Similar to the other version of this column, which hits on Thursdays, the Friday edition offers a take on 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 the Opportunity Rating, which points out the likelihood that a player will make his way to the majors during this season.
Lance Lynn, SP
Current Level: Majors
Statistics: 5-3 W-L; 4.06 ERA; 1.40 WHIP; 54:21 over 62 IPs
40-man roster: Yes
Opportunity Rating: 5 (out of 10)
Talent Rating: 7 (out of 10)
Obstacle(s): Solidified Cardinals rotation; too hittable
Cheating a little bit here because Lynn, 24, made his MLB debut Thursday night against the Giants (also known as the “Welcome to the 2011 Fantasy Baseball Season, Aubrey Huff” Game). So the Opportunity Rating is a 10 today but more like a 5 once the guy he’s filling in for, Kyle McClellan, returns from his hip injury, at which point the Cardinals’ rotation will again be five deep. There’s always a chance Chris Carpenter’s arm detaches from his shoulder, but there’s no easy way to fit Lynn into this staff without an injury, which is surprising because immediately after Adam Wainwright went down in spring training, there was talk Lynn would get a look as the fifth starter, but since then both McClellan and Kyle Lohse have stepped up in a big, if unexpected, way.
Lynn’s first outing was a bit of a mixed bag, as he gave up 5 earned runs in his 5 1/3 innings, but he also struck out 5 without a walk. Also worth noting? He was pitching on three days’ rest, so perhaps the big-bodied (6’5″, 250) righty didn’t have his best stuff. Since being drafted 39th overall in 2008, Lynn has already pitched more than 230 innings at Triple-A with so-so results (4.53 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 7.9 K/9) and doesn’t have much upside or projectability, but he’s capable of being a Joe Blanton type who eats innings and picks up enough wins and strikeouts to stay relevant in mixed fantasy leagues.
Assuming McClellan is back in the standard 15 days from what doesn’t sound like too serious of an injury, Lynn would likely get just one more start. Looking ahead, and figuring St. Louis takes advantage of one off day, Lynn’s next outing is most likely against the Brewers in Milwaukee — not the most appetizing opponent, although he could do well in the strikeout category.
Given the performance of the Cards’ rotation to this point, it’s just tough to see how Lynn fits in, so his 2011 production is probably going to be limited to a handful of big-league outings, barring any further injuries. And even though the bullpen has undergone a complete revamping (to solid results, actually), Lynn doesn’t necessarily fit as a possible relief arm to help down the stretch, especially when he’s better served honing his stuff a bit more in the minors. For re-draft leagues, Lynn is only worth adding on spec in NL-only play where you’ve got a bench spot or three to spare, or perhaps if you’re a Carpenter or McClellan owner who wants a handcuff.
ETA: Yesterday. Then after his next (and final?) fill-in start, we probably won’t see Lynn again until later in the season, sometime around August.
Mike Carp, LF/1B/DH
Current Level: Triple-A
Statistics: .327 BA; 1.002 OPS; 15 HRs; 45 RBIs; 42:19 over 202 ABs
40-man roster: Yes
Opportunity Rating: 7
Talent Rating: 7
Obstacle(s): Overcoming Quadruple-A profile
For the past year and a half, I’ve felt that Carp should be getting a legitimate chance in the big leagues. Not so much because he’s a big-time prospect — in fact, Baseball America didn’t even list him in its annual Prospect Handbook this season — but because of the organization he’s in. Look, everybody knows the Mariners have had trouble scoring runs and hitting homers. So why is a guy who hit 29 bombs in Triple-A last season — and 15 more already this year — still in the minors?
First, let me point out that Carp, 24, did actually get stints with Seattle at the end of 2009 and about this very time last year. He hit just .189 in 2010, but the Mariners basically gave up on the idea of using him after all of 37 at-bats. C’mon, Jack Z! His career big-league OPS is actually still .732 — yes, only 106 plate appearances — but you know whose 2011 OPS is worse? That’s right: Jack Cust’s. And Cust is only the Mariners everyday DH. Personally, if my regular designated hitter is OPSing that low and has managed all of 2 homers, I’m thinking it’s time to get a new DH. Or at least give someone else a try. Mike Carp, come on down!
Even more confounding is that Carp, who was a ninth-rounder in 2004, hits left-handed, just like Cust. Unlike Cust, though, who owns a .713 OPS and a ghastly 39% K rate against lefties, Carp has actually shown he can hold his own against southpaws with an .872 OPS this year. And Carp has been mashing righties (1.052 OPS). Even better, he’s slashed .373/.415/.754 in May to go with 12 homers, so he’s scorching hot as you read this. Yes, the PCL is a hitter’s league, but Tacoma’s park actually plays pretty neutral and even suppresses lefty homers by 15 percent. And there’s also this: Cust is simply not an option in the field; and while Carp doesn’t get rave reviews by any means, he’s at least capable of handling left field on occasion (another problem spot for the M’s this season) and backing up Justin Smoak at first. As Lookout Landing pointed out recently, there’s just not a whole lot to lose by trying Carp out.
So if the Mariners do decide to give him a shot, Carp would be an immediate add in AL-only leagues, simply for the power potential. He’s not likely to get a long leash, so if he doesn’t hit right away, he could be back down inside of two weeks. But if everything breaks just right, Carp could be a very under-the-radar 10- to 15-homer sleeper.
ETA: Last year, Seattle called him up on June 7, and considering they also just brought up former top prospect Greg Halman, it seems like the team is willing to entertain the idea of making a few changes, so Carp could be up any day. Or you know, not.
When it comes to monitoring players for this column, I’ll do the grunt work, but if you have any suggestions for minor leaguers that you would like to see tracked, discussed and evaluated in Mining the Minors, feel free to post suggestions in the comments section. I’ll do my best to get to as many as I can going forward.
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