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Minor Leagues Spotlight: Top Fantasy Prospects for Week 3


This week has seen several pitchers go down with either season-ending or potential season-ending injuries already. Adam Wainwright tore his Achilles tendon and will be out for a whole year; Brandon McCarthy tore his UCL and will be headed for Tommy John surgery; and it appears that Homer Bailey may have to undergo Tommy John surgery with a right-elbow strain.

As the season goes by, injuries such as those will have major impacts on not only an MLB team, but also your fantasy roster. With a season-ending injury, Major League teams turn to two options: trade for a new starter or call up a pitcher from the minor leagues. Fantasy owners of injured starters have to constantly keep an eye out for their fallen star's replacement because that called up player could contribute worthily to a fantasy lineup.

Here are six players who have started off the season very well in the minors and could have a potential fantasy impact later on this season.

 

Mike Wright (SP, BAL, Triple-A)

Stats: 19.2 IP, 2.29 ERA, 2.19 FIP, 10.07 K/9, 1.37 BB/9, .46 HR/9
A pitcher hidden by the extensive starting depth in Baltimore, Mike Wright has started the season off really strong and could soon find his way into the Orioles rotation. The Orioles rotation this year has seen Bud Norris and Chris Tillman get off to slow starts and other pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez who have a history of struggling. Kevin Gausman is currently the sixth man who would jump into the rotation if any starter loses their spot, but Mike Wright is right behind him in the depth chart and could see a lot of time if a starter is injured or has an extensive period of struggle. From a fantasy perspective, Wright doesn’t seem to be a compelling addition to a team because he doesn’t typically strike out a lot of batters, but he knows how to get outs while avoiding home runs and walks. Wright’s strong start to the Triple-A season could have him in the rotation soon and he could be a very nice addition to a fantasy roster in need of starting pitching.

 

Zach Lee (SP, LAD, Triple-A)

Stats: 19.0 IP, 0.95 ERA, 2.51 FIP, 8.53 K/9, 1.89 BB/9, 0 HR/9
Zach Lee was once considered one of the best pitching prospects in the Majors and was seen by many as a guy with top of the rotation potential. Unfortunately, his velocity has gone down over the past couple of years and he struggled in his first trip to Triple-A in 2014. Now 2015, Lee has started off the season looking very sharp and has started to show flashes of why the Dodgers took him 28th overall in the first round. Outside of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the Dodgers rotation is filled with question marks including the health of Hyun-Jin Ryu and the empty spot left with Brandon McCarthy undergoing Tommy John surgery which could leave Zach Lee in a position to be called up and take one of the backend jobs. Lee is a better strikeout pitcher than the previously discussed Mike Wright and he too limits walks and home runs leaving him with a higher potential to be a good fantasy starter, but Lee will need to prove that he can develop one of his pitches into a true out pitch for him. Still, if called up, Lee could be a great pickup on the waiver wire with his potential to be a middle of the rotation starter.

 

Justin Nicolino (SP, MIA, Triple-A)

Stats: 22.2 IP, 0.79 ERA, 3.25 FIP, 5.96 K/9, 1.99 BB/9, 0 HR/9
One of the best left handed pitching prospects in baseball, Nicolino has started off this Triple-A season quite well. In 2014, he threw 170 innings with a 2.85 ERA and a 3.44 FIP. There can be no questions about his ability to be a true starting pitcher. In his brief minor league career, he has thrown over 120 innings in three of four seasons. So, his future is definitely as a starter. Questions can be asked about his ability to strike out batters. But, he has great command as he limits walks and keeps the ball in the ballpark. It is very possible that Nicolino could see time this season in the Marlins rotation if the backend of the rotation has any struggles and they find themselves in contention.

 

Peter O’Brien (C, ARI, Triple-A)

Stats: .377/.419/.739, 6 HR, 0 SB, 4.1% BB rate, 16.2% K rate
In terms of offensive production, the Arizona Dbacks catchers have been terrible this season. They have hit for a combined .192 BA with no extra base hits and a strikeout rate of 20.3%. Sitting in Triple-A Reno is Peter O’Brien. All that O’Brien has done since the Diamondbacks drafted him in 2012 is rake. O’Brien has shown power in each season that he has played and could see Major League action this season if the catchers for the Diamondbacks struggle. O’Brien’s only visible weakness is his defensive ability that leaves much to be desired. Though his defensive struggles have no effect on his fantasy stats, it could keep him from being a regular in the big league lineup for a little while.

 

Nolan Fontana (SS, HOU, Triple-A)

Stats: .267/.431/.422, 1 HR, 0 SB, 22.0% BB rate, 20.3% K rate
When shortstop prospects are mentioned, immediately everyone thinks of Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor. And while Correa is more likely to have a lasting impact on the Houston Astros in the long haul, Fontana is the most likely of the two to be called up this season. Fontana does not have any one tool that blows scouts away, but he is a solid all-around shortstop who will go under the radar for a lot of people because of Correa. Fontana has excellent plate discipline and above average speed which could allow him to steal 20 stolen bases if given a full season. Fantasy owners ought to expect Fontana to be called up if Jed Lowrie is hurt, traded, or struggles.

 

Matt Olson (1B, OAK, Double-A)

Stats: .275/.448/.647, 5 HR, 0 SB, 23.9% BB rate, 26.9% K rate
The biggest surprise to start off the 2015 season for the Oakland Athletics has been the success of Ike Davis. Davis has a slash line of .345/.409/.483 with a home run and eight RBI. But Davis’ BABIP is at .380, which is unlikely to last and will eventually lead to a regression in batting average. If Davis sees any regression, there is a possibility that Matt Olson will be called up to play first or take an outfield spot. Olson has tremendous power as evidenced by the 41 home runs that he hit in 2014. Many scouts have compared him to Joey Gallo with a little bit less power, but a higher potential for batting average. Olson is one of the most underrated prospects in baseball and definitely has the potential to be a thirty home run guy with the Athletics. He is a must own in dynasty leagues and could be a great source of home run production if called up to the Majors this season.

 

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