D.J. Short

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Win With Edwin

Thursday, May 26, 2011

This is one of my favorite weeks of the baseball calendar.

Yes, Memorial Day weekend is a great time to take stock of your fantasy team, as we're nearly a third of the way through the season, but it's also when we can begin to speculate on when some of the game's top prospects will be called up to the major leagues.

Stephen Strasburg, Buster Posey, Mike Stanton, Carlos Santana, Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata, just to name a few, were all called up to the majors shortly after Memorial Day last year. I highly doubt this rookie class will have the same impact as last year's impressive group, but it would be wise to familiarize yourself with names like Dustin Ackley, Mike Moustakas, Anthony Rizzo, Brett Lawrie, Desmond Jennings, Jesus Montero, Kyle Gibson, Lonnie Chisenhall and Jordan Lyles over the next few days. If you aren't already, that is.

Let's move on to the good stuff.


Mike Morse 1B/OF, Nationals (Yahoo: 10 percent owned, ESPN: 2.3 percent)

Morse was a popular draft day sleeper, but his .211 batting average through the end of April caused most fantasy owners to jump ship. That's all about to change. The 29-year-old is batting .395 (17-for-43) this month and has homered in each of his last three games. And if that's not enough, Adam LaRoche's shoulder injury paves the way for regular playing time at first base. Sure, Morse's plate discipline leaves something to be desired (33/4 K/BB ratio), but there's 20-plus homer potential here. Invest in deeper mixed formats.

Angel Pagan OF, Mets (Yahoo: 35 percent owned, ESPN: 27.2 percent)

I recommended Pagan earlier this month when he was seemingly on the verge of being activated from the disabled list, but his return was delayed after he felt more pain in his oblique. Though he'll have to make it through one final rehab game with Triple-A Buffalo on Thursday, it appears he'll finally rejoin the Mets for Friday's series opener against the Phillies. Of course, Pagan was batting just .159 over his first 69 at-bats before going on the disabled list, but remember that this is the same guy who batted .290 with 49 extra-base hits and 37 stolen bases last season. Go ahead and stash him in most mixed leagues.

Grant Balfour RP, Athletics (Yahoo: 24 percent owned, ESPN: 9.5 percent)

This is a quick fix option more than anything else, but Balfour will handle ninth-inning duties now that the struggling (and outspoken) Brian Fuentes has been formally removed from the closer role. Andrew Bailey could return from the disabled list any day now, but he's no lock to be the primary closer right away. Balfour has an excellent 2.08 ERA and 26/11 K/BB ratio over 21 2/3 innings this season and should be owned in all formats as long as he has the job.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka 2B/SS, Twins (Yahoo: 16 percent owned, ESPN: 17.7 percent)

Nishioka is scheduled to play in his first extended spring training game Friday, so what better time to stash him than right now? The Twins want Nishioka to play at least 10 rehab games before bringing him from the disabled list, so we're probably looking at a return in the second week of June. Still, that shouldn't bother most fantasy owners given the lack of quality options at the shortstop position this season. Double-digit stolen bases are still a possibility if his leg is back to 100 percent.

Edwin Jackson SP, White Sox (44 percent owned, ESPN: 21.5 percent)

Jackson owns an unimpressive 4.26 ERA and 1.53 WHIP over his first 10 starts this season, so he hardly looks like mixed league material on the surface. However, he has managed a 2.08 ERA and 20/7 K/BB ratio over his last four starts and has walked three batters or less in all of them. While his line drive rate is a bit concerning, his secondary numbers are still very much in line with what we saw last season. Why not pick him up to see if he can finish his contract year strong?

J.P. Arencibia C, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 44 percent owned, ESPN: 33.8 percent)

This may come as a surprise, but Arencibia's eight homers trail only Russell Martin (nine) among MLB catchers. The 25-year-old backstop has been especially impressive lately, batting .344 (11-for-32) with three homers, three doubles and 12 RBI over his last nine games. His contact rate is an issue, so his current .250 batting average may be the best-case scenario, but he has a legitimate chance to top 20 homers in his rookie season. While he's probably already gone in deeper mixed formats, he can function as Buster Posey insurance for some.

Scott Baker SP, Twins (Yahoo: 30 percent owned, ESPN: 9.2 percent)

Another one of my "Under the Radar Hurlers" from over the winter, Baker continues to, well, fly under the radar. Granted, the 29-year-old right-hander has been knocked around to the tune of a 7.04 ERA over his last three starts, but he still has a very solid 55/20 K/BB ratio over 54 2/3 innings for the year. Home runs are always going to be part of his game given his penchant for the fly ball, but that shouldn't be a major deterrent since he has good command and pitches half of his games in Target Field. He's one of the better buy lows out there.

Seth Smith OF, Rockies (Yahoo: 28 percent owned, ESPN: 46.7 percent)

With back-to-back multi-hit games under his belt, Smith has pulled his batting average all the way up to .312 for the season. Though many have doubted him as an everyday player, the 28-year-old currently ranks sixth in the league with a .553 slugging percentage and ninth with a .927 OPS. I still wouldn't start Smith against southpaws, but he makes for a fine option in deeper mixed formats if used strategically.

Shopping at the five-and-dime:

(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)

Randy Wells SP, Cubs (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 0.5 percent)

Wells, who has been sidelined since early April with a right forearm strain, will make his long-awaited return Saturday against the Pirates. Here's why you should care. While the 28-year-old right-hander posted a 4.26 ERA over 32 starts last season, he averaged 6.67 K/9 and 2.92 BB/9 while keeping his ground ball rate at 46.9 percent. In contrast to his rookie season, it's fair to say that he was a bit unlucky. I would probably keep him in reserve for his first outing back from the DL, but there's value here in deeper formats if he's healthy.

Brett Lawrie 2B, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 0.3 percent)

Acquired from the Brewers in the Shaun Marcum deal over the winter, Lawrie is currently batting .337/.398/.628 with 12 homers, 39 RBI and 10 stolen bases over his first 46 games with Triple-A Las Vegas. While some have questioned his attitude and makeup, Baseball America ranked the 20-year-old as the game's No. 40 prospect coming into this season. The Blue Jays have acknowledged that it's only a matter of time before Lawrie is called up to the major leagues, so file him away with an eye on June. His power-speed combo could be an asset from the get-go in mixed leagues.

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D.J. Short is a Rotoworld baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. You can also find him on Twitter.
Email :D.J. Short

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