Minor Developments: Under the radar

This week I’m looking at guys doing damage on the farm without getting the attention they deserve.

Many soured on Rangers pitcher Martin Perez(notes) following his rough ’10 campaign (5-8, 5.96 ERA), but those same folks also forget he was only 19 years old, and one of the youngest at the level. He’s rebounded nicely this season, going 4-1 with a 3.03 ERA, while also posting an impressive 68/27 K/BB ratio in 71.1 innings. His command has improved significantly from last season, as has the quality and consistency with his curveball. Perez has an explosive mid-90s fastball, and mixes in a plus change, giving him one of the most dynamic arsenals in the minors.

At the end of April, I covered some deeper prospects, and mentioned Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez(notes) as a sleeper who I expected to shoot up prospect lists. So far, so good for Martinez, evident by his 2.48 ERA and 43/12 K/BB ratio in his first 32.2 innings. The Cardinals are handling him with kid gloves, giving him six to seven days between starts, which will ultimately put his season innings total in the 100-120 range. He’s a must add in dynasty formats, and should land inside top 25 prospect lists at the end of the season if he continues his progression.

In that same April piece, I mentioned Padres third baseman James Darnell as being a player to continue monitoring. He’s tearing up the Texas League this season, batting .351 with 13 homers and 49 runs batted in, all while posting an outstanding .448 on-base percentage. I love players who can work the count, and Darnell has excelled in this area, striking out less times (36) than he’s walked (41) this season. He still has some work to do defensively, and may ultimately move to a corner outfield position. The bat plays though, which is what fantasy players need to be concerned with.

Much of the attention in the Arizona system is going to first baseman Paul Goldschmidt(notes) these days, but outfielder Collin Cowgill(notes) also deserves a mention for his hot hitting. He’s currently batting .369 with 12 homers and 19 steals at Triple-A Reno, and is on the verge of a promotion. The thinking is he’ll push Gerardo Parra(notes) for playing time upon his arrival, and could be a nice power/speed combo guy during the second half of the season. Those in NL-only and deeper mixed formats need to pay particularly close attention here.

Astros second base prospect Jose Altuve is having a remarkable season, and his hot hitting has earned him a recent promotion to Double-A. All he’s done is rake, batting .404 with seven homers and 46 runs batted in across two levels thus far. Altuve does work when on the bases as well, stealing a combined 22 bases so far this season. He’s quickly becoming an exciting fantasy prospect, so get in now while the hype surrounding him is still at a modest level.

Cardinals top prospect Shelby Miller(notes) also recently made the jump to Double-A, and has continued his dominance there, going 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his first two starts. He’s still blowing batters away, striking out 14 while only walking four in his first 12.2 innings. More importantly, the move to Double-A signals the Cardinals are serious about getting him to the majors in 2012. The 20 year old has a chance to win a spot in the rotation next spring, but is more likely to be included in the early wave of 2012 June call-ups.

Here are updates on players about to be promoted:

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks: At the rate he’s raking, he’ll be up before the end of the month. Goldschmidt has a .342 average and 21 homers, and is the bat to target if you need power during the second half of the fantasy season.

Desmond Jennings(notes), OF, Tampa Bay Rays: Strictly a rabbit no more, as Jennings has launched nine homers this season, a sign that he’s finally healthy after a handful of injury plagued seasons. His .282 average and 12 steals make him a complete lead-off package, one that should be at the top of the Rays lineup by the beginning of July.

Jason Kipnis(notes), 2B, Cleveland Indians: Cord Phelps(notes) got the call early last week, and has scuffed along in the majors, picking up only one hit in his first 14 at-bats. Kipnis is the superior prospect of the two, with defense being the only thing holding him back at this point. His time is coming though, possibly before the end of June. He’s currently batting .296 with seven homers and 10 steals, without being caught.

If you feel your favorite prospect has been slighted, or want to discuss any of the players mentioned this week, let’s hear it in the comments section below. Now in the heart of promotion season, the time to talk minor league players is now.

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Have a prospect question? A player you want to see covered? Send it to MinorDevelopments@yahoo.com

Rob Steingall is a nationally syndicated fantasy analyst whose work has appeared in newspapers including The Providence Journal.

Updated Thursday, Jun 16, 2011