder for AL-onlies.

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When it comes to monitoring players for this column, I’ll handle the work, but if you want quick fantasy analysis of another recent recall, feel free to post in the comments section. I’ll do my best to get to as many as I can.

We hoped you liked reading Anthony Rizzo: Mining the Minors by Jason Catania!

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Jason Catania is an MLB Lead Writer for Bleacher Report who also contributes to ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Insider and MLB Rumor Central, focusing on baseball and fantasy content. When he was first introduced to fantasy baseball, Derek Jeter had 195 career hits, Jamie Moyer had 72 wins and Matt Stairs was on team No. 3. You can follow him on Twitter: @JayCat11

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sffan
Guest
sffan

Hey Jason,

Thanks for your mining the minors posts. Just wondering about the talent and cling ratings–are this in relation to just the group of players listed here, or on more of an absolute scale? Does say, a 6 player from this week equal a 6 player from last week?