Minor Leaguers to watch

The Rangers purchased Justin Smoak's contract on Friday and he started that evening.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - One of the ways to fill a weak fantasy position, is to use a "just-called-up-rookie" in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle such as in 2008 when Jay Bruce burst on to the scene.

Bruce was brought up to the "big club" on May 27th that year and batted .400 (OPS 1.136) though the first two weeks, scoring 14 runs with three homers and 11 RBI. Although he cooled off by the end of the season, the two-week bump helped many an owner.

Or in 2005 when Felix Hernandez was called up at the beginning of August. Hernandez went 2-1 in his first four starts, pitching 29 innings and striking out 30 with an ERA of 1.24 and a minuscule WHIP of 0.689. Since then, he's been the "ace" of the Mariners' pitching staff with a lifetime ERA of 3.41 and a career 1.27 WHIP.

With those examples of how a call up can help your team, either temporarily or long-term, let's look at a few minor leaguers who could be up any day now.

Justin Smoak, 1B, Texas - The Rangers purchased Smoak's contract on Friday and he was in the starting that evening. The switch-hitter was batting .300 with an OPS of 1.010, two home runs and five RBI in 50 Triple-A at-bats heading into Thursday. He'll replace Chris Davis at first base and is owned in 19% of all leagues.

Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington - Every fantasy owner in every league is waiting for his arrival, and many have already stashed him on their roster. He's made three starts, pitching 12.1 innings yielding just seven hits and striking out 17. His ERA is 0.73 and his WHIP is 0.811. Because of financial reasons, not his ability to pitch at the major league level, he should be called up during the first week of June. He's already owned in almost 70% of all fantasy leagues.

Aroldis Chapman is another talented minor league pitcher who in 15 innings at Louisville, has 18 strikeouts in 15 innings of work. Unlike Strasburg, the Cuban will hopefully benefit from his time in the International League by working on his control. He has yielded 10 walks in those 15 innings which has raised his WHIP to 1.267. He should be up by the summer and is owned in around 30% of all leagues.

Pirates minor league third baseman Pedro Alvarez has knocked four home runs in his first 16 games at AAA Indianapolis although he's hitting just .258 at the moment. He hit 27 homers and drove in 95 runs in 2009 at Lynchburg (A) and Altoona (AA). With Andy LaRoche and Bobby Crosby manning the position in Pittsburgh, it's only a matter of time before Alvarez (2% owned) gets called up.

San Francisco Giants catching prospect Buster Posey (5% owned) was No.14 on Baseball America's 2009 list and is proving the high rating was spot on by batting .367 at Fresno to date. He could be up with the Giants by mid-summer.

The Cleveland Indians also have a catching prospect in their system who should be called up very soon. Carlos Santana (4% owned) is currently batting .348 with an OPS of 1.160 at AAA Columbus. With Lou Marson and Mike Redmond the only options on the "big club," Santana should be up by June 1st.

Tampa Bay Rays have a star in the making in right-handed thrower Jeremy Hellickson, a fourth-round pick in their 2005 Amateur Draft. He was 9-2 in 2009 for Montgomery (AA) and Durham (AAA) and is 3-0 for Durham this season with an ERA of 2.38 and a 1.191 WHIP. He has struck out 22 batters in 22.2 innings. Unfortunately for Hellickson, the Rays starting rotation has been solid so far, however, should anyone of them falter or suffer an injury, Hellickson (1% owned) could quickly be called up and produce.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.