MLB Call-Ups: Viablity of Ian Happ, Willie Calhoun, and the Rest of Thursday’s Roster Moves
Thursday was a pretty big day for roster movement; a few former top prospects and a current one as well were called up to the major leagues. Let’s take a look at the viability of each of those players, as well as a few others who moved teams, in their new major league roles.
Ian Happ, OF/2B, Chicago Cubs
We’ve seen Ian Happ in the majors before and should have a pretty good idea of what he is. He has legitimate 30-home run power and average speed but strikes out a bit too much to ever be a true standout. With the numbers in the Pacific Coast League has produced in 2019, it’s a bit surprising to see Happ sit at a fairly mediocre .242/.364/.432 slash line with a 26.3% strikeout rate. Happ had been red-hot of late with a 1.059 OPS and a 17:19 K/BB ratio in the month of July, but that was following an awful June in which he had a .628 OPS. With the corresponding move either being a Kris Bryant IL stint or a Daniel Descalso DFA, Happ should step into an immediate role with the club. He’s worth adding in all leagues 16 teams or deeper and in 12- or 14-team leagues in which you can take a shot on some power upside.
Willie Calhoun, OF, Texas Rangers
With the unfortunate news Joey Gallo is out for at least the next four weeks because of a broken hamate bone in his wrist, Willie Calhoun will be called back up to the major league club. Calhoun has been absolutely dominant in Triple-A with a .965 OPS and a 31:24 BB/K ratio. There’s a legitimate four-category stud here with Calhoun and his advanced plate approach. He’s one of the most polished hitting prospects in baseball. The Rangers have been hesitant with giving him everyday at-bats in the past, but with their recent skid any of Danny Santana, Hunter Pence, or Logan Forsythe could move and give him a path to everyday at-bats. At this point, I am adding him everywhere I have room to wait a week for him to have those everyday at-bats, as there’s legitimate must-start upside if he can stick in the Rangers lineup.
Will Smith, C, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers finally made the obvious move of giving up on the Austin Barnes experiment and calling up top prospect Will Smith. We saw what Smith could do in his fun yet short 29-plate appearance sample, in which Smith had a .999 OPS and three home runs. There’s huge power upside with Smith, and it should come with a solid average baseline. He’s really improved his plate approach in 2019, and if he can keep his strikeout rate below 25%, there’s a chance he’s immediately a top-five catcher. Russell Martin may be a frustrating presence and could take away from Smith being a true everyday catcher, but Smith is a must-add unless you own JT Realmuto, Yasmani Grandal, or Willson Contreras.
Travis Shaw, 2B/3B, Milwaukee Brewers
One of the most disappointing players in all of fantasy in 2019, Travis Shaw is back in the majors after a really good stint in Triple-A. Shaw was legitimately one of the worst hitters in baseball when in the majors this season. His strikeout rate nearly doubled from 18.4% to 32.5%, and his 45 WRC+ was Chris Davis-esque. Shaw was then demoted in favor of top prospect Keston Hiura. Hiura has been one of the best hitters in baseball since his call-up, and Mike Moustakas has been more than capable at third base, but there’s a reason for hope in Shaw’s latest call-up. Earlier this season, from May 22 to June 2, Shaw spent a rehab stint at Triple-A in which Shaw hit one home run with a .681 OPS and a 7:9 BB/K ratio in 42 plate appearances. This time around Shaw spent 77 plate appearances in the PCL in which he hit eight home runs with a 1.248 OPS and a 19:17 BB/K ratio. With Jesus Aguilar’s continued struggles, I’d be interested in adding Shaw if Craig Counsell shows interest in playing Shaw at first base, otherwise he profiles as a bench bat behind Moustakas and Hiura at this point, in which case he’d be fine in staying on the waiver wire.
Yasmany Tomas, 1B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Yasmany Tomas’ name on fantasy radars. He had a very good offensive 2016, but his defense and base-running and pretty much everything other than power was below average to abysmal. Following an injury-riddled 2017, he’s spent the past two seasons in Triple-A. Tomas has been that same power-reliant player in the minors, with 41 home runs in 204 PCL games, but given the offensive atmosphere we are in and the fact it’s come with a 31:203 BB/K ratio, I can’t say I’m too interested. He probably doesn’t play everyday, but even if he does, it’s a profile I can’t say I typically look at. He’s worth adding in NL-only leagues and is worth monitoring in 16-team or deeper leagues, but as I said before, it’s not a profile I am too interested in.
Tyler White, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers
This wasn’t a minor league call-up but rather the Dodgers trading for Tyler White, whom was recently DFA’d and is out of minor league options. White broke out in 2018 with a .888 OPS in 237 plate appearances but has completely fallen off in 2019 with a .650 OPS and a 29% strikeout rate. At this point, he’s not worth owning pretty much anywhere, but this is the type of profile we’ve seen the Dodgers rejuvenate before. It’s worth keeping an eye on and is interesting to me the Dodgers view him as somebody worth putting on their major league roster.
Tony Kemp, IF/OF, ?
Tony Kemp was DFA’d Thursday by Houston, but I included him on this list because getting out of Houston makes the utility player much more interesting to me. In the past two seasons, Kemp has hit 13 home runs with 13 steals and a reasonable 48:73 BB/K ratio in 481 plate appearances. I’ve consistently been interested in the idea of Kemp getting an everyday chance as a capable power-speed source in deeper leagues. If he’s acquired by a team with an everyday role, I’m adding him everywhere in all leagues 14 teams or deeper and even keeping an eye open in 12-team league.
(Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire)