Minor Developments: Early updates

Rob Steingall
Yahoo! Sports

It was quite a debut for 20-year-old Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who made a marginal Mets lineup look silly on Sunday afternoon. The young fireballer, who made the jump all the way from High-A ball, mowed down eight Mets in his debut while showing poise and command beyond his years. I was most impressed by his ability to pitch to contact during his quick first inning of work (eight pitches), which allowed him to settle in and get himself into a grove that carried him through five strong innings (5 IP, 3 H, I ER, 1 BB, 8 SO). I quickly gave my full endorsement of Fernandez on Twitter (@rsteingall) upon hearing the news that he made the opening day roster, and I continue to urge you to make the add if he’s still available in your league. An ERA in the 3.50-3.75 range with a K/9 north of 7.5 is certainly within reach, making him a valuable asset in mixers.

Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler was roughed up a bit in his first Triple-A start (3.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 SO), a bit of a surprise until you consider the Mets Triple-A affiliate is now the Las Vegas 51s, one of the most friendly offensive environments in the minor leagues. Wheeler has awesome stuff, but the fear among some is that this assignment might be detrimental to his confidence if he struggles, which could hurt his development. Would Double-A have been a better placement for the young righty, with a promotion to the majors to follow when the Mets feel he’s ready? This could be the debate if Wheeler continues to struggle. In any event, I believe his time in Las Vegas will be short, and he’ll be up with the Mets during the early part of June.
Staying down on the farm, it was a strong opening week for 2012 first overall pick Carlos Correa (.300, 1 HR, 8 RBI through 4 games), who is starting his first full season with Class A Quad Cities of the Midwest League. Correa has drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez in the past, which I feel are ridiculous. He’s a strong kid, with a good arm and big time bat, but he has a long way to go to become one of the all-time greats. Astros fans should be excited, as a strong full season campaign could have him on the fast track to the majors. The safe bet for his debut would be 2015, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see him land in Houston at some point in 2014 if the bat is a good as advertised.
Many fantasy players in AL-only formats are excited for the debut of Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson, who could provide a shot in the arm to their rotations at some point this summer. While Gibson could be a solid starter for many years in the majors, I’m more excited about recently acquired pitching prospect Alex Meyer, who had a great debut for Double-A New Britain this week (5 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO). Meyer features a big upper-90s fastball, nasty slider, and developing changeup that should be at least an average offering for him. His top of the rotation potential hinges on his ability to harness his stuff, making him a name worth monitoring in dynasty leagues this season.
After slugging four homers this spring, Rockies third base prospect Nolan Arenado has continued his power surge for Triple-A Colorado Springs, belting two homers in his first three games. Overall, Arenado is 7-for-13 during that time, with two doubles also to his credit. The Rockies are currently employing Chris Nelson to man the hot corner, and considering the club was thinking of carrying Arenado as their opening day third baseman, it might not be long before we see a changing of the guard. Arenado offers above average raw power and excellent bat speed, tools that when put in an offensive friendly environment, add up to big profits for fantasy players. Michael Salfino and I have already added Arenado on our Yahoo! Friends & Family League team, and if you have a deep enough bench, you should considering doing the same.
How long will the Mariners wait before they promote top positional prospect, catcher Mike Zunino, to the majors? He’s abused minor league pitching since being drafted last summer, and hasn’t let up in the early stages of 2013 (3 G, .417, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 8 RBI). He’s a better defensive option right now over Jesus Montero, but with the Mariners not likely to compete this year, he could spend a good portion of the season on the farm catching the organization’s trifecta of bright pitching prospects (Danny Hultzen and James Paxton in Triple-A, and Taijuan Walker when he’s promoted from Double-A). When the time does come for Zunino and those pitchers to arrive in the majors, it will certainly be a happy day for Mariners fans and fantasy owners alike. Wishful thinking has me hoping for a June promotion for Zunino, making him a target to stash if your bench allows.
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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