Reyes, Brim Back in Majors

Last week I talked about Francisco Liriano's return to the majors in this space, and this week I'm going to follow a similar path and discuss a player without prospect eligibility who was recently recalled. In this instance I'm writing about Anthony Reyes, the former Cardinal and now Indian who is back in the majors. I've been a fan of Reyes' since he first showed he could stay healthy for a full season and pitch quite well while doing so back in 2005. That season Reyes pitched for Triple-A Memphis and posted a 3.64 ERA and 136/34 K/BB in 128 2/3 innings of work. Unfortunately, despite staying healthy Reyes still couldn't crack the big league rotation for long stretches at a time, and was instead shuttled between Triple-A and the majors for each of the next three seasons.

The biggest reason for Reyes' lack of success was likely due to the strenuous relationship with pitching coach Dave Duncan. Reyes likes to use his 93-94 MPH fastball up in the zone, better setting up his plus change and decent curve. Duncan has always been a fan of using a low sinker and relying on a good defensive team, something the Cardinals have made a living off of in recent years. Neither Reyes nor Duncan ever gave an inch in this battle and both have reputations as being stubborn. As a result it's been clear for some time that Reyes was not long for the organization, and the Cardinals waited so long to deal him that they ended up only receiving a mediocre relief prospect in Luis Perdomo.

While Duncan's success is unquestioned, it's not an approach for everyone. Now free to pitch as he sees fit, Reyes is a better bet to settle in as a solid No. 3 starter in the majors. His stuff isn't elite and his approach means he won't be a stranger to the long ball, but Reyes' command and changeup should allow him to succeed anyway. He's the type of pitcher who could post a 4.00 ERA with an above average WHIP and strikeout rate, so he's someone AL-only leaguers need to claim. Outside of the eventual David Price promotion, Reyes is likely to amass more value than any other pitcher recalled from now through the end of the season.

Major League Callups

Chris Dickerson - OF Reds - I originally wrote this intro to include that Dickerson was faced with the daunting task of replacing Adam Dunn in Cincinnati. Of course, anyone who follows the Reds knows that the broadcasting team, local media, and the significant majority of the fan base can't stand Dunn because of his strikeouts and laid-back demeanor, so maybe the task isn't so daunting in some sense. Unfortunately for Reds fans Dickerson will show the same propensity to strikeout, but he'll make it up for it in their eyes with plenty of hustle and an all-out style of play.

A 2003 16th round pick out of the University of Nevada, Dickerson has progressed rather slowly to the majors. He didn't see Triple-A until he was 25 years old last season, and he's now 26 and just breaking into the majors. However, given Dickerson's previous production in the minors, now is really the first time he's deserved the promotion. A 6'3", 225-pound left-hander, Dickerson has good power and shows the ability to draw some walks. He was hitting .287/.384/.479 with 16 doubles, nine triples, and 11 homers prior to his callup. That line also included 26 steals in 33 attempts as well as an impressive 54 walks and disappointing 102 strikeouts. As has generally been the case he's struggled mightily with southpaws, posting a 683 OPS versus them compared to 924 versus right-handers.

Dickerson doesn't have a swing or approach conducive to hitting for that high of an average, and his swing is also still inconsistent at times. His breakout season also needs to be tempered by his advanced age, so a career as a starter is unlikely. On the other hand, he is a plus defender in center field and his big splits might enable him to carve out a career as a platoon player who starts 70 percent of the time, so the Reds will give him a look. Since Dickerson has good speed and some power, NL-only leaguers will probably want to take a flier on him. His batting average will likely be a problem, but he's as likely as any remaining hitter to amass significant value over the final seven weeks.

Recommendation: Claim in NL-only leagues.

Chris Getz - 2B White Sox - A 2008 Futures Game player and former 4th round pick, Getz is back on prospect radar screens after a resurgent campaign this season. A 6'0", 185-pound left-handed hitter, Getz had always shown good plate discipline and his short, quick stroke generally allowed for him to hit for average. This season, though, all of Getz's tools have been clicking at the same time, and it's allowed him to hit for more power than expected, though it mostly comes in the form of doubles. Prior to his callup, Getz was batting .306/.367/.455 with 11 homers, 24 doubles, 11 steals, and a 53/39 K/BB.

