At this point, we've probably said all that needs to be said about Stephen Strasburg(notes) (0.89 ERA), Mike Stanton (17 HR), and Carlos Santana(notes) (.994 OPS). Which is not to suggest we'll stop talking about them. In fact, Strasburg is scheduled to start on Monday night against the Toledo Mud Hens, so there's a fair chance he'll pitch his way into Closing Time. But after 40.1 brilliant innings in the high minors, you shouldn't need to be told that he's pretty good.
We've also dedicated blog posts — or at least bullets — to Desmond Jennings(notes) (11 SB), Buster Posey(notes) (.327 AVG), Pedro Alvarez(notes) (10 HR), Jeremy Hellickson(notes) (55 Ks in 50 IP), Brett Wallace(notes) (.912 OPS), and Aroldis Chapman(notes) (48 Ks in 40.2 IP). These names should all be well-known if you play in a league where prospects matter.
There are, of course, many other relevant fantasy prospects who find themselves just a level or two away from the majors. Our purpose today is to review a few of them. The names below are not ranked; if even one of them becomes a must-add fantasy commodity this season, that would be a minor miracle. (Bad pun. Just noticed. Not originally intended). No one is saying that these guys are going to win you a fantasy title, or even make your 2011 roster. But if you're involved in a deep, competitive format — seriously deep, where players like Strasburg and Santana have been owned for months — then the players below should be on your radar. Dozens of others should, too, but today we're focused on guys at Double and Triple-A who've been piling up numbers.
(And yeah, even in a post that's supposedly not going to involve Strasburg, we led with his picture, featured his name in the headline, then repeated it four times in the introduction. He's a bit more clickable than, say, this dude…)
Jose Tabata(notes), Pit, OF
Alvarez is the Pirates prospect that we're all waiting for, but this guy could arrive first and have a greater short-term fantasy impact. Acquired from the Yankees in the Xavier Nady(notes) deal, the 21-year-old Tabata currently leads the International League in stolen bases (19) and he's hitting .320/.379/.426. There's not much power here, unless you're looking for doubles, but he's a career .298 hitter in the minors and he can clearly run.
Another year, another excellent Braves pitching prospect. Ho-hum. This left-hander leads all minor leaguers in strikeouts, with 72 Ks in just 49.2 innings at Double-A Mississippi. Minor's fantasy ratios aren't overwhelming (3.44 ERA, 1.23 WHIP), but he's had double-digit strikeout totals in three of his last five starts. His velocity has been better than expected, too (low to mid-90s). The former Vanderbilt star was the seventh overall pick in last year's draft.
Mike Moustakas(notes), KC, 3B
After an underwhelming year in the Carolina League (16 HR, 10 SB, .250 AVG), Moustakas has decisively reclaimed his elite prospect status in Double-A at age 21. He leads the Texas League in all the Triple Crown categories (12-40-.395), and his .816 slugging percentage is the best in the minors, topping even Stanton (.735). If Moustakas can maintain anything close to his current pace, this is a guy we'll be desperate to see next June.
Andrew Cashner(notes), ChC, SP
The hard-throwing right-hander was excellent at Double-A early in the year (2.75 ERA, 10.5 K/9), and he's been unbeatable since making the leap to Triple-A. In three starts for Iowa, he's 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and 14 Ks in 19.0 innings. The Cubs can't seem to figure out how to squeeze the organization's most expensive pitcher into the starting rotation right now (Carlos Zambrano(notes)), so there's obviously no room for Cashner at the moment. He could have been useful in a relief role, but now that Bob Howry(notes) is on board, the 'pen is loaded. (Yes, that's a joke).
Travis Wood(notes), Cin, SP
You might recall that it was Wood — not Aroldis Chapman — who finished as the runner-up to Mike Leake(notes) for the Reds' fifth starter gig back in the spring. The 23-year-old lefty has pitched a couple of messy outings for Triple-A Louisville, but in his last two appearances he's allowed only six hits over 14 innings, and he's struck out 16. Wood now has 57 Ks in 56.1 innings; he'll be an option if Homer Bailey(notes) (shoulder) hits the DL.
There's not exactly a clear path to the big leagues this year, but we should see Brown in 2011. He's been terrific at Double-A Reading, delivering seven homers and seven steals while hitting .311/.387/.582. Brown was excellent at three minor league stops in '09, too: 14 HR, 23 SB, .299 AVG, .880 OPS. This spring, he hit a bomb off Justin Verlander(notes) that still hasn't landed. (Video here).
Daniel Hudson(notes), ChW, SP
If the White Sox become deadline sellers (possible) and/or Freddy Garcia(notes) continues to struggle (certain), then Hudson will eventually make his way back to Chicago. His most recent start for Triple-A Charlotte was an eight-inning, three-hit, 11-K shutout. Hudson has 59 strikeouts in 48.1 innings this year. His ERA isn't pretty (4.47), but most of the ugliness occurred in a disastrous one-inning effort at Colorado Springs (8 H, 9 ER, 2 HR). Since that game, he's given up only seven runs in 32.0 innings while striking out 41 batters and walking just six.
Lance Lynn(notes), StL, SP
The 23-year-old righty is on a nice roll at Triple-A Memphis, having limited opponents to one ER or less in five of his last seven starts. On Saturday, Lynn held Sacramento to three hits and no runs over eight innings, striking out nine. He went 11-4 last season across three levels (mostly Double-A), with a 2.85 ERA and 124 Ks in 148.2 innings. He's allowed only seven homers in 200.1 IP over the past two years. With Kyle Lohse(notes) and Brad Penny(notes) both dealing with injuries, Lynn could sneak into the starting mix earlier than expected.
Derrick Robinson, KC, OF
If you're looking for future speed, this is your guy. He's one of the fastest men in professional
baseball anything. The 22-year-old has already swiped 25 bags for Northwest Arkansas this season, and he's batting .310/.407/.406. (That slash line is a massive improvement over last year's .239/.290/.324 at Single-A, and he's drawing walks at a much better rate). Robinson stole 62 bases in the Carolina League in 2008 and 69 in '09.
Tanner Scheppers(notes), Tex, RP
Scheppers could be a useful middle reliever in the not-so-distant future. He's posted an ERA of 1.29 this year in 11 appearances at Double and Triple-A, and he's struck out 34 batters while allowing only 11 hits in 21.0 innings. When the Rangers' overworked bullpen needs help, Scheppers is just a level away.
Madison Bumgarner(notes), SF, SP
After rediscovering some lost velocity and enhancing his arsenal, the 20-year-old lefty has been outstanding. He hasn't yielded more than two runs in any of his last seven Triple-A starts, dating back to April 19. Bumgarner began the season with a pair of ugly stat-lines, but lately he's been extremely effective, though not quite the K-machine we saw in '08
Simon Castro, SD, SP
If he were with another organization, maybe this 22-year-old right-hander would receive more attention. Castro is 6-foot-5, he throws in the mid to high-90s, and he K'd 157 batters in 140.1 innings in the Midwest League last season. Now at Double-A, he's posted a 1.75 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 51.1 innings.
Photos via US Presswire