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 a sluggish start in April (.778 OPS), Toronto Blue Jays catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud has caught fire in his last 10 games, swatting seven homers with a .357 average in a span of 42 at-bats. The 23-year-old is hitting .298 with nine home runs, 23 RBIs, 24 runs scored and an .894 OPS in 161 at-bats with Triple-A Las Vegas.
His numbers are not so impressive when one considers the hitter-friendly atmosphere of Las Vegas' Cashman Field; d'Arnaud is hitting .320 with six homers and a .957 OPS at home while batting .266 with three dingers and a .797 OPS in away contests.
Archer: future reliever?
Home-away splits aside, d'Arnaud still draws rave reviews for his bat. The Lakewood (Calif.) native projects as an above-average offensive catcher who hits for both batting average and power.
In recent weeks, the Blue Jays have received favorable production from the catching position. J.P. Arencibia was named AL player of the week for the period ending May 20.
Because of that, expect the Jays to be patient with d'Arnaud. There's a premium placed on defense at the catching position, so production at the plate is only a meager part of d'Arnaud's development.
In the big picture, d'Arnaud has a higher ceiling than Arencibia, so expect the former to get the majority of catching time when the Jays determine he's ready. Arencibia has been prone to slumps and streakiness, so d'Arnaud could factor into the catching equation this summer if the Jays stay in the AL East race.
He has the ability to be a perennial All-Star because of his bat, and d'Arnaud would be a worthwhile fantasy addition in all formats, if called up.
Yesterday the Miami Marlins promoted outfield prospect Kevin Mattison, a player with blazing speed. The 26-year-old was batting .252 (38-for-151) with five homers, 15 RBIs, 28 runs scored and six steals in 12 tries at Triple-A New Orleans this season.
In Miami's 14-7 loss to the San Francisco Giants last night, Mattison came in as a pinch hitter, stayed in the game as the left fielder and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
Despite his outstanding wheels, Mattison hasn't figured out how to be productive enough in order to put his legs to good use.
At Double-A Jacksonville in 2011, the former UNC-Asheville star hit .260/.353/.406 with eight homers, 49 RBIs, 87 runs scored and 38 steals. He struck out 127 times and drew 58 walks.
Mattison has been criticized for hitting the ball in the air too much; the Marlins have tried to turn him into more of a little-ball hitter and table-setter.
Mattison averaged 42.6 steals per season from 2009 to 2011. This is a rabbit who can impact a fantasy team if he gets on a hot streak.
Bottom line, Mattison is going to have too much trouble producing at the plate to stick as a regular. He's worth a speculative add in deep NL-only formats based on his steals upside, though.
For those who play in dynasty formats with farm systems, one lower-level prospect to keep an eye on is New York Yankees outfielder Tyler Austin. The 20-year-old is batting .299 with 13 homers, 39 RBIs, 41 runs, 10 steals and a 1.010 OPS in 174 at-bats with low Single-A Charleston. Austin leads the South Atlantic League in homers, OPS and slugging percentage (.649).
In 2011, Austin combined to hit .354 with six homers, 36 RBIs, 29 runs, 18 steals and a .997 OPS between rookie ball and short-season Single-A Staten Island.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound outfielder is a strong kid who boasts above-average power and has a chance to develop into a well-rounded offensive contributor. Even though Austin lacks plus speed, he is an aggressive and effective base-stealer with strong instincts who has been caught stealing only once this season.
The only real concern with Austin's performance has been his plate discipline; he has drawn only 15 walks to 48 strikeouts in 2012.
Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect Chris Archer is one of the most frustrating talents in the minors. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound righty has wicked stuff, which includes a mid-90s fastball with heavy movement and a swing-and-miss slider.
Due to wildness issues, however, Archer hasn't been able to establish himself as a potential frontline starting pitcher.
In 52 2/3 innings at Triple-A Durham this season, Archer is 3-5 with a 4.96 ERA, two homers allowed and a 61:34 strikeout-to-walk ratio. This season the 23-year-old has averaged an eye-popping 10.42 whiffs per nine innings but holds only a 1.79 strikeout-to-walk ratio because he averages 5.81 free passes per nine frames.
Throughout his career, Archer has been tough to hit. He has given up an average of only 0.46 round-trippers per nine stanzas. But his control issues have undermined his performance. He has averaged 5.27 walks per nine innings during his professional career.
In Durham's 4-0 loss to Norfolk Thursday, Archer showed his upside by striking out 12 batters in six innings of work. He allowed three runs on five hits and two walks.
Now with his third organization, Archer is still a highly regarded hurler, but many talent evaluators feel he's better suited for the bullpen. The North Carolina native lacks a third pitch, and the stats show that he hasn't made any progress in corralling his wildness.
One of the knocks on Archer is that he nibbles too much when he starts. A bullpen role may change his mentality and prompt him to concentrate solely on attacking opposing hitters.