That 24 doubles and 11 homers qualify as a breakout power year should tell you a lot, but it's still an important development. If Getz can continue to show that type of power he'll have enough of a bat to keep pitchers honest, which combined with his patience at the plate, quick stroke, and low strikeout rate mean he could be a big league regular. Since he's also considered an above average defender at second and has handled shortstop at times for Triple-A Charlotte, it's easy to see Getz having a career as a quality reserve player at worst. It'd be nice to see him get an opportunity for extended playing time, but that'd likely have to happen on another team with Alexei Ramirez now entrenched at second base. Since he's unlikely to play much Getz probably won't have value in even the deepest of leagues, but he's someone to watch.

Recommendation: Monitor in AL-only formats.

Gio Gonzalez - LHP Athletics - One of the most up-and-down prospects that you'll see, Gonzalez has had quite the tumultuous early career. A supplemental first round pick by the White Sox in 2004, Gonzalez had an excellent first full season in 2005 by striking out over a batter per inning between Single-A Kannapolis and High-A Winston-Salem. However, the White Sox acquired Jim Thome from the Phillies that winter, and Gonzalez was sent packing in the deal. Gonzalez had significant problems with his command (4.7 BB/9) and home runs (24 in 154 2/3 innings) for Double-A Reading the next season, and the Phillies shipped him back to Chicago with Gavin Floyd for Freddy Garcia in the winter of 2006.

Gonzalez rebounded once back in the White Sox system in 2007, posting a 3.18 ERA and improved ratios for Double-A Birmingham. And then Gonzalez was once again traded, this time to the Athletics as part of the package for Nick Swisher. And once again out of the White Sox system, Gonzalez has struggled with a 4.24 ERA and 61 walks in 123 innings of work. Perhaps the White Sox modify Gonzalez's approach or are able to better adjust when his mechanics are out of whack, but that four-year trend is a little too consistent to be a coincidence.

When watching Gonzalez pitch it's easy to see both what scouts love and hate. First off he has a very high leg kick and a delivery that almost seems rushed, so it's not surprising that he has control problems. On the plus side, Gonzalez's raw stuff is electric, as the left-hander sits in the low-90s with a plus curveball and a pretty good changeup. Perhaps slowing down his delivery a little would help with the command, and Gonzalez has enough velocity to spare if there's a corresponding offset there.

As he's shown in the past, Gonzalez's biggest issue will be his consistency. He can dominate any opposition when he's on, but that just doesn't happen frequently enough right now. When his command isn't its absolute best he's a three-run homer waiting to happen. I'd expect Gonzalez's raw production to translate to the majors, so something like a 4.30 ERA, poor WHIP, and plus strikeout rate could be in order while pitching half his games at McAfee Coliseum. Even though I think it's unlikely he'll get there, Gonzalez has No. 2 starter potential if his command straightens out and he thus needs to be stashed away in keeper leagues as a result.

Recommendation: Claim in AL-only and keeper formats.

Cliff Pennington - SS Athletics - I was a fan of Pennington's when he was the 21st pick of the 2005 draft out of Texas A&M, but to say that he's been a disappointment is an understatement. While the excellent strike zone discipline Pennington displayed in college translated to the pros, he hasn't been able to hit above .260 until his latest stint in Triple-A and he never did develop any power. Now 24 years old, Pennington looks like a future utility player when the A's hoped they'd have a shortstop or second basemen of the future.

Pennington was showing his best productivity of his career for Sacramento before being recalled, posting a .280/.407/.378 line in 193 at-bats. The Athletics will give Pennington a chance with Jack Hannahan struggling and no hope of contending, but little should be expected. Though he was hitting .280 and walking more than he struck out, Pennington has consistently shown an inability to hit for average and the power has never been there. Though he had 27 steals so far this season, he's not a burner and would top out near 25 steals in his best years in the majors. Even if the A's give Pennington a prolonged chance, he's not likely to amass value while stealing a few bases and doing little in the other four categories. AL-only leaguers desperate for steals can watch him, but don't expect much.

