Nate Stephens

Prospects

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Callups Review: NL

Friday, September 05, 2008



Up today is a review of all the National League prospects called up thus far in September, with an eye on both September contributions and future year value. The American League version of this column was posted on Wednesday.

September Callups

National League

Chip Ambres – OF Padres – I thought Ambres was an intriguing prospect after his breakout 2005 campaign with Red Sox Triple-A affiliate Pawtucket. He received a 145 at-bat trial after being traded to the Royals, but he posted a mediocre .241/.323/.379 line and hasn't gotten an extended look in the big leagues since. Now 28 years old and with the Padres, Ambres posted a .279/.368/.539 mark with an 89/56 K/BB in 112 games for Triple-A Portland. Ambres used to also be somewhat of a speed threat, but he's bulked up with age and had just eight stolen bases on the season.

Ambres has decent power, but it's likely his only attribute at this point and Petco Park will do its part to stifle that skill. The Padres will use him primarily as a fifth outfielder this September. He could be worth a look if given a shot and I still think he'd be a quality fourth outfielder and better than a handful of big league starters. However, the presence of fellow callup Will Venable, whom the Padres seem to prefer, likely eliminates any chance of Ambres getting regular playing time.

Recommendation: Ignore for now in NL-only leagues.

Josh Anderson – OF Braves – Anderson looked like he might be the Astros' leadoff hitter of the future after a strong showing in Single-A for the first half of 2004, but he's never been able to replicate that success in the years since. Now on the Braves, Anderson is getting the call after batting .314/.358/.405 in 121 games for Triple-A Richmond. He has just 33 extra-base hits and 30 walks on the season, but his speed allows one to project him as a fourth outfielder in the majors. That speed, along with just 57 strikeouts, has helped Anderson hit for a high average this year. It's also assisted in him swiping 42 bases in 49 attempts (86%), and Anderson has always been a quality defensive center fielder.

With Mark Kotsay being sent to the Red Sox, the Braves appear willing to give Anderson a chance for the final month of the season. Jordan Schafer may or may not be the club's center fielder of the future, but he's not ready anyway and Anderson could be a solid stopgap for a year or two if he can keep his on-base percentage above .350. The Braves will let Anderson try and prove he can, and the 6'2", 195-pound left-handed hitter is off to a nice start with a .296 average, six walks, and five steals in 54 at-bats with the big club. Since he has plus speed, is playing well right now, and has a clear path to a full-time gig, Anderson is well worth claiming. I think he's got a decent chance to continue hitting for average as well, so I'd pursue him aggressively.

Recommendation: Pursue aggressively in all leagues if speed is needed; worth a small investment in NL-only and deep keeper leagues.

Matt Antonelli – 2B Padres – THE minor league disappointment of the season, Antonelli looked like a potential All-Star after his 2007 campaign saw him post an 894 OPS split between High-A and Double-A. That he was playing in the California and Texas leagues certainly helped, but Antonelli's exceptional plate discipline and strong batting average potential figured to translate at the next level. If he could smack 15-20 homers per year, it looked like he'd be one of the NL's best second basemen.

Instead, Antonelli put up an astonishingly bad .215/.335/.332 line in 451 at-bats for Triple-A Portland. His plate discipline remained with a nifty 86/76 K/BB, but his power and, more surprisingly, his batting average vanished. That no injuries have been credited with part of the slump is almost disappointing, because this huge of a dip in performance is simply otherwise unexplainable. Still, Antonelli was just 23 and it was his first tour of Triple-A, so nobody should be ready to give up on the youngster. Add in that Antonelli had at least paid lip-service to the idea that the slump had a compounding effect as the year went on, and perhaps he can come back strong in 2009. Since his stock is at rock-bottom, I'd recommend buying low in keeper formats; just make sure to keep the expectations reasonable, such as a .290-15-15 player with plenty of walks and runs scored during his peak.

Perhaps the lone positive of Antonelli's season, the 6'0", 200-pound second basemen was batting .290/.391/.473 in 29 August games before his callup. That line included four homers, and considering he only has seven on the year, that's a big improvement. The Padres have nothing to lose by giving him some playing time in September, and he should see the vast majority of starts at second base for the club. I'm not getting too excited by the August improvements, but they're enough to make him worth a flier if you're desperate for counting stats or willing to gamble on some batting average upside.

Recommendation: Take a flier in NL-only leagues; stash away in NL-only and deep keeper formats.

Jamie D'Antona – 3B Diamondbacks – D'Antona was at times lumped in with Conor Jackson and Carlos Quentin as the Diamondbacks' hitters of the future, but he was never quite on par with those two and now he's making his major league debut at the age of 26. And it's well deserved, as D'Antona was having a career year after several seasons of solid but not exceptional productivity. The 6'2", 220-pound right-hander batted .365 for Triple-A Tucson this season while also smacking 21 homers and 35 doubles in 419 at-bats. That gave him an impressive slugging percentage of .604, and though his batting average was inflated, his isolated power was still a solid .239. His K/BB remained solid as always at 64/30.

D'Antona was playing in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but those are still impressive numbers and they gave him a nice .306/.347/.474 MLE for the season. The batting average won't be repeated quite that high, but I don't see why D'Antona can't be a .280 hitter in the majors while belting 15 homers and 35 doubles annually. That his defense is poor at third base and even worse the few times he's allowed to catch means he'll have a difficult time finding a place to play in Arizona. That certainly won't happen when the Diamondbacks are locked in a playoff hunt, and the presence of Jackson, Justin Upton, Eric Byrnes, Mark Reynolds, and Chad Tracy at the corners make it hard to envision a long-term role. A trade this winter may be the best for everyone.

Recommendation: Monitor in NL-only keeper formats.

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Now in his fifth season, Nate Stephens is one of Rotoworld's most tenured baseball analysts. He heads up the minor league coverage for the site while also contributing other columns and analysis.
Email :Nate Stephens



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