I want to introduce you to some guys who will be on absolutely no ones draft boards to start the year, but may come in handy once injuries strike (either your team, or theirs). These guys should only be considered as mid-season pickups in the vein of Alex Presley last year or Jose Tabata the year before. To answer your question yes, there is a Pirate on this list and no, they are not all Pirates. They are all minor leaguers, and most are not uber prospects (there will not be any of the Hosmer or Montero types in this group), but they are people who can contribute while you sweat out an injury. Read on…
Kirk Niewenheis - OF - Mets - Nieuwenheis was a 3rd round pick in 2008, and profiles more as a fourth outfielder type. He can play all three spots in a pinch but should probably be relegated to a corner due to fringe-average speed. He won’t be much of a power hitter, but I see him getting some time in the Mets disjointed outfield in 2012, if he performs at all in Triple-A. Nieuwenheis missed time last year due to a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder but displayed a nice bat and excellent secondary stats in limited time as shown by his .298/.403/505 slash line in 188 at-bats. I see him as something of an Alex Presley like player, and we know that he had a nice showing when he was called up. I think he can get a similar number of at-bats for what should be a poor Mets squad as well. Nieuwenheis isn’t a guy worth drafting, but someone to keep an eye on for when he gets the call.
Logan Schafer – CF – Brewers – Also a 2008 3rd round pick, Schafer has battled injuries in his brief career. When healthy though, he has produced two very productive seasons at the plate, including last year’s .331/.401/521 for Triple-A Nashville. I like Schafer for a few reasons this year, not least because he has the offensively unproductive Carlos Gomez and Jekyll/Hyde Nyjer Morgan as his only road block to Major League playing time. Schafer will not hit you many home runs, but he makes line-drive contact and his .521 slugging percentage shows he’s no slap hitter. If you’re in a 12 team or deeper league, Schafer is someone who could help you when injuries strike and you need someone that can contribute a little without taking much away.
Starling Marte – CF – Pirates – Signed for a mere $85,000 in 2007, Marte has rapidly progressed since arriving stateside. He’s done nothing but hit since he began playing full season ball and he has the tools to back it up as well. He spent all of 2011 at Double-A Altoona posting an exciting .332/.370/.500 slash line while stealing 24/36 bases. Obviously his proficiency on the basepaths could use some work, but he has above-average speed and he puts it to use. Marte’s defense is so good in centerfield that he may end up pushing Andrew McCutcheon to a corner. Pittsburgh does have a lot of mouths to feed in their outfield (McCutcheon, Jose Tabata, Presley, Garret Jones), but, save McCutcheon, none are stellar and I could easily see Marte getting a shot to help the big league club if someone struggles.
Matt Adams – 1B – Cardinals – When its mid season and we’re almost all looking for a power boost, I’m going to be setting my sights on Matt Adams. Adams has moved relatively quickly through the Cardinals farm system, spending all of 2011 in Double-A Springfield after skipping Hi-A. He didn’t skip a beat though, stroking a .300/.356/.566 which equates to a .266 isolated power. This is a guy that can hit, and hit for power. He is pretty much locked in at first base from a defensive standpoint, but my thinking here is that Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman are no spring chickens, and each could miss a decent amount of time over the course of the season. If that happens I think Adams is going to be the beneficiary as long as he can handle Triple-A with any competency. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to pick him up.
Joe Weiland/Robbie Erlin – SP – Padres – I’m entering these guys as a package deal because they profile similarly, and are going to be pitching at the same level. Whoever gets the first crack at a rotation spot will be whoever is pitching better but you should be aware of both of them, both due to their skills and the park they’ll be pitching in. Weiland busted out in 2011, posting a sterling 7/1 K/BB ratio and a 1.97 ERA. He’s a control artist but has a nice fastball that sits in the high 80s/low 90s. It lacks life, though that shouldn’t be as big of a problem pitching in the larger parks and weaker lineups of the NL West. He throws a variety of pitches to keep hitters off balance and should slide in nicely in the back end of a rotation, and could be a cheap source of ERA/WHIP help without hurting you in other areas. Erlin, traded along with Weiland to San Diego in exchange for Mike Adams, might have better control than Weiland. He spun a 9.6 to 1 K/BB ratio to go along with a .95 WHIP between two levels last year. He was also able to keep his K/9 in 9 range and that’s a big factor in projecting performance at the next level. Erlin does it by using an easy delivery to control his low 90s fastball, plus change up, and solid downward breaking curveball. As with many control artists, Erlin is prone to the home run ball at times, but pitching in PETCO should certainly mitigate some of that damage. As with Weiland, if Erlin gets called up, I urge you to pick him up if you’re in need of ERA/WHIP help, and he should be able to include a fair amount of strikeouts as well.
Thanks for reading, and hopefully some of these guys come in handy for you this spring/summer. Good luck and remember: less than 50 days til baseball!