May 25, 2009

We're not even into the dog days of summer and already MLB teams are scrambling to fill holes in their starting rotations. While you never like to see the likes of Scott Kazmir, Ricky Nolasco or Edinson Volquez land on the DL or in the minors, the change in rotations has brought needed help to their clubs and to fantasy leaguers across the country.

With the demotions come promotions and this week we saw a lot of top prospects getting called up to the majors. At the top of the list was Tampa's David Price, who will make his first start of the season on Monday. He is definitely the top new call-up to pick up this week, but he's not alone. Here's a look at all of the top call-ups from this week and a little advice on which ones you should grab and which ones you should stay away from.

David Price, SP, Rays: The top pick in the 2007 draft has finally worked his way back to Tampa and should be in the Rays' lineup to stay for the rest of the season. At 6'6", 225, he can be a dominating presence on the mound, but the Rays have treated him with kid gloves this year. They've had a strict pitch count on him during his stay at Triple-A Durham this year, limiting him to 34.1 innings in eight starts as he went 1-4 with a 3.93 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP. He did strike out 35 in 34.1 innings, but he also allowed 18 walks as he struggled to find his groove in the limited innings. But he was solid last year during his debut and during the post-season and with fewer restrictions on him in the majors he will get off to a great start and blossom. His Average Draft Position (ADP) in the NFBC was 190, so he has likely been taken already in most leagues across the country. In that remote chance that he's still available in your league, grab him now and get him in your lineup this week for two starts that will launch a very solid MLB career. This kid is special and he will be the Rays' ace very shortly.

Homer Bailey, SP, Reds: Scouts once said that Homer Bailey was special, but he's looking less spectacular each time he reaches the majors. Bailey was the seventh overall pick of the 2004 draft who has been unable to take the next step up. He struggled at Triple-A Louisville in eight starts this year, going 3-5 with a 4.57 ERA and 1.39 WHIP, but the Reds promoted him this week when Volquez landed on the DL. He started on Saturday night against the Indians and struggled badly, giving up six earned runs in 4.1 innings on three hits and six walks. It looked similar to his call-ups in 2007 and 2008 as it once again looks like Bailey isn't ready for The Show. Even if he gets another start or two with the Reds, it's best to leave this one-time hot shot on your bench or in your league's waiver wire until he proves he can harness his control.

Sean West, SP, Marlins: The Marlins aren't afraid to promote their top prospects to the majors and this week they took a big step by promoting Sean West from Double-A Jacksonville to the big leagues to take Nolasco's spot in the rotation. West was a first-round pick in 2005 who still needs work with his control, but at 6'8", 200 pounds he has the physical skills to be a top pitcher in the big leagues. At Jacksonville, he was 4-2 with a 4.93 ERA as he struck out 48 batters in 42 innings. But he also walked 22, and in Saturday's MLB debut against the Rays, he walked four in five innings during a no-decision. Still, he held the hot-hitting Rays in check and allowed just four hits while striking out five. He will definitely get another start and has some value in NL-only leagues, but in mixed leagues he's still too young to help your team just yet.

Anthony Swarzak, SP, Twins: The Twins have no shortage of arms in their system and Swarzak is just another example of how deep this organization is in pitching. This 2004 second-round pick has been working his way up the organizational ladder and he earned a promotion to the big leagues this week after going 3-4 at Triple-A Rochester in seven starts with a 2.25 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 32 strikeouts in 44 innings. He was all business during his MLB debut on Saturday night against the red-hot Brewers, throwing seven shutout innings to earn his first win, while allowing just five hits and two walks with three strikeouts. Swarzak has definitely earned another start in this rotation and could be a fixture here if he keeps pitching like this. He's a worthy pickup at this point because he has solid control, appears poised to pitch at this level and is on a team that can certainly score a lot of runs for him. Take the chance and ride this one through.

Kris Medlen, SP, Braves: It surprised a lot of folks when the Braves reached down to Triple-A Gwinnett for a starting pitcher and came away with anyone other than Tommy Hanson. But it's obvious to all right now that the Braves aren't about to call up Hanson before June 1, saving on his Super 2 status. Instead, they promoted Medlen, a 10th round pick in 2006 who was pitching lights out in the minors. During six starts at Gwinnett, Medlen went 5-0 with a 1.19 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 44 strikeouts in 37.2 innings. He had allowed just 20 hits and 10 walks during his time there. But during his first start in the majors, he looked extremely nervous and struggled early, giving up five runs in three innings on three hits and five walks. He will get another start and if the Braves can settle him down early, he has a chance to succeed and show off his solid skills. He's not fantasy worthy yet, but he has good talent and he could keep the No. 5 slot in this rotation even if Hanson comes up in the next month. Keep an eye on this kid because he could still work out for the Braves.

Billy Buckner, SP, Diamondbacks: The former second-round pick of the Royals was thrust into Arizona's starting rotation this week thanks to injuries to other starters and he performed well, earning his first win over Oakland. The RHP gave up just one run over 7.1 innings on five hits and two walks, while striking out three. He should earn another start, but Buckner isn't fantasy worthy at this point. He still has problems with control (14 walks in 28.1 innings at Triple-A Reno this year) and is just a fill-in for the Diamondbacks right now. Let someone else take the gamble on Billy Buck.

Other Call-ups Of Note: Although he's not fantasy worthy yet, keep an eye on Philadelphia OF John Mayberry Jr., the son of former Royals' slugger John Mayberry. He's 6'6", 230 and a worthy slugger, who homered and drove in three runs during his MLB debut on Saturday night. He's currently being used as a DH in inter-league games and could return to Triple-A Lehigh Valley soon, but he will be back. He was hitting .277 with eight homers and 25 RBIs before the promotion and could be in Philadelphia again later this year. The Tigers also promoted OF Wilkin Ramirez briefly this week and then sent him back down to Triple-A Toledo after he homered in his first MLB game. Ramirez isn't ready for the big leagues just yet, but don't lose sight of this talented kid. He's currently hitting .306 at Toledo with five homers, 14 RBIs and 15 stolen bases and could be a factor in Detroit sometime in the next year.

Tommy Hanson, SP, Braves: It's just a matter of time before Hanson gets the promotion to the big leagues, even though Tom Glavine and Tim Hudson are on pace to make comebacks this summer. Hanson is lights out at Gwinnett and deserves the call-up as he's gone 3-3 in nine starts with a 1.51 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 73 strikeouts in 53.2 innings. He will be solid in the majors when he gets there, trust me.

Brett Wallace, 3B, Cardinals: It's worth noting that the Cardinals wasted no time promoting last year's first-round pick from Double-A to Triple-A last week. Wallace, who can hit as well as anyone but who still needs plenty of work defensively at the Hot Corner, was hitting .281 with five homers and 16 RBIs at Double-A Springfield with a nifty .403 on-base percentage before moving up to Triple-A Memphis. During his first seven games there, he was hitting .387 with a homer, three RBIs and a .424 on-base percentage. He will land in St. Louis and maybe sooner than folks expected.

Matt Wieters, C, Orioles: Wieters should be called up to Baltimore shortly after June 1 as he's now healthy and ready to contribute. After a slow start at Triple-A Norfolk, Wieters is hitting .285 with five homers and 26 RBIs in 36 games with a .362 on-base percentage. It's time for the Orioles to accelerate the rebuilding process and give Wieters a promotion to Baltimore. He won't disappoint, I guarantee that.

Enjoy the holiday weekend, but make sure you pick up some of these recent call-ups by Monday's free agent deadline because they can help you now and for the rest of this season.

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