Recommendation: Monitor in AL-only leagues.

Justin Ruggiano - OF Rays - A 6'2", 210-pound right-handed outfielder, Ruggiano is up with the big club for the second time this season.
Acquired from the Dodgers with Dioner Navarro and Jae Seo for Mark Hendrickson and Toby Hall in 2006, Ruggiano has always hit in the minor leagues. He's a career .306/.392/.507 hitter with 63 homers in 1,649 at-bats and he's even thrown in 90 steals, so Ruggiano has always been well-regarded in stat-head circles.

The problem with Ruggiano is strikeouts and age. Though he's typically shown good walk rates, they've always been more induced by a pitcher's fear of his power. Ruggiano is an aggressive hitter who swings hard and has average plate discipline, so his 476 strikeouts in 472 career games is hardly a surprise. That approach hasn't limited his ability to hit for average in the minors, but it will prove more difficult to maintain in the big leagues. In addition to the strikeouts, Ruggiano has always been a bit old for his level and his statistical output is thus questioned.

Ruggiano also had a stint with the Rays last season, but he's never had an extended trial and is already 26 years old. That means he probably will be just a platoon player, but I'd be intrigued to see him get a shot as a regular. Ruggiano's plus bat speed and above average line drive rates give some credence to the thought that he could hit .280 despite all of the strikeouts, and projecting 20-homer, 35-double power is hardly outlandish for Ruggiano. With Carl Crawford out for the year and Rocco Baldelli's status hardly a certainty, Ruggiano is really only being blocked by Gabe Gross. A platoon of the two is likely in the short-term, but Ruggiano could outplay Gross and eventually earn some starts against right-handers. He's a fine play in deep AL-only leagues now, and could work his way into shallower AL-only lineups before the end of the year.

Recommendation: Claim in deep AL-only leagues; monitor in other AL formats.

Charlie Zink - RHP Red Sox - One of the few current hopes for those who enjoy seeing a knuckleballer in the majors, the 28-year-old Zink is finally getting his first shot in the majors. The right-hander got a bit of a late start to pitching as he was playing for the Savannah College of Art and Design, coached by none other than former Red Sox Luis Tiant, before signing with Boston in 2002. Zink surprisingly looked strong early and moved quickly, finishing his second season in the minors in Double-A. Unfortunately for knuckleball fans, Zink's command completely evaded him in 2004, and he struggled most of the time between Double-A and Triple-A through the next four seasons.

Zink stuck with the knuckler despite the prolonged poor performances, but he bounced back in a big way so far this season. In 22 starts for Triple-A Pawtucket Zink had a 2.70 ERA and 86/38 K/BB in 133 1/3 innings. He also gave up just seven homers, so both his walk and home run rates were among the best in his career. While Zink doesn't strike out a lot of batters, many of the typical statistical conventions have never applied to knuckleball pitchers, and strikeouts are near the top of those that you can mostly ignore.

Most knuckleballers tend to develop late in their career, so Zink would hardly be alone in breaking through at the ripe old age of 28. His knuckleball doesn't have the same dance that someone like Tim Wakefield does, but it has plenty of tumbling action and he controls it as well as can be expected. Zink mixes in an 81-83 MPH fastball from the same release point, giving him an advantage on most knucklers. However, his ability to remain a valuable big leaguer will be primarily tied to how the knuckler does, so don't get too enamored with the fastball even if opposing hitters are often surprised by it.

Since Zink doesn't have the late darting action on his knuckleball he's probably not headed for a career like Wakefield, though few are. He's still capable of acting as an innings eater, and the Red Sox would love to see him take over for Wakefield eventually. As I write this Zink is getting hit hard for eight runs in 4 1/3 innings, though some slack can be given in his first big league start against the powerful Rangers' lineup. Zink has since been sent back to the minors, largely because of the acquisition of Paul Byrd, but he could be back shortly. If Clay Buchholz continues to struggle and Wakefield continues to be sidelined Zink could get a September look. He'd be an incredibly risky fantasy option, but there is potential for a mid-4.00s ERA and some wins here.

Recommendation: Ignore for now in AL-only leagues.

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