Welcome to the weekly Fantasy Prospect Primer. This article is to inform you on prospects that might be contributing in fantasy in the near future or has been called up to the majors. Especially good for Keeper Leagues, you’ll want to check-in weekly to get the latest news and advice for the coming week regarding prospects of fantasy relevance. Whether you need a great future Keeper or you’re tired of starting Phil Hughes as that last SP, or just looking for the next big thing in fantasy baseball…this is the article for you!
Jarred Cosart (SP, HOU) – Houston’s top pitching prospect made his major league debut this past Friday, and he was nothing short of impressive in his spot start. Yes, I said "spot start," but with the facility he showed in easily handling the Rays, he deserves a promotion party right? I preview him now because it’s inevitable that he will be recalled again soon. With the trade deadline looming and many Houston pitchers' names being thrown around (especially Bud Norris), Cosart is simply waiting for his time to shine. I also preview him now to warn you that he isn't the best fantasy choice despite his eight inning gem he threw last week.
In case you don’t remember, Cosart came to Houston via the Hunter Pence trade with the Phillies in 2011. Cosart was in the midst of tackling Double-A at the time, and he had transitioned well with his hard curveball. Fast-forward to 2013, and Cosart has the same scouting report as 2011, which is as a prospect with three above-average pitches that he can’t seem to consistently locate. On Friday, he went eight innings, gave up two hits (the first with one out in the seventh) and issued three walks, all while recording just two strikeouts. Any fantasy owner would love to see more strikeout potential-- his Triple-A average this year is exactly a strikeout per inning, but what everyone needs to know is that he has walked 50 batters this year. I’ll write it again for emphasis: that’s 50 walks in 93 innings of Triple-A ball, or almost five free passes per nine innings pitched. Not good.
Now, it’s not like I get to see these prospects daily or anything, but it doesn’t take a sabermetrician to know that this kind of poor control doesn't translate well to the big leagues. Walks can make even Seattle’s offense look good. That said, we don’t know every detail of Cosart’s development. Houston could have had Cosart working on off-speed pitches extensively to gain consistency and traction for his call-up this year. Either way, be very wary of what might come along with owning Cosart. Pitching in Houston, he has a good shot at being back in the rotation within a week or two. He’s an exciting prospect with stuff that is electric at times. At this point, though, he looks like one of those pitchers with the potential to stifle the Tigers in one outing and implode against the Twins in the next. As always, though, he’s worth a watch-list and maybe a speculative start or two if you’re in dire need, but I put his rest-of-season stats at 3-5 with a 4.50 or so ERA and, because of those walks, a 1.33+ WHIP, so be careful.
Sonny Gray (SP, OAK) – More consistently these days, we are seeing college pitchers taken during the MLB Draft soaring through the minors and contributing within two years. Sonny Gray was a starter at Vanderbilt University and Oakland selected him with the 18th pick of the 2011 draft. The Athletics placed him at Double-A to begin his career, and Gray hasn't looked back. In 102.1 innings in Triple-A this year, he’s posted a 2.81 ERA with 107 strikeouts. If you’re an avid reader of my articles, you might notice that’s the best ERA of any of the pitchers called up this year. Gray is also in the Oakland system where pitchers are very well developed and they rarely call up guys who are not major-league ready.
That said, it is with great sadness that I must report that the Oakland Athletics decided to stick him in the bullpen. I really have no clue as to why, other than that they needed depth there and wanted to limit Gray’s workload for a potential playoff race. The problem is that a lot of times a pitcher will lose his rhythm and his routine when he goes from being a consistent starter to pitching out of the bullpen. It will be intriguing to see what Oakland does, because I think Gray has the skill to be a solid starter now, possibly as good or better than Dan Straily.
Most scouts see the same thing I do in Gray, which is no. 2 or no. 3 starter stuff as long as his change-up has developed into a quality pitch. Oakland is a forgiving stadium, but Gray is the type of pitcher who needs to stay low in the zone to ease his fly-ball tendencies. It’s nothing alarming, because he can certainly raise his fastball in the zone for strikeouts and consistently hit 95 mph on the radar gun. As far as his potential for fantasy contributions, I would rank Gray above Kyle Gibson and Tyler Skaggs once he is in the starting rotation; you just can’t discount the importance of playing Seattle and Houston in the division games. Keep an eye on Gray; he should be in the rotation at some point.
OTHER NOTES AND BITS
Henry Urrutia (OF, BAL) – There have been some rumblings that Baltimore may call up their touted outfield prospect. Urrutia is an interesting player-- not unlike Markakis and Machado, he’s a gap-power-type doubles hitter. Currently he has a .365 BA and 7 HR sitting at Triple-A, so if he can sustain that high batting average in the majors upon a call-up, he has a shot at being fantasy relevant. He might make more of an impact in points leagues, but he's a guy you roto owners should be aware of as well.
Kyle Gibson (SP, MIN) – I’m putting Gibson down here to own up to my previous scouting report. I know I touted him as a ‘safe’ major-league-ready pitcher deserving of a fantasy chance. He has yet to show it at all, though, and his skills have not translated well. He’ll still be solid at some point down the road, but he’s not worth much right now.
Erasmo Ramirez (SP, SEA) and Tyler Skaggs (SP, ARI) – Just noting that both of these pitchers were sent to the minors to stay on turn for their post All-Star break starts. Each will be recalled shortly after the break.
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