Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
      
Fantasy Football Today
Gameday Inactives
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Red Zone Stats
Teams
Schedules
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Teams
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Teams
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Teams
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Teams
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

Down on the Farm: Zunino's arrival imminent?

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

Justin Smoak is owned in only 19 percent of Fantasy leagues, and yet how he performs over these first few weeks could change the course of all of them.

That's because he's the path of least resistance for what figures to be the most impactful midseason call-up of 2013.

OK, the second-most. Naturally, I wouldn't want to sell Wil Myers short, but Mike Zunino's potential and perhaps his major-league readiness aren't far off.

How can that be, you ask, if he was the third overall pick just last year?

Well, not only did he play three years of college ball, which immediately gives him a leg up on every other player selected at that point, but he dominated there, winning the Golden Spikes Award in 2012. The last six recipients of that award -- Trevor Bauer, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Buster Posey, David Price and Tim Lincecum -- all made quick ascensions, and with the exception of Bauer and, to a lesser extent, Price, they all lived up to the hype right away.

Plus, all the scouting reports on Zunino are quick to mention his leadership ability, work ethic and baseball acumen -- you know, all those intangibles that might normally hold a player back even when he's hitting the daylights out of the ball.

Not that Zunino isn't hitting the daylights out of the ball.

He had eight extra-base hits in his first five games this season -- his first stint at Triple-A, mind you -- and though a mini slump has brought his batting average down to size, it doesn't change the fact that he's making good, hard contact against some of the best pitchers the minor leagues have to offer. And his plate discipline is exactly what you'd hope for. In 201 minor-league at-bats, he has 26 walks.

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (as of 4/18)
Player Name Own %
1. Wil Myers, OF, Rays 78
2. Jurickson Profar, 2B/SS, Rangers 53
3. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals 50
4. Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers 45
5. Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds 41
6. Zack Wheeler, SP, Mets 41
7. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets 41
8. Dylan Bundy, SP, Orioles 40
9. Jose Valverde, RP, Tigers 38
10. Dan Straily, SP, Athletics 35

It's all the right ingredients for a quick promotion.

In fact, if he had some silly placeholder like Francisco Cervelli or Nick Hundley blocking him, he might already be the most added player in Fantasy. But right now, the Mariners' starting catcher is Jesus Montero, who's only a year removed from being an elite prospect himself.

Of course, he's not quite the roadblock he appears to be. According to popular opinion, urban legend and perhaps even the naked eye, Montero isn't any more a catcher than David Bowie is an actor. He could do it in a pinch, but you wouldn't want to base the whole production on it.

The Mariners have to know that, despite their claims to the contrary. With Montero slumping in the early going, they've already taken to sitting him -- a 23-year-old whose development hinges on consistent playing time -- for backup Kelly Shoppach. If Montero was Charles Johnson back there, you can bet that wouldn't be happening, but he's a liability when he's not hitting.

Sounds like a perfect candidate for the DH spot, doesn't he?

Which brings me back to Smoak. You probably don't need me to connect the dots. If Smoak continues to hover around the Mendoza line, as he did for the first three years of his career, then the Mariners will likely pull the plug on him once and for all, allowing Kendrys Morales to move to first base, where he belongs anyway, allowing Montero to move to DH, where he belongs anyway, allowing Zunino to reach the majors.

Where he belongs anyway? The one making that decision wouldn't dispute it.

"He just needs to play," general manager Jack Zduriencik recently told ESPN.com. "He's a fast-tracker, and if you brought him to the big leagues today, he'd handle himself."

Granted, saying Zunino would "handle himself" isn't the same as saying he'd dominate, but rarely does a general manager give such a definitive take on a prospect who isn't already on a flight to meet up with the big club.

Check out our Fantasy Baseball podcast!
Stay a step ahead of your competition in 2014 by checking out our popular Fantasy Baseball Today podcasts. Adam Aizer, Scott White and Al Melchior will entertain you and help you dominate all season.
Latest episode | Subscribe!

And obviously, no one knows just how he'll perform once he gets the call, but my guess is his pedigree, skill set and effortless climb up the minor-league ladder put him more on the Posey track than, say, the Montero track.

And Posey won Rookie the Year.

Cautiously, I'll predict Zunino is the Mariners' starting catcher by June, but in all honesty, I wouldn't be surprised if they called him up next week, particularly if they have designs on competing this year.

In leagues where every team starts two catchers, that ETA makes him worth stashing already, ahead of all-or-nothing types like J.P. Arencibia and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, not to mention fellow prospect Travis d'Arnaud, who was the preferred stash just two weeks ago.

And I was saying that even before the foot injury. Unlike Smoak, d'Arnaud's path of least resistance, John Buck, has made the transition more agonizing than it needs to be.

