Like a pack of ragged animals picking through the trash bins of a poor neighborhood, us dumpster-divers come to these pages in search of the leftover scraps from the fantasy table. It’s coming to the end of the line in 2014, so let’s not waste any time looking at two deep-leaguers who could offer help in NL-only leagues.
Jacob Lamb / 3B / Arizona Diamondbacks
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August is a strange period for prospects; we’re way past the Super Two deadline that prompts teams to hold back the cream of the crop, and we’re a couple weeks shy of September call-ups. But the 23-year-old Lamb got promoted last week, and a kid with regular playing time who plays a frustratingly thin position who also happens to own a .321/.406/.553 slash line in the minors is red meat for the waiver wire crowd.
Despite having success at every minor league level, Lamb doesn’t arrive at the majors with a particularly high pedigree — he just squeaked on to MLB.com’s top 100 prospects list in the spring, and was left off Baseball America’s top 100 list altogether — though he was listed as Arizona’s sixth-best prospect by our own Marc Hulet last November. A big left-handed hitter, Lamb never produced more than 15 home runs in a season in the minors but managed to produce doubles in droves, thus the .232 ISO. A high strikeout rate in the minors, however, coupled with a very high BABIP doesn’t portend great things for him in the batting average department, at least not this year.
But to give too much weight to such concerns might be to focus on the wrong details. Third base, a shallow position to begin with this season, has recently lost Brett Lawrie to the DL, Pedro Alvarez to the bench, and, well, David Wright has looked lost for the better part of two months. So whether Lamb sets the National League afire in the season’s remaining six weeks might be secondary to his appeal as an upside bet in most NL-only leagues and probably a few mixed ones as well, especially as a guy who will call Chase Field and its left-handed-happy contours home.
Brad Penny / SP / Miami Marlins
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Yes, Penny is alive. And pitching. And, maybe, a rotation man for a major league team after picking up a win on Saturday. Marlins manager Mike Redmond says the team will employ a six-man rotation for the time being with Henderson Alvarez and Jarred Cosart returning from injuries, and if Penny has a job, well, let’s just say there’s nothing wrong with at least giving the man a look.
It has not been an easy few years for Penny, 36, who last pitched in the majors two years ago as a reliever for the Giants, when he allowed almost as many walks (6.8 BB%) as strikeouts (7.5 K%). He tried to make it as a starter in Japan in 2012 before being released after one start, and the Royals gave him a look this spring before he punched a wall in frustration and was cut loose. But he pitched well in Miami’s minor league system this year, compiling a 2.50 FIP and 3.67 SIERA in 38.1 innings across two levels, and the team is looking for starting pitching depth due to the aforementioned injuries and the departure of Jacob Turner.
Despite the 19.4 K% down on the farm this year, Penny has never been a strikeout pitcher — in fact, he’s only once posted a better than 7 K/9 in his career — and the walks, four of which he issued over five innings on Saturday, are a significant red flag. There’s also the question, of course, of how long Penny sticks around in the rotation; much of that might depend on Alvarez and Cosart staying on the field for good, but it’s possible that Penny’s longtime friendship with Redmond — the two played together on the Marlins team that won the 2003 championship — might cut Penny some slack if (when?) things get rough. But Penny plays in the pitcher’s haven known as Marlins Park, the Marlins remain on the fringes of the National League wild card hunt and the offenses of the four competing teams in the NL East have been scuffling lately, with the Braves, Mets and Phillies being especially pitiful.
Anyway, let’s cut to the chase: You’re not eyeballing Penny because you have a plethora of really good starting pitching on your team, but because, perhaps, you missed out on picking up someone like Mike Fiers and are desperate for starting pitching depth in a deep NL-only league. Penny doesn’t promise much, but he’s a veteran arm who’s available virtually everywhere.
Karl, a journalist living in Washington, D.C., learned about life's disappointments by following the Mets beginning at a young age. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he has contributed to the 2014 and 2015 editions of The Hardball Times Annual. Follow/harass him on Twitter @Karl_de_Vries.