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 Boston Red Sox found themselves in a bit of a bind in the bullpen yesterday when they had to place Joel Hanrahan on the 15-day DL with a flexor pronator strain in his right forearm. Andrew Bailey (biceps tightness) landed on the DL the day before. As a result, the BoSox have shifted some things around, including moving Felix Doubront (3-1, 5.67 ERA and 14 BBs in 27 IP) from the rotation to the bullpen. Allen Webster, 23, was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket and will start against the Minnesota Twins today.
Springer in his step
Webster had made four starts for Pawtucket and was 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 20 innings pitched. Last year between Double-A Portland and Double-A Chattanooga, he went a combined 6-9 with a 3.86 ERA and 129 K's in 130 2/3 frames (29 games, 24 starts). He started the year off slowly with Portland but finished very strong at Chattanooga.
He made a spot start for his major league debut on April 21 against the Kansas City Royals and went six innings while giving up five hits, two earned runs, walking one and fanning five. Scouts and evaluators are heralding Webster as the best arm in Boston's minor league system right now, and the 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander features a heater that reaches 100 mph. He complements that with a Derek Lowe-like sinker that induces a multitude of ground-ball outs when he's on his game. The one knock on Webster at this point has been his inability to throw strikes consistently; he sported a 4.2 BB/9 rate at Class AA last year.
That won't fly in the bigs or the American League East, but a 26-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his four starts at Pawtucket this year is a step in the right direction. There is serious upside here, and Webster has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation hurler. On a team having success such as the Red Sox, that's very intriguing for fantasy owners looking for some wins.
It's a bit unclear if this will just be another spot start for Webster, however. John Farrell initially indicated that Doubront would likely return to the rotation after this week. The bullpen has been taxed recently and they feel he can temporarily give them the help they need there. Doubront has struggled recently in the rotation, though, so Webster may get to stick around, depending on how he fares tonight. Webster could easily perform well and run with the job, so he's worth considering in deep mixed leagues based on upside alone. AL-only leaguers should add him now and act accordingly depending on which direction Boston goes.
The Philadelphia Phillies are going with another in-house starting pitching option to replace Roy Halladay (shoulder inflammation) in the rotation. That name is Tyler Cloyd. He'll receive the nod versus the Arizona Diamondbacks this Friday. Cloyd has spent the past two seasons pitching for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and he was 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 35 innings (six starts) this year. Last year, he went 12-1 with a 2.35 ERA and 93 punchouts in 22 starts. He received a September call-up in 2012 and went 2-2 and allowed 18 earned runs while striking out 30 in six starts.
Cloyd, 26 next week, doesn't come with a lot of flash. He throws his fastball in the upper 80s and occasionally touches 90 mph. A curveball and changeup round out his repertoire. He's a control-based pitcher that can get hit around if he fails to locate his pitches, as evidenced by a 10.3 hits-per-nine average in the minors this year. He was striking out more than eight hitters per nine this year, but he has a 7.3 career K/9 in six minor league seasons, so don't expect the K's to be flowing in a Phillies uni.
We don't know yet how long Philadelphia expects Halladay to be out, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him miss more than two weeks. The Phillies need to get him right, and they'll take all the time they need, most likely. Cloyd will have time to prove he is capable of holding down the fort in the meantime. John Lannan (knee) would normally be an option to challenge Cloyd for the job, but he's expected to be out until around the All-Star break.
Cloyd wasn't setting the world on fire at Class AAA this year and shouldn't be expected to dominate major league hitters once he arrives. He will, however, be a serviceable pitcher for those looking for pitching help in NL-only formats. Mixed-league owners can probably pass for now.
The Houston Astros shuffled their outfield stable up earlier this week because, as GM Jeff Luhnow noted, they had too many outfielders with similar shortcomings on their roster. Basically, the team has been swinging and missing way too often. That's the understatement of the year! George Springer was not part of the new outfield reinforcement movement, but if the Astros' flycatchers continue to underwhelm all season, we may just see him be called up.
Every day, he's Hultzen, Hultzen
For now, though, Luhnow was adamant that Springer will remain at Double-A Corpus Christi, where he's hitting .289 with 11 home runs and 27 RBIs in just 121 at-bats. He also has nine stolen bases in 11 attempts. Springer is tall for an outfielder at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, but he's extremely athletic and has the speed needed to cover adequate ground in center field. He has topped 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in both of his full seasons in the minor leagues, and he should carry that 20-20 ability with him to the majors when he's ready.
He strikes out a tad too much to project solid batting average growth into Class AAA and the major league level right now, but if he closes some of the holes in his swing, he could become an elite fantasy baseball contributor once he reaches Houston and earns an everyday role in the outfield.
A September call-up is realistic in 2013. We already know the Astros are rebuilding, and it probably won't hurt them to give Springer a look late this year before he comes into spring camp competing for a roster spot in 2014. There are plenty of other young outfielders currently on the 40-man roster, however, and they'll be given a shot first. Springer should already be on the radar of keeper leaguers, but he should be starting to make his way into sight in deep mixed leagues next season. Continue to monitor his progress at Class AA and if he gets promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City sometime this summer.
Danny Hultzen, the Seattle Mariners' top prospect pitching arm other than Taijuan Walker, was scratched from his start at Triple-A Tacoma in late April and was diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff and tendonitis in his left shoulder. He was told to rest for two weeks, and that was back on April 26. Before his injury, Hultzen was 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA and 25 K's in 22 2/3 innings (four starts).
Hultzen is an extremely advanced pitcher for his age (23), even with only one full season of minor league experience under his belt. He dominated at Double-A Jackson in 2012 before being called up to Tacoma, where he struggled with a 5.92 ERA and 43 walks in 48 2/3 frames. He had seemingly corrected his command problems at Tacoma this year before being injured with only six walks in his four starts.
Hultzen uses his tall, 6-foot-3, 200-pound body to give hitters a tough look with a high arm slot. This also creates excellent downward movement on his pitches. His changeup is his out pitch, and if he can perfect that pitch to complement his slider and fastball, Hultzen will be a high-K-upside pitcher at the next level.
His injury puts a damper on his inevitable ascension to The Show, however, and fantasy managers eager to own him this season may have to hold off until 2014. What's even more frustrating is that before he was sidelined, he looked like he was first in line for a promotion to the M's rotation. That honor could now go to any number of pitchers at Tacoma: Jeremy Bonderman, Blake Beavan or Erasmo Ramirez.
Don't completely count Hultzen out yet, though, in keeper leagues or even cavernous mixed formats. He could rebound from his injury soon, and if he picks up where he left off in April, Seattle may come calling. There's an argument to be made that he'll warrant ownership in all leagues if he's called up this season.
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.