Sometimes fantasy value is nothing more than being in the right place at the right time.
That was the case for Reds third baseman Adam Rosales, who just happened to go through one of the hottest stretches of his career at Triple-A when Edwin Encarnacion suffered a chip fracture in his wrist. Rosales earned an opportunity not only to return to the big leagues after playing in 18 games for the Reds last year but also to start.
Rosales, who will turn 26 this week, has defied some expectations by managing to make his unconventional swing work against upper levels of pitching. It doesn't look pretty, as he swings down at the ball. But he has some bat speed, and his stroke can be relatively compact at times, although he has a tendency to get long and loopy. He helps himself with good knowledge of the strike zone. Some scouts thought his swing would never work well with wood bats and that he would get beaten inside too often. But in more than 1,500 professional at-bats entering this season, he had hit .285 with a .484 slugging percentage.
"I kind of have an unorthodox, sweeping swing," Rosales said with a laugh. "It's kind of tight, but whatever works, right? I'm staying through the ball better. To me, it's still about the mental game. You have to see it happen before it happens, and I'm doing a better job of that."
He took his hitting to another level to start the 2009 season, hitting .431 with 12 extra-base hits in 17 games before being recalled. In the big leagues this season, he has hit .286 with two homers and almost as many walks as strikeouts in 56 at-bats.
"It's still been more of a mental adjustment," Rosales said. "I've been learning to have a short-term memory to get over things quicker and learning how to make the necessary adjustments quickly. I had a good finish last year after making some changes at midseason, had a good winter ball [season] in Puerto Rico and have just tried to carry that through."
So Rosales' stock is up, but will he continue to see at-bats and have value in NL-only leagues? I said when he was called up that I've never viewed him as a full-time starter or platoon player in the big leagues, but rather a versatile bench bat. Rosales' ability to play six different positions (all four infield spots, plus corner outfield) can make him a useful piece for a big league team.
Even with Encarnacion still out for a while, Rosales will need to battle Jerry Hairston for time at third base now that Alex Gonzalez is healthy enough to play shortstop again. Joey Votto's dizzy spells also will give Rosales some time at first base in the short term. However, Rosales probably has shown enough to continue to stick with the Reds in a bench role when Encarnacion returns. Although his at-bats may be more limited going forward, Rosales still should do enough to have value in deep NL-only play.
Based on the examination of deep AL- and NL-only leagues, here are some thoughts on players you might consider picking up this week, if available, whom I haven't mentioned in previous columns.
We've already covered two big names in the free-agent pool, Mat Gamel and Nolan Reimold, fairly extensively on ESPN.com this week. Just be aware that Gamel's playing time with the Brewers is a little uncertain at this point, as he might be just a bench bat and designated hitter in interleague play and is still a candidate to be sent back to the minors afterward. However, you still might want to stash Gamel for use later in the season. Reimold will get more at-bats, especially because the O's placed Luke Scott on the disabled list this weekend.
Here's a look at some players who won't get as much attention this week:
Dontrelle Willis, SP, Tigers: His first 2009 outing is in the books; unfortunately, this incarnation of Willis was a bit too similar to the Willis we've seen in the past two seasons. Most disconcerting was the zero in the strikeout column. I can't recommend him even in AL-only leagues at this point. He's just too flammable, and we need to see a hint of his previous upside before even considering him.
Rich Hill, SP, Orioles: Like Willis, Hill's first start of '09 is in the books, and the six strikeouts and just two walks in 5 2/3 innings appeared to be a good beginning. His curveball, which was once his out pitch, showed promise, and he kept the ball down in the strike zone for the most part. Unlike Willis, Hill is a player worth targeting this week.
David Huff, SP, Indians: One of my sleeper pitchers entering the season, Huff finally gets a chance in the Indians' rotation, making his first start Sunday. A biceps problem prevented him from making a run at a starting slot in spring training. Huff struck out 32 batters in 39 1/3 innings at Triple-A, and although he walked 16, that was kind of uncharacteristic of him. When Huff is on, the left-hander commands four pitches to all parts of the zone. His fastball ranges anywhere from 86 to 92 mph, and he fires two-seamers to the catcher's arm side and four-seamers to the glove side. His changeup is his best pitch, a 74-78 mph offering with sink and fade that he throws with good arm speed. His delivery is effortless and deceptive, and he repeats it fairly well and throws strikes. There's a lot to like about this pitcher.
Jeff Bailey, 1B, Red Sox: Although Bailey has been getting a lot of at-bats recently, and the Sox plan to sit David Ortiz for a few games to clear his head and help him find his swing, Kevin Youkilis (sore side) is expected to return to the big league lineup Wednesday if all goes well in his rehab. That probably will put an end to Bailey's fantasy utility.
Robert Ray, SP, Blue Jays: Ray is still on the waiver wire in a number of AL leagues, and he might garner some more attention after his most recent start, in which he allowed just an unearned run and three hits in eight innings. However, that outing came against a depleted and offensively challenged White Sox club, and Ray's lack of an out pitch likely will be an issue. With the Jays expected to get some injured starters back soon, Ray might not stick around in the rotation come June. He's not as good a play as his last start might make him out to be.
Jason Vargas, SP, Mariners: Vargas took Carlos Silva's place in the M's rotation. He fell off the radar screen a bit last year because he missed the entire season with a torn labrum in his hip. Although a starter in the minors, there are some scouts who feel Vargas is ultimately just a good bullpen arm even though he threw a decent five innings in his first start. His command issues might make him just a bit too hittable in the big leagues, especially against right-handed batters. He has small upside, but he's a highly risky play.
Kris Medlen, SP, Braves: Medlen, and not Tommy Hanson, got the call to fill a role in the Braves' rotation. Medlen's numbers indicate he certainly deserves a shot, as he has posted a 1.19 ERA with 44 strikeouts and just 10 walks in 37 1/3 innings at Triple-A. The team was seeking a starter for potentially just three to four starts before Tom Glavine makes his presumed final comeback attempt, so Medlen got the call. The Braves didn't want to have to send Hanson back to the minors after bringing him up. However, Medlen is no slouch himself, so he can have a couple of good starts while he's up. Just be aware that his time in the majors might be short.