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FAAB Factor - AL: Managing September Playing Time

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire.com and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).

STARTING PITCHERS

Bobby Cramer – Cramer spent most of this year pitching in Mexican League after previously toiling in the Rays’ system and then the independent leagues before latching on with the A’s system this summer. In seven starts for Triple-A Sacramento he had a 1.94 ERA and a 35:11 K:BB in 41.2 innings. He gives the A’s four lefty starters in the rotation, replacing Vin Mazzaro for the last three weeks, beginning this week at Kansas City. He could get fifth starter’s treatment down the stretch if the A’s opt to go that route, but given how young their rotation is, I could also just see them rolling all five starters on schedule even with a rest day. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.

Kyle Drabek – After initially suggesting that Drabek wouldn’t get called up this year, the Jays reversed course and announced that they will promote Drabek to start on Wednesday and remain in the rotation for the rest of the year. They haven’t yet said who will get bounced from the rotation, but the answer might be nobody – with Brett Cecil and Ricky Romero getting hit hard last time out, they might want the opportunity to give them and their other starters an extra day of rest. Drabek is clearly the best pitching prospect in the organization, having put together a really nice campaign at Double-A New Hampshire, where he had a 2.94 ERA and a 132:68 K:BB over 162 innings in the regular season there (as well as a good start in the playoffs where he lost to Dellin Betances). Look for him to be on a pretty tight pitch-count leash for his starts with the Jays in September. Mixed: $1; AL: $2.

Shawn Hill – Hill is a better human interest story than a fantasy investment. The Toronto native did well to come back from Tommy John elbow surgery, but I don’t suspect that he’ll be all that effective over these last three weeks. Moreover, with Kyle Drabek up, they might very well opt to skip him if they want to keep their other starters on schedule. Mixed: No; AL: $0.

Luke Hochevar – Hochevar came off the DL from an elbow injury last week, pitching three innings in relief against the Twins. He’ll go back into the rotation on Monday against the A’s. The Royals’ track record of bringing pitchers from injury isn’t all that stellar (see also Meche, Gil), so my first reaction is one of caution. I like Hochevar’s potential still – he’s had too many starts where he’s missed a lot of bats to ignore. But I won’t be rostering him on any of my teams in September, at least in an active capacity. Mixed and AL: No.

Joel Pineiro – Pineiro could make his way back from the DL in the near future from his oblique injury if all goes well with his rehab start on Sunday, but it’s uncertain when he’ll get back into the rotation. Right now he’s not scheduled to start this week, and Trevor Bell is in the projected rotation. However, my guess is that the Angels would want him to get at least a couple of more starts to finish the season, given how hard they’ve worked to rehab him. Pineiro’s injury was more significant than a typical oblique injury, but it looks like you’ll get a few shots at wins from him over the last couple of weeks. Mixed and AL: $5.

RELIEF PITCHERS

Gregory Infante – The White Sox are continuing to bring in reinforcements for their battered bullpen, and Infante at least is an intriguing name. He has struck out 69 batters in 60 innings in the minors this year and hasn’t allowed a homer. His command needs some work, however, having issued 27 walks in that span. The White Sox over the years have been able to develop some relievers out of thin air, and Infante might be interesting at that level. Mixed: No; AL: $0.

Ryan Perry/Phil Coke – Perry and Phil Coke will split any save opportunities that might arise if Jose Valverde remains unable to pitch this week or later in the season. Valverde’s sore elbow wasn’t expected to be serious, but now that the Tigers are out of it, they might be more careful than usual. I like Coke a little better than Perry, even though Perry got the save earlier this week. Perry’s control isn’t as tight and he’s also given up five homers in 51.2 innings. After the Tigers said that Coke wouldn’t be available to pitch on Sunday because of a sore heel, he finished Sunday’s game anyway. Coke has been less susceptible to the gopher ball than Perry and is averaging 7.25 K/9 – not great, but not awful either. Perry – Mixed: $2; AL: $5; Coke – Mixed: $3; AL: $7.

Robert Ray – Ray’s Triple-A numbers weren’t all that great this year – 5.51 ERA and 1.696 WHIP. But keep in mind that he was toiling at Las Vegas, as tough a pitcher’s environment as there is in the minors, and he was coming back from a shoulder injury that ended his 2009 campaign. Still, it’s tough to see him making that correction in the AL East, out of the bullpen. Mixed and AL: No.

