Part 3 of our look at September call-ups and their keeper-league impact is also the final edition of the year. We hope you've enjoyed it as much as we have.
Wladimir Balentien, OF, Mariners
As a 22-year-old in Triple-A this season, Balentien hit 24 home runs and stole 15 bases, but since being called up on Sept. 4, he has exactly two at-bats. What are Balentien's chances of sticking in the majors long term?
Adam: Unreal. It's not impossible to imagine Balentien turning into a fantasy superstar if things break well, but it's an uphill climb. The Mariners have a crowded outfield, with Raul Ibanez under contract for next season while Jose Guillen may be, and Adam Jones has first shot at any outfield opening. Balentien himself is a mixed bag. He has major league power but is a free swinger yet to fully harness such power, with 547 strikeouts in 504 career minor league games. Safeco Field is not a favorable place for a power-hitting outfielder who struggles to make contact, and the Mariners are far from the best in developing young talent. Balentien is a prospect whose deficiencies leave him with little middle ground, and he turned 23 on July 2, so the clock is ticking on his upside. In a better organization, I would be more optimistic.
Will: Unreal. Balentien once proclaimed that he would "hit like Manny Ramirez," but so far the results have more closely resembled Jason Stokes. Balentien is one of those prospects who has always displayed light-tower power but swings (and misses) at almost anything. I will grant that he made some progress in strike-zone judgment last season and has built upon that this year, but he has so far to go with his contact rate that the progress he's made makes him worth only a flier. Balentien will probably have at least one big-time hot streak in the majors where he hits a rash of home runs in a short period of time, but I'm not optimistic about his long-term outlook unless he continues to make even bigger strides with his contact rate and pitch recognition.
Ian Stewart, 3B, Rockies
While not quite a September call-up, it is a good enough excuse to discuss him. Stewart is used to being a top prospect, but his shine has tarnished in recent years, and at this point he has to be thrown into the major leagues to see if he will stick. Is he keeper-worthy?
Adam: Unreal. Blessed with the benefit of hindsight, in four complete minor league seasons (at least give him credit for his health), Stewart has had only one great campaign, and that was three years ago when he was 19. Now he's 22 and Stewart's outlook has changed significantly. Garrett Atkins has blocked his position, leaving Stewart scrambling for a position in the majors. The Rockies have Matt Holliday in left and Brad Hawpe in right, and Stewart can't play center, so the Rockies are going to have to get creative, and may try Stewart at second base. The fact, though, is that it is no longer necessary to free up space for Stewart. He hit just .304/.379/.478 in one of professional baseball's most hitter-friendly leagues, and was a paltry .255/.325/.375 away from Colorado Springs, which is essentially Coors Jr. Instead, Stewart looks like a younger version of Jeff Baker.
Will: For Real. Stewart's stock is indeed way down, but I'm not sure it's time to make Jeff Baker comparisons. Stewart still has the outstanding bat speed and plus power that made him a first-round pick. He's held his own while advancing a level each year, and his .304 average in his first exposure to Triple-A is a bright spot regardless of park effect. It's certainly true that the results have not matched the hype, and I agree with Adam that Stewart has been overrated as a prospect. However, he's still very young, and has been promoted aggressively. While it may take a year or two, and it may not happen in Colorado, Stewart will be a solid major league regular, maybe an All-Star caliber player.
Luke Hochevar, SP, Royals
The top pick in 2006, Hochevar was appealing mostly because he was seen as the most major league-ready pitcher available in the draft. Instead he has been mediocre in the minors, with a 4.85 ERA in 152 innings. How has opinion changed on Hochevar?
Adam: Unreal. After missing a year of development due to contractual squabbles with the Dodgers, Hochevar had high expectations this season and failed to come close to meeting them. He was decent at Double-A, but was disastrous in 58 Triple-A innings. The Royals have no choice but to support Hochevar and give him every opportunity to succeed, and since being called up in September he has pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings in two outings. So while the opportunity will be there -- Hochevar will likely have a chance to compete for a rotation spot next spring -- he may not deserve it, and Hochevar just turned 24, so the immediate results become more and more important. Not to write Hochevar off -- we have only one year to judge him on -- but a 23-year-old first overall draft pick has high expectations, and failing to come close to them is disconcerting.
Will: Unreal. Hochevar has all the ingredients of a No. 1 starter: velocity, movement, control, a varied arsenal and an advanced feel for pitching. His mid-90s fastball, power slider, hard curve and changeup all have a chance to be above-average pitches. However, as with Ian Stewart, the results have not matched the hype. I'm not as optimistic about this one, however. His home run rate and strikeout rate have especially suffered as he's moved up to higher levels. Also, Hochevar has not responded well to coaching, and his mental makeup is very much in question. I'm inclined to say that reaching his full potential is a long-term proposition at best, especially considering the Royals' track record with young arms.
Will Harris and Adam Madison are fantasy baseball analysts for ESPN.com. Will can be contacted at WillHarris@TalentedMrRoto.com and Adam at Adam@TalentedMrRoto.com.