If you play in National League only formats with 10 or more teams, you are no doubt aware that at bats are the league’s currency. We are at the point of the season where conventional skills analysis is secondary to simply if the player is going to play. This is not to suggest a player with a low batting average will no longer hurt your standing in the category, it very well might. But the contributions to the counting categories of someone playing full time down the stretch as opposed to part time should more than compensate and net you positive rotisserie points.
Starting when rosters expand on September 1, there should be some players that will be given a month long audition. So even though it may still be a couple of weeks before players of this ilk emerge, it is not too early to begin jumping the curve and speculating on some possibilities. Generally speaking, look at teams out of playoff contention. The players will likely not be their top prospects, as front offices do not want to start the arbitration and super-two clocks. But that does not mean the player cannot help you down the stretch. Also be cognizant of the fact that some teams wait to promote some players from Triple-A if they are competing in the Minor League playoffs. But even 2 ½ to 3 weeks of a full time player is better than having a part timer in a lineup spot.
Here are some possibilities that may boost your NL only squad down the stretch.
Micah Hoffpauir, CHICAGO CUBS: Hoffpauir was recently called up to fill in for Derek Lee who was placed on the bereavement list. Hoffpauir has seen some extended time with the Cubs in the past and was actually one of my personal end-game favorites in the spring. Tyler Colvin ended up playing the part I envisioned for Hoffpauir, but I digress. He can play first base and the corner outfield spots and in fact is eligible at both 1B and OF in most if not all formats. Hoffpauir has some pop as evidenced by his hitting 10 homers in 234 big league at bats in 2009. He popped 20 dingers at Triple-A Iowa before being summoned to Wrigley Field. He will not hit for a particularly high average, but will knock some over the ivy. He will need an injury to Lee, Alfonso Soriano or Kosuke Fukudome to play, but it is not like that it is not out of the realm of reasonable possibility. A waiver deal could also open a spot, with Fukudome the most logical candidate of the above troika.
Mat Gamel, MILWAUKEE BREWERS: Once considered an upper-echelon prospect, some of Gamel’s shine has faded, plus he has already spent some time in the Majors, so service time issues are likely not going to prevent the Brewers from promoting Gamel come September. A third baseman by trade, Gamel is not particularly proficient with the glove. In fact, it would be quite surprising if Gamel stays at the hot corner. To that end, he has been playing first base and right field at Triple-A. And it is no coincidence that those positions are manned by Prince Fielder and Corey Hart, both rumored to be on the trading block this winter. Hart is a candidate for a waiver deal and do not discount the possibility Ryan Braun is shut down early as he has some nagging injuries and Milwaukee may want to protect their franchise player, especially if they indeed plan on moving Fielder. Gamel’s stick has never been questioned, only his defense. In 247 at bats at Triple-A Nashville, he is hitting .312 with an OBP of .385. He has 9 homers and 18 doubles, so he has some pop. But keep in mind Gamel had a slight tear in a shoulder muscle in the spring thus did not begin his Triple-A campaign until late May. If he is in fact called up, he will do so with 3B eligibility, which could he quite useful in deep formats.
Justin Maxwell, WASHINGTON NATIONALS: Maxwell has had enough cups of coffee in the bigs that he can open his own Starbuck’s. The prototypical toolsy specimen, Maxwell has yet been able to convert his athleticism to baseball skills. But anyone with his raw power and speed combination will be afforded several opportunities. And it isn’t like the Nationals are running Al Kaline out to right field every day. I mean, this is a team that just promoted Kevin Mench. Yes, THAT Kevin Mench. Watch, now Maxwell won’t play and Mench will hit 8 homers in September. Anyway, Maxwell ‘s Achilles Heel is contact but like I said earlier, sometimes you need to toss skills out the window and go with potential and if afforded the chance, Maxwell could pad your homer and stolen base totals during the homestretch.
Fernando Martinez, NEW YORK METS: Once considered the prize of the Mets’ farm system, Martinez was recently recalled to serve as a reserve outfielder, but his role could expand the last month or so. Jeff Francoeur has requested a trade and Jason Bay still has lingering effects from a concussion. And while he is looking healthy very good, any small nick to Carlos Beltran could end his season prematurely. Martinez had his development curtailed after tearing meniscus cartilage in his right knee. But he is still just 21, so there is time to get back on the prospect track. His primary shortcoming is his plate discipline has regressed from what he was displaying as a teenager and his contact has not improved as much as expected. He is also not displaying the speed he teased as a teenager, but that could be due to some injuries. So again, there is not a whole lot in the numbers that suggests Martinez will be a savior for your squad down the stretch, but there are some viable paths for playing time, which is all that matters.
Tony Abreu, ARIZONA DIAMONDACKS: This one may be a stretch, but sometimes that is what it takes. Both Stephen Drew and Kelly Johnson were rumored to be on the block pre-July 31, so the possibility exists they will be moved pre-waiver deadline. Better known for his glove, Abreu makes decent contact though he is allergic to walks. But in a small sample, someone who puts the bat on the ball can run into some hits and thus into some production. And with middle infield being so diluted in the Senior Circuit, who knows, maybe Abreu can bolster your roster.