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.
So much for Dan Duquette's statement last week that Kevin Gausman wouldn't be called up to start for the Baltimore Orioles any time soon. He'll be brought up to start Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays, in part, thanks to a lack of better options. Gausman was pitching well at Double-A Bowie, though, and Dylan Bundy (forearm) is rehabbing an injury. Now that Gausman is in the rotation, although it's unknown how long he'll stay, he should be owned in all AL-only formats and considered in deep mixed leagues.
Giancarlo Stanton (strained hamstring) and Logan Morrison (knee surgery), the Miami Marlins' best bats in a young and punchless lineup, remain on the sidelines. Christian Yelich, widely considered the team's best offensive if not overall prospect, is hot at Double-A Jacksonville and may be in line for a call-up soon.
Won't be blinded by MLB lights
Yelich, 21, impressed the Fish in spring training enough so to make him a serious candidate to win a roster spot. That didn't happen, and then he started off in the minors with a bruised left heel that put him on the seven-day disabled list. Since then, though, he's picked up where he left off this spring, hitting .308 with six home runs, 25 RBIs and four stolen bases in 117 at-bats for Jacksonville. He also has nine doubles, five triples and a slugging percentage of .624.
Jake Marisnick was often thought of as more polished than Yelich and in line for a promotion to the bigs before Yelich, but an injury of his own (broken left hand) slowed him down (.253/.310/.410 in 75 at-bats with Jacksonville).
Yelich has caught fire in May, and he's more of a pure all-around hitter than Marisnick. The California native makes plenty of hard contact to all fields and his power is developing into what could easily become an elite level. His advanced approach at the plate and short, quick swing from the left side give him BA upside, as well. Yelich's above-average wheels make him a 20-20 candidate at the next level.
Fantasy owners looking for the next prospect that could immediately pay offensive dividends upon his call-up should look no further. Yelich showed in spring training that he wasn't overwhelmed by major league talent, and he has the kind of makeup that could help him succeed immediately in the Show. Justin Ruggiano currently has center field locked down, but Yelich is the long-term solution there, so it won't matter in the end.
Probably the only thing holding Yelich back at this point is the Super Two expiration date in mid-June; if the Marlins bring him up before them, they'll start his free-agent clock early. Some may be worried that he hasn't seen a pitch at Class AAA, but for a player of his abilities, that should be of minimal concern. Plus, the top minor league step is more important for pitchers' development than position players.
Yelich deserves to be owned in all fantasy formats when he eventually is brought up to Miami.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have put prospect hounds on notice by considering bringing up Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson, per skipper Don Mattingly. Neither outfield prospect was considered likely to make an impact for the Blue this season, but cellar status in the National League West and an anemic offense have pushed L.A. to the point of desperation.
Puig, much like Yelich, had an amazing spring season and was in consideration for a roster spot, but that proved unrealistic because of the fact that he'd never played above Class A. Both youngsters are destroying Class AA pitching at Chattanooga right now. Puig, 22, is hitting .314 with six jacks and 24 RBIs and Pederson, 21, is batting .327 with eight long balls and 20 RBIs.
Puig is likely better known in prospect circles because of his defection from Cuba and his large $42 million deal. Puig has raw power but also solid plate discipline, which is rare to find in such a young talent. His above-average speed (10 thefts at Chattanooga) gives him plenty of upside in Los Angeles. This could be another Yoenis Cespedes in the making.
Pederson has a similar profile to Puig, but he hits from the left side. He has excellent power, too, as evidenced by his 16 home runs in the second half of the season with High Single-A Rancho Cucamonga last year. He can run, as well, and he has 13 stolen bags with Chattanooga already.
Matt Kemp has been a big disappointment at this juncture, and Andre Ethier just isn't as productive as he once was. Carl Crawford has already battled through several nagging injuries and may be a liability in the long run.
The Dodgers clearly could use an infusion of energy and power to their outfield stable, but bringing up Puig and Peterson, or both, could be a rash decision. You'll have to take notice if that happens, but don't expect the power to translate immediately for either if this comes to fruition. This situation seems rather unlikely, anyway.
Be hesitant to overvalue either of these commodities in mixed leagues if the Dodgers put them on the fast track to Hollywood soon. Puig will be the more popular target among fantasy gamers, but both would deserve ownership in NL-only formats, depending on how much playing time they'd see.
The San Francisco Giants placed Ryan Vogelsong (broken right hand) on the DL yesterday, and the right-hander will be out six to eight weeks after having surgery. The Gigantes haven't named a rotation replacement. The easiest and most temporary solution might be moving Chad Gaudin from the bullpen, but that doesn't spark much interest for fantasy owners. Shane Loux (4-1, 3.68 ERA at Triple-A Fresno) is another uninspiring candidate.
Also at Fresno, Michael Kickham (2-4, 4.72 ERA and 50 K's in nine starts) is the most intriguing option. After an 0-4 start, the 24-year-old southpaw has won two straight and given up two earned runs in 11 innings over that span. He's a physical specimen at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and fires a low-90s fastball at hitters, as well as a solid slider and improved changeup. An impressive showing at Double-A Richmond in 2012 put him on the prospect map in San Fran.
Even if Kickham doesn't get the call to replace Vogelsong, don't rule him out if the initial replacement struggles. Vogelsong will have a long recovery, so the window is open for Kickham to make an impact. He induces plenty of ground balls to be effective at AT&T Park, and his improved strikeout rate at Class AAA this year should be noted.
Kickham surely has upside, but you can probably wait to own him in deep mixed universes until he earns a stay in the rotation or has a favorable matchup.
We already knew Tyler Lyons would fill in for the injured Jaime Garcia (shoulder) for his first major league start versus the San Diego Padres tonight. Now we know that Garcia is likely done for the year after Dr. James Andrews suggested Garcia undergo season-ending surgery to fix a partial tear his labrum.
Lyons, who went 2-1 with a 4.47 ERA in eight starts (46 1/3 frames) for Triple-A Memphis, might just be a temporary solution. Lyons was the ideal candidate for this Wednesday start since his next Memphis start was lined up for the same day. Also, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness and Joe Kelly aren't stretched out to make the jump to the rotation.
Lyons is a short and stocky left-hander that tops out in the high 80s with his fastball. He has good poise and command on the bump, but he won't be blowing anyone away in the majors. If he doesn't keep hitters off balance and hit his spots, he could be toast, quickly.
With that possibility in mind, Michael Wacha could be making his major league debut soon, too. The upside here is far above Lyons', and this former first-rounder displays a mid-90s heater and mixes in good curveballs, sliders and changeups. He plays the part of a rotation mainstay much more than Lyons does.
At Memphis this year, Wacha is a perfect 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings over nine starts. Command has been a problem for him in the past, but his three-quarters arm slot has worked out well for him in that arena so far this year. Working against this tall (6-foot-6) righty hurler is the fact that this is his first full professional campaign in the minors after being drafted in 2012.
This is why Lyons and John Gast got nods over him to replace Garcia and Jake Westbrook (elbow), respectively. However, if Wacha continues to perform well in Class AAA ball, the Redbirds may be forced to take a look at him in their rotation. That'll also depend on a variety of factors, though, like how serious Westbrook's injury is and whether Chris Carpenter (thoracic outlet syndrome) can make another miraculous comeback.
Keep Wacha on your radar in deeper leagues. Those in keeper and dynasty formats will have a little more urgency to lock him into a roster spot if they're interested.
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.