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.
Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, one of the top all-around catching prospects in baseball, is already off to a scorching start with Triple-A Tacoma in 2013. He had a grand slam last night and is hitting .429 with four home runs and leads all minor leaguers with 16 RBIs in just five games. He's sporting a 1.696 OPS. His polished approach to the game and veteran-like mentality at the plate makes it hard to believe that he's only 22 years of age.
Cingrani sits 'em down
Zunino put himself on the map last season after batting a combined .360 with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs between Low Single-A Everett and Double-Jackson after being drafted third overall in the 2012 draft out of the University of Florida. He's an extremely quick study and has already proven that he's far superior to the talent in the low levels of the minor leagues.
Zunino is a big and strong catcher who has the ability to become a reliable middle-of-the-order bat and hit for both a high average and plenty of long balls at the major league level, which is extremely rare for a backstop. He is very close to being major league-ready, and he probably has a ceiling similar to that of Buster Posey in San Francisco.
On the big league club, Kelly Shoppach and Jesus Montero are holding down the fort. Shoppach is merely keeping the seat warm until the club is completely comfortable bringing Zunino up, which, rest assured, will come sometime this year, possibly as soon as this summer. Montero is young, too (23), but his defense and game-calling skills are suspect, and his long-term outlook may look brighter at first base or DH. Zunino can, and probably will, make an impact for owners in keeper and AL-only two-catcher setups this season.
Cincinnati Reds lefty arm Tony Cingrani hasn't received much attention since being drafted in the third round in 2011, but his first two starts for Triple-A Louisville have him off to a good start this year. In his first start, April 4, he took a perfect game into the fifth inning and struck out 14 of the 19 hitters he faced in six no-hit innings. In a total of 12 1/3 innings in two starts, Cingrani has allowed no runs on just three hits while striking out 21 hitters.
The 23-year-old southpaw has started all but one of the 41 games he's appeared in in the minors, but he was used out of the bullpen alongside Aroldis Chapman when he made the jump from Class AA to the bigs last season. He had a 1.80 ERA with nine K's in just five innings with Cincy in 2012. He hits the mid-90s with his fastball and possesses a plus changeup and slider that is devastatingly effective against left-handed hitters, which makes him very appealing out of the bullpen in late-inning matchup plays. He also attacks hitters with a three-quarters arm slot that makes his fastball run away from righties.
Sean Marshall (shoulder), one of the team's three lefty arms in the pen, is on the disabled list, but there isn't a pressing need for Cingrani just yet in Cincinnati. If he keeps being lights-out with Louisville, though, it'll be hard for them to ignore if they find themselves thin in the pen.
More prospects: Jake Odorizzi, Kole Calhoun
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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