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March 18, 2014

Five to Watch

National League Prospects

by Bret Sayre


As the spring builds up and draws to a close, there is a lot to pay attention to. One of said things is the impression that prospects make in camp that can either win them an unexpected spot on a team’s roster or put them in better position for a call-up once the season gets going. Here are five players with prospect eligibility (for fantasy purposes, we don’t care about service time) who are making a positive impression this spring that could lead to heightened fantasy value in 2014.

Carlos Martinez, P, St. Louis Cardinals
The recipient of far too many Pedro Martinez comps in the minor leagues (he’s a vertically-challenged Dominican starter with great raw stuff, so of course Pedro, duh), Martinez is being given a legitimate shot to beat out Joe Kelly for the final spot in the Cardinals’ rotation this spring. This opportunity was made possible by yet another Jaime Garcia shoulder setback, but if it happens, it could vault Martinez’ fantasy star through the roof.

The question has never been whether Martinez has the stuff to start (he does), it’s whether the Cardinals had room for him in the rotation and if he could hold up over the grind of a full season. The second question has yet to be answered, but he was able to throw over 120 innings last year, despite making 32 relief appearances between the regular season and the playoffs. And while his 5.08 ERA may not seem that impressive on the surface, his 3.08 FIP tells a far different story. But the most encouraging thing Martinez carried forward from his very strong minor league portfolio is his high ground-ball rate. For his career in the minors, Martinez kept the ball on the ground 51.8 percent of the time, and that ticked up to 52.3 percent in the regular season. Of course, small sample caveats apply, but it’s a skill set that he has shown. His two-seamer has impressive downward movement and allows him to keep the ball out of the air despite not being able to generate a ton of plane, given his height.

However, even with all of these positive attributes, two truths remain about the fantasy value Martinez may hold this season. First of all, despite his strong spring performance thus far (one earned run in 10 innings), he’s certainly no lock to beat out Kelly for that spot. Of course, this wouldn’t be a death knell to his value anyway, as he is likely to be a strong contributor as a middle reliever (in leagues where that matters). Finally, even if he does make the rotation, we’re not looking at a 200-inning horse here. I’d be surprised if Martinez cleared 160 innings, so even if he pitches up to his current ceiling, his overall value may be muted just by the lack of work.

Rafael Montero, P, New York Mets
After splitting his time in 2013 between a dominant stint in Double-A and a very impressive stint in Las Vegas to close the season, Montero finds himself knocking on the door of a rotation spot in Queens. Right now, he has one big thing in his favor and another in his way. On the positive side, the fourth and fifth starters for the Mets right now appear to be John Lannan (intimidating) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (seriously), so it might seem easy to break in after a short period of time, right? Unfortunately, the competition for any openings may be fierce between fellow Top 101 prospect (and Thor enthusiast) Noah Syndergaard, and the reason for so many LOL Mets jokes back at the beginning of the decade, Jenrry Mejia.

This spring, Montero has continued to do what he generally does, throw strikes and keep runs off the scoreboard. With a 3.00 ERA in nine innings, he’s not forcing the issue to start the season, but he is reminding the organization that he’s just about ready should a need arise. However, maybe it would be in his best long-term interest to stop pitching well, as there are now rumors floating around that the Mets may look to carry Montero in the bullpen to start the season, which would be just about the most Mets thing ever. Despite the competition, I still expect Montero to be in the rotation within the first two months of the season given the likely ineffectiveness of their back-end starters—and that’s not even mentioning the injury risk of Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese.

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<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: The... (03/18)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Five to Watch: America... (03/17)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Five to Watch: Nationa... (03/19)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article The Darkhorses: Home R... (03/18)

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