Five on the Farm ... by Michael Hurcomb (@CBSHurc), CBSSports.com

Like many first-round picks, the spotlight was focused on Jayson Werth when he was drafted in 1997. By 1999, he cracked Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list, checking in at No. 52. The following year, Werth moved up four spots on the list and made the Top 50. He was a rising star and seemed destined for major-league stardom.

Sometimes well-laid plans go awry. After a second straight poor season of middling performance between high Class A and Double-A, Baseball America dropped Werth from its Top 100 list heading into 2001 and he appeared headed for baseball obscurity.

The Orioles, who drafted Werth, shipped the young outfielder to the Blue Jays in December 2001 and the change of scenery seemed offer the proper motivation. During the 2001 season, his slash line between Class A and Double-A was .271/.382/.472/.853. Werth found himself once again on Baseball America's Top 100 list in 2002 and stayed there into 2003.

It took Werth several more years before having a breakthrough year at the major-league level, but he isn't the first -- and won't be the last -- prospect to endure some trials and tribulations on his path to the majors.

Therefore, this week is dedicated to five players who are following a similar path as Werth endured. They were once highly touted prospects who are starting to make a comeback in the minors and could once again be reappearing on Fantasy radars.

John Lamb, SP, Royals
Last Top 100 ranking: No. 18 by Baseball America in 2011
Lamb was considered the Royals' top pitching prospect before blowing out his arm in 2011. Unfortunately, his return from Tommy John surgery was delayed last season because of tendinitis in his left foot. Lamb made only six starts, posting a 6.92 ERA, and showcased reduced velocity before being shut down. However, the Royals are confident Lamb's velocity will return the farther he distances himself from his surgery date. Baseball America still considers Lamb to have the best changeup in the organization, but he's still working on refining his curveball and getting his command back. Lamb is off to a good start at Class A Wilmington and is on the 40-man roster, so Kansas City thought enough of him to protect the left-handed hurler from the Rule 5 draft. If Lamb can regain his pre-surgery form, he has frontline starter potential.

Michael Choice, OF, Athletics
Last Top 100 ranking: No. 59 by MLB.com and No. 80 by Baseball America in 2012
It's not like the 2010 first-round pick has completely fallen off the radar since MLB.com and Baseball America consider Choice a Top 3 prospect in the A's system. But to drop him off the Top 100 list after one tumultuous season is a little harsh, especially since he is off to a torrid start at Triple-A Sacramento this season. Through 12 games, Choice has four home runs, 15 RBI and is slugging .604. He made some tweaks to his swing last season before breaking his left hand in July, but he's clearly fully recovered. Choice has ridiculous power -- he has a career .507 slugging percentage -- but he might strike out too much to hit for a decent average. Remind you of any former top A's prospect? Chris Carter certainly comes to mind. Choice could make a push to join the A's outfield rotation next season.

Bryce Brentz, OF, Red Sox
Last Top 100 ranking: No. 64 by MLB.com in 2012
It's amazing Brentz didn't crack Baseball America's Top 100 list after he hit 30 homers and slugged .574 in 2011. While his production dropped off last season, it's still not like Brentz's major-league trajectory took a major hit. He hit 17 home runs and slugged .465 in 127 games between Double-A and Triple-A. Not only is Brentz lauded for his power, but he has a cannon for an arm. Eastern League managers rated Brentz's arm tops in the league last season. The knock on Brentz is that he will strike out a lot and chase breaking balls, but if he has a good season at Triple-A Pawtucket he could threaten for regular at-bats at the major-league level in 2014.

Tyler Matzek, SP, Rockies
Last Top 100 ranking: No. 32 by Baseball America in 2011
Matzek's career got off to a stellar start before it quickly spiraled out of control. His problem proved to be he was overly analytical and it messed him up on the mound. The 2009 first round pick took some time off in 2011 to work with his youth pitching coach before resuming his pro career. Matzek ended up leading the California League in strikeouts (153) in 2012, but he also led the league in walks (95). There's no denying Matzek has the arsenal to pitch his way into the major league rotation, but his command needs serious improvement. Matzek is walking 7.0 batters per nine innings in his career. It's clear what's keep him on prospect radars: Matzek's career K/9 rate is 9.7 in 70 career starts.

Jared Mitchell, OF, White Sox
Last Top 100 ranking: No. 55 by Baseball America in 2010
Mitchell's career was derailed in 2010 after tearing tendons in his left ankle. He sat out that season and didn't adjust well once he returned to the lineup in 2011. However, Mitchell had a promising season in 2012, showcasing all the raw tools that made him a first-round pick in 2009. All the White Sox did this spring was rave about Mitchell, who is considered one of the team's Top 10 prospects by MLB.com and Baseball America. However, Mitchell is not without his flaws. He has a huge hole in his swing, which has resulted in 423 strikeouts in 304 minor-league games, and doesn't hit left-handed pitchers well. Mitchell is a patient hitter, but he's batting just .234 in his career and is off to a slow start (.156) at Triple-A Charlotte this season. He's a great athlete, but Mitchell is teetering on that ominous starter or platoon-player line in the majors.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

  •  
 
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
Yangervis Solarte stays hot with homer against Cardinals
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:59 am ET) Third baseman Yangervis Solarte continued to rake since joining the Padres with another big game Tuesday in a victory over St. Louis.

