May 18, 2009

Memorial Day weekend is the official kickoff to summer and it's also the official kickoff to Major League Baseball's interleague play schedule. Fantasy leaguers love both events because it brings on the dog days of summer and crosstown rivalries.

Seven of this weekend's matchups will feature NL teams playing at AL stadiums, which means NL teams will be using the DH for the first time this year. That can add extra at-bats to some of your players, so stay in attuned to that.

With the dog days and interleague play upon us, here is a look at the recent call-ups from the minors. It was a busy week with several top prospects getting the call this week and in line to help your fantasy teams right away, so let's get right to them:

Nolan Reimold, OF, Orioles: This 2005 second-round pick out of Bowling Green started four games in left field this weekend after getting the call-up from Triple-A Norfolk. Reimold was hitting .394 at Norfolk through 31 games with nine homers, 27 RBIs, six stolen bases and a stellar .485 on-base percentage. He has been one of the Orioles' top prospects the last couple of years and now he has an opportunity to shine and keep the left field job. He hit .235 through his first four games with two RBIs and has shown he has good power and can hit for average in the minors. He has a chance to keep this left field job and is a worthy pickup even in mixed leagues right now.

Mat Gamel, 3B, Brewers: Gamel will definitely benefit from this weekend's interleague games because the Brewers start out at Minnesota, where the DH will be used. Gamel has struggled defensively at third base, but he's a proven hitter who gives the Brewers a worthy option from the left side. During 33 games at Triple-A Nashville, he hit .336 with eight home runs, 31 RBIs and a .428 on-base percentage. Last year at Double-A Huntsville, he hit .329 with 19 homers and 96 RBIs. Now with Rickie Weeks possibly being sidelined with a wrist injury, Gamel could even see some playing time in the field, which raises his value a little more. He's a proven hitter, but make sure he is in line for enough at-bats before diving into Gamel too deeply. He has the ability, but what he needs is the playing time to help your fantasy team. I'm not sure it's going to be there once the inter-league games are concluded, but keep this guy in your sights nonetheless.

Daniel Bard, RP, Red Sox: His fantasy value will be limited because of his role in Boston, but Bard is one of the most interesting call-ups of the season. The 2006 first round pick out of North Carolina was just lights out at Triple-A Pawtucket this year, going 1-0 in 11 games with a 1.13 ERA and 29 strikeouts with only five walks in 16 innings. He allowed only six hits in 16 innings while closing out six games and had a solid 0.69 WHIP. He was called up to Boston to add depth to the bullpen, but he has proven that he has the talent to be a closer if ever called upon. Keep an eye on Bard and don't be afraid to add him to your reserve roster just in case anything happens to Jonathan Papelbon.

Rich Hill, SP, Orioles: What a long, strange trip it's been for Rich Hill. Once the Cubs' top pitching prospect, Hill couldn't find the plate last year and was eventually traded by Chicago to Baltimore. Hill said his control problems were caused by a lower back problem and the Orioles were willing to give him a clean shot at the rotation this year. But he suffered an elbow injury in March and had to start the year on the DL. He made three solid starts at Triple-A Norfolk, going 1-1 with a 1.35 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 14 strikeouts with nine walks in 13.1 innings before getting the promotion to Baltimore last week. In his debut with the Orioles on Saturday against the Royals, Hill earned the win by allowing two runs in 5.2 innings, striking out six with two walks. He now has a chance to stick in the Orioles' rotation and could be a worthy fantasy pickup as long as he can harness his control. Remember, this is a guy who struck out 183 batters in 2007, so the talent is there.

Gerardo Parra, OF, Diamondbacks: Parra became the 100th player in MLB history to homer in his first MLB at-bat when he debuted against the Reds. Arizona's top outfield prospect was called up from Double-A Mobile to give a spark to the offense and he did just that, hitting .385 through his first three games with one homer and five RBIs. Before his call-up, he was hitting .361 at Mobile with three homers, 12 RBIs, seven stolen bases and a .469 on-base percentage through 29 games. He should get most of the at-bats against right-handed pitchers and certainly looks like a rookie who will stick on this team for a bit. The Diamondbacks are in a rebuilding mode and Parra seems to be a major part of that reconstruction.

Bryan Augenstein, SP, Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks tried to find lightning in a bottle twice from Mobile as they also promoted Augenstein this week to the big leagues. This University of Florida product was also lights out at Double-A, posting a stellar 0.78 ERA with 31 strikeouts and only six walks in 34.2 innings. He looked good early against the Reds, but wound up taking the loss as he gave up five runs in 6.1 innings. He won't overpower MLB hitters (3 strikeouts), but his stuff is good enough to get a few more starts while the Diamondbacks try to stay afloat until Brandon Webb returns in early July. Give him a look in NL-only leagues because the youngster has some upside.

Greg Burke and Joe Thatcher, RPs, Padres: The Padres tried to shore up their bullpen with a pair of older minor-leaguers. Burke might provide the best upside as the 26-year-old was having a solid season at Triple-A Portland this year, posting a 3-0 record with seven saves, a 0,75 WHIP and 14 strikeouts with only four walks in 16 innings. He could be a solid setup man for Heath Bell. Thatcher, 27, is another lefty for the pen who was 1-1 at Portland with a 1.29 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 14 innings. He won't have much fantasy value, but like Burke, he adds another arm before Bell.

It's interesting to note that when the Angels sent Brandon Wood back down to Triple-A Salt Lake last week that they moved him back to shortstop. Is it possible that the Angels realize they need more pop out of the shortstop hole and are willing to bring Wood back up as a starting shortstop? Only time will tell, but he promptly hit two homers in his first game back with Salt Lake and is now hitting .347 with nine homers and 19 RBIs through 19 games in the minors. Don't give up on this guy just yet because he could return in a much more valuable role.

The witching hour is almost upon us when the Orioles can bring up C Matt Wieters to the majors and not lose a season to arbitration. That date is June 1, so get ready for Wieters to be promoted shortly after that. The Orioles may wait a week or two after that just to prove to everyone that this wasn't the reason they started him in the minors, but nobody will be fooled. Wieters is currently hitting .280 with four homers and 18 RBIs in 30 games at Norfolk and has found his power stroke after battling back from a hamstring injury. He's going to make a major impact once he finally reaches the majors.

Boston's Clay Buchholz has done all he can at Triple-A Pawtucket and it's time to get this talented right-hander back in the majors. He threw a no-hitter for the Red Sox a few years back and now he seems to have everything working in the minors. Through six starts, he's 2-0 with a 1.03 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and 37 strikeouts in 35 innings as he's allowed only 16 hits and 10 walks. Wow. Keep this guy on your radar as well.

Atlanta's Tommy Hanson also should be up to the bigs soon. He just continues to shine at Triple-A Gwinnett, going 2-3 in eight starts with a 1.70 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 64 strikeouts in 47.2 innings. Atlanta, it's time to bring this kid up to the majors and let him show off this fine arm. He's a major talent who can help the Braves now.

Welcome to the dog days of summer, and of course, the fun matchups of interleague play.

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