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The job market is a fickle thing. The prospects of finding a new job or even securing a promotion with an existing company can provide an employee with a feeling of accomplishment and deep sense of satisfaction. These are feelings that bring about near universal smiles.
The flip side, however, is that another employee may be feeling something altogether different. The position being staffed may have only been available because someone else was forced to vacate the job just weeks before. Or, that big promotion could also mean that a fellow employee will be forced to reevaluate their position within the company after having significant responsibilities and/or pay stripped from them.
It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and nowhere is that more clear than on the baseball diamond. For every up and coming Lou Gehrig on the verge of something special, there's a Wally Pipp that falls by the wayside. For some, the job market will get better, while for others, it just gets worse.
Buster Posey, C/1B, San Francisco Giants. Entering 2010, Posey was already a household name. The former Florida State catcher seemed on the verge of assuming a full-time job with the San Francisco Giants, after tearing up every level of the minor leagues. The powers that be (GM Brian Sabean) decided some additional on-the-job training in AAA was necessary, and Posey simply continued hitting (.333/.427/.542). Eventually, on May 29, his resume was padded to such a degree that a promotion was the only logical course of action. Posey has exceeded all expectations, hitting an absurd .455 through his first nine games this season. While the power is still developing, it's exceedingly clear that he's a capable major league hitter with a bright future in front of him.
Neil Walker, 3B/2B, Pittsburgh Pirates. Hitting .326 through his first 46 at bats of '10, it's safe to say Walker has hit the ground running (or, run the ground hitting?). A .380 OBP and .543 SLG further solidify the notion that the 24 year old is finally ready for everyday major league employment. Granted, his minor league pedigree (.273 career AVG and .763 OPS) doesn't suggest that he'll be a star in the big leagues. However, NL-only and/or keeper league owners looking for a middle infield solution might want to take note of A. his hot start and B. the .321 average and six HR in AAA that facilitated his May promotion.
Mike Carp, 1B, Seattle Mariners. In '09, primarily during a September call-up, Carp showed signs of being a capable big league hitter, posting a .315 avg. and .878 OPS in 54 at-bats. Through his early minor league career, Carp seemed like a serviceable hitter with moderate power, although nothing that would make fantasy owners take notice. In 2010, his age 24 season, Carp was enjoying a power surge, hitting 10 HR though his first 50 AAA games. This prompted the Mariners to promote Carp to the parent club, asking him to fill in for the power-deficient Casey Kotchman. It's a move that will only cause a stir in the deepest of fantasy leagues, but it's still worth noting.
Nate Shierholtz, OF, San Francisco Giants. Posey is a hot enough commodity that the team elected to try him at a new position (1B), simply to get his bat into the lineup. The incumbent starter at first, Aubrey Huff (.862 OPS), is being asked to play the OF to make the move all the easier. This means playing time will have to some at someone's expense and that someone is Shierholtz. He had a 1.046 OPS as recently as May 6, but a lack of power production had caused that number to fall to a more pedestrian .748 by the end of the month. Since then, and coinciding with Posey's arrival, Shierholtz has earned just one June at-bat, and the writing is on the wall.
Akinori Iwamura, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates. After two-and-a-half relatively successful seasons in Tampa Bay, Iwamura was traded to Pittsburgh following '09, ostensibly to accommodate Ben Zobrist, who was coming off a breakout season. That experience should have prepared Iwamura for the tumultuous task that would lay ahead in Pittsburgh. After struggling to just a .182 batting average through 49 games, management had seen enough, and the Opening Day second baseman has been demoted to a reserve role for the foreseeable future.
Casey Kotchman, 1B, Seattle Mariners. Make no mistake, Kotchman is a fine baseball player, a superior defender who makes highlight-reel plays look routine, and routine plays look like a walk in the park. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, none of that really matters. The things that fantasy owners do care about are exactly the things that Kotchman struggles to do well, namely hit and hit for power. This is the primary reason why the younger, more powerful Mike Carp was promoted -- assume some of the hitting duties from the elder Kotchman. It's a more that should ease the decision for fantasy owners (even in deep AL-only leagues) to summarily dismiss Kotchman.
Damian Schaab is a senior writer for SportsGrumblings.com, and member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Visit SportsGrumblings.com today to ensure total fantasy sports dominance.