This is usually a popular time of year for fantasy pundits to discuss which hot prospects are worth stashing in the hopes of an early summer promotion. I am often one of those fantasy baseball writers driving the hype train on prospects. However, in an unusual turn of events, a couple of older veterans may be worth stashing instead of the youngsters. Manny Ramirez will be taking cuts for Triple-A Sacremento starting tonight, while he continues to serve his suspension for a failed drug test. Meanwhile, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Roy Oswalt has thrown bullpen sessions for the Phillies and Red Sox, and he appears on the verge of picking a contender to play for in 2012.
The A’s plan is for Ramirez to play in 10 games for Sacramento before joining the parent club to face the Twins on May 30. Interestingly enough, his joining the A’s active roster will coincide with his 40th birthday. His advanced age, limited play in recent seasons, and questions about the impact drugs may have played on his performance make Manny a bit of a wild card. It’s clear he won’t be playing at a level that matches his peak seasons, but that doesn’t mean he should be completely ignored in large mixed leagues starting five outfielders and AL-only formats.
His 17 plate appearances last season for the Rays are far too few to write him off as being done. In 320 plate appearances split between the Dodgers and White Sox in 2010, he showed above average plate discipline, and made contact at a respectable rate. He hit line drives at a high rate, and his batting average troubles with the White Sox were primarily the result of a high pop out rate. If he is still able to square up a baseball like he did in 2010, he should be a positive contributor to batting average. His ability to draw walks at a high clip gives him a further boost in leagues that include OBP. Oakland’s home ballpark is likely to stifle his power some, but it is much tougher on left-handed power than right-handed power. He should serve as the team’s every day designated hitter, and I’d expect he’ll hit clean-up. Hitting in the heart of the order will maximize Ramirez’s RBI opportunities, making him even more intriguing to fantasy owners in need of some offensive help. If Ramirez hits well in his short stay with Sacramento, you can bet that interest in him will grow, and with that, his ownership will rise. Owners with some bench flexibility should consider taking a leap of faith and add him now before it’s clear if he has anything left in the tank.
Oswalt is more of a known commodity, even if the team he’ll be pitching for is a mystery. Lower back problems plagued him last year, and he spent two stints on the 15-day disabled list (DL). He first went on the 15-day DL on April 27 last year, and was activated in the middle of May. His second DL stint began on June 24, and lasted much longer, sidelining him until early August. When he was on the field, though, he was good.
Oswalt made 23 starts, and one relief appearance, that spanned 139 innings in total. His strikeout rate was down, but his control was outstanding, resulting in a 2.82 K/BB. His xFIP and FIP suggest that his 3.69 ERA was reasonable, and not particularly lucky or unlucky. His PITCHf/x data looks good, and he was at his best at the end of last season. If his stuff carries over to this year, it won’t matter what team he signs with, and what league he pitches in, he’ll be a valuable fantasy pitcher to own. There aren’t many starting pitching prospects that offer Oswalt’s upside in 2012, and none have the track record of success that he has. There is also no doubt that when Oswalt signs, he’ll be joining a rotation as soon as he is ready, the same can’t be said for a prospect. Oswalt should be stashed on benches in all large mixed leagues. Because he is a free agent, he isn’t a stash option in only leagues.