Are returning veterans Oswalt and Ramirez worth roster spots?
Roy Oswalt should be back next weekend if his Triple A start on Sunday goes well
Manny Ramirez batted .417 in June and is worth a pickup in deeper mixed leagues
Chicago prospect Anthony Rizzo is hot but the Cubs are reluctant to call him up
How disappointing is this June call-up season? So bad, we are left waiting for the has-beens like Roy Oswalt, Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero.
Anthony Rizzo, Trevor Bauer and Wil Myers are increasingly tantalizing for fantasy owners, but their respective GMs just aren't biting right now. At least in the cases of Oswalt, Ramirez and Guerrero we know what we can get, even if it's far less intriguing for us prospect hounds.
Oswalt has stretched out to 88 pitches and has just two starts to go. Ramirez is scorching since the start of June, a veritable answering of the bell after his 50-game suspension time had lapsed. And Vladdy has shown enough pluck to be granted his release from the Blue Jays organization because he wants to be called up, like, uh, yesterday.
Meanwhile, the news on remaining four of this writer's June High Five gets more discouraging by the day, even as the numbers get more impressive. Only Matt LaPorta has arrived among the five players we guaranteed would get the call in June, and he has seemingly done more for an awoken Casey Kotchman than he has for LaPorta (.182) himself or his fantasy owners. (Update: LaPorta was optioned back to Triple A Wednesday.)
Rizzo has dealt with a thumb issue, then banged up his knee Tuesday, after the Cubs announced they have no immediate plans to move him to the majors during interleague play. Bauer just doesn't have a rotation spot to occupy in Arizona with the staff of Ian Kennedy, Trevor Bauer, Daniel Hudson, Wade Miley and Joe Saunders holding down the fort. And Myers' management recently suggested if he continues to do this well, his arrival can come "sometime early next year."
Ew! Way to crush our collective spirits.
So, after focusing on what we have last week, ranking the top rookies of 2012 going forward, let's review who we can actually expect to arrive soon:
The loss of starting pitchers Alexi Ogando (groin) and Derek Holland (shoulder) to the DL might hasten Oswalt's arrival in Texas, but the results aren't really that exciting right now. His start Tuesday night lasted just 3 1/3 innings and he gave up five hits, three runs and a walk. Not exactly results that make you believe he can fill a hole in Texas, and fantasy lineups, immediately.
"That's one thing you can't predict -- injuries," Oswalt told the Fort Worth Star-Telgram. "They started the season with six starters, and now they're down to three or four guys.
"I have to get myself ready to pitch there first, though. I'm not going to help if I go out there and throw four or five innings and kill the bullpen."
The only saving grace here is Oswalt was able to stretch out to 88 pitches, 55 strikes. So, like spring training, maybe he is just pounding the zone to work the shoulder, not worrying about the results.
"They actually came up to me after the third and said I was at 80 pitches, and I was like, 'Really?'" he told the paper. "I knew I was getting behind some hitters. It seemed like I was throwing five or six pitches to each guy. But I didn't know I had thrown that many that quick. ...
"The biggest thing is I need to get deeper into the game, get up and down seven or eight times. Four innings -- that's not going to help out a big-league club too much."
It is possible we can see Oswalt get called up after his next start Sunday, his fourth (0-1, 7.71 with eight strikeouts and three walks in 9 1/3 innings in three starts between Double- and Triple-A.
"I figure I'd have to go one more [start]," he said. "Next start I think we're going to go around 100, 105 pitches, and we'll see where we're at then. ...
"I'm not going to rush there and not be ready when I get there. I'm going to go as fast as I can to get there. I think they wanted me to go around six or seven starts. I'm trying to do it in four. We'll see what the next start looks like and kind of base it off that."
A solid outing Sunday would put Oswalt in line to make a start for the June 22-24 series against the Rockies in Texas. That would make him a potential fantasy starter for fantasy owners next week. Watch Sunday's start closely. You need to see at least five innings and perhaps a quality start to trust him right away.
When the calendar switched to June, Manny switched it on. It was days after he was allowed to be recalled to the majors; yet, he was hitting just .222 (8-for-36) with a .222 slugging percentage. In June since, Ramirez has gone 10-for-24 (.417) with nine RBI in his past five games.
Clearly, he is ready to help the offensively defunct A's. And, it just so happens the DH is back in play during a nine-game homestand that begins Friday. We should expect the recently hot Ramirez to return this weekend. We will get a decent look at him before potentially starting him in deeper fantasy leagues next Monday.
It was just a week ago there were questions of whether Ramirez has anything left to give us in fantasy. Now, the question is just how much should we expect?
He should be plenty good enough to use in deeper mixed leagues, particularly amid this five-game RBI stretch.
Here is one case where getting released might be the best thing for a minor-leaguer. Vladdy asked for, and was granted, his release from the Las Vegas 51s.
