What an out-of-the-norm cycle we have this time simply because for the first time in weeks, a marquis prospect was not promoted by a major league club.
Not that there are not players worth looking at, and Pittsburgh's Chase d'Arnaud was a fourth round pick of the Buccos in 2008 (and originally drafted in the 44th round of the 2005 June fete by the Dodgers). Promoted earlier in the week, d'Arnaud, has climbed a level a year, going .293-7-57, with seven triples, 33 doubles, and 31 swipes split between West Virginia and Lynchburg. At Altoona last year, d'Arnaud was .247-6-48, with nine three baggers and 33 each of doubles and steals, and when called up the infielder--who has played second, third, and short this year at Indianapolis--was .280-4-33. Simply, d'Arnaud has pretty good on-base numbers (.356 with 147 walks to 246 whiffs) and could be part of a nice Pirates infield going into next season, meaning he could cut some nice chops for your NL team now.
On the Oakland side of the San Francisco Bay Area, Oakland demoted Daric Barton and brought back Chris Carter. Carter, the Athletics once and future hopeful power hitting first baseman, originally drafted by the Pale Hose in 2005 (15th round), then swapped to the D-Backs for Carlos Quentin and then to the Athletics as part of the Dan Haren deal. Following Carter's .259-39-104 season at Stockton in 2008, all eyes were looking to the big first sacker as the answer, and even after his .258-31-94 2010 at Triple-A Sacramento, more of same, but Carter has not really been able to adjust to big league pitching. Carter was .186-3-7 last year during a couple of trials in Oakland, and unless he can prove himself to not be of the Brandon Wood mold, Carter will be playing behind Conor Jackson for the rest of this year, anyway.
One really good first base gamble could be on the Arizona side with Wily Mo Pena, recalled by the Diamondbacks this week following his scary .363-21-63 stint at AAA Reno this season over 263 at-bats. Pena, now 29, had not played in the majors since 2006, but he did have his moments with .253-77-225 totals over 540 major league games. The problem with Pena was he felt he was ready for the Show when he really wasn't (106 walks to 523 strikeouts, good for a .306 OBP), however, older, with a pair of dingers his first four games back in the majors, with just Juan Miranda ahead of him on the depth chart, things could be different. Of course, watch carefully for Pena has whiffed eight times the first four games without a walk.
I have been keeping an eye on St. Louis infielder Daniel Descalso for a while, largely because he is a bay area product who attended Diane's alma mater, U.C. Davis. With David Freese, also another Northern Cal guy, and Alan Craig down, Descalso did have a chance to establish himself. The third round pick of the 2007 draft, Descalso has not raised too many eyebrows with .241-1-21 totals over 71 games, and with Freese doing rehab, his playing time will be reduced to utility time, if that.
Looking next at some arms, we can start with my favorite pitcher to watch in the game right now with the Giants’ Sergio Romo. Blessed with perhaps the nastiest slider in the game, Romo was picked in the 25th round of the 2005 draft by the Giants after attending University of Alabama, and his numbers just keep getting better. Looking at his totals of this year (3-0, 2.25 over 24 innings) with a WHIP of 0.83 (36 strikeouts to four walks), this is a guy who can pretty much help any team in any format. And, if you have a chance to watch his pitch an inning, you will be rewarded.
Looking at some more of one of my favorite spots--middle relievers--let's look next at the guy setting up Drew Storen in Washington's Tyler Clippard. Over his four years with the Nationals, Clippard is 17-11, 2.79, with a 1.14 WHIP. Clippard just earned his first win for the team this year, and his 1-0, 2.01 totals, with 57 strikeouts over 44.2 innings (0.89 WHIP) are deadly good, and will help any team in any format. In fact as the season progresses, a core of solid middle relievers will keep good numbers stable (they could compromise strikeouts, though).
The Orioles Jim Johnson is another pitcher of the same ilk: a fifth round selection of the team in June 2001. Over six seasons with the Birds, Johnson is 11-13, 3.39, with 12 saves over 215 innings. This year, though, Johnson is 4-1, 2.40, with 31 whiffs to six walks, good for a 1.04 WHIP, and especially in an AL only setup, Johnson is a must to stash on your roster.
Let's finish this time with a pair of Padres, starting with reliever Mike Adams, who like he mates above has just terrific totals in 2011. Going 2-1, 1.35 over 33.1 innings, with 36 strikeouts to a meager four walks. With 16 hits allowed, Adams has held his WHIP to a microscopic 0.63. Note though, this is nothing new, as Adams career mark ratio is 1.01 (10-9, 2.19) over 271 innings (282 whiffs).
Which brings us to Cory Luebke, the Padres first round selection in 2007, who over the spring was jockeying for a spot in the San Diego rotation but began cutting his big league chops in the pen. Luebke is 1-2, 3.23 over 29 appearances and 39 innings, with 43 strikeouts, 15 walks, and 24 hits allowed (ratio of 1.00). Talk is Luebke is ready to move into the Pares starting five, and he could be a great play in NL formats, and a sleeper in a mixed setup. He allowed just one hit over five innings, striking out six in his first start on Sunday.