The return of a preseason fantasy darling leads off this week’s pitcher-heavy column.
Similar to the other version of this column, which drops on Fridays, the Thursday edition offers a take on players who recently made their MLB debuts or were recalled, from top-end prospects down to lesser-known farmhands and veteran minor leaguers — all with a nod to their fantasy relevance and impact, specifically for this season. 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 during the year.
Players listed in order of 2011 fantasy impact.
Brian Matusz, Orioles
Talent Rating: 8 (out of 10)
Cling Factor: 8 (out of 10)
Matusz was the target of many a fantasy owner after putting together an impressive second half a year ago (3.63 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 7.9 K/9). But the fourth overall pick in 2008 suffered an intercostal injury just as the season began and didn’t make his return until June 1. Unfortunately when he did, the left-hander lasted exactly one month in the majors before his ineffectiveness (8.77 ERA) and dip in velocity (into the mid-80s) became too overwhelming to ignore after six June starts. Sent to the minors to try and figure things out, Matusz looked better, posting a 3.46 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and striking out 6.7 per 9 over 9 starts at Triple-A — including a shutout in his most recent outing in which his velo showed he was getting back to normal. The O’s decided he was ready to return, but his first outing back came in Oakland and was just so-so: 6 2/3 IPs, 6 ERs, 8 hits, 5:3 K:BB. Matusz’s fastball was in the high-80s and touched the low-90s, which is encouraging but not necessarily promising. He’s worth an add in AL leagues — and worth watching in deep mixed — but until he proves he’s right for a start or two, I’d be leery about using him at all. With about eight turns in the rotation left — that is, if he can stick in the bigs — 2011 is looking like a lost season for one of the more intriguing young arms coming into the year.
Wade Miley, D-backs
Talent Rating: 7
Cling Factor: 7
When recently-acquired Jason Marquis went down after being hit by a line drive Sunday, Miley got the call. A 2008 sandwich round pick, Miley profiles as an back-end innings-eater who could replace Marquis in the rotation and wind up being a left-handed version of the Cardinals’ Lance Lynn as a big leaguer. Miley’s 4.30 ERA and 1.32 WHIP this year don’t necessarily look all that enticing, but he’s actually performed much better at Triple-A (3.64 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 9.3 K/9) than he did one level below, which is always a positive sign. In fact, his last start was a complete game win with 9 Ks and just 3 hits, 1 walk and 1 run allowed. Right now Arizona’s starter against Atlanta on Saturday hasn’t been decided, and Miley is in the mix along with Zach Duke and Micah Owings, and he may have a leg up, according to manager Kirk Gibson. If Miley is given a shot and performs reasonably well, he would be capable of handling spot starter duty in most NL play. But with other starting options already on the team, I wouldn’t expect a long leash.
Jose Lopez, Marlins
Talent Rating: 6
Cling Factor: 7
Recently signed by the Marlins after being designated for assignment by the Rockies in May — hitting .208 will do that — Lopez is no longer the guy who hit 25 HRs and drove in 96 with the Mariners in 2009. That said, he’s still young — how many of you thought he was at least 30 by now? — and does have an opportunity. With just Greg Dobbs and Alfredo Amezaga as competition at third base and second base for the moment, Lopez should see some time at both spots. It may not be pretty, but he could hit the occasional homer, like he did last night against the very team that released him. Hey, he can’t hurt much as a reserve infield option in NL leagues. Right?
Michael Schwimer, Phillies
Talent Rating: 7
Cling Factor: 6
To be honest, I hadn’t heard much about Schwimer before catching his name this week. He’s not exactly a flamethrower, but his minor league numbers have been consistent and, well, really good. In his four pro seasons, the 6’8″ righty’s stuff has translated at each level as he’s climbed the ladder, as he’s yet to have a walk rate above 3.3/9 and a whiff rate below 11.4 per. He also spent some time closing game this year for Triple-A, where he’s notched 10 saves. There are relievers ahead of him in Philly, so holds may be out of the question, and he could find himself back in Lehigh Valley if he doesn’t throw well out of the gate. But if Schwimer can last until rosters expand in September, he could put up some useable stats for NL owners in need of an RP.
Randall Delgado, Braves
Talent Rating: 8
Cling Factor: 5
After debuting in June as an injury fill-in for Tommy Hanson, Delgado came up to make his second big-league start Tuesday, once again covering for Hanson. The right-hander, who is one of the Braves’ many top pitching prospects, fared much better this time around, allowing no hits through 6 innings before surrendering a solo homer to Cody Ross. For his effort, he was sent back down after the outing, but depending on how long Hanson is out, Delgado could get another few start, if Atlanta doesn’t go with fellow prospect Julio Teheran instead. And there’s always the possibility he could pitch out of the bullpen (a la Arodys Vizcaino) in the final weeks. Basically, he could be an all-arms-on-deck pitcher for a team looking to shore up its playoff spot. That would make him worth owning as a reserve in deep NL-only play.
Dan Runzler, Giants
Talent Rating: 6
Cling Factor: 6
A hard-throwing lefty, Runzler never quite got himself right earlier this year (6.41 ERA, 1.58 WHIP) after he’d shown some promise in 2010, when he sported a 3.03 ERA and a 10.2 K/9 before dislocating his knee while swinging in his first big-league at-bat. Since getting demoted to Triple-A in late May, he’s been pitching primarily in the rotation for the first time as a pro, having made 10 of 14 appearances as a starter. He’s a better bet, though, to have success as a reliever, mainly because he’s always had control issues (5.0 BB/9 in his minor-leaguer career), and San Francisco will use him as such while Sergio Romo is on the DL. For very, very deep NL owners’ eyes only.
If you want quick fantasy analysis of another recently promoted or recalled player, feel free to post in the comments section. I’ll do my best to get to as many as I can.
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