James Darnell and Nate Eovaldi: Mining the Minors by Jason Catania August 11, 2011 At this point in the season, with just about seven weeks remaining, the chance that a newcomer to your roster will make a significant fantasy impact isn’t great, whether we’re talking about a recently-recalled minor leaguer getting another another shot in the bigs or one of the few elite prospects who has yet to get the call. But that doesn’t mean these players are entirely incapable of making useful fantasy contributions either. Now that we’re down to the final push — when the fantasy playoffs are in sight, money is on the line and bragging rights are up for grabs — it’s the savvy owner who follows every turn of the the never-ceasing transaction wheel. Because continuing to play that slumping stud regularly (any day now, Carlos Beltran) or rostering that one-time starter who just lost his job (step aside, Travis Snider) or waiting for that injured star to return (hurry back, Rickie Weeks) or sitting on that pitcher who was traded to a tougher environment (hey, Jason Marquis is actually owned in some leagues) isn’t exactly doing much to help your cause now, is it? But maybe — just maybe — one of these guys can. 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. AL-/NL-ONLY RELEVANT ________________________ James Darnell, Padres Position: 3B Age: 24 Talent Rating: 8 Cling Factor: 9 Unfortunately for the Padres, the only guy on their team who manages to get the occasional hit also managed to hit the DL when Chase Headley broke a pinkie on his left hand, sidelining him more than a month. The beneficiary? Darnell — and fantasy owners in NL leagues. The 2008 second-rounder is arguably the org’s top hitting prospect aside from Anthony Rizzo, and now he gets to finish out what’s been a superb minor league season in the majors. Splitting time between Double- and Triple-A, Darnell has slashed .317/.415/.573 with 23 HRs and a near 1:1 K:BB ratio. His plate discipline is his best asset (16% BB rate), and his solid pop will certainly be muted by Petco, so he’s only actionable in deep NL leagues, where he could do enough to help owners in need of a corner infielder or utility option. Nate Eovaldi, Dodgers Position: SP Age: 21 Talent Rating: 8 Cling Factor: 8 Can’t blame the Dodgers for rushing one of their promising young arms to the majors rather than have to watch John Ely pitch every five days. What Eovaldi lacks in consonants, he makes up for with velocity. He used his-90s fastball and a promising slider (when he gets it over) to win his debut (5 IPs, 2 ERs, 4 hits with a tidy 7:2 K:BB) against Arizona. His numbers at Double-A were strong (2.62 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 8.7 K/9) but he’ll have to do better than his 4.0 BB/9. As long as the Dodgers don’t skip his spot in the rotation with today’s off day, Eovaldi is lined up to pitch Friday night at home against the Astros, making him a nice spot starter for just about any owner looking for an opportunity at a W and some strikeouts. The main focus going forward, though, is going to be NL-onlies. Dave Sappelt, Reds Position: OF Age: 24 Talent Rating: 7 Cling Factor: 8 Sappelt was tearing it up earlier this season before falling victim to a nagging oblique injury. He’s more of a fourth outfielder long-term, but he’s a capable defender at all three spots, he’s hit at every level (.309/.362/.459 in his career), and he even has a little speed. The injury to Chris Heisey gives the 2008 draftee a chance to see regular time in left, now that Yonder Alonso may not be playing there much more. Strictly OF depth for deep NL leagues. Salvador Perez, Royals Position: C Age: 21 Talent Rating: 7 Cling Factor: 9 Alvarez is a defensive-oriented catcher whose best offensive trait is his ability to make contact (11% K rate and 6% BB rate). That said, he is still really young, especially since catchers typically have a longer developmental arc because handling pitchers is such an important element to their skill set, and he did manage career-bests in long balls (10) and RBIs (53) while spending most of the year at Double-A before a brief 12-game promotion to Omaha. He’s the Royals catcher of the future, so expect him to get plenty of at-bats for the rest of 2011, which means he’s a sneaky add in AL leagues that start two backstops. Henderson Alvarez, Blue Jays Position: SP Age: 21 Talent Rating: 7 Cling Factor: 7 Alvarez boasts a huge arm capable of chucking baseball in the upper-90s, yet he’s had trouble turning his heat into whiffs (just 6.5 K/9 career). Still, he’s improved as he’s climbed the ladder — his 2.86 ERA and 1.11 WHIP this year are career bests — and he knows how to throw strikes (1.7 BB/9). Considering he’s yet to pitch at Triple-A and clearly needs that for his development, the Venezuelan right-hander cut his teeth in his debut Wednesday night with a solid line: 5 2/3 IPs, 3 ERs, 8 hits, 4:1 K:BB. That should be enough to get him another turn, for AL owners keeping tabs. Arodys Vizcaino, Braves Position: RP/SP Age: 20 Talent Rating: 9 Cling Factor: 8 A starter by trade, Vizcaino would be much higher in this batch of players if the Braves weren’t calling him up to work in the bullpen. He’s right there with fellow Atlanta pitching prospects Mike Minor and Randall