Welcome back to another Memorial Day: that landmark we generally regard as the first milepost of the Fantasy Season. As usual, I hope that you enjoy the holiday and time with family and loved ones. For, that is as good as it gets for us, I believe.
Of course the ballpark is not a bad place, either, and this week begins kind of funny, especially compared to last week when we started out noting that veterans Adam Lind and Orlando Hudson were sent down. Hudson has since resurfaced on the White Sox so that along with Omar Vizquel they can play together in maybe the oldest DP combination with the most Gold Gloves. Exepct as my mate Perry Van Hook noted, Hudson is on the Blue Jays this year, but we deal in trifles, right?
But, as we finish up May, two faces from the past loom with the return of Manny Ramirez (who is poised to join his new Oakland team this week) and Vladimir Guerrero who is further off, but hopefully the Toronto antidote to the ineffective Lind.
Well, certainly in a deeper format either of these vets is worth a minimal gamble, although while Andy Pettitte has done okay since his return, Johnny Damon has not fared so well and I would not expect either Vladdy or Manny to do that much better. Although ultimately I imagine they can all hit .240 or above, and with a handful of home runs, don't go overboard spending on them as FAAB picks. For a few bucks, they are a fine investment, but beyond that, force someone else to spend the bucks and take the risk.
Still, there were some interesting players worth tracking this past sequence, starting at Detroit, where 27-year old Quintin Berry--no spring chicken himself--made his debut as a major leaguer this week. Signed as a free agent over the off season, Berry was drafted first by the Braves in 2003, but went to San Diego State instead, and was then drafted by the Phillies in 2006, selected off waivers by the Padres in 2010, but then nabbed by the Mets as a Rule 5 pick later that year. A month later Berry was released and signed by the Reds, who let go last fall, leading to Comerica.
As a minor leaguer, Berry has hit .267-20-213, with 261 swipes over 692 games. Berry does not have a lot of pop with a .338 minor league slugging percentage, but, he does have a pretty good .358 on-base number, and replacing Austin Jackson will be his task. And, while I worry about the likes of Ramirez and Guerrero disappointing with their return, Berry is the kind of guy to be a pleasant surprise, like the Giants Brett Pill last year, or Mike Aviles when he joined the Royals as a late bloomer several years back.
The Angerls have been nailed by almost as many outfield issues as the Red Sox, with an injury to Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter needing to be away for family issues, and the release of Bobby Abreu (since he is presently flourishing across town with the Dodgers, think that is being rethought?). Of course the Angels had some better--and healthier--minor league options like Mike Trout, and maybe even with newly promoted Kole Calhoun.
An eighth round selection of the Halos in 2010, out of Arizona State University, Calhoun has shot forth through the Angels systems conquering Rookie ball in 2010 (.292-7-42), High-A in 2011 (.324-22-99), climbing to Triple-A this year (.296-5-31). Calhoun has some of those numbers I love, like 128 walks to 176 strikeouts, and a .928 minor league OPS over 232 games. Calhoun is hitting .273 with a swipe over his first week, with a pair of walks to three whiffs, and those are pretty good numbers for a youngster, and sadly pose a lot more promise than Wells, or even Peter Bourjos. If Calhoun can continue to hit and get on base while the other Angels are away, he might just stick. Better, his resume does point to success. The big problem for him will be the amount of money the Angels have committed to their overpriced stars, and the obligation to play those same guys.
Speaking of Boston, and their outfield woes, the team has now promoted Taiwanese import Che-Hsuan Lin, a 23-year old with a half dozen minor league systems under his belt. Over that span Lin has a modest line of .257-22-202, though Lin has scored 348 runs. Like Calhoun, Lin boasts good on-base totals of .352, with 281 walks to 334 strikeouts, though his OPS is just .703 in contrast to Calhoun. Since Boston does have that Jacoby Ellsbury guy, along with Cody Ross and Carl Crawford all rehabbing, Lin's best bet is as a #4 outfielder somewhere. With Ryan Kalish also on that injured list Lin's future is probably with another team or back to Pawtucket.
We were at a Memorial Day BBQ last night with a bunch of friends and I felt bad talking about the Pittsburgh with my pal Richard Kweller, a Pittsburgh native, and now long suffering disillusioned Buccos follower. I suspect Richard would be more of a fan still, had the shown glimpses of a future. Well, catcher Michael McKenry sadly kind of modifies the Pittsburgh "plan," whatever that is. A 27-year old drafted out of Middle Tennessee State University, the backstop was selected by the Rockies in 2006, then traded to the Reds in March of 2011, and then to the Pirates two months later. McKenry has a .265-69-299 minor league record with again a pretty good .357 OBP (243 walks to 404 whiffs). However, over 83 major league games over three seasons, McKenry has hit only .209-5-15. However, this year, over just 58 at-bats this year, McKenry has banged three homers, good for a .412 slugging average which is not bad considering his .196 batting average. McKenry also has seven walks to 16 strikeouts and all of that suggests, believe it or not, that his batting average should take a little bit of a spike (maybe up around .240) if he gets regular play. In an NL format, McKenry might not be a bad gamble as a #2 catcher.
Back to the Angels, I was in attendance when Ernesto Frieri earned his first major league save last Wednesday in Oakland. I have been a big Frieri fan since I drafted him for my Strat-O-Matic team over a year ago. With lights out strikeout (160 over 119.2 innings) totals, Frieri is 3-3, 2.11 over those frames as a reliever, with a 1.19 ratio (78 hits, 64 walks) and to me was a natural for the closing gig somewhere. In fact, I drafted him as a reserve on my LABR team, and also for my NFBC draft-and-keep squad. If you can nab him, do so. He will wind up the closer over Scott Downs over the long haul.
Chicago brought back pitcher Jose Quintana, who like Frieri is a native of Colombia. Quintana had a brief visit to the Show a few weeks back when he was called up to help out following a rainout and then day/night doubleheader. Quintana put in 5.2 shutout relief innings, but was then quickly demoted back to Double-A Birmingham. Quintana has actually had very good minor league totals at 19-11, 2.76 over 50 starts and 300.1 innings. He has 334 strikeouts over that span with 221 hits and 129 walks allowed (1.17 WHIP). Quintana pitched pretty well over his first major league start, going six innings and allowing a couple of runs for his first major league victory. The 23-year old could be a pretty good play in an AL only format.
I am not sure why I have been a fan of Australian-born hurler Travis Blackley, who was originally signed by the Mariners back in 2000 as an amateur free agent. Blakely had pretty good success in the minors as mostly a starter (69-58, 3.98) with 944 whiffs over 1100 innings. I saw Blackley toss for the Giants earlier this year, and when they waived the 29-year old southpaw, the cross-bay Rays snatched him up. Blackley gets a spot start today, and against a left-hand heavy Twins team, he is not a bad play today. In a week, ideally Brandon McCarthy returns to claim his rotation spot, so Blackley's time as a starter might be limited, but for today I like him. And, should he pitch well, well, the future is in his hands.