Solarte homered in the seventh inning and scored two runs. He has eight hits, including two taters, in 28 at-bats since the trade that brought him to San Diego from the Yankees.


Yasiel Puig remains on roll in defeat of Braves
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:50 am ET) Dodgers slugger Yasiel Puig fell a home run short of a cycle Tuesday night in leading a 15-hit attack that overwhelmed Atlanta.

Puig tripled, doubled, singled twice and scored twice in the win. His four-hit performance was his second in the last four games. His .317 batting average and .544 slugging percentage are at their highest points in about six weeks.


Adam Dunn homers, strikes out twice in win
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:50 am ET) White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn had another all-or-nothing game Tuesday, in an 11-4 win over the Tigers.

Dunn had just one hit as he went 1 for 4 in the win, but he made it count. Dunn slugged a solo home run in the seventh inning, and added one walk while striking out twice.

Dunn now has 16 home runs and 43 RBI, while also ranking third in the American League in walks with 61. He is hitting .230/.364/.443 in 206 at-bats overall. 


No slowing down for Jose Abreu as July nears end
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:46 am ET) White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu continued his hot hitting Tuesday, in an 11-4 win over the Tigers.

Abreu drove in four runs in the massive performance, as he strung together his third multi-hit effort in the last four games. He went 3 for 4 with a two-run home run, and then followed that up with a two-run double in the eighth inning. He also scored twice in the blowout win.

Abreu has been red-hot for the last two months, and has taken his game to another level. He is hitting .359/.412/.652 in the month of July, raising his season batter average to .299. 


Taijuan Walker taken deep three times in Tuesday loss
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:40 am ET) Mariners premier pitching prospect Taijuan Walker continued to struggle at the Triple-A level Tuesday night by yielding three home runs. Included were two by Tommy Field, who entered with just four in 276 at-bats.

Walker did recover after the second Field blast to strike out five of the next six batters and fire fastballs that peaked at 98 miles an hour.

"He dialed it up a little more," Tacoma manager Roy Howell told the Salt Lake City News Tribune. "That's why he's still learning to pitch. Hopefully he'll take that lesson and understand it."

Walker is 4-2 with a 4.14 ERA this season with the Rainiers.


Xander Bogaerts goes deep, can't spark rally
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:29 am ET) Red Sox infielder Xander Bogaerts got his bat going late Tuesday against the Blue Jays, but it was not enough in a 4-2 loss.

Bogaerts went 2 for 4 with a pair of strikeouts, and also scored once and drove in one run with his ninth inning solo home run. He has been unable to snap out of his long slump as Bogaerts is hitting just .213/.241/.307 in 75 at-bats during the month of July.  

Bogaerts has failed to live up to expectations as a rookie, with a batting line of just .241/.311/.362 with eight home runs and 26 RBI in 98 games. 


Colby Rasmus homers, scores twice
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:24 am ET) Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus was a main contributor to Tuesday's 4-2 win over the Red Sox, as he scored twice in the twin.

Rasmus  went 2 for 4 in the game, with a single and a solo home run in the second inning to start off the scoring. He later came around to score again in the fourth inning, the second game in a row he has crossed the plate twice. 

Rasmus has three home runs in the month of July and 14 overall, while hitting .223/.285/.459 in 242 at-bats. 


Coco Crisp a no-go again against Astros
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:23 am ET) Athletics center fielder Coco Crisp is again absent from the lineup Wednesday in Houston with a neck issue. He has not played since Saturday.

Crisp is not at this time destined for the disabled list, but an MRI has revealed a degenerative condition in his neck.


Hamstring problem keeps Marwin Gonzalez out Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:18 am ET) A tight hamstring has prevented Astros shortstop Marwin Gonzalez from taking his place in the lineup for a day game Wednesday after a night game. He is sidelined against Oakland.

Gonzalez homered in the Tuesday loss.


Ben Zobrist homers, doubles in two runs
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:14 am ET) Rays infielder Ben Zobrist played a big part in Tuesday's 5-1 win over the Brewers.

Zobrist went 2 for 4 in the win, and drove in the first two runs for the Rays in the win. He brought the first around on a sixth-inning solo home run, and then drove in another with a double in the eighth.

Zobrist is hitting .271/.361/.421 with nine home runs and 31 RBI in 93 at-bats. 


 
 
 
Rankings