The Jays made the call to pitcher Marcus Stroman over the weekend, and he showed some nerves in his first relief appearance, retiring only two batters while allowing a run and hitting a batter. Stroman was dominating Triple-A through the first month of the season (1.69 ERA, 36/7 K/BB) and, as a polished college arm, is the logical next option for the Jays struggling rotation. With Brandon Morrow breaking down once again, Stroman should get an extended look as a starter, and certainly has the stuff to be highly effective. For fantasy purposes, he could be Yordano Ventura-lite, a small-framed pitcher with an explosive fastball who should be able to provide strong strikeout totals and solid ratios in his rookie campaign.
I’m a bit less optimistic about Tigers rookie pitcher Robbie Ray, who is slated to make his major league debut Tuesday against the Astros in place of Anibal Sanchez. Ray is still raw from a prospect standpoint, pitching only 89.1 innings above Single-A ball during his minor league career, which could pose a problem against major league hitters. From a stuff standpoint, his fastball can touch the mid-90s, but inconsistent and average secondary offerings may hold him back from being anything more than a back-end starter. I’m steering clear of him in all formats.
Royals shortstop Raul Mondesi is off to a nice start at High-A, hitting .301 with a home run and five steals through the first month of the season. As an 18 year old, he still has plenty of room to improve, both physically and from a skills perspective. He’s still learning to control the strike zone and be more consistent with his contact rate, skills that will really play up as he fills out more physically and learns to drive the ball with more confidence. He’s a good base runner, with enough speed to steal 25 bases or more annually once he reaches the majors. Defensively, he’s a solid defender that should stick at short as he moves through the Royals system. He’s two to three years off, but is a great dynasty prospect to invest in.
It seemed like all doom and gloom this spring when the Dodgers assigned infielder Alex Guerrero to the minors after signing him to a sizable offseason contract, but he’s been a pleasant surprise through the first month of the minor league season. Guerrero is currently hitting .306 with three home runs at Triple-A, while also showing an advanced understanding of the strike zone (6 BB/5 SO). Where does he fit in the Dodgers future plans though? The club was clearly concerned enough about his defense that they chose Dee Gordon to begin the year at second base, and with him scorching hot, Guerrero will need to bide his time down on the farm. He has the potential to be a fantasy asset once he reaches the majors, but the timeline on his arrival is anyone’s guess at this point.
Reds pitcher Ben Lively is currently dominating the High-A level, posting a microscopic 0.76 ERA while striking out 48 hitters and allowing only two walks through his first 35.2 innings this season. Clearly, he’s ready to be challenged by Double-A hitters, especially as a 22-year-old college pitching product from last year’s draft. Lively has a fastball that sits in the low-90s, and mixes in three additional secondary offerings that he has good control of. While he may never be an upper echelon prospect due to his lack of a plus secondary pitch, his control and mix of pitches could lead to plenty of solid seasons.
Looking for a deep keeper stock to invest in? Take a look at Rays second baseman Kean Wong, the younger brother of Cardinals farmhand Kolten Wong. He’s hitting .323 with six steals for Class A Bowling Green, and offers a similar skill set to his more well-known brother. While he’s still years away from a possible major league impact, those in deep dynasty leagues with savvy owners should keep him on their radars.
The same can be said for Rockies pitcher Daniel Winkler, who is currently being overshadowed by Double-A Tulsa teammates Jon Gray and Eddie Butler. While Winkler doesn’t overpower hitters, he owns a deceptive delivery and mixes his pitches well, a combination that has led to outstanding results during the early going (1.22 ERA, 37 IP, 41/10 K/BB). A more in depth of his most recent outings can be found here.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rsteingall