StrategyApril 26, 2011

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Future Rookies: Week 4

By Josh Shepardson

If you’re a fan of strikeout pitchers, this week’s Future Rookies is right up your alley. While the Royals high-minors bats have garnered a great deal of attention in the fantasy community, the arms are right there as well and ready for their time in the limelight. One southpaw in particular has made some noise in Omaha after throwing just 40 innings in Double-A last season. The other arm highlighted this week comes from the seemingly never ending pool of minor league pitching in the Tampa Bay farm system.

Danny Duffy, SP, Kansas City Royals, 22 years old

2010 Hi-A1407182.571.07
2010 AA4059412.951.18
2011 AAA1404161.291.21

Those who haven’t followed Danny Duffy’s minor league career may be surprised to find out that last spring he actually walked away from baseball for a brief period of time. Ultimately he did return, and picked up where he left off, toying with minor league hitters. Left-handed and armed with a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90’s but can touch 97, Duffy is considered a top-10 prospect by all major scouting publications, and received an A- grade from the admittedly tough grading prospect guru John Sickels. In addition to his fastball, Duffy throws a changeup and a curveball, all from a three-quarters arm slot which leads Baseball America, as well as others, to speculate that he may scrap the curveball in favor of a slider.

Out-pitching fellow blue chip prospect and teammate Mike Montgomery, Duffy is likely to lead the wave of young arms expected to infuse talent into the Royals major league rotation upon promotion. Expecting him to be promoted in June is most likely a pipe dream, but the longer the Royals remain in the mix in a weak American League Central, the louder the murmurs will get of promoting the kiddies to help make a playoff push. The Royals currently have a host of rookie arms in their bullpen, so it should be interesting to see how Dayton Moore’s “process” accounts for promoting prospects, and thus, starting the clock on service time. Once Duffy is promoted, it’s likely he’ll have his struggles, much like any other rookie starter. Working in his favor, and keeping him on the radar in deep re-draft and AL-only leagues, he has shown solid control in the minors and strong strikeout tendencies, and will pitch his home games in a home run-suppressing ballpark. Unavailable in Yahoo!, Duffy is the type of prospect worth using a high waiver priority on in deep leagues, AL-only formats and dynasty or deep keeper leagues.

Alexander Torres, SP, Tampa Bay, 23 years old

2010 AA142.211701503.471.44
2011 AAA15.116270.590.85

Being part of a Tampa Bay farm system that has graduated Jeremy Hellickson and Jake McGee and still includes Matt Moore makes it awfully difficult to stand out, but that hasn’t stopped Alexander Torres from trying his best to do so in the early going. One half of a top-notch prospect pitching duo in Durham, along with Alex Cobb, Torres strikeout numbers have been absolutely staggering this year as his K/9 is currently 15.85. Torres is a left-handed three-pitch pitcher who features a low-90’s fastball with good movement, an above average changeup and a curveball. The 2011 Baseball America Prospect Handbook rates him as the sixth best prospect for the Rays, and John Sickels labels him a grade-B prospect. His biggest shortcoming is his control, as illustrated by a career 4.97 BB/9 coming into this year. Last year was Torres’ first full year with the Rays after coming over as part of the Scott Kazmir trade. Perhaps non-coincidentally, he was able to shave over half a walk off his walk rate, sporting a 4.4 BB/9 with his new club. If Rays coaches are able to help Torres harness passable control, his swing-and-miss stuff will make him an intriguing fantasy option.

In recent years, the Rays have brought up their prospect arms and used them as spot starters as well as in the bullpen late in the year, so I’d set expectations on them handling Torres in the same manner. However, those plans could change should Jeff Niemann continue to struggle. Niemann was awful after the All-Star break last year, and has just one quality start in his first four this year and an ERA north of 7.00 to show for it. The most likely first recourse the Rays would take would be to stretch out mop up man and former starter Andy Sonnanstine. Given his mediocre (at best) track record, Sonnanstine’s rotation stint would serve as nothing more than a stop gap to one of the Rays’ higher ceiling minor league arms. Should Torres hope to be that guy, he’ll need to continue to perform at a high level, as teammate Alex Cobb has been fantastic, and Matt Moore isn’t far behind in Double-A. While Torres is unlikely to make waves in most re-draft leagues, his otherworldly strikeout rate from a starter makes him worth monitoring all year, and a player of interest in dynasty formats.

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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