Late Wednesday night, the Mariners called up Kyle Seager. In a related story, this edition of Mining the Minors got much more interesting just before midnight.
Similar to the other version of this column, which drops on Fridays, the Thursday edition offers a take on players who recently made their MLB debuts or were recalled, from top-end prospects down to lesser-known farmhands and veteran minor leaguers — all with a nod to their fantasy relevance and impact for this season. To help owners, I’ll include a player’s Talent Rating; but just as important is Cling Factor, which highlights the likelihood that a player will remain in the majors (or return, if already sent down) during the year.
Players listed in order of 2011 fantasy impact.
Kyle Seager, Mariners 3B
Talent Rating: 7
Cling Factor: 8
Seager, to be clear, isn’t a big-name or big-time prospect. He’s a solid all-around player in the Cord Phelps mold, meaning he’s an infielder with a good idea of what he’s doing at the dish and capable of contributing a little here, a little there if given regular run. (Alas, since Phelps’ call-up, he’s not gotten that chance with the Indians.) The 23-year-old Seager was drafted in 2009’s third round, so there’s a decent pedigree and rapid ascent combo here. After spending all of 2010 at High-A, where he enjoyed hitting in the Cal League and his home park in High Desert — the lefty-swinging Seager slashed .345/.419/.503 with 14 HRs, 40 doubles and a shiny 94:71 K:BB — the M’s jumped him to Double-A to begin this season. All he did was hit .312 BA, with an .840 OPS and 25 doubles in 266 ABs.
A second baseman by trade, Seager got bumped to Triple-A when fellow keystoner Dustin Ackley got the call to Seattle in late-June, and with his path otherwise blocked, he actually began working at third base. Better yet? His production while there (.455 BA, 7 extra-base hits and a 6:5 K:BB) proved he could handle not only the position transition, but also the heightened competition as well as the grueling track the Mariners put him on. Granted, the sample size was small (just 55 ABs) and the average came on the strength of a crazy-high BABIP, as Mr. Cameron astutely pointed out-slash-warned, but Seager has a chance to be a legitimate fantasy starter in AL-onlies. Aside from his ability to put bat on ball (15% K rate) and draw a walk (12%), Seager’s biggest advantage is that his team is half-past sick of putting free agent bust Chone Figgins at the (not) hot corner and watching him (not) hit .185. Already branded the everyday starter at the hot corner by Jack Z, Seager is a savvy add, especially if he’s already eligible at 2B in addition to his expected third base role. If he can translate his minor-league momentum into a nice start in the majors, he’ll make a rather useful MI/CR starter in all AL leagues.
Ian Stewart, Rockies 3B
Talent Rating: 7
Cling Factor: 6
With Troy Tulowitzki‘s bum quad and Carlos Gonzalez‘s ailing wrist, Stewart got the call earlier this week — his third time up with the Rockies in 2011. He’s been up and down so much because, well, he’s hitting not-a-typo bad .060 (that’s 3-for-50 for you math majors). Thus has continued a downward career trend that has already erased just about every positive memory from what was once a promising career for 2003’s No. 10 overall pick. Stewart has had some success in the bigs, posting a cumulative ISO north of .200 from 2008 through last year, but just when he seemed to be on the cusp of coming into his own in 2010, he went backwards, and his putridity (it’s a word — look it up) this year has left owners with a popcorn-flavored jelly bean taste in their mouths.
Of course, for those who choose to see the bright side and promise in Stewart — he’s still just 26, by the way — there are his numbers at Triple-A: 14 HRs, 41 RBIs, and a .937 OPS. But even those are muted by the fact that Colorado Springs owns one of the most favorable parks (Security Service Field) in the most favorable minor league (PCL). To wit, Stewart — who was still whiffing in almost 30% of his minor-league at-bats — posted a .772 OPS on the road, compared to a 1.221 OPS at home. Of course, in theory, he should benefit from a similar home-field advantage at Coors, but in reality, he’s actually not much better at home (.771 OPS) than he is on the road (.748) in his career. At this point, Stewart is a complete gamble-add. Lacking the multiple-position eligibility he’d gained in years prior (at 2B), he’s lost one of his more charming fantasy assets. And with no clear path to PT in Colorado, he’s up in part to be “showcased” as trade bait. Were he to be dealt, a change of scenery and a starting job would make him worthy of a pick-up in NL play. But at this point, Stewart’s career may be going the way of Andy LaRoche‘s, another one-time elite prospect who always hit in the minors, had fleeting success in the majors and has now been relegated to hoping for a spring training invite.
