This is the last year that baseball will be an Olympic sport and it’s no wonder. Professional baseball has never got behind the Olympics like basketball has. If baseball were sending its top players to Beijing, the publicity for it would be much greater and its likely that baseball would be being played in 2012 in London.
So, who are these minor league players who are representing the USA in Beijing? And, do the Team USA Olympic baseball players have any fantasy baseball value this season? Let’s take a look at some you might know.
Brian Barden, SS, Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals) — Barden has appeared in 23 games in the majors with a .171 average. He’s hitting .295 with 9 homers and 5 RBI this year with Memphis. Barden will likely get a September call up, but not a lot of action unless there’s an injury.
Matt Brown, 1B, Salt Lake Bees (Angels) — Brown has 13 MLB AB’s with one hit. He was the Angels 10th round selection in 2001. He’s struggled in the majors with just one hit over 18 AB’s. This is likely not going to be his year either.
Mike Hessman, 3B, Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers) — Hessman has power. He’s gone long 32 times this year for the Mud Hens. Hessman had two stints with the Tigers in 2007 and cracked 4 homers in just 51 AB’s. He’s a big dude at 6′ 5″ and 215 pounds, but is solid with the glove; he was named the International League’s best defensive third sacker in 2007 by Baseball America. At 30-years-old, however, he doesn’t appear to have a bright future in the Bigs despite his strong stats.
Brandon Knight, SP, New Orleans Zephyrs (Mets) — Knight had one start for the Mets this year. He’s been both a starter and reliever for the Zephyrs and is 5-1 with a 1.60 ERA this year. In 12 MLB games, he has an ERA of 9.99. With the time away for the Olympics, he’s only likely to re-join the Mets if they have more injuries to their staff.
Mike Koplove, RP, Las Vegas 51s (Dodgers) — Koplove, a Philly native, had five games up with the Tribe last year, but he’s by far the most experienced Olympian having spent 2001-2006 appearing in 217 games as a reliable set up man for the Diamondbacks. He’s 2-1 with 9 saves for the 51s this year and opponents are hitting just .211 against him. Look for Koplove to be a September call up for the Dodgers, but his role will almost surely be in middle relief so he has little fantasy baseball value except for in very deep leagues. His father, Steve Koplove, runs the Marzano Scout League in Philadelphia.
Jason Nix, 2B, Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Rockies) — Nix had 56 AB’s with the Rockies this year, but struggled with a .125 average. He’s rebounded nicely in the minors, however, with a .300 average and 17 homers and 9 SB’s. His brother, Laynce, an outfielder, just got a call up to the Brewers.
Nate Schierholtz, OF, Fresno Grizzlies (Giants) — This guy can play. He’s hitting .314 with 15 HR, 65 RBI, 9 SB in the minors. He hit .304 in 112 AB’s last year in the Bigs. Expect Schierholtz to compete for a starting job next year with the Giants. If the Giants are way out of it, he may see some action in September.
Taylor Teagarden, C, Oklahoma Red Hawks (Rangers) — Teagarden played at the University of Texas. He got a short call up this season and picked up 6 AB’s with the parent club when Jarred Saltalamacchia and Gerald Laird were injured. Teagarden could have stayed in the majors for three more days this season when Laird returned from the DL, but asked to be sent down so he could join the Olympic team. He’s hitting just .217 with 8 HR’s in the minors this season. Teagarden, who played in the Futures Game, will not have any fantasy value this season, but remains a strong long term prospect.