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Fantasy Baseball Player Prospecting: Didi Gregorius, Oswaldo Arcia, more

By Keith Hernandez
Edited by Tim Heaney

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.

On Tuesday, the Arizona Diamondbacks learned that second baseman Aaron Hill would need to miss four to six weeks with a broken left hand. The Snakes are going through quite the infield shuffle as a result; Martin Prado will move to the keystone and Eric Chavez will become the regular third baseman in the meantime. Shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius was called up from Triple-A Reno to provide more infield insurance.

Minnesota Twins OF Aaron Hicks
Hicks might not stick

The 23-year-old from the Netherlands was acquired last December in a three-team trade involving the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. In February, an MRI exam showed a slight tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, but he didn't need surgery. Gregorius had just started playing games for Reno last week after rehabbing this spring, and his first game in the field was Monday night. In seven games (31 at-bats) he was hitting .387 with two home runs and two RBIs. Despite the limited action in the minors coming off his surgery, Kirk Gibson said he's ready.

Gregorius is one of the more slick-fielding shortstop prospects in the league, and his defense is widely considered major league-caliber already. He possesses all of the tools needed to play the position adequately: a strong arm, excellent range and a great glove. His bat, on the other hand, is lacking. He has only moderate bat speed and not much power to speak of. In 501 at-bats last year with Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville in the Cincinnati Reds organization, he hit .265 with seven home runs and 54 RBIs and just three stolen bases.

The D-backs haven't revealed exactly how often they plan to play Gregorius, but expect it to be enough to warrant an addition in NL-only leagues. Gibson and management indicated when they first acquired Gregorius that when they brought him up it wouldn't just be to ride the pine. Incumbent shortstop Cliff Pennington is a switch hitter and has experience at second base, too, so the infield arrangement can be shuffled to get Gregorius in there at the 6. Chavez is an aging vet that probably can't be relied on heavily at the hot corner, so we could see Prado move back and forth between third and second often.

While Hill will be out for a while, Willie Bloomquist (oblique) could return before that, which might push Gregorius back to the minors. Bloomquist is dealing with a Grade 2 right oblique strain and was expected to miss two to four weeks when initially diagnosed at the tail end of March. Oblique strains can be tricky, but if he doesn't have a setback, he could be nearing a return. Regardless, Gregorius should be owned in single-universe formats since he should be playing enough.

***

It's been a whirlwind couple of days for Minnesota Twins outfield prospect Oswaldo Arcia. He was called up Monday when Wilkin Ramirez went on paternity leave and made his major league debut. He recorded his first big league hit in three at-bats but was sent back down to make room for Ramirez yesterday. Today, he was brought back up with Darin Mastroianni (ankle) landing on the 15-day disabled list.

This time, Arcia, who will be 22 next month, should receive pretty regular playing time in the Twins outfield for the next couple of weeks. Josh Willingham has been dealing with the flu in recent days, but he's the only other real proven outfielder in the mix right now. Ramirez and fellow rookie prospect Aaron Hicks are the others, and Hicks is off to a rough start, with two singles in 45 at-bats (20 strikeouts, six walks). Hicks has looked, well, very overmatched, and he was dropped to eighth in the lineup last night. Arcia will get more opportunities if Hicks continues to struggle.

The 21-year-old Venezuelan was beginning his first stint with Triple-A Rochester this year before being called up. He had a breakout season with High Single-A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain in 2012, setting career highs in doubles (36) and home runs (17). Arcia has a natural hitting approach and solid plate discipline despite the fact that he does come up empty on occasion (107 K's and 51 walks last year). However, he packs a punch in his compact and thick build (6-foot, 220 pounds).

He bats from the left side, so it's possible that Ron Gardenhire will prefer to platoon him with Ramirez with Mastroianni on the shelf. Like Hicks, Arcia doesn't have any major league experience (other than Monday) as he enters the picture in Minnesota, so there is always the risk that he falls flat and struggles with the top level of competition. Arcia does have five-plus major league seasons under his belt, though, and his lefty stick has the kind of power that can make some noise over a short period of time if you're searching for a spark in American League universes.

Colorado Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado
Domo Arigato, Mr. Arenado?

It's still very early in the minor league season, but Colorado Rockies third sacker Nolan Arenado is off to a hot start after disappointing many last season. The 22-year-old is hitting a sizzling .463 with two homers and 15 RBIs in his first 11 games (41 at-bats) for Triple-A Colorado Springs of the Pacific Coast League. He was also impressive this spring for Colorado, hitting .278 with four dingers in 54 at-bats.

Arenado underwhelmed last year while at Double-A Tulsa, but he still put up a .285 average and 12 homers after hitting 20 long balls the previous year at Single-A Modesto. Whether he develops into a 20-plus-homer threat at the major league level is still up in the air, but Arenado uses the entire field and has a short, compact stroke that makes him a safe BA contributor. The PCL and, eventually, Coors Field should aid his power numbers, too, and this is a kid that doesn't strike out much.

He's clearly the Rockies' third baseman of the future. Chris Nelson is currently keeping the seat warm until the organization feels the time is right, and that may not be far off, especially if Arenado keeps destroying the hitter-friendly PCL. Nelson isn't lighting the world on fire (.268-0-3 in 12 games) and doesn't offer Colorado much offensive upside, either. If he suffers an injury, you better believe Arenado will be the one to replace him. He should be owned in all formats when the time comes.

***

For the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, sleeper prospect Luis Jimenez has been filling in at the hot corner for Alberto Callaspo (calf), who hasn't played since injuring his calf last Thursday. Callaspo and the Angels are hoping he can avoid the disabled list, but if he isn't able to come back later this week, that'll become a real possibility.

In Callaspo's absence, Jimenez, 25, has hit .438 with three doubles in 16 at-bats. He's known as a free swinger but squares the ball up when he makes contact, and he has some real pop. He hit 16 homers with Triple-A Salt Lake last year and 15 each of the two seasons before that with Double-A Arkansas and High Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. Jimenez will rarely take a walk, and his average could easily suffer in the bigs in a large sample size because of this. His defense isn't anything to write home about, either. For now, he's a stopgap in AL-only leagues, but he'll become a little bit more intriguing if Callaspo has to be disabled. Don't write Jimenez off completely if he sticks around.



 


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