CATCHERS

Hank Conger – Now that Triple-A Salt Lake’s season is over, Conger is up for a cup of coffee with the big league club, but as the fourth-string catcher. Why not give him more than a token look over the last three weeks? They attempted to deal Mike Napoli in August to the Red Sox as part of a waiver deal, which would have helped clear the decks a little bit in September. Conger benefited from the conditions at Triple-A Salt Lake, hitting .300/.385/.463 with 11 homers in 387 at-bats. The 55:58 BB:K ratio though is hardly a result of altitude, and that’s a pretty positive indicator for success at the major league level. Mixed: No; AL: $1.

CORNER INFIELDERS

Lars Anderson – After a disastrous 2009 campaign, Anderson tore up Double-A Portland before going up to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he was just lukewarm all year, hitting .263/.343/.430 in 407 at-bats. What happened to Anderson? Was he an overly-hyped creation of the California League, getting more prospect love in the past because he was in the Red Sox chain? Or is there some post-hype sleeper potential still? I think the truth is closer to the latter proposition, but I also think that his ceiling is lower than once believed. At any rate, with the Red Sox finally falling out of the wild card race, look for Anderson to play a lot over the last three weeks to give the Red Sox a good look. In deeper leagues, that playing time alone, in a good lineup, has value. Mixed: $2; AL: $9.

Jarrett Hoffpauir – Hoffpauir’s 58:34 BB:K in 431 at-bats is pretty impressive, but he’s a minor league vet and not a prospect on the rise. This callup is a nice reward for putting together a good little season at Las Vegas, where he hit .299/.380/.499. Don’t look for him to get extended playing time. Mixed and AL: No.

Dayan Viciedo – A big kudos to Viciedo – he was able to draw his first major league walk after 82 at-bats this past week. I don’t know where this puts him in the DiSar rankings (does BP track them any longer with Joe Sheehan no longer there?), but he has to be on the short list of leaders to be sure. His lack of patience at the plate of course is relevant in terms of how much playing time he gets. There’s good power upside there, but unless he can hit .320 he’s always going to be a drag on the offense due to his lack of walks. He’s not playing much in this callup, an issue highlighted by the fact that the White Sox called up Brent Morel at the same time as him. Mixed and AL: No.

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Kevin Frandsen – Frandsen is back after an earlier stint where he got a decent run of playing time, one that ended both with the return of Maicer Izturis from the DL and the acquisition of Alberto Callaspo. He won’t play much without a few injuries down the stretch this time. Mixed and AL: $0.

Akinori Iwamura – Iwamura could be the A’s third baseman for the short-term thanks to Kevin Kouzmanoff’s back injury and Jeff Larish’s 1-for-25 stretch while replacing Kouzmanoff. This is your typical A’s attempt to salvage a career from the bargain bin. At least the price is right. He won’t provide any power, and he no longer has the speed upside that he once had. Mixed: No; AL: $0.

OUTFIELDERS

Jarrod Dyson – If you’re looking for a super cheap speed option in AL-only leagues, Dyson is your man. He stole 45 bases between two levels last year and 13 in 46 games for Triple-A Omaha this year before getting the call. Will the Royals commit to playing him? Given their track record, maybe not, but he already has a stolen base for them anyhow. Just be aware that the speed is really the only offensive asset Dyson brings to the table – he has just one homer over the last three years. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.

Jeremy Hermida – Having tired of the Gabe Gross experience in right field, the A’s are now giving Hermida a shot after he flamed out with the Red Sox. I used to be a pretty big believer in him, as part of my Austin Kearns All-Star squad (being among the last to give up on him). I dropped him after the Red Sox did, however, and I’m no longer desperate for playing time in the outfield in the leagues where I previously owned him. I get the idea that the ballpark won’t help him much to recover his lost value. Unless you’re desperate for at-bats, don’t bother here and wait to see where he lands in 2011. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.

Josh Reddick – Like Lars Anderson, Reddick is a disappointing prospect that will see more playing time down the stretch as the Red Sox attempt to evaluate whether they can count on him at all in 2011. I really like the team’s approach to playing time in September – they are using this time to evaluate their younger players rather than appease whatever healthy veterans they have. I don’t think that Reddick profiles to be more than a fourth outfielder at the big league level, but I don’t want to rush to call him a failed prospect. Use him like you would Hermida – only if you really need the playing time. Mixed: $1; AL: $2.