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 Jeremy Hellickson 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!
Kyle Gibson (SP, MIN) – It’s about damn time! As much as I love watching the P.J. Walters, Pedro Hernandez, and Sam Deduno show in the Twin Cities (sarcasm?), I've been patiently waiting for Kyle Gibson's callup for the Minnesota Twins. Drafted in 2009 with the Twins’ first-round pick, Gibson has been rather quietly and slowly progressing through the minors. Gibson was actually one of my favorite picks back in 2009, and he’s been on my watch-list ever since. He came out of college at the age of 22, and despite some of Minnesota’s recent call-ups, they have been deliberate about making sure to get this one right. Gibson was climbing the ranks in 2010 when Baseball America ranked him at 64th overall; in 2011, he was upgraded to 34th-best after a 2.96 ERA in 152 IP between multiple levels of the minors in 2010.
Gibson has struggled with injuries, but the talent always showed. In the second half of the 2011 season, Gibson's progression was thwarted due to the dreaded elbow injury; he underwent Tommy John surgery later that year. This is my favorite part of Gibson pedigree (not in a bad way), because it made many forget about him and his talent. I’m not saying that he’s necessarily the next Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler or Shelby Miller, but Gibson is one of the safest fantasy prospect call-ups in recent memory, because he stays low in the strike zone and has the control to stick in the majors right now. In Triple-A this year, Gibson sported a 3.01 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 92.2 innings. In those 92.2 innings pitched, he gave up just four home runs, further evidence of that impeccable control and pitch location low in the strike zone. That's an extraordinary skill for a young pitcher to bring with him on his first taste of the bigs!
Gibson sits at 92-94 mph with the fastball, and he complements it with a hard-sinking changeup and an above-average slider. Where Gibson is most highly regarded is pitch location, giving up the aforementioned very few home runs and 28 walks at Triple-A this year. I just love this kid, and always have. Part of that is the Twins know how to grow pitchers when they know they have talent. Gibson is now 25 years old, so maturity shouldn’t be an issue, and I've got to believe he is in Minnesota to stay.
There is always a red flag and in this case it’s going to be that Gibson is still coming off of major surgery, and he has already pitched 92.2 innings. His career max was the 152 IP back in 2010, a season prior to the injury. I’m not sure how long the Twins will allow Gibson to pitch this season, but this is an excellent opportunity to increase the value of the bottom half of your fantasy rotation. Watch out for those Detroit matchups, but otherwise I’m pretty confident in starting him immediately. Wins might come at a premium for the Twins prospect, but I do believe he'll be a safe play in all mixed leagues. I expect between a 3.30-3.60 ERA with the possibility to be even lower due to the unfamiliarity of his pitching prowess around the league. Snag him if you can-- he’s seriously under-the-radar right now and below 10%-owned in most formats. He’s slated to make his debut start Saturday against the Royals.
OTHER NOTES AND BITS
Martin Perez (SP, TEX) – Saturday, Texas recalled Perez to start against the St. Louis Cardinals, and he showed the talent that has him consistently in the top-prospect rankings. He went 7 innings strong, giving up five hits and one walk on way to his first win this season. Perez has always been worth putting on the watch-list just based on talent alone, but he reminds me a lot of Baltimore’s Jake Arrieta in that he is a high -upside player who just hasn't yet learned to harness his pitches. With Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando returning soon, Perez has to make a huge impact to stay in the rotation, but he is worth watching.
Jose Alvarez, (SP, DET) – Alvarez returned to the Detroit Tigers rotation for Thursday’s game against Boston, and he managed pretty well again, pitching five innings and only giving up two runs. When I wrote about him a few weeks ago I noted that he isn’t a top prospect, but sometimes these international signings just burst onto the scene. He won’t have a rotation spot once Anibal Sanchez comes back, but it looks like Drew Smyly is in the bullpen for the year so Alvarez is the Tigers’ sixth man when needed-- definitely worth the watch-list and spot starts.
Zach Britton, (SP, BAL) – Britton was called up and had a decent start against Detroit last Tuesday. He went 5.1 innings and picked up the win, but if you know anything about Britton, you know to stay away. He’s slated for a Monday start against the Indians so you can watch him, but he’s not worth much as his major league resume is lacking to say the least. He’s blocking Kevin Gausman from starting and Baltimore is just waiting for Wei-Yen Chen to return to the rotation.
Taijuan Walker, (SP, SEA) – Ending on a higher note, if you don’t know this name, you should. Add Walker to your watch-list right now-- he’s that good. Walker has pitched 84 innings to the tune of a 2.46 ERA and 96 strikeouts in Double-A, and has now been promoted to Triple-A. He’s only 20 years old, but he is the type of prospect that could possibly be called up for a heralded fantasy playoff run later in the year. He’s one of the best pitching prospects in the minors and worth monitoring the rest of the year because Seattle is still starting Aaron Harang, Joe Saunders and Jeremy Bonderman. When the Mariners are out of the race, they’ll want to see what they have in their youngsters and Walker should be one of them.
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