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.
Dylan Bundy hurt, plus....
About Keith Hernandez
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.
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