Minor Developments: Down on the corner

Rob Steingall
Yahoo! Sports

The big news on the prospect beat is the Nationals’ call to top prospect, third baseman Anthony Rendon, following the news that Ryan Zimmerman needed a stint on the disabled list with a balky hamstring.

Rendon was the best available college bat in the 2011 draft. He was picked sixth overall due only to a string of injuries. Rendon makes great contact and has a keen batting eye that will allow him to post strong averages and on-base percentages in the majors. The power is above average, too, and should produce 20-25 homers in his prime years. If Rendon makes an impact in his first look at major league pitching, the Nationals may need to make a move to keep his bat in the lineup. Rendon has seen time at shortstop and second base as well. His glove there isn’t the best but that versatility could help him stick in the majors.
The Rockies must be considering calling up third baseman Nolan Arenado after his torrid start at Triple-A (.414, 11 2B, 3 HR, 21 RBI), especially considering the struggles of their current third baseman this season, Chris Nelson (.646 OPS). Arenado has a good hit tool and above average power that should be enhanced by the hitters’ paradise that is Coors Field. Keep in mind, many of the parks Arenado is currently playing in greatly benefit hitters, so it will be interesting to see how his skills translate to more neutral settings, especially when he begins facing major league pitchers. Michael Salfino and I own Arenado on our Y! Friends and Family League team and eagerly anticipate/desperately need his major league arrival.
Mariners’ pitching prospect Taijuan Walker is off to a strong start at Double-A (22 IP, 1.64 ERA, 2 HR, 14 BB, 25 SO), and is further proving why he’s one of the top prospects in the minors. Walker possesses a huge fastball with great life that sits in the mid-90s, a plus curveball that is a true out pitch and developing changeup that flashes plus potential. Walker is currently struggling with his control, and while the results have been encouraging thus far, the progress of his secondary offerings and ability to command his arsenal is certainly worth monitoring moving forward. I’d expect to see Walker up with the Mariners in the early stages of 2014, although a cup of coffee in the big leagues later this season certainly wouldn’t be a surprise.
Fellow Mariners farmhand, left handed pitcher Danny Hultzen, is off to a great start at Triple-A (22.2 IP, 2.78 ERA, 1 HR, 6 BB, 25 SO), welcome news after struggling mightily at the same level following a promotion last year (48.2 IP, 5.92 ERA, 43 BB, 57 SO). Hultzen’s biggest improvement has been in the control department. His stuff has always been good enough to get advanced hitters out. Hultzen and Brandon Maurer are pitching on the same days, so if the Mariners decide to give the struggling Maurer more minor league seasoning, Hultzen appears to be the obvious replacement.
Twins outfield prospect Byron Buxton is off to a torrid start in the Class A Midwest League (15 G, .414, 2 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 6 SB) news that has dynasty owners giddy over what the future holds for last year’s seccond overall draft pick. Buxton is still raw as a player, but his unbelievable bat speed and freakish athletic ability means the his projection is sky-high. He’ll need a few years of minor league seasoning to become a more polished and well rounded player, making 2016 the earliest we’ll see him in Minnesota. He’s a hot dynasty commodity worth owning for those in deep formats.
To close this week, we’ll dig a bit deeper and unearth Yankees pitching prospect Rafael De Paula, who is mowing down hitters for Class A Charleston (17.1 IP, 3.63 ERA, 0 HR, 9 BB, 33 SO). De Paula’s debut in the minors was delayed due to a suspension for lying about his age and identity. But when he was first being scouted as a young Latin American prospect, he was on par with current top Cardinals pitching prospect Carlos Martinez. De Paula throws his fastball in the mid-90s, mixing in a sharp power curveball and developing changeup. While he’s a bit old for his current level, having just turned 22 years old, he should move quickly through the Yankees system. If everything clicks here, De Paula has as much upside as any pitcher in the Yankees farm system and could be a top-of-the-rotation talent down the road. Those in deep dynasty formats should not wait to take a flyer.
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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