The Minor Leaguers Fantasy Baseball Owners Should Watch
By Eric Radom
Every year, there are several rookies that make their debuts after Opening Day and end up having a huge impact on your fantasy league. It is important to know what is going on down in the minor leagues, so that you are ready to pounce on any top prospect who is close to making an impact. At any point in the season, you may be struggling to find a lot of upside on the waiver wire, especially if you are in a deeper league. If you find yourself with an open bench spot and you do not like any of the available major league players, consider stashing one of these guys.
Here are several players that have the talent and opportunity to make a fantasy impact this year:
1. Nolan Arenado, Third Baseman, Rockies
Although Nolan Arenado led the high Class-A California League in RBIs in 2011, we usually would not expect a player that played only A ball last year (82 runs, 20 home runs, 122 RBIs, two stolen bases, .298 average) to reach the majors in 2012. Since the end of the 2011 season, though, Arenado has done nothing but show he is ready to play with the big boys.
He promptly reported to the Arizona Fall League after the season, joining many other top prospects from all levels, and all he did was win the league MVP award, leading the league in hits and doubles and finishing third in home runs. The Rockies considered giving him a chance to start the year in the majors after he showed improved defense in spring training, but they decided to start him in Double-A.
So far this year in Double-A, he is batting .390 with a .479 on-base percentage and .610 slugging percentage. He has one home run and nine RBIs in 11 games. If he continues to hit like this, Colorado will have no choice but to promote Arenado soon, considering the huge hole they have at third base at the major league level.
The Rockies have already released their stopgap free agent acquisition, Casey Blake, and they recently demoted the more experienced, but lighter hitting prospect, Jordan Pacheco. The talent is there, the opportunity is there, and last time I checked, the Rockies still play at Coors Field. If the Rockies' current third baseman, Chris Nelson, continues to produce below-average numbers, and Arenado continues to rake at Double-A, it may be a good move to make a speculative pick-up.
2. Trevor Bauer, Starting Pitcher, Diamondbacks
The third overall pick in the 2011 MLB amateur draft out of UCLA, Trevor Bauer was widely thought of as the most major league-ready pitcher in the draft. Bauer has drawn freaky (no pun intended) comparisons to Tim Lincecum, thanks to his slight frame, crazy long-toss routines, and unorthodox delivery.
Bauer's dominant stuff had the Diamondbacks considering him as the fifth starter coming out of spring training. Instead, they sent him to Double-A, where he has gone 3-0 during his first three starts, with a 0.57 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 15 innings. The only concern is his 12 walks, which the Diamondbacks will want to see him correct before he gets the call.
There are two guys standing in Bauer's way. One is the Diamondbacks' current fifth starter, Josh Collmenter, who is off to a horrendous start. The other is Tyler Skaggs, another top pitching prospect, who some feel might be more major league-ready then Bauer. I just as easily could have written about Skaggs, but he does not have the true ace upside of Bauer.
Keep an eye on both Bauer and Skaggs during the next several weeks to see who is in line for the call-up, should Collmenter continue to struggle. Although Joe Saunders is off to a good start as the Diamondbacks' fourth starter, it is also not out of the question that he could be replaced at some point this season too, because he has the ability to get hit hard and he is on only a one-year deal.
3. Mike Trout, Outfielder, Angels
Mike Trout has been a consensus top three prospect the last two years, and there is no questioning his real or fantasy baseball talents. He hit 11 home runs and 13 triples while batting .326 and stealing 33 bases at Double-A last year. Trout also added four home runs and five stolen bases with the big club in 40 games in August and September.
With any other franchise, Trout would have started in the major leagues this year at age 20, but unfortunately, the Angels have an unusual amount of aging, veteran, high-paid outfield depth. Because of several minor spring training injuries, Trout was not able to force their hand, so he was sent back to Triple-A.
There does not appear to be a spot for Trout, unless at least two of the following players get injured: Vernon Wells, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo. The important thing to remember is that Trout may already be a better player than all five of those guys. The Angels are a smart organization and they will figure out how to get Trout involved at some point this season if he keeps raking.
So far this season in Triple-A, Trout is batting .420 with a .474 on-base percentage and .620 slugging percentage. He has 12 runs, one home run and four stolen bases during 12 games. I would call that raking. Keep an eye out for any trades or injury news coming from the Angels, and be ready to jump on Trout.
4. Jarrod Parker and Brad Peacock, Starting Pitchers, Athletics
The A's sold their young major league pitching staff for some major league-ready pitching prospects this winter. Jarrod Parker was the main piece in the Trevor Cahill deal from Arizona, and Brad Peacock was one of many large pieces from Washington in the Gio Gonzalez deal.
Although both of these players did have a solid showing in short stints in the big leagues in 2011, the A's have started them both at Triple-A this year. Parker has a 2.50 ERA and 17 strikeouts, and Peacock has a 1.50 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 12 innings so far this year, so they are not doing anything to hurt their chances right now. These guys will get their chance this year, but it is just a matter of when.
Oakland's rotation is made up of two injury-prone veterans (Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon), and three unproven young pitchers (Tommy Milone, Tyson Ross and Graham Godfrey) with less upside than Parker or Peacock. Parker is the more polished pitcher with greater upside, so I would lean toward him instead of Peacock, but do not be afraid to pick up either of these guys if you are desperate for some solid innings in a deeper league. Oakland has a great pitchers' park, which is perfect for young pitchers to succeed in immediately.
And, for a bonus:
Dylan Bundy, Starting Pitcher, Orioles
Dylan Bundy has virtually no chance of reaching the Orioles this season, but I could not resist mentioning him, because he is the most promising Orioles pitching prospect in quite some time. Bundy struck out 322 batters in 151 innings during his high school senior season and sported a 0.20 ERA. Although it is early, it is fun to mention his six perfect innings at low-A with 12 strikeouts. Scouts that have seen these two starts are raving uncontrollably about Bundy. He will not reach the majors this year, but he is a great pitcher to own in dynasty leagues.
Posted April 17, 2012