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.
Before Gerrit Cole's standout debut Tuesday night (we talked about the Pittsburgh Pirates' blue-chipper in Monday's Diamond Market), the Seattle Mariners tried stealing the prospect spotlight by summoning Mike Zunino from Triple-A Tacoma. He didn't play last night, though.
This resembles more of a "warm bodies" move than general manager Jack Zduriencik and company dubbing the 22-year-old ready. Sure, the former Florida Gator's 11 homers in his first 185 Class AAA at-bats constitutes a solid early-career run for a catcher, but the .238 BA and 28.4 strikeout rate say he's failing to adapt after a hot start. Though college stars (especially Golden Spikes Award winners) don't always need a lengthy farm tune-up, his speedy journey immediately after being taken third overall last June may account for some of the letdown.
On the surface, Seattle has little left to lose by playing Zunino nearly every day, but Kelly Shoppach still holds some value in this lineup as a receiver. As polished as Zunino's makeup may become, it's not there yet, given the holes he's shown at Tacoma along with a dip in liner rate, which justifies his below-standards .279 BABIP. To be fair, his June liner rate of 30.4 and BABIP of .348 may prove he's starting to square up better.
If he stays up for at least a month, using him as a second catcher in mixed leagues lowers base expectations for immediate contribution. If his power continues to translate, then bully; you have a useful No. 2. Unfortunately, AL-only owners who've been counting on him to save their squad may wind up disappointed. His long-term potential (minimum upside of Jonathan Lucroy, dream ceiling of Buster Posey) must not blind you from his current weaknesses.
Wil Myers stashers don't like that the Tampa Bay Rays refuted a tweet (source, intentions unknown) last weekend from MLB Network Radio's Jim Bowden that Myers, 22, would don the big club's threads within a week to 10 days. The organization said it wants the fly-catcher to keep developing at Class AAA Durham and that the progress Tampa's offense has made will allow them to keep a conservative timetable. Myers, on the other hand, has made his case with three homers in his last four games; he's posted a .285 clip and a .284 ISO since April ended.
Myers, hold your horses
Also sparking the kindling is the impending closing of the important but vaguely defined window after which a call-up would avoid earning a Super Two boost for 2016 arbitration. Early estimations from front-office folks, as reported by ESPN New York's Adam Rubin (in prognosticating the New York Mets' plans for SP Zack Wheeler), say this year's breaking point could fall anywhere from yesterday to June 20, the latter being closer to certain that a player will avoid the classification.
So as considered by Sports Illustrated's Jay Jaffe, Bowden is at least on track in pegging the right time Myers could appear. Myers has put some early-season body dings behind him and looks ready, but it's hard to think the Rays will shoehorn him into a lineup that's clicking unless they're craving a righty platoon bat. If they remain healthy and effective, Tampa probably won't consider taking him from Durham until early July, just to be ultra-safe. That being said, this shouldn't prevent you from grabbing him where you can.
The Minnesota Twins have nurtured third baseman Miguel Sano, who's in a dead heat on most team prospect rankings with Byron Buxton. After two years of rookie ball and a full season with low Single-A Beloit in 2012, Sano lit up high Single-A Fort Myers (.330/.424/.655) in 206 at-bats and has been promoted to Double-A New Britain at age 20.
Questions surround the Dominican Republic native's true age, but no one is puzzled over what he offers. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder has homered once every 16.1 at-bats, displaying his primary skill with authority.
He'll get a test against more refined breaking balls from players older than him, and his strikeout penchant should force another extended stretch at a level. If a talented player excels at Double-A, of course, anything can happen, notably since Minny promoted Aaron Hicks before this season after his first full season at that stage, and league-wide willingness to use Double-A as a stepping stone has increased.
Sano's Giancarlo Stanton comparison has legs -- in approach, not body type, as Sano is quite a bit lighter. Physically, he more closely echoes Manny Machado, but he hasn't played the hot corner as fluidly as the Baltimore Orioles' dynamo has. Sano may not be manning his long-term position yet, but they'll give him the chance to embrace third.
AL-only redraft combatants may have already stashed this highly touted dynasty commodity, but any expectation of him helping aside from a September cameo seems lofty. He may pull a Hicks next spring and fight for a big-league roster spot, though, especially with the underwhelming hot-corner options Minnesota has sported.
Craving more thump? Javier Baez homered four times on Monday for advanced Class A Daytona, becoming only the second hitter in the Florida State League's 94-year history to accomplish the feat. The 20-year-old shortstop, who also drove in seven runs during that contest, has 13 taters and 44 RBIs on the year, all at Daytona, to go along with a .291/.339/.570 line.
Singleton moving up quickly?
He reminds us that the Chicago Cubs have a potential dilemma when he's ripe for a promotion. Starlin Castro still looks like a fixture, but he's had a down year so far and might be vulnerable in the coming years if he doesn't take another step forward at the plate and with his focus.
Baez's bat speed has been lauded by Baseball America as Gary Sheffield-esque, and his boom stick for a shortstop stands in select minor-league company with the likes of Xander Bogearts. Too bad Baez's furious attack in his hacks has given him strikeout problems, which if ever-present at the lower farm stops could signal even more issues, especially if his homers don't follow him up the ladder.
Late 2014 would be the earliest period to expect Baez to face major-league pitching. Theo Epstein and company will want to see more plate discipline from the Puerto Rican before turning him loose. If Baez can acquire more patience, he could boast a serious clout advantage at his peak for a spotty position.
- Another tater binge, this time from another high-strikeout, tons-of-power prospect. Texas Rangers third sacker Joey Gallo (Jerry Callo?) cleared the fences thrice Tuesday for Class A Hickory. Turning 19 in November, he's an intriguing long-term CI, but his 6-foot-5, 205-pound build may force him to switch leather as he emerges. How will his plate discipline fare as he climbs?
- Jonathan Singleton was promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi last week, not long after returning from his 50-game marijuana-prompted suspension. He's carried himself well as he's worked his way back. Considering his .284-21-79 stats at Class AA last year, this looks like a fast track that could bring the 21-year-old up to the Houston Astros this summer. Consider grabbing him in stash-friendly, cavernous-mixed formats. Seriously, what does Jeff Luhnow's club have to lose?
- Nick Castellanos has discovered his plate discipline at Triple-A Toledo, walking 33 times compared to 48 strikeouts. Though he's not a true power prospect, the 21-year-old's 10 homers in 262 at-bats this year remind us of his multiple-category stability that should make him an undervalued long-term fantasy asset. Maybe the Detroit Tigers will call on him later in the season.
- Some of Mastersball's weekly contributions to KFFL touched on the 2013 MLB Entry Draft. Read Lawr Michaels' latest Tumbling Dice and Rob Leibowitz's first glance at the youngsters on offense.
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.