Full-season minor league teams have now begun play; let the promotion speculation and prospecting fun begin in earnest. Owners looking for a stolen base boost should be very interested in the news of Manny Ramirez’ abrupt retirement, as it means the path is that much clearer for a speedy outfielder refining his skils in Durham. Those looking for a boost in the power department may end up being aided by a potentially earlier than expected promotion of a blue chip prospect in the Royals’ farm system, and not the one most fantasy gamers are stashing away. On the pitching side of the ledger, the Mets’ young flame-throwing top prospect got his season off to a good start with a win for the Buffalo Bisons, and served notice that he may have an impact this season for fantasy gamers.
Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay Rays, 24 years old
Toolsy outfielder Desmond Jennings’ path to return to the Rays got a little clearer with the unexpected retirement of Manny Ramirez. A promotion during the summer was likely for Jennings even prior to Manny’s retirement, but June now looks like a very real possibility. Offering a nice blend of on-base skills, and speed to burn, Jennings should instantly become a stolen base star in the fantasy community. Unlike some speed demons, Jennings has developing power, and could contribute a few home runs to his owners totals. Check your free agent pool to see if Jennings is available, those in medium size leagues and larger should be stashing him in the hopes of a June 1st callup. Those looking for a comp for Jennings should think of him as a young Carl Crawford clone.
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals, 21 years old
In my preseason write-up, I referred to Eric Hosmer as being the furthest away of the featured first base prospects. That may still prove to be accurate as Brandon Belt and Freddie Freeman each opened up the season starting for their parent clubs, and Yonder Alonso is learning the outfield so that his bat may be able to help the Reds in their quest to reach the postseason again this year. Regardless, Hosmer is much closer to big-league ready than I realized. After just 195 at bats in Double-A last season, the Royals opted to start him off in Triple-A after a sensational spring. He’s carried his hot spring training bat over to games that count, albeit in the minors, and is scorching early.
Kila Ka’aihue has scuttled yet again to open the season, and while he does have a game-winning home run to his credit this year, he’s done little else. One has to wonder at what point after June 1st the Royals decide it appropriate to hand over the reigns to their long-term answer at first base. Having proven all he can in Triple-A, Kila is likely to get a long leash to attempt to showcase the strong on-base and power skills he displayed in the upper minors that made him a popular sleeper around these parts. While it is possible that a Royals team not expected to compete at all this year will be reluctant to promote both Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer in the same year, who’s to say Moustakas should be the first of the Royals wave of prospects to be promoted? If Hosmer is able to continue to showcase strong contact skills, a solid walk rate and pop, he may be an asset sooner rather than later to fantasy owners. Those in deep leagues with bench space should strongly consider stashing him now, as he has the type of impact batting skills necessary to be an instant force. Everyone else should keep him on their watch lists and be prepared to pounce at the earliest rumblings of a promotion.
Jenrry Mejia, SP, New York Mets, 21 years old
Last year saw the Mets mishandle the crown jewel of the farm system,Jenrry Mejia, in epic fashion. They opened with him on the active roster as part of the bullpen, before ultimately coming to their senses and stretching him out as a starter in the minors. Unfortunately for him, his season ended a bit early with a shoulder strain, which one has to wonder if it was or was not a result of his handling during the season. Regardless, he opened the season healthy this year and threw six strong innings in his debut for the Buffalo Bisons. Last year Mejia was only able to rack up one win, but in a year noted for winning, duh, he is already halfway to last season’s total after just one start. One key to Mejia sustaining success and giving himself a chance to factor in decisions will be limiting the free passes, a problem he had at times last season. In his debut this year he issued just two walks in six innings, a promising start. Armed with a mid-to-upper nineties fastball he leans on heavily, he’ll also have to refine his secondary offerings if he hopes to make it through big league lineups multiple times, an obviously necessary skill for a starting pitcher. With a revamped front office, it remains to be seen how aggressive the Mets are with their prized prospect, but keep an eye on him this season as there is potential for him to be called up over the summer. Like most young arms, especially those who have a history of losing the strike zone on occasion, I’d expect some ups-and-downs when he reaches the majors. Mejia is not someone I’d suggest stashing, even in deep leagues at this point; just tuck away his name for now and pay attention to how he fares this year in the minors. He could have an impact down the stretch, but temper expectations in the short term, and know this right-hander has a fairly high ceiling long-term.
Josh is a recent college graduate from SUNY Cortland where he majored in Sport Management. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad.
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