Fantasy Baseball Player Prospecting: Danny Hultzen, Roger Kieschnick, more

by Chris Hadorn on May 24, 2012 @ 15:55:09 PDT

 


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.

After battling early-season walk trouble, Seattle Mariners left-handed pitching prospect Danny Hultzen is finding his groove in the Double-A Southern League. He has issued only two walks over his last 12 innings, covering two starts.

In Jackson's 2-1 loss to Montgomery in 12 innings Wednesday, Hultzen struck out 12 batters over six innings while allowing just one run on five hits and a walk.

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In each of his eight starts since surrendering five runs in his professional debut on April 8, Hultzen has allowed two earned runs or fewer.

The No. 2 overall pick of the 2011 draft is 4-3 with a 1.78 ERA and a 56:25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 50 2/3 innings with Jackson. The former Virginia star has allowed only two homers.

Hultzen features a low- to mid-90s fastball, a devastating changeup and a good slider he can throw for strikes.

Of the two collegiate hurlers from the top of the 2011 draft knocking on the door this year, the Arizona Diamondbacks' Trevor Bauer is the sexier pick because of his nastier repertoire and eye-popping whiff totals. However, Hultzen might be a safer pick this season because he has a bit stronger feel for the craft of pitching and a little more polish.

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San Francisco Giants outfielder Roger Kieschnick is old for a prospect, at age 25, and has a track record marred by injuries, but he's quietly enjoying a fine season with Triple-A Fresno. He's batting .333 with 13 homers, 33 RBIs, 41 runs scored and a 1.062 OPS in 183 at-bats.

In Fresno's 10-7 win at Albuquerque last night, Kieschnick went 4-for-5 with a pair of homers and six RBIs.

The book on Kieschnick is that he brings good power to the table as evidenced by his .488 career slugging percentage. In the past, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound outfielder was too pull-conscious at times, and holes in his big swing made him susceptible to high strikeout totals.

Last season, Kieschnick hit just .255 and racked up 121 strikeouts to only 34 walks in 459 at-bats with Double-A Richmond. In 2010, the former Texas Tech star posted an ugly .613 OPS at Richmond. A stress fracture in his lower back affected his performance.

This season, Kieschnick already has 52 strikeouts in 183 at-bats but is on pace to shatter his previous high in walks. His rate of a walk for every 9.1 at-bats is by far the best of his career. Historically, he has struggled mightily versus lefties, but this season he is hitting .303 with six homers and a 1.056 OPS against southpaws.

The Texas native is making improvements in many different facets of his game this year. As Bryan LaHair has shown this year with the Chicago Cubs, late-blooming power hitters with poor plate discipline shouldn't be written off completely.

However, the Giants have so many similar corner outfield options in Aubrey Huff, Brandon Belt, Brett Pill and Nate Schierholtz that it's hard to see Kieschnick getting a boatload of major league at-bats this season. Based on Kieschnick's history of mediocre batting averages and obscene strikeout totals, fantasy managers are wise not to put a lot of stock in his Pacific Coast League breakout at his age.

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The Colorado Rockies called up single-hitting machine DJ LeMahieu from Triple-A Colorado Springs to take the place of infielder Jonathan Herrera (right hamstring) on the 25-man roster. Over 181 at-bats with Colorado Springs, LeMahieu hit .315 with one home run, 26 RBIs, 19 runs scored, 11 steals and a .752 OPS.

Standing at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, LeMahieu looks the part of a middle-of-the-order slugger, but he's never hit more than five homers in a professional season. The 23-year-old is a capable contact hitter who carries a lifetime .317 average in the minors. Outside his high-percentage hitting, LeMahieu doesn't offer much in terms of offensive production.

He doesn't walk often, and he's never learned to use his size to his advantage. Although LeMahieu has decent wheels, he has been successful on only 38 of his 60 base-stealing attempts, for a poor rate of 63.3 percent.

LeMahieu's bat profiles better at second base, where he played 40 of his 43 games this year at Colorado Springs. Unfortunately, his range is better suited for third base, where his bat isn't ideal.

The former LSU star is expected to help the Rockies in a utility role during his stay.

***

Very few teams in the majors churn out homegrown middle infielders like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim do. They called up another one in shortstop Andrew Romine.

In 157 at-bats with Triple-A Salt Lake, Romine was hitting .312 with two homers, 17 RBIs, 22 runs scored and 14 steals in 18 tries.

The 26-year-old has the glove to be a sufficient major league regular at shortstop. However, Romine doesn't offer much offense in terms of batting average or power, which gives him essentially no chance to unseat Gold Glover Erick Aybar.

The switch-hitting Romine never hit above .282 at any minor league level prior to this season and holds just a .360 career slugging percentage.

Romine draws his share of walks, though, and that skill has helped him record a respectable .355 on-base percentage. When on base, Romine has put his legs to use, averaging 28.8 thefts a season from 2007 to 2011.

Based on his ability to run, Romine has some fantasy value in AL leagues if injuries ever let PT work in his favor.

***

The Baltimore Orioles promoted right-handed pitching phenom Dylan Bundy from low Single-A Delmarva to high Single-A Frederick yesterday. In 30 innings with Delmarva, Bundy was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA and a 40:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The 19-year-old has emerged as the minors' top pitching prospect just two months into his professional career.

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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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