There is plenty going on around the minors this week, and once again, a baby snake steals the headlines. Don't lose focus on other prizes though, as there are plenty of minor leaguers worthy of your attention for 2012 and beyond.
The next big thing for fantasy players is Trevor Bauer, and the buzz he's created has owners in a frenzy. But when will the Diamondbacks pull the plug on Josh Collmenter? That is the million dollar question, and it probably won't be answered for until May at the earliest. Bauer struggled with control in his latest outing Sunday night (5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 5 BB 2 K), putting him at 15.2 innings on the year with 20 strikeouts and 13 walks. Bottom line, he needs more seasoning, as he's yet to display the pitching efficiency necessary to succeed at the major league level.
Bauer's Double-A teammate at Mobile, Tyler Skaggs, is an impressive prospect in his own right. Despite struggling in his latest outing on Saturday night (5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 K), he continues to show elite command of a strikeout arsenal, fanning 15 batters while only issuing two walks in 11 innings, thus far. It isn't crazy to think Skaggs gets the call ahead of Bauer, as he has much more minor league seasoning, and a ceiling equally as high as his hyped-up teammate. The sample sizes are small, so let's check back in with these guys in a couple of weeks once we get more data. My money is on Skaggs.
Although Bryce Harper and Mike Trout get much of the position player hype when discussing prospects for the 2012 season, Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado shouldn't be far behind. He's raking at Double-A Tulsa, batting .395 with six doubles, and just launched his first homer of the year on Sunday. Chris Nelson is nothing more than a warm body keeping the hot corner ready for Arenado, who could find his way to the majors around May or June if he keeps his hot hitting up. The Coors Field set-up should make him an intriguing option when he finally does get the call.
Readers have been clamoring over Red Sox prospect Matt Barnes' early season success, so let's examine. You have to love the 16 strikeouts and two walks through his first 10 innings, especially since he's given up only three hits and zero runs. It doesn't appear he'll be sticking around High-A very long, and rightfully so; he needs to be challenged as an advanced college arm from the 2012 draft. I like what I see from Barnes, especially his mid-90s heater, and I'll like him even more if he keeps it going once he reaches Double-A.
Different organization, same result, for slugging first base prospect Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs have to be pleased with his early returns at Iowa, especially the .391 average and five homers. The knock on Rizzo is that his bat looked slow compared to major league pitching in '11, so he'll need to get another crack at big leaguers before we know if the adjustments he's made will translate. As long as Bryan LaHair is hitting though, Rizzo will continue honing his craft in the minors. If LaHair begins to falter, smart owners will pounce on Rizzo as a potential power play at their corner infield slots in standard mixers.
Bad news for Yankees fans, with top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos heading to the disabled list with back pain following his second start. He's been a train wreck thus far (2 GS, 10.13 ERA, 5.1 IP, 14 H, 6 ER , 1 HR, 7 BB, 2 K), so something clearly isn't right with him, and the hope is that some rest gets him back on track. The good news here is there is no sign of a bulging disc, which would have been a disaster. No timetable has been put on his return.
We'll close the week with a speed round:
Not all is bad for the Yankees, as Jose Campos has been lights out through two starts in '12 (2-0, 11 IP, 0.00 ERA, 3 BB, 11 K). He was a secondary piece in the big Jesus Montero/Michael Pineda trade, and could be a diamond in the rough for the club in a few years.
Blue Jays outfielder Jake Marisnick is one of my favorite outfield prospects, and he's off to a modest start (.256, 8 R, 4 2B, 2 3B, 3 SB, .412 OBP) at High-A Dunedin. He's a five-tool prospect worth monitoring in dynasty formats.
Reds shortstop prospect Billy Hamilton is a freak, already collecting nine steals on the year to go with a .383 average. He topped the 100-steal mark last season, and many scouts and experts feel he'll top it again in 2012. He'll be a true category killer in the majors. And with even modest power, a fantasy superstar.
When discussing shortstops, the cream of the crop in the minors may very well be the Rangers Jurickson Profar. His average isn't where it needs to be to start the year (.206), but he already has three homers – a sign that his power has continued developing. Some scouts think he has 20-plus homers in his bat once he fills out.
Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler continues to impress at Double-A (9 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 13 K). He has ace potential, and the club has to be thrilled at what they've seen from him thus far. What a haul from the Giants for just a few months of Carlos Beltran.
Rob Steingall is a syndicated fantasy analyst. Follow him on Twitter
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