A look at what has changed in the prospect world, viewed through a fantasy lens, since Opening Day.
What can three months teach us about the landscape of talent in the minor leagues? Most of the time, that short span teaches us not to overrate three months of performance. For example, if you had jumped off the Shelby Miller bandwagon at midseason last year, when he had an ERA of around 6.00 in the Pacific Coast League, you probably had a tough time squeezing back onto it when he turned things around. Then again, this isn’t specific to just three months worth of performance—the top of prospect lists are littered with players who had down years and were soured on. Eric Hosmer had a terrible 2009 campaign in Low-A before reestablishing himself as a stud the following season. Wil Myers had an extremely disappointing 2011 season, which caused his prospect star to dim.
And that’s without even getting into the players whose promise wanes without any good reason other than time. As we’ve become more aware of the minor leagues in general, the concept of “prospect fatigue” has taken center stage—and it’s only gotten worse with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper exploding into our consciousness at such a young age. It’s simple: The longer a player remains on the prospect scene, the easier it is to gloss over his talent. You don’t just see this with post-hype prospects like Domonic Brown, Julio Teheran, and Martin Perez (all top-10 talents at one point), but you see it with current members of this list. It’s starting to happen to Billy Hamilton and Jonathan Singleton. The climb for prospects is never one that is straight uphill—and just because a certain player’s stock is down from a fantasy standpoint, that doesn’t mean that the “next big thing” has more value.
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As perhaps the game’s top hitting prospect, Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras has become a household name to baseball fans, and not only in St. Louis. When the 21-year-old Taveras ranked no. 2 on Baseball Prospectus’ recently released mid-season top 50 prospects list, Jason Parks wrote that Taveras “will eventually settle in as a middle-of-the-order hitter at the highest level, where he should develop into a perennial all-star and possible MVP candidate.” It’s high praise for a prospect who has yet to appear in a major-league game, but it’s also a sentiment that is echoed by scouts throughout the industry.
Having posted a .321/.380/.572 slash line in his age-20 season at Double-A Springfield in 2012, Taveras appeared on the cusp of reaching St. Louis as 2013 approached. He looked even closer after impressing with a strong performance in big-league camp this spring, hitting .289 while seeing action in 24 games.
With the likes of Wil Myers and Zack Wheelers making their debuts today, Bret looks at the next wave of players who could come up and help your fantasy team.
It seems like it was just yesterday that we were all talking about Super Two status and when we'd see the likes of Wil Myers and Zack Wheeler at the major-league level. Oh wait, it was yesterday (they're both making their major-league debuts today). So as far as speculation, here at The Stash List, we move on from one very important group of players to another less attractive one. At this point, we've seen almost all of the top prospects that were waiting for the call due to service-time reasons—guys like Billy Hamiton and Oscar Taveras are not included here since there are other reasons why they have not been called up yet. So what is the wave coming in the horizon? Players who will see their values increase due to trade deadline activity.
Now, this next phase has its concentration in a few different areas, but the biggest focus is pitching—both starters and closers. There are already rumors of current closers Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Gregg, Bobby Parnell, and Casey Janssen being moved over the next month or so, and there are sure to be more as we get closer to July 31. Same with Matt Garza, Ricky Nolasco, and Bud Norris in the rotation. The trading deadline presents playing time opportunities that weren't there before, and while it's still a little early to start acting on some of these impulses, it's never too early to start thinking about them. So while not all of these players who move on to contenders will have successors worthy of owning, there are definitely guys to keep tabs on as rumors begin to fly. This applies tenfold in AL- and NL-only formats, where playing time is king.
Checking in on Oscar Taveras, Miguel Sano, Gabriel Guerrero, and others.
Michael Wacha, RHP, Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis)
The Cardinals’ top pick in the 2012 draft, Wacha received an aggressive assignment to Triple-A Memphis despite logging just 21 pro innings last summer. He is proving plenty apt for the challenge, posting a 1.99 ERA while yielding just 27 hits in 40 2/3 innings. Regarded as a polished arm as an amateur at Texas A&M, Wacha has made some quick strides as a pro. The progression hasn’t really changed his projection as a no. 3 starter, but he’s perhaps closer to realizing that potential than initially thought.
The 21-year-old righty has shown lots of polish early this season, pounding the strike zone with a three-pitch mix that includes a 90-95 mph fastball. He generates a steep downhill plane from his 6-foot-6 frame. His secondary pitches play well off the fastball––particularly his deceptive low-80s changeup, which is already a plus offering. Wacha’s curveball has been a key development since college; it’s presently average to solid-average and should become a third plus in the near future.
When we talk about "impact" rookies, it's important to note that several rookies will be getting the call to the majors and failing to help their team in any way, shape, or form. Coming up with a few big hits or making a couple of quality starts, however, could make a big difference at the end of a 162-game season. Here are some NL Central rookies who I think can make an impact on their team's success in 2013. Click HERE for my NL East picks and HERE for the AL East..
As free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson closes in on a decision on which team gets to pay him about $13 million per season for the next four years, I'll remind you once again that Javier Vazquez, who decided not to play in 2012, is pitching in Puerto Rico and could announce his return before the season starts. The 36 year-old, who was still a very effective pitcher for the Marlins in 2011, has a 3.71 ERA, 3 walks, and 23 strikeouts (11 on Wednesday) over his first 17 innings for Ponce. Vazquez made about $100 million in his major league career, so I'm not saying the ridiculous amount of money being spent on free agent pitchers this offseason is going to sway him back to the majors. Actually, I am saying that. Since when is $100 million enough money for anyone?