Under the radar: Berry offers Tigers opportunity to revamp outfield
Tigers prospect Quintin Berry has stolen 261 bases in seven seasons in the minors
Jose Quintana has twice been called from Double A to relieve White Sox's staff
Nathan Eovaldi will be a regular, but may return to minors when Ted Lilly is back
This is the time of season when, due to service time, team control and arbitration eligibility considerations, teams turn to non-top prospects for help. That creates an opportunity for some players who otherwise might not get a look in the big leagues, and some have been outstanding. Here's this week's look at three, plus a pitcher who could be wearing Dodger blue for a long time to come.
When the Tigers needed to replace the disabled Austin Jackson in centerfield and at the top of the lineup they turned to Berry, 27, who was batting .270/.368/.321 with 19 stolen bases at Triple A Toledo, in his seventh minor league season. That doesn't spell a lot of power. In fact, in those seven seasons Berry managed just 130 extra base hits in 3,009 plate appearances. On the plus side, he also stole 261 bases, including four seasons with more than 40, which puts him squarely in the Emilio Bonifacio class of speedsters (i.e. two-category -- steals and runs -- producers). Jackson's imminent return complicates Berry's status but the strong start to his big league career (9 for 25 with two doubles and three steals) has opened the possibility that he could stick around and push the scuffling Delmon Young, Ryan Raburn and Brennan Boesch for playing time. A Tigers outfield of Berry, Jackson and Andy Dirks would be one of the fastest in the majors and would be a boon to Justin Verlander and the rest of Detroit's moundsmen, which I'm sure is a consideration for Tigers brass. Those in need of outfield help and speed should pick him up at their own discretion, as the gamble could pay off handsomely. But also realize that he also might be patrolling centerfield in Toledo by week's end.
For the second time this year the White Sox turned to Quintana in a time of need and the youngster delivered big time. Called up in early May to ease the strain of a taxed bullpen during a doubleheader, he relieved an ineffective Philip Humber against the Indians and proceeded to have the best relief appearance of the season in the majors thus far, throwing 5 2/3 innings of one-hit ball. Although he was sent back to Double A when John Danks was sent to the disabled list, Quintana who got the call again last weekend, skipping all of those ahead of him at Triple A. Again against Cleveland, he tossed six innings of two-run, four-hit ball, earning his first major league victory in the process (he now trails Ernesto Frieri by two wins for the all-time lead for pitchers born in Colombia). The 23-year-old southpaw has impressed so much that he's earned a start against the Rays this week. If all goes well, he should see the Astros in his following start, another favorable matchup. With the Sox's veteran starters not named Jake Peavy struggling all season, Quintana has been a major plus. Although not considered one of the organization's top prospects, he's certainly worth a pickup at least for the next two weeks as owners attempt to ride his wave of success.
Despite a career minor league season-high of 15 home runs, Hague tied Atlanta's Freddie Freeman and some guy named Albert Pujols for the home run lead in spring training, with seven. That opened some eyes in the organization and earned a spot on the opening day roster. However, the. 26-year old former ninth-round pick from Oklahoma State's first big league stint was short-lived and he found himself back in Triple A. He was called up to Pittsburgh to take the place of the Nate McLouth, who was designated for assignment, but instead of settling the rookie right-handed hitter into a bench spot, he's been inserted as the team's everyday first baseman after the combined efforts of Casey McGahee, Garrett Jones, Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes produced a paltry three home runs and 13 RBIs. The power that made him a fan favorite in the spring has not surfaced either in the minors (one home run) or majors (zero) and hadn't been evident before either. While he may be the solution for now in Pittsburgh, he's someone who has no business belonging in active fantasy rosters except in the deepest NL-only leagues or in the most extreme emergency situations.
Just 22 yet already in his fifth professional season, Eovaldi got the call to replace Ted Lilly in the Dodgers' rotation tonight against the Brewers. This won't be the first time the right-hander pitched in the majors, having made 10 appearances, including six starts last season, going 1-2 with a 3.63 ERA and 1.38 whip and 23 K's in 35 innings. With a fastball consistently in the high 90s and a tough, biting slider, the hard thrower hasn't had the strikeout success that you'd expect, fanning just 30 in 35 innings of work at Double A Chattanooga this season. That's especially surprising considering the last pitcher to hail from Alvin, Texas was baseball's all-time strikeout king (and current Texas Rangers president) Nolan Ryan. While he'll likely be a fixture on the L.A. staff for years to come, the former 11th-round pick will likely find his way back to the minors as soon as Lilly is ready to return. In leagues where unlimited stashing of minor league players is allowed, he's a great pickup. Otherwise he's a fair option as a spot starter against the Brew Crew.
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