Even if a player isn't expected to get a lot of playing time in the short term, savvy owners can take advantage of a minor league call-up simply to stash a player away on the bench for potential use later in the season.
Many AL- and NL-only leagues operate under rules that prohibit picking up players from the free-agent pool until they are actually in the majors, and sometimes players like Max Ramirez get a quick summons as short-term fill-ins. Players like Matt LaPorta get most of the attention in free-agent bidding, but don't forget about the possibility of tucking away players like Ramirez (if he is available in your league) on your reserve list. A small bid now can pay off down the road with greater playing time later in the season. Ramirez may already be back down at Triple-A by the time you read this, if Jarrod Saltalamacchia's vision has improved, but the point is no less valid. Even if you don't necessarily "have room" right now, you never know what you might need later. For example, I picked up David Dellucci in a league this week, strictly to stash him on my bench for extra outfield depth. Hopefully, he doesn't ever have to see time in my starting lineup, but it's better to be prepared.
Based on the examination of deep AL- and NL-only leagues, here are some thoughts on players who could be in your free-agent pool whom you may be considering picking up this week.
Matt LaPorta, OF, Indians: I covered LaPorta in greater detail in a blog post yesterday.
Dave Dellucci, OF, Indians: For now, Dellucci will see DH time against right-handed pitching, as manager Eric Wedge has publicly intimated that the team will ease LaPorta into the lineup gradually. All Dellucci brings to the table is a little pop against righties; the 35-year-old's bat speed has been in decline the past few years. Although he has managed to slug .442 against right-handed pitching over the past three seasons, he's hit just .254 with a .326 on-base percentage as well. Still, being on the right side of a potential platoon split for now at least gives him a little more value than say, Gabe Kapler.
Gregorio Petit, SS/Eric Patterson, 2B, Athletics: As the A's injuries continue to pile up for a second season in a row, both players were recalled this week to help fill the void at second base caused by Mark Ellis' stint on the disabled list with a strained calf. Of the two, Patterson is the better fantasy option given that he can do a little more with the bat, and because there is at least some steals potential. The fact that Patterson hits from the left side will likely give him a few more chances to get into the lineup as opposed to the right-handed-hitting Petit.
Scott Podsednik, OF, White Sox: You already know about what Podsednik's ability is offensively, and it appears he's going to get quite a bit of time in center field as the ChiSox try to relive 2005 and '06. However, don't expect the big steals number even with regular playing time. Podsednik's speed has diminished noticeably at age 33 after years of leg and groin injuries. Without those big steals totals, and with a spot at the bottom of the order, there's nothing else to get excited about.
Gio Gonzalez, SP, Athletics: My feelings that Gonzalez has been an overrated starting pitching prospect have been well documented, and for now the A's will use him in the bullpen. However, with Dana Eveland and Josh Outman both on short leashes in the rotation, Gonzalez will likely eventually get a start, and I can't suggest not to take a risk in deep AL-only leagues, although I think his best future is as a reliever. He needs to improve his ability to throw strikes, locating within the strike zone and keeping his head in the game during extended outings.
Josh Barfield, 2B, Indians: Barfield will strictly be the 25th man on the Indians' bench and their late-inning speed until Jamey Carroll returns. Carroll is scheduled to start a rehab assignment shortly. It's hard to see Barfield having much value in the interim.
Matt Palmer, SP, Angels: The Angels' starting pitching depth has been sorely tested this month, with the 30-year-old Palmer the latest to get a shot. Palmer had a decent first start for the club, but his inability to miss bats and the control issues he showed in the minor leagues render him a player that is probably best avoided, even if you're desperate for starting pitching.
Brett Cecil, SP, Jays: Toronto's best starting pitching prospect will get the call this week, and I profiled him extensively earlier this month. While I am a fan of Cecil over the long term, as he can be a future middle of the rotation starter, for now he doesn't appear to be ready. He's not throwing enough strikes and hasn't really demonstrated he can go deep into games, limiting his win potential. I'm worried that he's going to run up his pitch counts early at this juncture. It's a question of how much risk you're willing to absorb. Cecil might be one of those candidates to pick up in order to stash, with the hope that he will be able to contribute value later this season, as opposed to providing immediate returns.
Robert Ray, SP, Blue Jays: Ray is a little bit too wild and hittable to expect him to be consistently successful in the big leagues at this juncture. His lack of an out pitch will hurt him.
Jose Mijares, RP, Twins/Tony Sipp, RP, Indians/Phil Coke, RP, Yankees: When you can't find good starters, strikeout-per-inning middle relievers have their use as well. These three all appear to be available, and I prefer them in that order.
Michael Wuertz, RP, Athletics: Just in case he's out there in your league, Wuertz has stepped up into the role of being the A's closer when Brad Ziegler is not available, as he hasn't been for the latter part of this week because of illness.
Shawn Kelley, RP, Mariners: With Brandon Morrow on the DL (though he is expected back in a little more than a week because the DL placement was backdated), Kelley will get any save chances when David Aardsma is unavailable.
Adam Rosales, 3B, Reds: Edwin Encarnacion will be in a cast for at least a week because of a chip fracture in his wrist, and will then be re-evaluated. In the meantime, the hot-hitting Rosales will see most of the starts at third. Anytime a player comes through the free agent pool in single-league formats that looks like he's going to get regular time and can swing the stick a little bit, he's worth a healthy bid, especially with the timetable on Encarnacion's return uncertain.
Jeff Weaver, SP, Dodgers: Hey, stranger things have happened. Weaver has a starting job once again after James McDonald was sent back to the bullpen, and Weaver's most recent seasons of big league success were with the Dodgers. There may be a little bit left in the tank for single-league owners, especially since his home park helps minimize his weaknesses.
Mitchell Boggs, SP, Cardinals: Boggs remains a good short term play while Chris Carpenter is on the shelf. I saw him available in only a league or two, but you never know; he might be available in yours.
Matt Murton, OF, Rockies: He could post a decent batting average if given some at-bats, but it looks like those will likely be tough to come by, as he takes over Jeff Baker's slot as a bench bat and pinch-hitter against lefties.
Brandon Jones, OF, Braves: His playing time is still likely to be sporadic, as it's not a strict platoon situation with Matt Diaz, but you could do a lot worse when trying to fill an outfield spot, just because he's at least getting some at-bats. His power hasn't developed as expected, which limits his short-term upside.
Julian Tavarez, RP, Nationals: The night after he picked up his first save, Tavarez blew up in the ninth inning in spectacular fashion with a chance to take the closer role and run with it. It's anyone's guess at this point, and Joe Beimel is expected to work into the mix as well when he returns this week. Be careful if you're thinking about bidding on Tavarez.
Chad Gaudin, SP, Padres: Gaudin had some success as a starter with the A's last year, has a starting job again, is in a good park for him, and has some strikeout ability. Add it all up, and he's an attractive pickup option in single leagues.
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Last chance to buy low in single leagues?
Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers: