Ah, September. A time for call-ups ad excitement as some potential future stars, regulars, and bench players get chances to show what they can do and perhaps push their way into their organization’s 2012 plans.
For us fantasy players, the primary beneficiary are keeper-leaguers who may be able to parlay some of these players into keepers if they can sign them cheaply enough. It can be quite the hearty feast. Contenders sometimes foul things up with non-keeper-worthy bids, but there are typically more than enough scraps to go around.
Speaking of contenders, especially those in redraft leagues, it’s a crapshoot. If you’re lucky, you will be able to acquire one of the very few players who is immediately inserted into the everyday lineup and might receive around 100 at-bats or 25 IP if a starter receives 5 or so starts. However, over that sample size and the pressure of a first call-up, banking on these players as part of your stretch run, is not really an option. Yes, you have to take the chance, particularly in AL and NL-only formats if you’re in contention and have roster holes or particular needs, but keep your expectations extremely low. Mixed leaguers are, generally speaking, better off sticking to veterans in most cases given the volatility of these call-ups. Your best target for gaining value is in the speed environment as even on days they do not start, speedsters, especially in the NL, could receive a good amount of pinch-running ability.
Montero Continues Hot Streak
Amongst the likely interesting September call-ups will be the Yankees’ Jesus Montero. Montero got off to such a slow start and pedestrian pace this year, he was starting to remind me a bit of the Mets’ Felix Martinez in terms of young player not doing much in the upper levels of the minors. Instead the 21-year old has picked things up and is now on a similar homerun output pace to last season with 17 home runs in 451 plate appearances after producing 21 in 504 last year. His batting average and OBP numbers are almost identical. My one main concern with him remains his contact-making/OBP skills as a right-handed hitter. His strikeout rate has increased to over 20%. Of note have been his platoon splits with a .273 batting average against righties while crushing lefties with a .333 batting average. That right-handed split also comes along with a 26% strikeout rate. Montero is still very young and has plenty of time to improve these skills and certainly has impressive power, but I remain a wee bit skeptical until he improves against right-handed pitching.
Viciedo Gets the Call
Dayan Viciedo’s excellent 2011 season got him a call-up just prior to roster expansion. I have long maligned him due to his well sub-par glove work at both third and first base and because of his rather awful plate discipline. In his first two minor league seasons he produced walk rates of 4.3% and 3.0% respectively while walking just 2% of the time during a call-up last year. Well while he is certainly not going to win any gold gloves for his work in right field now, he has at least gotten the wakeup call at the plate. This season he made contact 84% of the time while 9% while continuing to display the above average power expected of him with 20 homeruns and a .296 .364 .489 line. The White Sox have installed him as their primary right-fielder for at least while Carlos Quentin remains on the disabled list. If he can translate his newfound skills to the Majors, he can be a viable fantasy sports.
Nationals Rotation Alteration
The Nationals have already announced one of their September call-ups. They are opting to take things slow with Jordan Zimmermann and given how well he pitched in his return from Tommy John surgery and the fact that the Nationals are not contending, they are shutting him down for the year. Enter Tom Milone. Milone is a 24-year old left-hander who has produced some impressive results this season. They include a 9.4 K/9 and a sub 1.0 BB/9. He has a good history of keeping the ball in the park, but is a fly-ball pitcher (0.77 GB/FB in Triple-A) and is a fairly soft-tossing control artist in actuality. He tops out in the upper eighties, but he commands extremely well and matches it with his well above average changeup quite well. He has also, surprisingly, been far more effective against righties than lefties, with a sub 3.00 ERA and 120 K’s in 116.1 innings against righties as opposed to a 4.50 ERA in 32 innings, albeit with only 3 walks and 35 strikeouts. In other words, I do not expect him to have much of a long-term platoon split at the moment, especially given a solid cut-fastball in his repertoire. Though it will be interesting to see how well he misses bats in the Majors, he will have a rotation spot for the rest of the year and is worth targeting in all NL only formats.