"He played [Monday] night and he decided that was enough for him," Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said. "He felt he was worthy of a call-up, and we weren't prepared to do that right now."
Guerrero has combined to go .358 (19-for-53) with four homers, 12 RBI and 12 runs. He went 4-for-5 with a triple and two RBI in the game before requesting his freedom. He is good enough to help someone, in the majors and fantasy, as a DH.
He is at least better option than the ones the Indians, Tigers, Twins and Yankees have at the DH spot right now. Watch his potential destination in the coming days. He is ready to hit and produce for fantasy owners in deeper formats, particularly AL-only leagues, immediately.
1B Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
The headline in the Chicago Sun Times this morning reads: "Cubs exhale: Anthony Rizzo only bruises knee."
Are they really exhaling for a player they have no intention of calling up soon?
Rizzo has nothing left to prove in Triple-A. The Cubs have already said they in those same words. But, yet, they passed on him during interleague play as a DH and have no immediate plans to move Bryan LaHair.
Rizzo is the best hitter in the minor leagues, at least the numbers suggest that. He has gone a ridiculous .367-22-57-45-2 (.426-.747), including a pair of multihomer games back-to-back Sunday-Monday.
Sure, he still strikes out too much (43) and doesn't walk enough (20), but he is murdering lefties now (.355-7-18-12-1, .412-.742). He is hitting .425-5-11-10 in 40 June at-bats. Those numbers should have been coming for the Cubs in Chicago, not the Cubs in Iowa.
It is interesting to note the Cubs play at home this weekend against the Red Sox, GM Theo Epstein and Rizzo's former organization. Maybe, just maybe, the Cubs feel this is a good time to unleash their future star slugger.
SP Trevor Bauer, Diamondbacks
Of all the waiting games we play in the prospect hunt, this one makes the most sense, even if Bauer is the one most intriguing in fantasy here on out. The D'backs just have too many good starters.
"He's pretty much done everything he probably could do at Double-A and Triple-A," Arizona GM Kevin Towers said. "Sometimes you've just got to wait your turn, wait for that opportunity."
Kennedy and Cahill aren't going anywhere. Miley (7-2, 2.53) is pitching lights out, while Saunders (3.48) is the most experienced of the starters and holding his own. Only Hudson (6.06) is struggling, but he has more potential than everyone but Bauer.
At 10-1 with a 1.79 ERA and a minor-league-best 102 strikeouts through 13 starts and 80 1/3 innings between Double- and Triple-A, Bauer projects to blow away hitters and fantasy when he does finally arrive. But, we are tired of merely thinking, saying and writing that. We want to see it.
Bauer is tired of it already, too.
"I don't ever want to hear anyone mention it again," he told the Arizona Republic. "Honestly, I can't control that. I don't want to think about stuff I can't control. I can control how hard I work. I can control how I prepare, how I eat, how I sleep and how I pitch out there on the field. That's all I can control.
"Promotion, no promotion, demotion, cut, whatever. ... I pitch every fifth day. Whatever team I'm on, that's what I'm going to do."
OF Wil Myers, Royals
As aggravating as Bauer's situation is, here is where the prospect frustration and disappointment reaches a season low. The Royals have no 2012 plans to unveil the remarkable breakthrough Myers has become:
"We're going to continue to take a conservative approach in transitioning young players to the major leagues," GM Dayton Moore said this week. "That's the approach we've always adhered to, and that's not going to change. We'd rather be a month or two late in calling a guy to the big leagues than a month or two early."
Fair enough, but here is where hope is exhaled almost entirely:
"He's not ready today," Moore continued. "Could he come up here and do OK? Probably. But I think his timetable is closer to Eric Hosmer's.
"He'll come up sometime early next year if he continues to do well. ... But there are still challenges he needs to meet in Triple-A."
Challenges? Myers looks completely unchallenged right now.
In 11 June games, Myers has gone .333-5-16-14-0 (.429-.786) in 42 at-bats. In Triple-A he sits at .333-9-28-23-0 (.407-.719) in 96 at-bats. For the season combined, between Double- and Triple-A, he is .339-22-58-55-4 (.412-.726) in 230 at-bats.
He hits .333 against righties and lefties. He walks plenty and has a controllable strikeout rate.
What challenges can they possibly be seeing? The minor-league home-run record?
Hearing he won't arrive until early next year is about the most absurd thing we have seen in fantasy this season ... and this is a season where there is now talk Tim Lincecum might be moved to the bullpen.
OF Roger Kieschnick, Giants
In just a week after we outlined the High Five, Kieschnick went out and fractured his shoulder, ruining any hopes of him arriving before August, if at all, this season. The numbers of .319-14-37-47-0 (.390-.623) were exciting through 204 Triple-A at-bats, but the injury will sideline him most of the summer.
That is merely the Murphy's Law topper of fantasy's June hopefuls.
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. If you miss his Monday baseball trends, Wednesday prospect report or Friday pitching review, you can also find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).