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Minor Developments

By Rob Steingall

Yahoo Sports

It’s been a long winter in hibernation, but the spring thaw is sufficient for us to kick off another season of Minor Developments. The focus is prospects who are unexpectedly in a position to have a fantasy impact in 2013.

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Gerrit Cole could be the best of this year's rookie starters. (AP)

Pirates stud pitching prospect Gerrit Cole is still in big league camp, and rightfully so, considering the group of ham-and-eggers he’s competing against (Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson) for the fifth spot in the rotation. His 3.60 ERA this spring is solid enough to give him an extended look, but it’s his stuff that should entice the Pirates to do the right thing and start him off in the majors. Cole can touch 101 MPH with his fastball, and throws one of the hardest sliders known to man (in the low 90s), making it unhittable for righties. Michael Salfino and I drafted Cole late on our Yahoo! Friends & Family team with the expectation he’ll begin paying 2013 dividends early.

The Orioles reassigned their future ace, Dylan Bundy, to minor league camp this weekend to the disappointment of fans and fantasy players alike. Bundy is only 20 years old and surely could use more minor league seasoning, but his stuff is already major-league ready. He’ll start the year at Double-A Bowie, but could move up to Baltimore quickly if an O’s starter suffers from ineffectiveness or injury. It’s hard to choose between Bundy and the previous mentioned Cole, but I still prefer the Pirates hurler by the slightest of margins due to better polish and slightly better pure stuff.

I’ve always had a bit of a man-crush on Nationals hot corner prospect Anthony Rendon, and that has only grown this season with the performance he posted during his time in big league camp (.375, 4 HR, 11 RBI). Although now reassigned to minor league camp and destined to begin the year at Double-A Harrisburg, he proved healthy and effective to dynasty owners teased by his talents since his days at Rice. Rendon was arguably the top talent in the 2011 draft class before injures dropped his draft stock, so it’s great to see him back on the path to stardom this spring. The Nationals have a good problem on their hands in finding MLB at bats this year for Rendon.

Keeping with the 2011 draft theme, Marlins pitching prospect Jose Fernandez has had a meteoric rise and has a legitimate shot at being the top prospect in baseball by this time next year. Expected to begin the year at Double-A Jacksonville, Fernandez will look to further develop command of his secondary offerings, which only lack command. He works off a powerful four-seam fastball (that can touch 99 MPH), a weapon that generates many swings and misses. That’s complimented nicely by a two-seamer that induces plenty of ground-ball outs. He began pitching to more contact last season in an attempt to be fresh later in games, proof of his mature approach. A June promotion is possible if he’s as dominant as I expect in the minors.

I’m excited about what the future holds for Phillies shortstop prospect Roman Quinn. While he landed outside of most Top 100 lists this season, he’s been lauded as a better Billy Hamilton by prospect guru Mike Newman. Quinn looks to have a better shot at sticking at shortstop, too. He swiped 30 bases in 66 games last season and has triple-digit skill. He could fly up prospect lists by the end of the year, so get in on the ground floor while you still can.

Staying off the radar, one of my favorite sleeper prospects heading into 2013 is Twins outfielder Max Kepler. Since signing him out of Germany at age 16, the Twins have been cautious with Kepler’s development. But he’ll finally get his first crack at a full season of baseball as a 20 year old. Kepler profiles as a corner outfielder due to his fringy arm, and may ultimately wind up at first base as he continues to mature physically. His sound approach at the plate and raw power make him an intriguing prospect, although it could be another two or three years before he’s ready for the big leagues. But dynasty leaguers can grab him now if their roster rules allow.

Rob Steingall is a syndicated fantasy analyst. You can follow him on Twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/rsteingall) and email prospect questions to MinorDevelopments@yahoo.com
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