StrategyApril 15, 2012

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Future Rookies: Week 1

By Josh Shepardson

While most of the attention is being paid to the major league happenings, some of the games brightest future stars are performing well down on the farm. An Orioles prospect in his first year of professional ball is turning heads. He’s not alone, though, as a couple fellow draft mates are toying with the opposition in the Diamondbacks system. On the hitting side of the ledger, the Rockies third baseman of the future is showing that the future may be now.

Dylan Bundy, SP, Baltimore Orioles, 19 years old


Bundy’s started two games and been perfect for three innings, striking out six in each. He’s been at least as good as advertised, if not better. He’s ready for High-A, at the least, and others have suggested he is probably ready for Double-A. The Orioles handling of him has been curious thus far, and resembles that of the Pirates with Jameson Taillon the season before. If Bundy is allowed to set his own time table, he may not even need two full seasons in the minors. That’s remarkable for a pitcher drafted out of high school.

Manny Machado, SS, Baltimore Orioles, 19 years old


Bundy isn’t the only Orioles prospect doing big things in the early going. There were questions coming into the spring about which minor league level Machado would start the season at. The Orioles chose to be aggressive and start him at Double-A, and so far, he’s proving that was the correct decision. He’s flashing his power with two home runs, and is showing patience as well. He hasn’t been perfect, and his strikeout rate bears monitoring. It’s not alarmingly high, but it’s high enough that it shouldn’t be ignored. If Machado tears the cover off the ball this season, there is an outside shot he could get a call-up in September when rosters expand. More likely, though, we’ll see him sometime next season.

Matt Barnes, SP, Boston Red Sox, 21 years old


The Red Sox nabbed Barnes in the first round of last June’s draft out of Connecticut. He missed bats in college using a fastball that can reach the upper-90s. His curveball is his best secondary offering, and he adds a developing change-up to the mix. He is dominating the South Atlantic League, and has two excellent scoreless starts under his belt. It’s hard to imagine him spending much more time in Low-A.

Jose Campos, SP, New York Yankees, 19 years old


Most casual observers likely viewed Campos as a throw-in to the big Michael Pineda and Jesus Montero deal that also featured big league starter Hector Noesi. Those that did any home work on Campos knew he was a prospect worth getting excited about, and he’s creating quite the buzz. He’s using his live arm, and pristine control to dominate South Atlantic League hitters. The ceiling is very high for Campos, and unlike many young arms, Baseball America says he has an advanced feel for pitching, and isn’t simply a thrower.

Justin Nicolino, SP, Toronto Blue Jays, 20 years old


Nicolino is yet another low minors pitcher with an advanced feel for pitching. This talented southpaw is having little trouble with Midwest League hitters. He was nearly perfect in his first start, with his lone blemish being a hit batsman. He’s pounding the strike zone and missing bats. Add in his propensity for getting ground outs, and you’ve got yourself a tantalizing mix of skills.

Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals, 21 years old


Myers is playing much better in his second taste of the Texas League. He’s hitting for power but is striking out at an uncharacteristically high rate. Also, for a young hitter that has exhibited top notch patience working walks in the past, he isn’t showcasing that ability so far in 2012. All things considered, his play so far this year has to be considered a positive. If he starts working walks at a high rate again, look out, he’ll really take off.

Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers, 20 years old


Castellanos is picking up where he left off last year. No slow start this go around, just hits, and hits, and more hits. He’s hit one round tripper so far this year. He’s continuing to show an ability to hit for average; the next step in his development will be popping a few more balls out of the ballpark and working a few more walks. There’s no rush for Castellanos to reach the show, and he’s on a fine development path.

Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins, 18 years old


If you love power — and who doesn’t — then you have to love Sano. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus was recently in attendance for one of Beloit’s games last week, and he picked a good one to attend. In that game, Sano found the seats twice, and Goldstein said he didn’t squarely hit either of them. Yikes, that’s raw power. Like most sluggers, Sano strikes out a fair share of times, but his plate discipline in the early going of 2012 is quite promising.

James Paxton, SP, Seattle Mariners, 23 years old


Paxton was a pleasant surprise last year. He missed a ton of bats and flew up prospect ranking lists. He had some control issues at his first stop in Low-A last year, but those disappeared after a promotion to Double-A, where he finished last year and begins this year. There’s little incentive for the Mariners to rush him since they won’t be in the playoff race, but Paxton doesn’t look like he needs much time in the minors, and he could reach the majors by the summer.

Derek Norris, C, Oakland A’s, 23 years old


Norris came to the A’s as a part of the package the Nationals sent for Gio Gonzalez. He was a three-true-outcomes monster last year and a player that succeeded in spite of a .210 average. He has yet to walk this year, something he has done regularly throughout his minor league career, but he has made up for it by crushing the ball. In addition to his two home runs, he has hit six doubles and one triple. Norris has a chance to be an offensive asset at a position that teams are typically willing to look the other way when it comes to performance at the dish. The A’s are very much in rebuilding mode, and Norris’s play could embolden the team to deal starting catcher Kurt Suzuki at the deadline. If he keeps playing well, he’ll reach the majors this year.

Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels, 20 years old


Trout’s playing well, and that’s pretty much what was expected. Unfortunately, a log jam at the major league level doesn’t look like it’s going to become unclogged anytime soon. For now, Trout will continue to hone his craft in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. If an injury or trade opens up playing time for Trout, he’ll immediately become fantasy relevant even in shallow re-draft leagues. Even with the unclear path to playing time, he warrants stashing in large mixed-leagues where bench space is available.

Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals, 21 years old


Wong signed quickly after last June’s draft, and he made a mockery of the Low-A Midwest League. The Cardinals were aggressive, having Wong bypass High-A in favor of Double-A. So much for a challenge; Wong is blazing hot. If you’d asked me coming into the year, I’d have said finishing the year in Triple-A would be considered a successful campaign. While it’s only 28 at-bats, it may already be time to recalibrate those expectations, and it seems possible he could reach the bigs by years’ end. There is little in the way of the Cardinals second baseman of the future, so when he’s ready, he’ll get his shot.

Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals, 23 years old


Adams carrying quality is his bat, and carry him it is doing. He impressed the Cardinals in spring training, and he continues to mash in the Pacific Coast League. An opportunity to reach the majors seemed like it would be hard to come by coming into the season. While it still will be hard to come by, a calf strain that’s dogging Lance Berkman could provide an opening should it turn into a more serious injury. By all accounts, rest is all Berkman needs, but neither he nor Carlos Beltran are spring chickens. An injury to either could give Adams a chance to take hacks at major league pitching.

Jed Bradley, SP, Milwaukee Brewers, 21 years old


Bradley was the second of the Brewers two first round selections in last June’s draft. He’s a southpaw with better stuff than his college stats would suggest. He’s turned his stuff into results in two starts in High-A this year. He’s given up only one run on the season, an unearned run, and he’s sporting a robust 5.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates, 23 years old


Marte ripped the cover off the ball in the spring, but had no shot at winning an outfield gig. He’s continuing to hit for a solid average but remains impatient. He has above average speed and is using it efficiently on the base paths this year. He has four stolen bases in 2012 and has yet to be caught stealing. He’ll most likely eventually get a look this year. It’s possible that will come in a reserve outfielder role; it’s possible that won’t come until September. His fantasy value this year is limited even if he gets to the bigs.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs, 22 years old


Rizzo loves Pacific Coast League cooking. Now a member of the Cubs organization, he’s providing souvenirs for fans in attendance of PCL games yet again this year. His strikeout rate is acceptable for a slugger, and he’s previously shown that he knows how to work a walk. The Cubs currently have Bryan LaHair playing first base for them, and he’s off to a good start. LaHair played both corner outfield positions in a brief call-up last year, so a move back there could accommodate Rizzo eventually.

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies, 21 years old


Talk of Arenado jumping from High-A to the majors right out of spring training was overzealous. Now that he’s raking in Double-A, murmurs of him taking over at the hot corner in the early summer are less crazy. He hasn’t hit any home runs yet this year, but he has crushed six doubles. Arenado makes a ton of contact and should hit for a relatively high average right out of the gate. His friendly home confines when he gets to The Show could help amplify his power output while he works on tapping into his in game power.

Casey Kelly, SP, San Diego Padres, 22 years old


Scouting reports of Kelly have always been better than his production. While it is just two starts, the production may be catching up. Kelly is beginning to strike batters out, and his zero walks illustrate he’s having no control problems. At his best, Kelly gets ground balls in bunches. Toss in strikeouts, and PETCO Park, and you’ve got a recipe for a fantasy prospect worth looking forward to the arrival of.

Archie Bradley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks, 19 years old


Bundy has gotten most of the attention, but fellow Oklahoma high school draftee Bradley is impressing as well. The Diamondbacks handling of Bradley has been significantly different than the Orioles handling of Bundy. Bradley pitched nearly as many innings, five, in his first start as Bundy has pitched in two starts combined. He’s overpowering hitters, and befuddling them with a nasty curveball to rack up the strikeouts. At this rate, he could be in a race with Bundy to reach the majors. These two will be fun to follow along their career paths.

Trevor Bauer, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks, 21 years old


The Diamondbacks are spoiled with pitching prospects, and Bauer is yet another off to a hot start. Bauer has started two games, and the lone complaint that could be made aloud is that his walk rate has led to inefficiency and short starts. While it’s a legitimate complaint, it’s a bit nit-picky, and his strikeout rate is tantalizing. There was talk of the Diamondbacks fast-tracking him to the majors last year. That obviously didn’t happen, but Bauer isn’t long for the minors. Joe Saunders and Josh Collmenter round out the Diamondbacks rotation, and smart money is betting that one fumbles their starting role away to Bauer in short order. Bauer’s good enough, and close enough to getting to the majors, that he should be stashed on benches in large mixed-leagues and NL-only formats.

Heath Hembree, RP, San Francisco Giants, 23 years old


News of Brian Wilson likely needing Tommy John surgery for a UCL strain were the talk of Twitter on Saturday. I discussed the fantasy ramifications of the injury over at Fantasy Baseball 365. I mention in the article that Hembree should be considered a dark horse for save opportunities this year. It’s unlikely he’ll immediately be thrust into the role, but the 2011 minor league leader in saves could nestle his way into ninth inning duties for the Giants some time during the summer. He’s a perfect two-for-two in save chances for the Fresno Grizzlies this year.

Josh is a graduate of SUNY Cortland's Sport Management program, and an aspiring fantasy writer. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad. You can also follow his work at The Hardball Times and follow him on Twitter (BChad50).
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