This article was written and submitted by Bryan L. Schubert. Hello Cafe members and welcome to this week’s edition of Recent MLB Call-Ups, this series highlights one recent minor-leaguer’s call to the big club. Whether you are looking for a guy with a long-term keeper potential for a dynasty league, or help getting a jump on all the owners in your league scouring the waiver wire for a player to help contribute during your playoff run, I am here to provide the analysis if the guy you have your eye on is worth that waiver priority.
Blake Hawksworth, St. Louis Cardinals, Age 26
With all of the September call-ups around baseball it’s easy to focus on top prospects that will see time over the last week of the 2009 season. Though, instead of talking about players such as Buster Posey (San Francisco) or Tyler Colvin (Chicago Cubs) cutting their teeth for non-playoff contenders, I feel it more appropriate highlighting a player that continues to make an impact on a playoff bound club. Now I will concede that I have taken some liberties of the namesake article term “Recent” with this feature on Blake Hawksworth; however his contribution to the 2009 National League Central Division champions warrants more attention than he has received!
Hawksworth made his Major League debut back on June 6 of this year when the Cardinals optioned Jess Todd to Memphis. However, when the Cardinals activated starter Kyle Lohse from the disabled list on July 13 they sent Hawksworth back to the Pacific Coast League and the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. His time back in Memphis was short and St. Louis most recently recalled him back to the Majors, for good, two weeks later on July 27 when they sent Josh Kinney down to Memphis. The North Vancouver, BC, Canada native entered into the St. Louis system when he signed in 2002 with the Cardinals as a “draft and follow” after being selected in the 28th round of the 2001 First Year Player Draft.
Blake began his career looking like an experienced pro ball player, instead of a young 19-year-old from a community college nestled in the suburbs of Seattle. In 15 games, 14 of them starts, between Johnson City (Rookie) and New Jersey (Short-Season A) he posted a 2.74 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, striking out 69 in 75.2 innings. He continued to impress during the following 2003 season going 6-4 in 16 starts with a 2.91 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 86.2 innings, striking out better than a batter per inning for 89 Ks during the year between Peoria (Single-A) and Palm Beach (Single-A Advanced). His performance over his first two seasons earned him a spot as one of the Cardinals top prospects. However, during 2004 and 2005 he only made nine appearances due to a plague of injuries.
After getting healthy, Hawksworth picked-up right where he left off and continued to advance through the Cardinals system. Before getting called up to Double-A Springfield halfway through the season, he made 14 more starts down with the Palm Beach Cardinals. Between the two clubs for the 2006 season he racked up 11 wins against only 4 losses, striking out 121 in 163.1 innings, and posting a 2.92 ERA and 1.21 WHIP; however, an area of concern was his inflated BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play), .293 in Palm Beach and .287 in Springfield. This problematic area manifested itself during the 2007 season when in 25 starts for the Memphis Redbirds he racked-up a dismal 5.28 ERA, going 4-13 with a 1.47 WHIP giving up 150 hits on top of 41 walks to only 88 strikeouts. Last year was not much better, and the Cardinals even made Hawksworth begin the season making two starts at the Rookie level in an effort to shake off any hangover from the previous season.
After nothing less than dominating during that short stint in the Gulf Coast League, Hawksworth’s jump back to Triple-A Memphis was a homecoming he would like to forget! Including his two starts in Rookie ball Blake went 5-7 with an ERA even higher than the year prior at 5.64, giving up 113 hits in only 95.2 innings pitched while posting a dreadful .372 BABIP. Hitters seemed to have Hawksworth figured out as they had been teeing off on him for two seasons in a row. He just never seemed to completely find his form that put him at the top of the St. Louis Cardinals prospect list in 2003 prior to his injury riddled 2004 and 2005 seasons.
At the start of this season, Hawksworth looked to put the past two seasons behind him and got off to a fairly good beginning, with the exception of a few bumpy outings, in 10 starts at Memphis to begin 2009. Then in early June he started his couple of bounces between Memphis and St. Louis before becoming a mainstay in the Cardinal bullpen in late July.
Blake Hawksworth – Memphis Redbirds (Triple-A) 2009 Statistics
After a rough debut on June 6, (2 innings, 4 runs, 3 hits, 1 home run), he has become a consistent force in the Cardinal bullpen. It is no question that he has been dominant on his own, but his true value comes in the way he has taken pressure off Cardinal right-handed iron man reliever Kyle McClellan. With Todd Wellemeyer, Brad Thompson and Jason Motte all struggling with ERAs at 4.83+, the Cardinals were desperately in search of someone to pick up the slack, and St. Louis had to look no further than Hawksworth. While his strike out/walk ration has not been the greatest he has more than made up for it by inducing 54.5% ground ball outs. Oh yea, and that horrible BABIP that he has had for the last three seasons is down to .226 during his time at the Major League level.
Blake Hawksworth – St. Louis Cardinals 2009 Statistics
Blake Hawksworth does everything well enough to be an asset to any Major League club out of the bullpen, but may not the most attractive fantasy player in many leagues. He will help lower your ERA and WHIP, pick up an occasional win (4 in 27 appearances), and grab you a hold every now and then. If he is available in your league, and you have had some reliever trouble, he is without a doubt worth picking up for the remaining week of the season. While he sometimes goes multiple games without an appearance, he is sure to continue providing the National League Central Division champions excellent relief work out of the bullpen for the remainder of the season and through the Cardinals run during the playoffs.
I would love to hear from you, loyal members of the Cafe, so please PM me with any comments or questions. Talk to you next time, meanwhile I will keep an eye on those transaction reports!
Bryan L. Schubert is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Bryan in the Cafe’s forums where he posts under the name of Ninja BlackSox.
R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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