June 15, 2010

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Maybe it's because he was promoted the same week as Stephen Strasburg. Maybe it's because he's playing in Cleveland. Whatever the reason, Carlos Santana isn't getting enough fantasy buzz or love.

In fact, at the current time, C-San is only owned in 40 percent of Yahoo! Leagues. C'mon, we are talking about a position where Rod Barajas, John Buck and Ronny Paulino are in the Top 12 at their position. It's time for the masses to wake up from their weekend stupor and realize that Santana was promoted on Friday. He's in the bigs to rescue Cleveland from the Lou Marson project and owners from dreadful backstop options.

In 196 ABs, Santana's Triple-A numbers were outstanding: .316 batting Average, 13 home runs, six stolen bases, .447 on-base percentage, and .597 slugging percentage. The fact Mike Stanton is owned in more leagues (52-percent) is embarrassing. Why? Because Stanton plays outfield and Santana suits up at the ultimate position of fantasy scarcity. Sure, Stanton is a physical specimen with light-tower power, but Santana will have a much greater impact because of the position he plays.

Catchers with Santana's combination of patience (16.8 percent walk rate at Triple-A), contact ability (80 percent contact rate), and power (.241 isolated power) are a rare breed. Sure, Cleveland's lineup is putrid. That said, the Indians have planted him at the No. 3 spot in the batting order, a perfect slot for Santana to find lineup protection and compile sweet statistics. Santana will make an immediate impact with his unique skills and be a Top 7 catcher the rest of the way. He will continue to skyrocket up our rankings on a weekly basis.

As I told you last week, Doug Anderson and I recently had the opportunity to interview draftees Drew Pomeranz (SP, Cleveland Indians) and Sale on our "Fantasy War Room" radio show. In the last installment of NKOTD, I gave you a Fantasy scouting report on Pomeranz. Now it's time to dissect Sale.

Sale is a 6-5, 180-pound southpaw out of Florida Gulf Coast University. He piled up awards his junior season, including National Player of the Year honors. Despite the lack of Strasburg-like hype, Sale put up Strasburg-like numbers this season: 11-0, 103 innings pitched, 2.01 earned run average, 146 strikeouts, 14 walks, and a .218 batting avverage against. Sale told us he never looked at his sweet stats throughout the season because it would have done him no good. Pssssst. If that was me, I would have eyeballed those suckers everyday and taken a copy of them to every frat party (along with a projection of my future earnings as a first-rounder).

The lanky lefty has a 90-94 mph heater, an above-average changeup and an inconsistent slider. His bread-and-butter pitches are his sinking two-seam fastball and his deceptive change. As suggested by his walk total, Sale has pinpoint control, especially with his fastball and change offerings. In addition, over 60 percent of balls hit in play off his pitches were grounders this season. When I asked Sale about his ability to induce grounders he attributed the strength to his focus on "throwing low in zone" throughout the season.

As Sale noted, he has a "throwing motion unique to himself." Specifically, he throws from a three-quarter arm slot and almost shot-puts the ball to home plate. He only switched to this delivery style after his freshman season because he was "inconsistent with his velocity and had less command" with his old throwing style. Sale indicated that the three-quarter slot gives him better sink on his heater and increases the movement on his off-speed stuff.

Some have raised durability concerns about Sale because of his delivery and string bean frame. Of course, Sale has never had an arm injury. In response to the critics who question his durability, Sale conceded that the talk was "frustrating to hear" and that all he could do was "prove them wrong." I brought up the fact that some have questioned whether he should be transitioned to a relief role because of his frame and throwing style. Sale stated he would be fine with that transition if it "helped his team win." Seriously, you have to love this kid's attitude.

Sale was taken 13th in the MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox. Sorry, Chris. I am a big fan of yours after our interview. I feel bad that you now might have to pitch in Ozzieworld. For you keeper league owners, Sale is the quintessential high-risk/high-reward pick. He has the strikeout potential and command to be a No. 1 fantasy starter. However, if he's transitioned to a relief role, he could lose much or all of his value, depending on whether he ends up in a closer's role.

I recommend rolling the dice on Sale. His plus change should keep him out of the pen. Further, there's no concrete reason to believe his arm angle will lead to an injury. In fact, I think the arm angle will only help with his deception in the majors. Finally, Sale made it clear in our interview that he knows he needs to put on weight. Once he does, he will add additional ticks to his fastball and ease some of those injury concerns. Grab Sale without hesitation; he will be a strikeout and WHIP monster once he reaches the majors in 2012.

Alex Gordon (OF/3B, KAN)

Remember him? Gordon has been raking since his early May demotion to Triple-A. He's now hitting .359 with 10 HRs and a .597 SLG at Triple-A. What has been the key to his success? Well, he has made some mechanical adjustments with his swing. However, a shift to a new position -- left field -- has also loosened him up. Gordon is diving for balls and appears rejuvenated by the position switch. Royals GM Dayton Moore recently indicated that Gordon won't be recalled anytime soon. Right, Mr. Moore, let's see how long you can continue promoting the Wilson Betemits of the organization while watching your squad flounder near the bottom of the American League Central. Gordon is still worth a flyer in AL-only leagues and a long-term investment in keeper formats.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C, TEX)

Here's another blast from the past. You New Yorkers should invest in "Salty" -- if only for sympathetic reasons. You see, Saltalamacchia has been fighting the dreaded Mackey Sasser disease. Honestly, I've never thought this issue should stop a quality backstop from manning the position. I would just have my pitcher walk halfway out to the plate on every pitch and receive an underhand toss from the backstop. Point me to the rule that would eliminate that plan of attack. My creativity is scary. The Rangers believe Saltalamacchia has resolved the throwing issue, but they still continue to keep him in the minors because they apparently believe Max Ramirez (.231 BA) and Matt Treanor (.218 BA) can get the job done. Eventually, they will come to their senses and promote the 25-year-old Salty because of his offensive potential. He's worth at least monitoring in AL-only leagues.

Mat Gamel (3B, MIL)

Way back in '08, Gamel was prime prospect meat. He hasn't performed well in his time in the majors and the Brewers have no room for him in their lineup. Nevertheless, it would be completely premature to write Gamel off after a measly 130 major league ABs. Gamel is back in action in the minors after missing the beginning of the season with a shoulder injury. In '10, in 86 minor league ABs, Gamel is hitting .279 with two HRs and a .386 OBP. Sure, those stats don't overwhelm anyone, but we know Gamel can hit (career .302 BA in the minors). Take him for a speculative ride in keeper leagues if you can grab him on the cheap. In redraft leagues, he will only have value if Casey McGehee does down with an injury.

Nolan Reimold (OF/1B, BAL)

You don't need statistical analysis and advanced metrics to know Reimold has been a complete bust in '10. He struggled back from an Achilles tear at the beginning of the season and was eventually demoted to Triple-A in mid-May after hitting .205 with two HRs and a .337 SLG through his first 83 ABs. Ugly. It hasn't gotten better at Triple-A, where Reimold is hitting .172 with three HRs and a .287 SLG through 87 ABs. Uglier. Reimold's value couldn't get any lower. You know what that means? Swoop in and grab him in keeper leagues. The .279 BA and 15 HRs in 358 Abs in '09 weren't a fluke. Reimold has pop and it will surface once again. In non-keeper leagues, keep an eye on him because he could end up as Baltimore's everyday first baseman by August if he can find a way to get hot.

All statistics as of June 13, 2010.

Hit Bill Root with a tweet @Bill_Root or an email at broot@rotoexperts.com if you have a burning fantasy prospect question. Make sure to check out our Xclusive Edge Rankings for help with your tough lineup decisions.

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