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Wednesday 29th Mar 2017

Every September, there is a handful of September call-ups that pick up significant playing time hence can contribute to your fantasy squad.  Here is a review of a quartet of players that can help you down the stretch in National League only formats.

Danny Espinosa, WAS: The Nationals are taking a look at Espinosa to see if he and Ian Desmond might comprise a keystone combo for years to come.  Espinosa came up as a shortstop but switched to second base as his glove plays better there.   The question is going to be if his bat can make up for his defensive deficiencies, even at second.   And while the early results are encouraging, his minor league track record is not going to suggest he is Lou Whitaker to Desmond’s Alan Trammell.

What is intriguing is Espinosa has 20/20 potential, which of course is extremely attractive from a middle infielder.   The problem is he strike out too much and does not nearly enough to compensate.   Hence, Espinosa will be subject to slumps and his glove may not be sufficient to keep him in the lineup.

In 2009 at High-A Potomac, the then 22-year old hit .264 with 18 homers and 29 steals in 474 at bats.  This season, Espinosa started at Double-A and hit .259 with 18 homers and 20 steals in 386 at bats before being promoted to Triple-A and moving across the diamond to second base from shortstop.   In 95 at bats, Espinosa hit a healthy .295 with 4 homers and 3 steals.  So the power and speed is definitely there, it remains to be seen how well his average translates.

Something else of concern is while his raw number of steals is impressive, his success rate is a bit worrisome as it sits between 70 and 75%.  If he maintains that he should be okay, but expect it to drop as the pitcher’s moves are better and the catcher’s arms are stronger in The Show.

Darwin Barney, CHC: Barney was actually recalled last month but may see increased playing time down the stretch, especially if Aramis Ramirez continues to have nagging injuries and the Cubs slide Blake Dewitt to the hot corner.  Barney also has Jeff Baker to contend with, but Chicago knows what he can do and may want to see if Barney can be handle the role of utility infielder.

While anything can happen in a 3-week sample, there is a reason why Barney made his Major League debut only a couple months shy of his 25th birthday.  He has limited power with speed only slightly better, though when he first turned professional, running was supposed to be his strong suit.

On the farm, Barney made reasonable contact around 85% but has a low walk rate of about 8%.  He keeps his average up by hitting grounders and beating many out.  Assuming he can flash some leather, this is a skill set that can keep one employed, but not in terms of fantasy relevance.  Still at this point of the season, at bats are currency and Darwin may score some runs and swipe some bases, which may assist those needing help from middle infield.

Brandon Allen: For some reason I thought Allen was older than 24.  After impressing in a September audition last season, he is getting another opportunity to audition for an opening day job with Arizona.  Since Adam LaRoche was not traded, the Diamondbacks converted Allen to a left-fielder where he is seeing regular playing time.

Allen has some pop and can hit for a decent average, though his bat really doesn’t match what is expected from a first baseman or left-fielder.  And if you believe that doubles are a sign of future homers, the news is not that bright as Allen’s doubles total is not all that impressive.  But with at bats being currency, Allen can run into a dinger or two and help you in the category.

Freddie Freeman: Freeman is not likely to get significant playing time as Derrek Lee will be counted on down the stretch and it appears Atlanta is going to need to fight tooth and nail for wins as they are in a heated divisional race as well as being in the wild card mix.

Freeman has a chance to develop along the lines of Kevin Youkilis, taking advantage of a good eye at a young age and developing power.  At the ripe age of only 20, he hit .318 with 18 homers in 461 at bats at Triple-A Gwinnett and even chipped in a half dozen steals.   Perhaps more impressive is a reasonable contact rate of 82% with a decent walk rate of 8.5% while he was at least 2 years junior to that most of the other competition.

It is this advanced plate discipline that may earn Freeman some extra time as a pinch hitter with the outside chance of getting him some late season experience in the event the Braves can sneak him onto their playoff roster and perhaps DH in the World Series if they get that far.

Next season, Freeman is more likely to have a Mark Grace, Lyle Overbay or John Olerud type season, high teens homers with a decent average that what Youkilis produces now.  But in future campaigns, he could hit 20-something homers with a .300 batting average and a .400 on-base-percentage.

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