Welcome to the weekly Fantasy Baseball Prospect Primer. In this space, we will inform you about prospects that have recently been called up or who might become fantasy contributors in the near future. Especially good for Keeper leagues, you'll want to check in weekly to get the latest news and advice for the coming week about prospects of fantasy relevance. Whether you need a great future keeper or you’re just tired of starting Tommy Hanson in that last SP slot, or if you're just looking for the next big thing in fantasy baseball, this is the article for you!
Wil Myers (OF, TB) Sunday night is usually a great night for keeping your ear to MLB transactions, and this Sunday saw Tampa Bay call up future stud Wil Myers. The #4 prospect according to Baseball America, Myers has lit up Triple-A recently and now has a .283/.354/.514 batting line with 14 HR and 57 RBI in 63 games. Certainly worthy of a call-up, Myers will be supplanting someone in Tampa Bay (Ryan Roberts) because he won’t be sitting. Expect everyday playing time for Myers and the Rays have doubleheaders this week.
Part of the Kansas City/Tampa Bay trade that sent James Shields to the Royals, Myers was the centerpiece of the return haul for the Rays. Myers projects to have some game-changing power and a middle-of-the-order bat sooner rather than later. In 2012, split between Double-A and Triple-A, Myers hit 37 HR and 109 RBI in (wait for it…) 134 games! Mix that with the solid contact rate in 2012 and you get a a .314 batting average with "future stud" written all over him.
Myers is going to be hard to gauge with a fantasy projection. His power is here now, and can even grow some. The issue will be his contact rate at the major league level. He also played in the Pacific Coast League where offense comes a little easier. I can see Myers busting onto the scene with authority similarly to Yasiel Puig (which is very rare I might add), and I can just as easily imagine him struggling to adjust to the majors and ending up like Colby Rasmus. I lean towards the Colby Rasmus side of the projection, so watch out for that contact rate. To highlight this note of caution, notice the 2012 numbers included 140 strikeouts against only 61 walks. For all the math whizzes out there, that’s more than a strikeout per game. Tampa Bay put him in Triple-A this season to improve that number and he did not respond, whiffing 71 times so far while earning only 29 walks.
Currently, Myers would be an ideal fourth outfielder for most fantasy teams, and I’d get him active against any marginally favorable matchups. In a Keeper league, it will depends on your format whether you want to own/start him now, but he has great upside to be a consistent All-Star. He's definitely worth stashing in any long-term format now, but depending onh your league rules, you might consider keeping him inactive until next season.
Mike Zunino (C, SEA) Just as the last Prospect Primer was published, Seattle called up their highly touted prospect at catcher, Mike Zunino. Zunino went to the University of Florida and he was drafted with the third pick in 2012 by Seattle. So far, this call-up has been viewed as premature by every standard from statistics to sabermetrics and the simple ‘eyeball’ test. I have no reason to believe otherwise as Zunino is the definition of ‘rushed’ through the minors. Last year, he only played 44 games as a pro and 29 of them were in Single-A. Between Single-A and Double-A, Zunino posted excellent numbers, batting .360 with 13 HR and 43 RBI. He looked like a stud in his short debut in 2012 and also had 23 walks to only 33 strikeouts, a ratio that any young hitter would love to have.
Enter 2013, where Seattle slated Zunino for Triple-A with only 15 Double-A games under his belt. Not the ideal learning curve to begin with, but Zunino adapted well with his power and hit 11 HR and 43 RBI in 47 games of action at Triple-A. Great numbers from a catcher position, excepting the .238 batting average. More breaking balls and off-speed pitches in the upper minors have really hindered the young catcher in terms of contact. He does not judge them well and his astounding ratio of 59 strikeouts to only 14 walks in Triple-A attests to the fact that he might be overwhelmed at the major league level.
When all is said and done, Zunino has terrific upside and the defense to stay at catcher. I would compare him right now to a Derek Norris or a Jason Castro. As of now, I think Zunino is a pick up in AL-Only Leagues, though he probably doesn’t make the cut for mixed fantasy leagues, even those that start two catchers. In AL-only, I would rank him above the likes of John Jaso, Jose Lobaton and Chris Ianneta because Zunino was batting sixth in the line-up. In Keeper Leagues, it depends on how long you’re willing to wait, but I think he’s at least 2-3 years away from reaching Keeper potential.
OTHER NOTES AND BITS
Jake Odorizzi (SP, TB) Odorizzi is being recalled for the BOS/TB doubleheader on Tuesday. Another piece in the James Shields trade, Odorizzi is kind of the ‘sixth man’ of the Rays rotation, so he is going to get looks all year. His control is his best asset, but in his few starts this year he’s left things over the plate a little too much. With three decent pitches, he could be a solid no. 3 or 4 starter for the Rays, but I expect him to be an frequent passenger on the Durham Shuttle, sent down and recalled for most of the year.
Kevin Gausman (SP, BAL) Gausman was sent down to Triple-A on Friday and owners are patiently waiting to see if that is permanent. Because of the Orioles' 13-inning showdown, they needed an extra arm in the bullpen and most of Baltimore expects Gausman to be recalled shortly, but if that were the case, why is the organization hiding the news? Watch closely because Wei-Yen Chen returns shortly, but I will say that Gausman doesn’t have much left to learn in the minors.
Josh Rutledge (2B/SS, COL) Rutledge was recalled on Friday to take over duties relinquished by Troy Tulowitzki’s injury. He’s here to stay awhile, so if you need the middle infield help or depth, he’s a solid man for the spot. He struggled early this year, but now he knows the consequences of poor play, so perhaps his focus will be better this time around. He did club a 2-run home run in Friday’s game against the Phillies.
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