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.
Speculators and eager fantasy baseball owners are throwing Minnesota Twins starting pitching prospect Kyle Gibson's name around frequently recently. The Twinkies could use an electric arm in their rotation, and Pedro Hernandez, although he settled down a bit and won his second game Monday against the Chicago White Sox, hasn't been carrying his weight (5.79 ERA, 15 K's and nine BBs in 28 innings over five starts).
When will they Wheeler him in?
Gibson, 25, is more than 19 months removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow that caused him to miss most of the 2012 minor league season. He performed well in the Arizona Fall League last year and has continued that success down on the farm with Triple-A Rochester this year, posting a 2-5 record with a 3.92 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 43 2/3 frames (eight starts). He's only walked 12.
The University of Missouri alum has a major league pitching frame at 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, and he uses his height to his advantage to throw downhill. His heater also creates nice sinking action to keep him down in the strike zone often. He has strikeout upside at the next level thanks to an above-average slider and a changeup that induces plenty of empty hacks from opponents. The skills are undeniably there, but health has been his biggest obstacle in his young career. That appears to be coming around now, too: "He's 100 percent," GM Terry Ryan said Tuesday, April 23. "There's no question -- his arm, delivery, his mechanics. Everything is in good order, which is encouraging."
The Twinkies have high hopes for Gibson, and it's evident as to why after he recently tossed a two-hit shutout in 6 2/3 innings. Even though he's in the clear from his recovery from TJS, Gibson is the club's No. 1 prospect, and like most high-profile pitchers coming off elbow reconstruction, he'll have his workload limited. The Twins have a certain limit in mind this year.
With Gibson's limitations considered, Minnesota's current stable of starters -- Kevin Correia, Scott Diamond, Mike Pelfrey, Vance Worley and Hernandez -- is one of the weakest in the bigs. Gibson was a realistic competitor for the fifth rotation post this spring, so you have to figure he'll get a chance to dip his toe into the major league waters at some point in 2013. That might not be until the tail end of the season's schedule, though, so he may not have much value in mixed redraft leagues. Keeper leaguers and should be more interested, and he'll find his way onto rosters in all leagues in 2014.
Anthony Rendon looked a little overmatched and a bit like a deer in headlights when he made the jump from Double-A Harrisburg to the Washington Nationals in April to replace Ryan Zimmerman (hamstring) at third base last month. Rendon hit .240 with six hits and seven strikeouts in 25 at-bats (eight games), and he also committed three errors. If you wrote him off because of that, you're making a mistake.
Rendon is hitting .436 (17-for-39) with two long balls and nine RBIs in 11 games since returning to Harrisburg, and he's leading the Eastern League in average (.356), on-base percentage (.496) and slugging percentage (.609). The dude is a natural hitter despite what he showed in the majors in his first taste. Rendon has a natural power stroke and has learned to put backspin on the ball to help it travel further. He can also hit for a high average.
Third base is his natural position, and one that he plays extremely well, but the presence of Zimm could block him for a while. Is second base his future position in D.C.? It could be, although he'll have to put in the work to become effective at the keystone. But, heck, if Matt Carpenter did it in St. Louis, Rendon could surely pull it off. Danny Espinosa's struggles (.175/.206/.325 in 126 plate appearances) are causing Davey Johnson to look for other possibilities at the position.
There's a decent chance that Rendon shows his face in Washington again this year, whether it be at second base or the hot corner because Zimmerman finds his way back to the disabled list. If he does, don't pass negative judgment on him because of his showing in April.
Forget Tyler Skaggs. Archie Bradley is making some serious noise in the Arizona Diamondbacks system through a month and a half. (Well, don't forget completely about Skaggs... You get the gist.) Bradley's numbers: 4-0, a 1.05 ERA in eight starts (42 2/3 innings), 63 K's, 29 hits allowed and 16 walks. He went 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA in five starts for High Single-A Visalia before being promoted to Double-A Mobile, where he's also 2-0 with a microscopic 0.64 ERA in three starts.
Bradley is still very young (20 years old), and Class AA will be a huge test for him. But if his first three starts at the level are any indication, he's well on his way to putting himself on the map within the organization and on the fantasy radar for upcoming seasons. He's tall and big (6-foot-4, 225 pounds), and some scouts already think he may have the best arm in the Snakes' system.
He makes his living off easily generating mid-90s heaters, and he's been known to dial it up to triple digits on occasion. Perhaps his improved changeup and curveball have been responsible for his scorching start to 2013. Bradley clearly had nothing left to prove at the Single-A level, though, after fanning 152 batters in 136 innings last year. In his three minor leagues seasons to this point, he's sporting a K/9 of 10.9.
It'd be a stretch to think that Bradley can make a significant impact for the D-backs this season, especially with the likes of Skaggs and Randall Delgado ahead of him at Triple-A Reno. Is a September call-up in his future this year? Maybe, but don't get your hopes up. If Bradley continues to impress, however, we'll probably see him begin next year at Reno and be a realistic option for Kirk Gibson's rotation. Right now, only those in dynasty or keeper leagues should have their ears perked up.
New York Mets top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler will miss his next start with Triple-A Las Vegas and will be examined in the Big Apple thanks to soreness in his right clavicle. The Metropolitans view this as a minor injury and are just being ultra precautious with their top pitching arm.
Wheeler, who'll turn 23 on May 30, is 2-1 with a 3.74 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings pitched in eight starts at Las Vegas. It would appear that Wheeler is extremely close to being ready to pitch in Flushing, but the team isn't so sure just yet. New York had the same plan of action for Matt Harvey, and that worked out quite well, so they want to play it similarly with Wheeler.
Wheeler probably won't have the type of success initially like Harvey did, but it's inevitable that he'll be called up this season (possibly later this summer), especially with the concerns surrounding their current rotation. Wheeler is worth the shot in all formats once he gets the call.
Baltimore Orioles executive Dan Duquette silenced prospect junkies by saying this week that Kevin Gausman won't be promoted to Triple-A Norfolk in the immediate future, and he's definitely not a candidate for a promotion to Baltimore any time soon. This came in light of the fact that the O's need some fresh rotation fillers thanks to injuries to Wei-Yin Chen (strained oblique) and Miguel Gonzalez (blister on thumb).
Gausman, the former LSU product, is 1-4 at Double-A Bowie but has a 3.35 ERA, 39 K's in 40 1/3 innings (seven starts) and a 1.09 WHIP. Solid work, no doubt, but it's too soon to start thinking fantasy baseball contributions for this 22-year-old. Plus, B'more has veterans Freddy Garcia and Jair Jurrjens that can opt out of their contracts if they aren't given a shot. The Orioles will exhaust those options first, and Steven Johnson is another fill-in that's already seen a spot start.
The injury to Dylan Bundy (forearm) is the main reason Gausman is receiving attention for a potential call-up this early in the year. If Baltimore decides to dip into their pool of pitching prospects late this season, Gausman will probably get the call before the rehabbing Bundy now, but that's too far off to consider for anyone one playing in non-keeper leagues.
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.