StrategyJuly 17, 2012

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Future Rookies: Week 14

By Josh Shepardson

The Cardinals have dipped into the minors to promote one of their top pitching prospects. Meanwhile, a Giants prospect is putting a dreadful start to the year in the rear view mirror with a scorching hot July. The A’s have seen the stock of one of their pitching prospects soar as he is on the verge of reaching the show. Finally, the Mets have a couple of highly touted arms receiving attention of late.

Trevor Rosenthal, SP, St. Louis Cardinals, 22 years old


Last year, the Cardinals promoted starting pitching prospect Lance Lynn and used him in the bullpen. This year, they are taking the same approach with Trevor Rosenthal. Rosenthal was a 21st-round selection in the 2009 amateur draft. He has started 45 of 63 professional games, including all 22 games he pitched in last year, and all 17 he has pitched in this year. Baseball America ranked him the 11th best prospect in the Cardinals organization coming into the year, and Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus ranked him as the 8th best Cardinals prospect. His surface stats have improved while moving up from High-A to Double-A this year, but his strikeout rate has dropped from 9.9 K/9 in 2011 to 7.9 K/9 this year, and his walk rate has risen from 2.9 BB/9 to 3.5 BB/9. He has been less hittable, though, and the overall results have been good. Rosenthal’s best pitch, according to Goldstein and Baseball America is his fastball, which sits in the low-to-mid-90s with sink. Reports seem to differ slightly on his secondary pitches. Goldstein mentions a curveball in his repertoire, Baseball America refers to a slider, and John Sickels of Minor League Ball discusses him using both. All three also mention a developing change-up that lags behind his other pitches. In the bullpen, where the Cardinals intend on initially using Rosenthal, he should be able to get by with his fastball and a breaking ball. As a non-closing reliever, his value will be limited in re-draft leagues. He’s still worth monitoring as he could have value in large mixed leagues and NL-only formats.

Gary Brown, OF, San Francisco Giants, 23 years old


As I mentioned here a few weeks ago, Brown is turning around his season. Since highlighting him, he’s added 27 points to his average, 31 points to his on-base percentage, and 50 points to his slugging. That’s what happens when you slash .415/.433/.631 in the month of July. He had a crazy stretch of seven games from July 6 through July 13 where he recorded multiple hits in each game. These aren’t all singles either, as he has 11 extra base hits in 65 at-bats this month. To put that in perspective, he had 18 extra base hits in 317 at-bats prior to July. Brown ranked as the top prospect in the Giants organization by all major outlets prior to the season, and he’s beginning to show us why.

Daniel Straily, SP, Oakland A’s, 23 years old


What a monster season Straily is working on. After pitching exceptionally well in the Double-A Texas League, he has upped the ante by pitching at a mind-numbingly good level in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He has seen his strikeout rate rise from 11.4 K/9 in Double-A to 12.5 K/9 in Triple-A. While he may have been a lesser known prospect coming into the year, the outstanding results are supported by positive scouting reports, and Straily is a real deal prospect. J.J. Cooper of Baseball America mentioned in a recent subscribers only article that Straily got into better shape this offseason, and his fastball now sits around 93 MPH. He also credits part of Straily’s success this year to a much improved change-up. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that if the A’s trade Bartolo Colon, Straily will be the pitcher they promote to replace him in the rotation. With the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline just around the corner, owners in large mixed leagues and AL-only formats with bench flexibility and a need for some pitching help would be wise to stash him now.

Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets, 23 years old


With Dillon Gee undergoing surgery to break up a blood clot in his shoulder, and possibly undergoing further surgery to prevent a recurrence, his season is likely over. That means the contending Mets have an opening in their rotation, which has many asking if Harvey will be the guy to fill that role. Terry Collins has not ruled out Harvey for the fifth starter job. Harvey has gotten statistically better each month of the season, with June being his best. He misses bats, but occasionally struggles with his control. His groundball rate has dropped substantially this year, from 48.7 percent last year to 41.8 percent this year, but was at a season high 46.6 percent in June. The keys for Harvey handling big league hitting will be throwing strikes, and showing a useable change-up. The change-up was considered a work-in-progress coming into the year, but he’ll need to keep hitters off balance in the majors. He could have some initial struggles, like many other young pitchers before him have, but his ability to strikeout batters could be enough to make him a match up play in large mixed leagues and NL-only leagues.

Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets, 22 years old


If you read the link above that didn’t rule out Harvey joining the Mets rotation, you probably noticed that Collins also indicated that Wheeler could be called up this season. He should be in line for a promotion to Triple-A Buffalo very soon, where he’ll look to continue a highly productive season. Wheeler has shaved off nearly a full walk off his BB/9 rate this year, going from 4.07 BB/9 in 2011, to 3.19 BB/9 this season. He’s not sporting a double digit K/9 this year, but his 8.41 K/9 is still excellent. Wheeler’s best start of the season came on Saturday. He threw a complete game shutout, allowing six hits with one walk and striking out seven. In 2011, Wheeler pitched 115 innings, the highest total of his young professional career. Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggested in a July 14 article that Wheeler’s season innings cap is around 150. If that’s the case, his fantasy value would be very limited this year on the off chance he reaches the majors. However, it does nothing to diminish his value in long term keeper and dynasty leagues, where Wheeler is one of the most desirable prospect pitchers to own.

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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