Alas, for the first time in almost two months, there are no really big names to cover this week. (Thanks for the break, front office folks.) As such, nobody below is likely to make an impact in mixed leagues. But there are still two new names — and a pair of old friends — worth looking at in single-league play.
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 already sent down) during this season.
Players listed in order of 2011 fantasy impact.
Jesus Guzman, Padres 3B/1B/OF
Talent Rating: 6
Cling Factor: 8
Guzman isn’t the most talented of this bunch, but he is in the best position to maintain his spot on the 25-man roster. Hence, he’s first up. The 27-year-old Venezuelan got the call as the Padres departed for American League ballparks in Minnesota and Boston. But he’s in the bigs to do more than simply hold down the DH role through interleague play, as Brad Hawpe (finger) is on the DL and Jorge Cantu got himself released. That makes Guzman the primary backup to youngin’ Anthony Rizzo, and Guzman’s right-handed bat could help San Diego protect Rizzo against tough lefties. But what’s also interesting is Guzman — a third baseman by trade — has actually filled in at first and left field in addition to his time at the hitter-only spot, so Bud Black is finding ways to get his stick in the lineup. Which is a pretty smart move, considering Guzman is capable of swinging the lumber: He was whacking away with a .332 average and .951 OPS at Triple-A this year, and he’s averaged almost 20 homers a year and a .900+ OPS since 2007. He does most of his damage versus southpaws, and he is flat out owning them this year with a stop-what-you’re-doing-and-catch-this .475 BA and 1.474 OPS (compared to a decent .284 and .776 vs. righties). Also encouraging? His very respectable 42:34 K:BB shows he’s continuing to limit the strikeouts (19% K rate over his 3,000-plus minor-league at-bats) while now walking at a career-best rate of 14%. Don’t get too excited because Guzman’s age and journeyman history — he’s on his fourth organization — don’t scream success, but he could be a smart power and eligibility add in deep NL-only play. And of course, to keep his roster spot, he’ll need to hit. But that’s the one thing Guzman does well.
Andrew Miller, Red Sox SP/RP
Talent Rating: 6
Cling Factor: 6
Covered much more in-depth by Mr. Golebiewski earlier this week, the former top prospect’s return to the majors has made some waves. (Heck, this is already the third FanGraphs piece on the guy in three days — like I said above, slow week.) Filling in for the injured Clay Buccholz (back), Miller, now 26, made his first start of the year against the guy above, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing 7 hits and 3 runs with a 6:3 K:BB. Not bad. Then there’s this: Miller was third in Triple-A with a 2.47 ERA at the time of his promotion and was tops in batting average against (.181), having allowed a mere 42 knocks in 65 2/3 innings, to go with a solid 8.4 K/9 and a passable — for him — 4.8 BB/9. It’s that last stat that’s always been Miller’s biggest fault (career 5.3 BB/9), so it’s worth pointing out that after nearly 1:1 K:BB ratios in April (12:12) and May (27:22), he went all controlly on hitters, posting a sweet 22:1 in 18 1/3 innings in June.
But before fantasy owners jump into the free agent pool with both feet because of one decent start, a promising stretch in Triple-A and his big-time pedigree (No. 6 pick in 2006 MLB Draft), allow me to be the lifeguard who blows the whistle and warns you that these could be dangerous waters. For one, there’s Miller’s career 5.82 ERA and 1.74 WHIP in the majors. For another, there’s the fact that his first start was against the blackout-house Padres. For a third, there’s the homer he allowed in that outing, hit by none other than noted slugger Orlando Hudson, a switch-hitter batting right-handed — the handedness that holds a .289 career average and only strikes out at a 6.3/9 clip against Miller in the majors. So while his next outing is expected to come versus the Pirates on either Saturday (if the flu-ridden Josh Beckett can’t go) or Sunday, I’m certainly not starting Miller even in the deepest of deep leagues. While I recognize the talent as a potential and proverbial “light switch” candidate, I don’t think I’d be able to trust Miller enough without seeing sustained success first. But if you’re the type of owner who likes to gamble on that sort of risk/reward right out of the gate, then he’s worth an add-and-stash in AL play.
Josh Reddick, Red Sox OF
Talent Rating: 7
Cling Factor: 7
We’ve been over Reddick already, back in April, and my thoughts on him haven’t changed much since. With Carl Crawford out, I see the lefty-hitting Reddick as a guy who will get enough spot starts to matter, while splitting time with righty Darnell McDonald — and let’s face it, J.D. Drew and his career-low .656 OPS could stand to sit some, too. Reddick, a .278 minor-league hitter, isn’t likely post an average much north of .250, but he has good pop (.500 SLG) and should make the hits he does get count. The most encouraging sign for him at Triple-A this year has been his 39:33 K:BB in 191 ABs, showing by far his best walk rate (17%). Already in his second go-round with Boston this season, he’s hitting .409, with 4 of his 9 hits going for extra bases, and he’s maintained the plate discipline (4:3 K:BB). Small sample size? Duh. But he’s worth adding as bench guy for now in AL leagues, because I think there’s potential for more if he continues to perform — and Drew doesn’t.
Jose Ceda, Marlins RP
Talent Rating: 7
Cling Factor: 7
Ceda got his due in this space in mid-May, and the ETA given then turns out to be right on. Given the lack of a power righty in the Marlins bullpen outside of closer Leo Nunez (sorry, Brian Sanches and Edward Mujica), there’s a chance for Ceda, who was leading Triple-A with 19 saves at the time of his recall, to seize a prominent enough role to matter in NL-onlies as a holds and Ks reliever. Aside from the saves, his peripherals were sparkly: 0.89 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 11.9 K/9. And the biggest indicator Ceda is ready to start having big-league success is his ability to get that pesky 4.6/9 career walk rate all the way down to 3 per in his 30 1/3 innings this season. There’s a chance he blows up a couple times and gets a quick return ticket to New Orleans, but he’s an intriguing arm to gamble on as a staff filler.
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.
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