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 in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball game next week or in your fantasy baseball keeper league a year from now.
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The Miami Marlins' already thin starting rotation took a hit when they had to place both Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi on the 15-day disabled list to begin the year with shoulder inflammation. Both hurlers are expected to miss at least the first month as they rest and then rebuild strength in their right arms. That opened the door for their top pitching prospect, Jose Fernandez, to begin the year on the 25-man roster and in the rotation.
The 20-year-old right-hander is slated to make his major league debut this Sunday against the New York Mets. Although he is easily the club's highest rated pitching prospect, he hasn't pitched professionally above the Single-A level. Last year with Single-A Greensboro and High-A Jupiter, he went a combined 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 134 innings. The Fish have other options they could have used in the rotation in the first month of the season, but none with even close to the upside that Fernandez possesses. It'll be a nice taste of the bigs for Fernandez, and the Marlins would like to gauge how he handles big league hitters for a month, maybe a little more.
Fernandez can light up the radar gun in the upper 90s and has a very nasty slider that induces plenty of swings and misses. He struggled with control in 2011 but made excellent strides with a 2.4 BB/9 rate in the minors last year. If he can keep the ball in the strike zone consistently during his first taste of The Show, he has a chance to be relatively successful. However, it's hard to say how he'll react in the spotlight for the first time, so the results could be terribly erratic.
For fantasy baseball purposes, Fernandez should be owned in any and all NL-only and keeper leagues. It's unclear if the Marlins will keep him on the big-league roster when Alvarez and Eovaldi are healthy, and the final decision may come down to how well he fares in this first month. One thing we do know: President Larry Beinfest and the organization plan to limit Fernandez to anywhere between 150 and 170 innings in 2013. Whether he tallies all of those frames in the majors this year or a split somewhere between Miami and the minors is to be determined.
In other Marlin-related news, two of the club's top-ranked outfielders, Christian Yelich (heel) and Jake Marisnick (hand) will begin on the DL at Double-A Jacksonville. Yelich bruised his left heel back on March 15 in a spring contest, and he's not expected to miss much time. Marisnick fractured his left hand after he was hit by a pitch in spring training March 6, but he could return to action in roughly two weeks.
Yelich was a hot topic this spring in Marlins camp after he hit .364 and led the club in home runs (five) and RBIs (14) in Grapefruit League play. He's an exciting piece of the team's rebuilding puzzle, but they aren't rushing him to the major league level. The same goes for Marisnick, a very speedy player with 20-plus home run potential. Both players could be candidates for late-season promotions to the big league level, but Marisnick is further along in his power development and may warrant a call before Yelich.
Keep tabs on both of these outfielders, especially in NL-only and keeper leagues, if Chris Coghlan and Justin Ruggiano underwhelm. Austin Kearns and Juan Pierre are merely placeholders for when Yelich and Marisnick are ready to make the leap, which probably won't come full time until at least 2014.
The Baltimore Orioles' No. 1 pitching prospect, Dylan Bundy, had a scare this week when he was shut down temporarily with mild elbow tightness in his right limb. The tightness first surfaced after his final minor league spring start, and an MRI exam came back negative for any structural damage. Executive vice president Dan Duquette indicated that this injury isn't serious at all, but the team wants to be as cautious as possible since they are dealing with their most prized prospect.
Bundy was scheduled to begin the season as Double-A Bowie's ace, but this injury will likely push him back just a bit. Assuming he gets over this issue with no setbacks, Bundy has a bright future that could include more major league experience in 2013. The 20-year-old righty went a combined 9-3 with a 2.08 ERA and 119 K's in 103 2/3 innings last season between Single-A Delmarva, High-A Frederick and Bowie.
He has all the makings of a future staff ace and perennial Cy Young contender in his prime. He has three plus pitches right now - a fastball, curve and changeup - that are ready to get major league hitters out. Bundy didn't pitch as well as he'd hoped in spring camp, but expect him to continue dominating minor league sticks when he recovers from his elbow ailment. He'll likely be moved up to Triple-A Norfolk at some point this summer and is a good candidate for a late-season call-up to Baltimore. Mixed leaguers should be ready to pounce when he comes up, and expect him to be owned in all formats next season, when he should find a permanent spot in the O's rotation.
Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Alfredo Marte figured he wouldn't be on the team's opening day roster, and neither did fantasy baseball players. Well, he is, thanks to a serious injury to Adam Eaton (knee). Cody Ross (calf) also opened the year on the DL. Marte was initially optioned to Triple-A Reno back on March 15 but was brought back up to compete for the final roster spot with Tony Campana.
Marte made his major league debut against the St. Louis Cardinals last night, hitting sixth and starting in left field. Manager Kirk Gibson noted that the 24-year-old Marte made great strides this spring, where he hit three home runs and knocked in six runs in 47 Cactus League at-bats. The Dominican native was largely unknown until last season when he clubbed 20 dingers and drove in 75 RBIs in 398 at-bats with Double-A Mobile. The key for Marte was lowering his strikeout rate last season.
At only 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, though, he shouldn't be considered a power hitter at the next level, but he could continue to turn some heads if he improves more on his plate discipline. The D-backs' move to put him on their opening day roster was purely due to other injuries, so expect them to ship him back to the minors when Ross is healthy. Arizona probably would like to see the gains that Marte made last season transfer over to Triple-A Reno before they consider him a valuable fourth outfielder at the major league level.
Keith, an editor with KFFL, joined the team as a Hot off the Wire analyst in 2008 and has been playing fantasy sports since 2005. He is involved in MLB, NFL and NASCAR content. He graduated from the University of California-San Diego in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications and was a four-year starter as a member of the baseball program.