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With all of the injuries throughout Major League Baseball and the natural progression of fantasy teams claiming players off the waiver wire, the pickings have become pretty slim in deeper leagues. With that in mind we are going to talk about minor league players that could help your team in the coming weeks or months. Now by minor league players I mean players who have little to no major league experience. I’m not talking about former major leaguers who were demoted (Travis Snider types) nor am I talking about major leaguers who are down in AAA on rehab assignments (Kevin Youkilis types). I’m only talking about players who still qualify as rookies. Another thing to keep in mind, these are not the best prospects in the minors, but rather the ones that could get a call up, receive regular playing time, and succeed. These are the players fantasy owners should keep an eye on. The two players we have been waiting for, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, have already made their debuts, but we still have a Top 9 that could be brought back up to the big club before to long. As always, these players are in no particular order.
Trevor Bauer, Arizona Diamondbacks: Bauer was just promoted to AAA Thursday after completely dominating AA with a 1.68 ERA, 1.227 WHIP, and 60K in 48+ IP. Bauer has ace potential and should be the leader of the Dbacks rotation in a couple of seasons. He will make his debut this season, possibly as soon as there is an opening in the rotation. Now this could change if Bauer struggles at AAA, but that seems unlikely. Bauer looks like a star in the making. The only negative could be his home ballpark, we all know how well the ball carries in Arizona.
Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs: Rizzo has been the crown jewel of three organizations so far although the bloom seemed to come off the rose last season in San Diego when he struggled after having a “cup of coffee” with the big league team. Rizzo was the main piece traded when Boston acquired Adrian Gonzalez, then the Padres sent him to Chicago where former Boston GM Theo Esptein runs the team for Andrew Cashner. It was thought that Rizzo needed another year worth of seasoning in AAA, but he is tearing it up, batting .359 with an OPS of 1.124. That is just ridiculous. The only thing stopping the Cubs from calling him up to the team now is finding him a position to play. Bryan LaHair who is currently playing 1B is having a Rookie of the Year type season and has been the Cubs best hitter to date. Now LaHair can play the outfield, but the Cubs as of now don’t have an opening, but as soon as there is an injury, or a trade, look for Rizzo to be packing his bags for Chicago.
Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies: The Rockies are a floundering team and have huge hole at 3B. Ian Stewart was thought to be the answer but he never figured it out in Colorado. The team was hoping that veteran Casey Blake could hold down the fort until Arenado was ready, but he was released in spring training, leaving the job to Jordan Pacheco and Chris Nelson. Neither one has impressed to date and if Arenado can get hot, he could be called up to the big club mid-summer. Arenado is hitting for average in AA but the power hasn’t been there of yet, although we all know that Coors Field can cure your power troubles in a big hurry.
Jake Odorizzi, Kansas City Royals: We have been talking about all the Royals young hitters for most of the past two seasons that we sort of forget they have some good young arms at AAA also with Odorizzi being the closest to major league ready. The Royals rotation is struggling to put it nicely, especially with the loss of Danny Duffy. Odorizzi could help them, but they will also be careful not to rush him. They realize he is a big part of their future and don’t want to hurt his progress with a quick call up, but still he is one of their five best starting pitchers now, and if he continues to pitch well in the minors, they may have no choice but to see what he can do under the bright lights of Kansas City.
Alex Cobb/Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays: If you’re looking for someone who could make an immediate impact on your fantasy team than whomever manager Joe Madden picks to replace the injured Jeff Niemann in the rotation could be your man. Before the season started it was thought that Wade Davis, currently in the bullpen, would be the first pitcher called upon if there was an injury, but Madden likes what Davis has done in the pen and doesn’t want to take him out of that role. Cobb was thought to be next, but Archer may be pitching to well to pass up. He was just named International Player of the Week. Archer was also one of the players acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza deal. Perhaps management will get to find out if they do indeed have a shiny new toy to play with. Either way we will find out on Saturday.
Will Myers, Kansas City Royals: When the Royals went over their roster during the off-season they decided that they had a glutton of outfielders so they decided to sell high on Melky Cabrera, sending him to San Francisco for SP Jonathan Sanchez. Well that trade hasn’t worked out so well as Melky continues to hit by the bay and Sanchez has been a disappointment so far. What makes matters worse is that there other outfielders are having downs seasons. Alex Gordon has been so-so at best, Jeff Francoeur close to terrible, and Lorenzo Cain has been hurt. Could Myers be brought up to try and shake things up? Well he was promoted to AAA Wednesday after hitting .350 with an OPS of 1.160 in AA. If he keeps those numbers up they will have no choice.
Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves: Teheran is the Braves top pitching prospect in the minors and we have heard his name bandied about for a couple of years now. The Braves were thought to have a strong rotation which might have left Teheran as the 7th option for the team, but Jair Jurrjens was extremely ineffective and sent back to AAA (where he has pitched well), and current 5th starter, Mike Minor has been terrible over the past month. Minor sports an ERA over seven which has to make one think that he will be replaced in the rotation before long. Teheran has been on fire in AAA with a 2.48 ERA and 1.211 WHIP and would seem to be the logical candidate to replace Minor, but Jurrjens could always be called up again also, especially if the Braves want to try and trade him for a bat as the season progresses.
Jacob Turner, Detroit Tigers: At one point Turner looked like an ace in the making for the Tigers, but a bad three starts for the team last season to go along with a disappointing spring training and than an injury have slowed his progress down somewhat. Turner did dominate in High-A for Detroit and was recently promoted to AAA last Saturday and is still very much in Detroit’s future plans, but he will most certainly need an injury or a trade to get back in the rotation. That being said, if and when he is promoted, it’s best to claim him before he gets hot, then wait till after he pitches well when everyone wants him.
Travis d’Arnaud, Toronto Blue Jays: The problem for d’Arnaud is that the Jays also have JP Arencibia on the roster. Now we all know that Arencibia doesn’t hit for a high average, (currently hitting .243), but he does provide good pop behind the plate (coincidentally he just hit a two-run HR) which won’t force the Jays hand, but if Arencibia were to see his average dip below the Mendoza line, than d’Arnaud would have an easier road to the majors. Eventually the Jays will have to make a move with one of these two catchers. There are plenty of teams around the majors dying for catching. The Jays could get a nice haul for either player.
If you want to comment on this column or any other, you can reach me on Twitter, @georgekurtz
George Kurtz is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, and is the co-host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210 / XM 87). His published work can also be found at RotoWire.com and Seamheads.com.
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