Fantasy Baseball

Chin music: Late season pickups

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Consider that the season is effectively about 83 percent over. For some, that mentality, along with the lure of football drafts and the NFL season officially kicking off next Thursday, is enough to fall asleep at the wheel and fail to finish off baseball season on a high note.

If you're still hanging around in your league, you're an opportunistic owner. You're thinking about the 17 percent of the season that's still to be played and trying to maximize your production with the appropriate pickups to squeeze out another place or two in the standings. Whether it's the difference between third place and first, or the gap between fifth and third, there's likely a financial incentive within reach if you keep your eyes open.

This week, we'll look at potential contributors who have been called up with Tuesday's roster expansion - or - those that are getting a chance with a new role because of injuries. The categories they should be able to contribute toward are listed in parenthesis.

(Note: The players lower on this list are recommended for deeper formats)

Juan Gutierrez, RP, ARI (SV) - An intriguing snippet from Gutierrez's preseason outlook:

As he's progressed through the minor league levels, Gutierrez hasn't kept opposing hitters off balance, due in large part to his lack of an effective third pitch. With a fastball that hovers between 91-94 mph and sharp breaking ball as his two weapons, he appears to have an arsenal better suited for bullpen work at the higher levels.

The trades of Tony Pena and Jon Rauch this season and the season-ending knee injury to Chad Qualls has left the D-Backs looking for a September closer. Manager A.J. Hinch said he won't name Gutierrez his closer, but that he'll likely get the first crack at the job. His command's been shaky at times this season, but moving to the bullpen has resulted in an improved K/9IP (8.49) and more zip on his fastball (94-97 mph). Further, Gutierrez has actually pitched better than his 4.17 ERA suggests with a 3.20 FIP in 54 appearances with the Snakes this season. If he falters, the D-Backs could turn to 2008 first-round pick Daniel Schlereth as an alternative, but there's no clear-cut pecking order behind Gutierrez at this time.

Tim Hudson, SP, ATL (ERA, WHIP, W) - Hudson showed some signs of rust during his return from Tommy John surgery on Tuesday night, but the Braves played well enough to give him a win in his first decision of the season while he struck out five and walked three over 5 1/3 innings. He's never been a great source of strikeouts - K/9IP below 6.0 in each of the last five seasons, but he keeps the ball in the yard and limits his walks, resulting in ERAs of 3.33 in 2007 and 3.17 in 2008. He's far from an ace as far as fantasy starters go, but he could be a source of two or three wins and a good ERA over the final month.

J.J. Hardy, SS, MIL (HR, RBI) - The Brewers wouldn't have recalled Hardy on Tuesday if they didn't intend to play him at least half of the time with Alcides Escobar in September. The reason? Their Triple-A affiliate in Nashville is battling with Memphis for a playoff berth. Hardy hit four homers in 18 games with the Sounds after being demoted and he'll be playing with a chip on his shoulder after the Brewers sent him down to limit his major league service time and ultimately keep him under club control through the 2011 season. That, in itself, will help his trade value during the offseason, but he could also help draw interest additional from other teams with a strong September. Given that lack of middle-infield options available on the wire to contribute, he's definitely worth a look.

Jose Guillen, OF, KC (HR, RBI) - He fits the bill as an overpaid, enigmatic type who small-market teams always seem to end up getting stuck with because of poor judgment or the lack of better alternatives willing to play for a non-contender. When he's healthy, Guillen's a 20-homer, 80-90 RBI contributor. The Royals aren't going to trot Mitch Maier and Josh Anderson out at the same time now that Guillen's knee is healthy. Further, he expressed plenty of embarrassment about his dismal .244/.316/.369 line this season while citing his large contract and poor production in a suggestion that he should pay for the Royals' fans tickets.