Delgado, and he actually has the most upside of all three, thanks to a hammer curve that is one of the best in the minors. His performance (career 2.91 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 2.3 BB/9) has never been the issue; rather his inability to stay healthy for a full season has limited Vizcaino. In fact, his 97 innings across three levels in 2011 are already a career high, so the Braves wisely switched him (temporarily) to relief, so he can help them down the stretch. Zach Stewart, White Sox Position: SP Age: 24 Talent Rating: 7 Cling Factor: 7 A Mining the Minors veteran by now, Stewart came to the White Sox in the July deals that eventually landed Edwin Jackson in St. Louis and Colby Rasmus in Toronto, and Chicago wants to get a look at their new pitcher before the season is out. The team is expected to give him another start or two before moving him to the bullpen for the rest of the year, so there’s not a whole lot of value here. Garrett Richards, Angels Position: SP Age: 23 Talent Rating: 7 Cling Factor: 6 After covering Richards (3.06 ERA, 1.14 WHIP in the minors this year) in last week’s column, the Angels continued the trend of plucking pitchers from Double-A to make a late-season start in the majors. In Richards’ case, the righty got the first crack at replacing Joel Pineiro in the rotation. His iffy debut (5 IPs, 6 ERs, 6 hits, 2:2 K:BB) deserves a little more credit given the context: against the Yankees in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium — or what you might call the scariest environment imaginable. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the team goes in a different direction next time out, given that he still has things to work on and has already surpassed his career-high in innings. Travis Wood, Reds Position: SP/RP Age: 24 Talent Rating: 7 Cling Factor: 7 Wood entered 2011 as a popular late-round gamble following his impressive second-half debut a year ago (3.51 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.5 K/9), but he was inconsistent, struggled mightily at hitter-friendly Great American (6.85 ERA, 1.59 WHIP) and found himself back in Triple-A before June was out. He’s been slightly better in his 8 starts with Louisville, but he was called up to pitch out of the pen for now. Until he can work his way back into the rotation, he’s not going to help anyone much. Henry Sosa, Astros Position: SP Age: 26 Talent Rating: 6 Cling Factor: 7 As the Astros continue to shuffle the deck chairs to see if any are actually worth keeping for next summer, Sosa is getting a look in place of the struggling/demoted J.A. Happ. The righty has performed well (2.10 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 20:7 K:BB across Double- and Triple-A) since coming over in the Jeff Keppinger deal on July 19, and he held up okay in his debut against the D-backs Wednesday night: 6 IPs, 4 ERs, 6 hits, 4:3 K:BB. Nothing to get too excited about, even in deep NL-onlies, but he’s alive, which is about the only requirement for Houston these days. Brad Lincoln, Pirates Position: SP/RP Age: 26 Talent Rating: 6 Cling Factor: 7 The plan currently calls for Lincoln to pitch out of the bullpen, which strips this 2006 first-rounder of any real value. If he were to get a shot to start a handful of games now that Pittsburgh is out of the playoff hunt, he’d make for a possible streaming option (4.19 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 7.6 K/9 at Triple-A) in very deep NL-only play. Chris Volstad, Marlins Position: SP Age: 24 Talent Rating: 6 Cling Factor: 7 A former big-time prospect, the right-hander (5.58 ERA, 1.51 WHIP with Florida) hasn’t been even the slightest bit intriguing since two years ago. And at only 24 years old, he’s still got plenty of time to continue to disappoint. Frankie De La Cruz, Brewers Position: SP/RP Age: 27 Talent Rating: 6 Cling Factor: 6 The righty has been hot of late in Triple-A (7 ERs and 35:13 K:BB in 33 1/3 IPs over his past five starts), so he could get some work out of the pen if he isn’t covering for the injured Chris Narveson in the rotation. But going by “Frankie” instead of his given Eulogio this time around isn’t going to fool anyone into thinking he’s a shiny new pitcher, especially not when there’s a reason he spent 2010 in Japan (11.84 career ERA in the majors). Reid Brignac, Rays Position: SS Age: 25 Talent Rating: 5 Cling Factor: 7 Look, shortstop has been the bane of many a fantasy owner this season, but if you have to dip down to add a guy who OPS’d .453 with the Rays when he was splitting time earlier in the year, well, maybe you’re playing in one of those leagues where the goal is actually coming in last. Jose Ceda, Marlins Position: RP Age: 24 Talent Rating: 7 Cling Factor: 5 I still like what the righty fireballer brings to the table as a potential set-up man, but he hasn’t been able to translate his Triple-A performance (24 SVs, 12.0 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 this year) to the majors (10.13 ERA, 2.06 WHIP). Granted, those ugly numbers come in only 4 games with the Marlins — small sample size and all that — but that’s part of the problem: the team doesn’t seem keen on giving him any real opportunity until 2012. *** 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.