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Fantasy Baseball Player Prospecting: AFL rosters announced, door open for Taijuan Walker, more

By Tim Heaney
Edited by Nicholas Minnix

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.

Preliminary rosters for the 2013 Arizona Fall League were announced Tuesday. For the full initial group, head to Baseball America (no subscription required for this one).

Chicago Cubs INF Javier Baez
Baez headed to AFL

The grooming league will showcase, as usual, many of baseball's top prospects, including Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton; Chicago Cubs shortstop Javier Baez, outfielder Alfred Almora and third baseman Kris Bryant; Oakland Athletics shortstop Addison Russell; Miami Marlins third baseman Colin Moran and starting pitcher Andrew Heaney; and Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Alen Hanson.

Danny Hultzen will return, as well, trying to make up for a season marred with shoulder woes. Per BA, the Seattle Mariners will probably take a longer look at how the left-hander's awkward delivery may have affected his development. Following a nagging oblique strain, San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Kyle Crick will also look to take a step forward, even though this typically isn't a league where pitchers dominate.


The Mariners' designation of Aaron Harang for assignment could signal the arrival of Taijuan Walker, one of the game's premier young arms, to start as soon as Friday.

After leaving Double-A Jackson in ruins with a 2.46 ERA, 96 K's and 30 walks in 84 innings, he's stumbled a tad for Triple-A Tacoma, but merely to the tune of a 3.61 ERA with 64 K's and 27 walks in 57 1/3 innings. His control, unsurprisingly, took a dip at the highest level, but fantasy players in need of a tide-turner won't let that deter them from bidding.

A hyper-aggressive promotion to Jackson last season threw him off, but his adjustment this year shows budding maturity from the right-hander, who can drink alcohol legally in the States as of last week. He's thrown only 14 2/3 more frames than last year but probably will only get a few starts for Seattle to conserve his progress.

His darting mid-90s fastball and looping but baffling slurve fuel his elite potential. Regardless of the club's potential restrictions on Walker, expect a fake-baseball bidding war, even in mixed leagues.


David Holmberg, meanwhile, made his major league debut last night for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He allowed three runs on six hits and a trio of free passes in only 3 2/3 frames. The southpaw didn't punch out a batter. It's uncertain whether he'll get another try, but Class AA Mobile is headed to the Southern League postseason, so he may be sent back down soon.

In 25 starts and 152 1/3 innings there, the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder posted a 2.66 ERA with an impressive 2.78 walks per nine. The 6.80 K/9, on the other hand, shows he more so relies on deception. His average four-seam fastball last night, per PITCHf/x, was 88.3. Holmberg's approach leans on his diverse arsenal, notably his hammer curveball.

Holmberg doesn't possess Archie Bradley's power arm but might have some of Tyler Skaggs' moxie. Fantasy players with minor league rosters (optimally, NL-only) shouldn't run to grab him despite those shiny numbers. If they keep nearly a full team of farmhands, on the other hand, he's an acceptable bottom-level stash who could fight for a spot in next year's rotation.


Detroit Tigers prospect Nick Castellanos
Tigers to call on Castellanos?

The New York Mets finally shipped out Marlon Byrd (on his own T-shirt night, no less) along with John Buck. Infield prospect Dilson Herrera comes over from Pittsburgh, accompanied by a player to be named later.

Herrera, 19, hits plenty of line drives and should be a serviceable offensive option if he reaches his ceiling. At Class A West Virginia, the 5-foot-10, 150-pound stick showed decent pop with 11 homers in 423 at-bats, over which he also batted .265, swiped 11 bags, plated 56 runs, slugged .421 and on-based .330. The Colombian has been aggressive with his swing selection, but Sandy Alderson probably likes his fledgling ability to get on base.

Opinions vary on Herrera's defense at second base. His range is questionable, but South Atlantic League managers voted him the best keystone defender in a recent survey. Still, New York could use any young middle-infield talent, let alone one that played in this summer's Futures Game (he went 0-for-1) and has also played a bit of the hot corner.

Expect Herrera to start 2014 at New York's Class A Savannah; he won't earn big-league consideration until 2015 at the (very) earliest -- more like 2016 or later. Either way, he's a project on whom the Muts and dynasty diggers can afford to take a flyer.


Extra bases:

  • Chris Colabello's monster campaign for Triple-A Rochester (.352-24-76, 1.066 OPS in 338 at-bats) earned him both the International League MVP and Rookie of the Year awards. He's the first to win both since J.T. Snow in 1992. Colabello, who's up with Minnesota, leads the minor leagues in BA, SLG and OPS. He wasn't much of a prospect, though, and has hit just .198-4-8 in the bigs. He'll turn 30 in October but could fight for a spot in the Twinkies' lineup next season.
  • Jonathan Gray, the third overall pick in this summer's Entry Draft, has rolled through five starts at Colorado Rockies' advanced Class A Modesto: 4-0, 0.75 ERA, 0.67 WHIP and a 36:6 K-to-BB ratio in 24 frames. The righty might arrive in Double-A Tulsa next April with his speedy fastball and effective breaking stuff. Rox pitcher prospects have been risky investments, but Gray and Eddie Butler might be ready to buck that trend.
  • Decent bets for a call-up and some fantasy impact that owners should target: Houston Astros OF George Springer and 1B Jonathan Singleton (despite his struggles), Detroit Tigers OF Nick Castellanos and Cincinnati Reds OF Billy Hamilton (pinch-running steals). Maybe the St. Louis Cardinals will summon Carlos Martinez again after roster expansion to put him in the rotation, if there's still an open spot.
  • Outside shots that should probably be attempted only in single-universe leagues: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim third baseman Luis Jimenez; Oakland fly-catcher Michael Choice; Twins third baseman Miguel Sano; Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Hunter Morris; and Colorado outfielder Tim Wheeler.


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