Fantasy Baseball Player Prospecting: Bryce Harper, James Darnell, more

by Chris Hadorn on July 5, 2011 @ 15:16:54 PDT

 


Your fantasy baseball rankings look a little stale. KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Player Prospecting series highlights the exploits of minor league baseball players, including top MLB prospects. Find out who'll make an impact, whether it's in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball game next week or in your fantasy baseball keeper league two years from now.

In last summer's infamous Cliff Lee-Justin Smoak trade, the Seattle Mariners received three other minor leaguers (Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, Matt Lawson) in the deal, but none of them get much publicity because none of them project as potential stars.

Beavan, the most promising of the trio, earned the victory in his major league debut Sunday afternoon versus the weak-hitting San Diego Padres. The 6-foot-7, 240-pound righty tossed seven masterful innings, allowing just one run on three hits and two walks. He struck out four.

Beavan's debut was probably the most ideal of circumstances as he threw in the pitcher-friendly confines of Safeco Field and faced arguably the weakest lineup in baseball.

The 2007 first-round pick exhibited good command of a 90-93 mph fastball on Sunday afternoon as he was able to get ahead of hitters consistently by hitting corners with it. During his minor league career, Beavan averaged only 1.48 walks per nine innings, so outstanding command has always been a fine trait of his craft.

The 22-year-old doesn't have any standout secondary offerings (slider, changeup, curveball), though, which is one of the reasons why he projects as a backend innings eater.

Outside of his low walk rate, Beavan posted mediocre numbers at Triple-A Tacoma this year with a 4.45 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and an average of only 6.19 strikeouts per nine innings. He also allowed 10 home runs in 93 innings and opponents hit a blistering .305 against him.

Yielding contact is a big part of Beavan's game. Because of his big build and his pinpoint control, Beavan is often likened to Mariners lefty Doug Fister, an innings eater who has put up a 3.02 ERA in his third big league season.

Beavan will never be an outstanding fantasy commodity due to a subpar strikeout rate, but he has a chance to develop into a serviceable AL-only hurler because of his friendly pitching environment and his ability to pound the strike zone consistently.

As for 2011, Beavan is only worth starting in AL-only leagues during favorable home matchups.

***

The biggest news in the minors during the Fourth of July weekend was the announcement that Washington Nationals outfield prospect Bryce Harper had been promoted from low Single-A Hagerstown to Double-A Harrisburg. The 18-year-old phenom was hitting .318 with 14 home runs, 46 RBIs, 49 runs scored, 19 steals and a .977 OPS in 258 at-bats with Hagerstown.

General manager Mike Rizzo and the Nationals were so impressed with Harper's progression that he is skipping the high Single-A level entirely. He is already the youngest player in the Eastern League.

In his Double-A debut Monday night, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound slugger went 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.

According to Rizzo, Harper will finish the 2011 campaign in Double-A before heading to the Arizona Fall League this autumn to play every day.

At this rate, Harper will likely open the 2012 season at Triple-A Syracuse and could make his major league debut in June of next year.

***

The Padres promoted two of their hot hitting third base prospects yesterday. James Darnell is headed to Triple-A Tucson after hitting .333 with 17 home runs, 62 RBIs, and a 1.038 OPS in 288 at-bats with Double-A San Antonio. It was a nice bounceback season for Darnell after a cyst on his right hand limited him to only 101 games in the Texas League last season, and he never really got comfortable hitting at San Antonio's Wolff Stadium, a pitcher's park where he posted a .223/.317/.352 line.

In the past, Darnell was knocked for being too passive in hitter's counts, but this year Padres minor league hitting coordinator Sean Berry says that the former South Carolina star has been more aggressive when he needs to be and pitchers are having a tough time throwing fastballs by him.

Jedd Gyorko replaces Darnell at the hot corner in San Antonio. Gyorko, 22, was hitting .365 with 18 home runs, 35 doubles, 74 RBIs, 78 runs scored, 11 steals, and a 1.068 OPS in 340 at-bats with high Single-A Lake Elsinore.

Standing at 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, Gyorko doesn't look like a menacing presence at the plate, but he can flat out rake. Considering the California League is the most hitter-friendly circuit in the minors, this promotion to Double-A will be a good litmus test for Gyorko.

***

Seattle Mariners left-handed pitching prospect James Paxton was promoted from low Single-A Clinton to Double-A Jackson over the weekend. Making his Southern League debut Sunday, Paxton wasn't sharp as he pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits and three walks. He struck out only one batter; he fanned 80 in 56 innings in the Midwest League.

Command was the most glaring issue (4.82 walks per nine innings) for Paxton in Clinton, so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the tougher competition.

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About Chris Hadorn

Chris Hadorn has covered minor league and amateur prospects for more than a decade. He writes for San Diego's North County Times and has been a KFFL fantasy baseball contributor since 2006.


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