Welcome to the bigs
With all the hoopla surrounding Roger Clemens' debut in The Bronx on Saturday, fantasy-leaguers may have missed all of the other key call-ups this week that preceded The Rocket. Yes, this was a big week of promotions from the minors and help is definitely on the way. Now the key is to pick up the right prospects for your fantasy teams.
Let's take a look at all of the key call-ups this week, starting with the Hall of Famer:
Clemens, SP, Yankees: Okay, so last week I wrote off the Yankees as lost for this season and then suddenly they win five games in a row. The Rocket fired things up on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium with a surprisingly effective first start as he notched career win No. 349. Clemens hit 91 mph on the radar gun and struck out seven in six innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits and two walks. Surprisingly, he threw 108 pitches and struck out Ryan Doumit with his last one. Clemens is already taken in most fantasy leagues, but it's apparent that he still has the right stuff and will find a way to get double-digit wins over his 20 starts for New York.
Homer Bailey, SP, Reds: The Reds called up another Texas right-hander this week, albeit one who is half as old as Clemens. Bailey, who just turned 21 on May 6, earned his first career win on Friday as he held Cleveland to two runs over five innings, while allowing five hits and four walks with two strikeouts. He wasn't overly sharp, but he did strike out David Delucci with the bases loaded in the fifth inning to hold things intact. Bailey was the seventh overall pick of the 2005 draft and he has great upside. At Triple-A Louisville, he was 6-1 with a 2.31 ERA in 10 starts, striking out 51 batters in 58.1 IP. If he's not already taken in your fantasy league, pick him up now as he will more than hold his own the rest of the way for the rebuilding Reds.
Josh Fields, 3B, White Sox: This 2004 first-round pick was a standout quarterback at Oklahoma State who still holds the school career record for TD passes (55), but he now has a chance to be a star in the big leagues. With Joe Crede down and out with a back injury -- which could require season-ending surgery -- Fields now is the starting third baseman in Chicago. The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder was solid in 56 games at Triple-A Charlotte as he hit .283 with 10 homers, 37 RBIs and 8 stolen bases. During his first four games with the White Sox, he has hit only .143 with four strikeouts in four games. He is going to struggle early on, but if the White Sox can be patient with him he is going to succeed. He's a risky fantasy pickup, but I'd roll the dice with him as there's a good chance he could hold this job the rest of the way. Grab him if you can.
Rajai Davis, OF, Pirates: This 2001 38th round pick has worked hard during seven seasons in the minors and finally earned a promotion to the big leagues this week. He's now battling Chris Duffy for playing time in center field after hitting .318 with four homers, 30 RBIs and 27 stolen bases in 53 games at Triple-A Indianapolis, which included a 21-game hitting streak. He looked overmatched during his first three starts (.111 with one SB), but his speed is so intriguing that he's a worthy pickup for the short-term. If he can get on track in the big leagues, he could be a difference-maker with that speed because he has stolen 40+ bases three times in the minors. Grab Davis this week and hope he finds his stroke in the big leagues and wins that SB category for you.
Joey Gathright, OF, Royals: Speaking of speed, the Royals recalled Gathright from Triple-A Omaha this week after he hit .328 there in 50 games with a .450 on-base percentage and 21 stolen bases in 27 attempts. During his first four games with the Royals, he was hitting .429 with four RBIs and a pair of steals and earning most of the playing time in left field ahead of Emil Brown. He has stumbled before in the majors, but he's capable of hitting .270 with 30 stolen bases as a starter. He's definitely a worthy pickup this week thanks to the turnaround that started at Omaha and his stolen base potential.
Travis Metcalf, 3B, Rangers: The Rangers recalled Metcalf from Double-A Frisco this week and named him as their starting third baseman. This 2004 11th round pick out of Kansas was hitting .283 with seven homers, 34 RBIs and two stolen bases in 54 games at Frisco, but making the jump from Double-A to the majors is always risky. There is guaranteed playing time while Hank Blalock is on the DL, but this is a risky fantasy pickup because of the big leap up. Watch his progress this week before diving in.
Andrew Miller, SP, Tigers: Miller was set to make his second start in the majors on Sunday as he joined the team when Nate Robertson went on the DL. The Tigers don't plan on keeping Miller in the majors for long, but if he impresses again it could be tough to send him down. During his last four starts at Double-A Erie, Miller went 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 24 strikeouts in 30.2 IP. He's a good one who will fill out this rotation in a big way shortly.
Andy Sonanstine, SP, Devil Rays: This big right-hander made his MLB debut on Tuesday and received a no-decision as he gave up six runs in seven innings on eight hits, while striking out six. He has a chance to stick in this rotation and has long-term potential. In 2005, he was 14-5 at Class A with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 178/18 and this year he was 6-4 with a 2.66 ERA in 11 starts at Triple-A Durham, with 66 strikeouts and 13 walks in 71 innings. The 2004 13th round pick out of Kent State has good potential, but you can expect some inflated numbers until he gets settled into this rotation. He's a worthy pickup if you can reserve him for a few starts.
Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Indians: Gutierrez was recalled last Thursday after hitting .341 with four homers, 16 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 30 games at Triple-A Buffalo. Gutierrez is currently in a platoon role with Trot Nixon and thus is limited to at-bats against left-handers. But he has two homers in his last four games and is a worthy pickup in AL-only leagues. Keep an eye on him because he is a streaky hitter who has good upside.
Veteran callups included Matt Kemp for the Dodgers (he will platoon in right field after hitting .329-4-20 with 9 SBs in 39 games at Triple-A Las Vegas), the Mets' Ricky Ledee (he will platoon in left field after hitting .287-8-39 in 55 games at Triple-A New Orleans), C Alberto Castillo in Baltimore (backup with Ramon Hernandez on the DL), and SP Buddy Carlyle in Atlanta (making a spot start on Sunday).
Yovani Gallardo had his first rough outing this week at Triple-A Nashville, which inflated his overall numbers, but he still remains the top pitching prospect left in the minors and the Brewers may need his services soon to stop their free-fall. He's already 8-2 at Nashville with a 2.89 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 71.2 innings. Expect a call-up to the big leagues before the All-Star break.
It's interesting to see that Bryan Bullington, the No. 1 pick of the 2002 draft by Pittsburgh (ahead of B.J. Upton), is back on track after missing parts of the 2005 and 2006 seasons with shoulder injuries. He leads the International League with a 9-2 record and has a 2.75 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 75.1 IP. The Pirates want him to build up arm strength, but he's the next addition to what could become one of the best young staffs in the majors.
Greg Ambrosius is the director of the National Fantasy Baseball Championship -- the industry's only multi-city high-stakes fantasy baseball event. Send questions to Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org.