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.
The entire front office, coaching staff and die-hard fans of the Baltimore Orioles are holding their breath as the team's top pitching prospect, Dylan Bundy (elbow, forearm), heads for a second checkup on his ailing right elbow this week. If that's not troubling enough news, the right-hander is going to see the physician that all pitchers fear more than even their dentist: Dr. James Andrews. Second opinions with Andrews more often than not end with the recommendation for Tommy John surgery, which would end Bundy's hopes of pitching for the Orioles this year and most of 2014.
The good news is that Bundy's MRI exam came back clean on his elbow, and the team has described his condition as "flexor mass tightness," which is centered closer to his forearm. However, until we hear Andrews' assessment, we don't know what's in store for Bundy. Tommy John surgery definitely remains a possibility, though.
Many believed Bundy, who went 9-3 with a 2.08 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 23 starts (103 2/3 innings) over three different minor league levels last season, had a realistic shot to crack the team's starting rotation out of spring camp. That didn't pan out, however, as he struggled with location and eventually dealt with forearm pain, which may have been a reason for his command issues. Since then, he's been trying to build up arm strength in order to debut with Triple-A Norfolk, but obviously that hasn't happened.
Bundy is only 20 years old, but he reached Baltimore last season at 19. He's very advanced and strong for his age, and he has the skills to pitch in the major leagues now, which is why this would be such a huge blow to the O's. He has a plus heater that generates plenty of empty hacks, but his secondary stuff (curveball and changeup) are also excellent out pitches. He, along with fellow prospect Kevin Gausman, is a candidate to come up later this year, depending on the outcome of his visit with Andrews.
If Bundy receives bad news and has to go under the knife, move Gausman (1-2, 4.71 ERA and 21 K's in 21 IP with Double-A Bowie) up your prospect watch list for later this summer.
The San Diego Padres are reportedly promoting Robbie Erlin to the big league squad today. They acquired Erlin and Joe Wieland in the summer of 2011 in the deal that sent Mike Adams to the Texas Rangers. Erlin posted a 2.99 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 147 1/3 frames (25 starts) between various minor league levels with the Rangers and Friars in 2011, but elbow tendonitis caused him to miss three months last year.
The short southpaw (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) doesn't have electric stuff on the mound, but he has superior pitchability and excellent control of his pitches to all parts of the plate. He attacks the zone frequently, and PETCO Park should aid in his effectiveness for those willing to take a shot on him in deep mixed leagues.
The only problem is that it's unknown how the Padres will utilize this 22-year-old initially. There currently isn't a rotation spot open, unless Erlin were to bump Andrew Cashner out of a starting job, which seems rather unlikely. For now, Erlin may just serve as pitching depth for SD. Stay tuned.
Philadelphia Phillies southpaw Jesse Biddle made some noise with Double-A Reading Monday when he struck out a career-high 16 hitters and carried a perfect game into the seventh frame. It's the fourth time the Phillies' top prospect has reached double digits in K's since he was drafted back in 2010. Most of his punchouts came either via the fastball or curve, Biddle's two most successful pitches thus far in his career.
The 21-year-old lefty also has a decent slider and changeup combo, giving him plenty of strikeout upside as he matures. He fanned 151 batters in 142 2/3 innings with High Single-A Clearwater in 2012. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound pitcher is durable and continues to show his dominance over minor league hackers.
The Phightins have a rotation spot in flux after the injury to John Lannan (knee), which is expected to keep him out for a couple of months, at least. Jonathan Pettibone filled in nicely for his first major league start and win Monday, but he's probably not the long-term fix. Pettibone was being hit hard at Triple-A Lehigh Valley before his hasty promotion (9.64 ERA in two starts).
Although Biddle has the most upside and intrigue, it's probably a bit premature for the Phils to consider adding him to their rotation. Tyler Cloyd and Adam Morgan make more sense at the moment if you're looking for names in deep NL-only leagues.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, who had a pitching surplus when they broke camp, now find themselves searching for healthy starters after a rash of injuries to Zack Greinke (fractured collarbone), Chris Capuano (strained left calf) and Chad Billingsley (Tommy John surgery). Ted Lilly, who is 37 and coming off shoulder issues, and Stephen Fife currently round out the rotation. We doubt the Dodgers are comfortable with that arrangement.
Whether the Blue consider trading for an arm outside the organization remains to be seen. If they don't and go with in-house options, Zach Lee may be their best bet. The team's No. 2 prospect entering this year, Lee is a physical pitcher -- he had committed to playing football for Louisiana State University before signing with LA -- who has simple mechanics, a low-90s fastball, a cutter and an improving changeup. In four starts with Double-A Chattanooga, he's 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA and 21 K's in 23 innings.
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound right-hander hasn't pitched above Class AA, though, so it may be a stretch to think the Dodgers would rely on him to bring up the back of their rotation this year, especially when they know that Greinke and Capuano will return eventually. It's not out of the realm of possibility, however, so keep your eyes peeled if you feel like speculating in keeper formats or any other cavernous leagues. Lee should be an option for the major league rotation next year out of spring training.
A few quick New York Mets tidbits: Travis d'Arnaud, the stud catching prospect acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays last winter in the trade that sent R.A. Dickey to Canada, suffered a non-displaced fracture of the first metatarsal bone in his left foot last week, and he'll miss around eight weeks. The good news is that he won't need surgery, but this is a big setback to his 2013 season, in which he was expected to join the Mets' roster quickly. John Buck is on fire at the plate, too, so he's earned the playing time. Don't expect d'Arnaud to make his Metropolitan debut until much later this year.
Juan Lagares was brought up from Triple-A Las Vegas yesterday at the expense of Kirk Nieuwenhuis. The struggles of Collin Cowgill in center field (.190-2-8) in the early going fueled this decision for Terry Collins. Matt Den Dekker (fractured right wrist) is also out with a broken wrist at Las Vegas.
Lagares, 24, is a minor league veteran of seven years and has below-average power (career-high nine homers in 2011). He's extremely athletic, though, and has above-average speed (21 thefts last year with Double-A Binghamton). It's unclear how often Lagares will play over Cowgill, and that'll likely depend on how Cowgill responds, but Lagares is worth a look in NL-only leagues if he finds his way into New York's lineup enough.
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.