Cameron Maybin, OF, FLA (SB, R, AVG) - The Marlins are hanging by a thread in the wild card race, but at five games back, they're close to turning the page on the 2009 season and giving their youngsters more playing time. Maybin - still just 22 years old - had a strong .319/.399/.463 line in 298 at-bats with Triple-A New Orleans this season, and he could see time as a regular option even with the team battling to stay in the playoff race. You're not going to get much here in the way of power, but Maybin has good speed and he was very productive after getting a late-season look with Florida last September (16-for-32, .500 with nine runs scored in eight games). The odds of him being available in most keeper league is slim, but he's still got a bright future ahead.

Michael Brantley, OF, CLE (SB, R) - Brantley immediately started in left field for the Tribe on Tuesday against the Tigers and went 2-for-4 with a run scored, while his arrival to the big league club may prompt the Indians to shut down Grady Sizemore and have him undergo surgery on his elbow sooner rather than later. That would leave everyday playing time for Brantley in September, who profiles as an eventual leadoff hitter with plus speed. Included in the deal that sent CC Sabathia to Milwaukee last summer, Brantley went 46-of-51 on the basepaths at Triple-A Columbus and he has proven to be a difficult player to strike out. At 22, he'll make for a very nice keeper in 2010 if he's able to lock up an everyday job during spring training.

Sean Rodriguez, 2B/SS, TB (AVG, HR, RBI, SB) - It was revealed on Tuesday that Rodriguez was the player to be named later in the trade that sent Scott Kazmir to the Angels last weekend. Initially, he's reporting to Triple-A Durham, but Rays manager Joe Maddon expects him to be called up in the near future and the plan is for him to see playing time. It's a little unclear as to where he'll fit into the lineup, but he's versatile much like Ben Zobrist, opening up some opportunities based on matchups in the middle infield and the three outfield depending on the opposition's starter. It'll be interesting to see how much the Pacific Coast League may have inflated his numbers, but they're still impressive - .299/.410/.616 with 29 homers, 93 RBI and nine steals in 103 games (365 at-bats).

Tyler Flowers, C, CWS (HR, RBI) - His short-term value depends on how the White Sox play throughout the rest of the week. As it stands now, they're third in the AL Central and seven games back of Detroit, so we could be looking at a situation where Flowers sees more regular playing time in just a matter of days if the White Sox end up throwing in the towel. For now, he'll be limited in his opportunities since the White Sox are going to try and make one last push with Carlos Quentin, Alex Rios, Jermaine Dye and Scott Podsednik manning the three outfield spots and the DH hole vacated following the trade of Jim Thome to the Dodgers. Given that he'll likely be eligible behind the plate in a number of leagues and his long-term upside, Flowers is well worth a pickup in keeper formats.

Carlos Carrasco, SP, CLE (K) - Getting bombed for six runs on nine hits over three innings is a tough major league debut. Still, with the Tribe looking to the future, Carrasco should remain in the rotation for at least four more starts. Don't expect much as far as wins go, but he's only 22 and the three long balls on Tuesday night were an aberration. He'd allowed just 14 homers on the year in the minors, while posting a 148:45 K:BB ratio in 157 innings at Triple-A before getting the call on Tuesday. With a 4.64 ERA, Carrasco's been written off by some as a mid-grade prospect, but his age and 3.72 FIP suggests that he's pitched better than that.

Micah Hoffpauir, 1B/OF, CHC (HR, RBI) - He only hit .233 in his first stint with the Cubs this season, and it didn't get any better for Hoffpauir at Triple-A with a .217 mark in just 83 at-bats. So, why even consider adding him? In deeper leagues, Hoffpauir's the type of versatile left-handed bat Cubs manager Lou Piniella will tend to squeeze onto his lineup card - if only as a pinch-hitter - on a day-to-day basis. He's also the type who's prone to catching fire, as evidenced by his .303/.333/.545 mark (two HR, eight RBI) as a part-time player in April and his .306/.390/.528 line (two HR, seven RBI) from a callup last September. Article first appeared 9/3/09

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