Blake Beavan, Mariners SP
Talent Rating: 5
Cling Factor: 6
A 2007 first-rounder who came over in last year’s Cliff Lee deal, Beavan had an impressive big-league debut: 7 innings, 1 run, 3 hits with a 4:2 K:BB. But let’s not everyone put in crazy FAAB bids or anything. For one, the outing came against the inept Padres offense. For another, it’s not like he was tearing up the PCL — admittedly, a tough pitching environment — with a 4.45 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. That unsightly WHIP comes almost entirely from the 22-year-old righty’s 11.4 H/9 rate. His one true plus skill is control (1.9 BB/9 this year; 1.5/9 career). And the strikeout numbers — 6.2/9 this year and just 5.3/9 career — won’t translate positively to the majors. Depending on how many starts he makes filling in for Erik Bedard (knee), Beavan could put up a few decent outings in the pitcher-friendly confines of Safeco. But best-case scenario is probably something similar to what rotation mate Doug Fister did in 2009, which is to say there will be more surviving than thriving. As if more caution tape was necessary, Beavan is lined up to make his second start against the Angels on the road tomorrow, then after the All-Star break, the M’s go up against (in order) the Rangers, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees and Rays. I don’t want him on my roster during that stretch, if at all.
Fautino De Los Santos, A’s RP
Talent Rating: 7
Cling Factor: 7
De Los Santos, 25, is a hard-throwing righty who signed with the White Sox in 2005 out of the Dominican Republic. After a flat-out dominant stateside debut in 2007 — he went 10-5 with a 2.65 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP, 11.3 K/9 and 5.1 H/9 — Chicago included him (along with Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Sweeney) in the Nick Swisher deal. (Good one there, Kenny Williams.) Alas, De Los Santos missed most of 2008 and 2009 recovering from TJ surgery, and when he made it back to the mound last year, he’d been converted to relief. The strikeout stuff, though, didn’t go away, as he posted a career-high 13.9 K/9. His control has always been a bit of a worry; a 3.3 BB/9 career rate isn’t bad, but the 5.0/9 mark in 29 minor-league innings this year is a minor red flag. The other issue is whether the A’s let him stick in their deep bullpen after Grant Balfour returns today and Tyson Ross follows soon thereafter. But with 9 Ks and just 1 BB in De Los Santos’ first 4 2/3 IPs, we could be looking at another Al Alburquerque, a flamethrowing right-handed bullpen arm who comes seemingly out of nowhere to earn a setup-type role, piling up Ks and even getting a shot at some holds. In AL-only, I’m in.
Brad Lincoln, Pirates SP
Talent Rating: 6
Cling Factor: 5
The 26-year-old righty was called up for a spot start in the nightcap of the Pirates’ July 2 doubleheader, then promptly sent down. His first start of 2011 was solid: 6 innings, 2 runs, 4 hits and a 4:3 K:BB at Washington. This was not Lincoln’s first ride on the carousel, as he went 1-4 with a 6.66 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in 11 games (9 starts) a year ago. Now in his third season at Triple-A, where he’s already made more than 40 career starts, Lincoln is in the middle of a nice year, with a 4.14 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 7.8 K/9. He’s never going to live up to being the No. 4 pick in 2006, but he’s ready to be in the bigs full-time as a low-upside, back-of-the-rotation type. Problem is, the Pirates rotation is 1) currently full and 2) not terrible for once, so there’s no opening at the moment. (And in the immediate future, Ross Ohlendorf, recovering slowly from a shoulder strain, provides another obstacle.) In fantasy, Lincoln would have NL-only value as a decent streaming option against weaker opponents. The operative word in that last sentence? “Would.”
Lester Oliveros, Tigers RP
Talent Rating: 6
Cling Factor: 5
Oliveros isn’t that different from Mr. Of The Saints above, but the 23-year-old righty is less polished at this point in his career. A 2005 signee from Venezuela, Oliveros owns a spiffy 11.3 K/9 rate in the minors. His 4.0 BB/9, though, is going to hold him back some, as is the need for more than just 24 2/3 innings at Triple-A, where he found the going a little tougher (1.54 WHIP, 8.7 K/9) this year after manhandling Double-A hitters (0.81 WHIP, 15.2 K/9). Once the aforementioned “It Used To Be Spelled” Alburquerque (elbow) makes it back, expect Oliveros to return to Toledo.
If you want quick fantasy analysis of another recently promoted or recalled player, feel free to post in the comments section. I’ll do my best to get to as many as I can.