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 Minnesota Twins lost another starting pitcher, Mike Pelfrey, over the weekend, this one to a back strain. Pedro Hernandez filled in on Sunday, but the Twinkies aren't comfortable giving him a rotation spot, with good reason. As a result, Kyle Gibson has been called up, and he'll make his much anticipated major league debut this Saturday against the Kansas City Royals.
The former first-round pick was 7-5 with a 3.01 ERA, 79 strikeouts and 28 walks in 15 starts (92 2/3 innings) for Triple-A Rochester in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. He's proven to be fully healthy from elbow reconstruction. There's a caveat, though: the Twins will almost certainly limit his innings down the stretch, especially since he tossed 95 1/3 innings in his last minor league campaign before surgery.
Springer rising quickly
The 6-foot-6, 210-pound righty uses his height to his advantage to work downhill and keep his fastball down in the zone; he induced more than 50 percent grounders at Rochester. His slider and changeup can both generate K's.
Minnesota often is careful in developing their pitching prospects, and Gibson won't be any different. They've also typically stressed location over strikeouts, and that'd seem to be a point of emphasis for Gibson coming off major surgery. Limiting his walks in the bigs will be of utmost importance to his initial success.
Gibson, 25, should certainly attract interest in AL-only leagues now that he's reached the highest level. Remaining skeptical in deep mixed affairs is justifiable, given the haziness over his remaining workload. Gibson's greatest value comes in long-term keeper formats.
Much like the rotation of the Twins, the Seattle Mariners' doesn't boast many exciting arms past Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at the moment. Jeremy Bonderman and Aaron Harang are merely veteran placeholders until Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen are ready. We've talked about both Walker and Hultzen in this space before.
A shoulder ailment for Hultzen has allowed Walker to leapfrog the lefty for a possible promotion later this year. After dominating Double-A Jackson (2.46 ERA, 96 K's in 84 IP), Walker was promoted to Triple-A Tacoma this week. He shined in his debut against Fresno, holding them to only three hits in six shutout innings.
Walker became the youngest starter to debut for the Rainiers since King Felix did it at 19 years old back in 2005. Walker is 20 years old and will legally be able to drink in early August. The athleticism and upside that Walker possesses is eerily similar to Hernandez, too, and if he continues to show poise beyond his years and pitch well at his new minor league stop, the M's will have a dilemma on their hands.
This right-hander has the stuff to become Seattle's next ace once Hernandez passes on the crown. His fastball could be one of the best on the minor league circuit, sitting consistently in the mid- to high-90s with late life. Finding consistency is the only task left for him, and once he's deemed ready, his strikeout upside will be through the roof.
It remains to be seen what the Mariners' plans are for Walker for the rest of 2013, but it's conceivable they'll give him a little taste of the bigs later this year if they continue to fall out of the AL West race. Walker should already be owned in AL systems and should be scooped up in most other leagues if he's called up.
George Springer remains at Double-A Corpus Christi, but his performance in the Texas League All-Star game Tuesday evening (two homers, three RBIs, All-Star MVP Award) reminds us that a major league call-up to the Houston Astros might not be far off. In fact, he's already on his way to Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he'll play alongside Houston's other two top prospects, Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart.
Bummer for Bundy
Springer, 23, had nothing left to prove at Class AA, hitting .297 with 19 jacks, 23 stolen bases and 55 RBIs in 323 plate appearances. The tall and speedy flycatcher is well on his way to his third straight 20-20 performance in his young career. He'll need to cut back on his swings and misses in order to dominate Class AAA pitching, but the rest of his game is very close to major-league ready.
Not one outfielder currently on the Astros' roster has the upside or ceiling of Springer, so the organization in rebuilding mode will find a place for him when they feel he's ready. They're not anywhere close to contending this year, so why not give him a September audition this year?
Next year, even if Springer doesn't crack the starting lineup out of spring training, he should eventually find his way onto the rosters of owners in all leagues.
Dan Haren's dismal season continued when the Washington Nationals placed him on the DL this week with right shoulder stiffness. In a surprising move, GM Mike Rizzo will bypass all of his Class AAA starting options in favor of 24-year-old Taylor Jordan, who was 7-0 with a sparkling 0.83 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 54 innings for Double-A Harrisburg. Jordan is expected to make his major league debut this Saturday.
Jordan, listed as the team's No. 17 prospect by MLB.com, basically came out of nowhere. He returned late last year from Tommy John surgery, and although the results weren't there, he proved to be healthy. He's continued to impress this year, walking only 15 in 90 1/3 innings while getting opponents to pound the ball into the ground with a heavy sinking heater.
Naturally, you should be skeptical of an obscure pitcher such as Jordan that ascended quickly to the majors without spending any time at the Class AAA level. Also not working in his favor for an extended major league stay: the fact that he's only four frames away from his career high in innings pitched in his first full season back from elbow reconstruction.
Jordan's success isn't blind luck; he's pounding the zone and isn't afraid to attack hitters. Doing that at the major league level, however, won't guarantee success. Haren's shoulder ailment isn't serious, either, so expect him back soon. Jordan is strictly a desperation play for NL-only owners.
- What a difference a week makes. Dylan Bundy (forearm) suffered a setback during his throwing program Monday, and this week he visited Dr. John Wilckens, followed by the dreaded Dr. James Andrews for the second time. That can't be good. The Baltimore Orioles' best pitching prospect needs Tommy John surgery and won't pitch again until sometime next year.
- A high ankle sprain continues to bother St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, and he's back on the 7-day minor league DL at Triple-A Memphis. His health might be the only thing keeping him from coming up, because he hasn't stopped hitting (.306/.341/.803). He could be up later this year, and when he is, he should be owned everywhere. Heck, folks are even stashing him now in mixed leagues.
- Robbie Erlin will make his second major league start for the San Diego Padres tonight against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clayton Richard's (shoulder) rotation spot. He impressed in an emergency start earlier this month and could find himself more innings in the second half for the Friars if they peddle Edinson Volquez at the trading deadline. Erlin will probably be strictly an NL-only commodity the remainder of 2013.
- Could Kyle Jensen earn a promotion to the Miami Marlins before Christian Yelich or Jake Marisnick? It's possible. The 25-year-old outfielder was recently moved to Triple-A New Orleans, where he's off to a hot start. He whiffs too much to help in BA, but he has big power (41 homers last two years). Giancarlo Stanton and/or Logan Morrison could be dealt this summer, leaving an opening for Jensen.
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.