MLB Depth Check: prospects impact
It's finally prospect season. Jarrod Parker is up. Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Brad Eldred made their 2012 debuts over the weekend. The D-Backs brought up one of their young pitching prospects to start Monday, but it was Pat Corbin, not Trevor Bauer or Tyler Skaggs getting the look at the Marlins. So let's look down the prospect list and see who else could be trickling up to the majors, as well as the men standing in their way, and how that will impact MLB depth charts.
Julio Teheran (RotoWire Preseason Rank: No. 5)
Teheran hasn't been all that hot through his first four starts at Triple-A Gwinett, with a mere 13:10 K:BB and mortal 3.78 ERA in 16.2 innings. That line would be even worse were it not for a seven-K outing against a prospect-free New Orleans lineup. However, he could get an opportunity in the majors sooner rather than later given Jair Jurrjens' demotion to Triple-A and Randall Delgado's early-season struggles.
Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs (RotoWire Preseason Rank: No. 9, No. 13)
Bauer and Skaggs ranked ahead of Pat Corbin heading into the season, but the latter replaced Josh Collmenter in the Diamondbacks' rotation while the other two are stuck with Double-A Mobile. After Collmenter's demise, there is no clear hole in the big league starting five for Bauer/Skaggs to fill. Either could get the nod if Dan Hudson suffers a setback in his rehab from a shoulder injury, and there is a chance Corbin struggles to make the transition and gets sent back to the minors. Bauer has been as good as advertised, with 37 strikeouts and a .184 BAA through 28.2 innings, while Skaggs has posted a 34:5 K:BB. Bauer would probably skip over Triple-A on his ascent to the minors (following in Corbin's footsteps), but Joe Saunders' surprising effectiveness this season will prolong that trek.
Jacob Turner (RotoWire Preseason Rank: No. 23)
Rick Porcello's spot in the rotation could be ripe for the taking if recent trends persist. Porcello's groundball tendencies have not played well in front of a poor Detroit defense, but he has also allowed four home runs in four starts to go with a measly 4.84 K/9IP. The time it takes Turner to reach the majors could be reliant on how quickly the Tigers are willing to put a major league workload on Turner's recently-healed shoulder.
Manny Banuelos (RotoWire Preseason Rank: No. 18)
The Yankees rotation is fairly open thanks to Michael Pineda's injury and Phil Hughes' and Freddy Garcia's ineffectiveness, so it would be easy to see a healthy Banuelos slotting in here before long. However, Banuelos has made just one start at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre because of a back injury, and it looks like he will be on the shelf for another two weeks. Given the Yankees' recent hesitancy to rush prospects, I would not expect to see Banuelos in the Bronx until much later in the summer, and he might have to report for the bullpen if the Yanks acquire a starter via trade.
Brett Jackson (RotoWire Preseason Rank: No. 21)
The Cubs were able to make one bad contract disappear with Marlon Byrd, can they make it two with Alfonso Soriano? Can they flip David DeJesus for a few lower-tier prospects? Will Tony Campana stop stealing so many bases? If the answer to any of those questions is "yes," then Jackson should make some Bleacher Bums a bit less glum about the Cubs' season early this summer.
Travis d'Arnaud (RotoWire Preseason Rank: No. 25)
Incumbent catcher J.P. Arencibia likely has a fairly long leash thanks to the 23 home runs he hit last year, but the Jays' memory might be short if he keeps up a sub-.200 batting average. To be fair, that average was below-.100 not too long ago, and he has hit .345 over his last 29 at-bats. d'Arnaud has also been hot of late, slashing .325/.391/.550 over his last 10 games to bring his season averages up to .263/.341/.413. The likelihood of his promotion hinges entirely on Arencibia's ability to rebound.
Anthony Rizzo (RotoWire Preseason Rank: No. 48)
Unlike Iowa teammate Brett Jackson, Rizzo has no clear path to the majors. Bryan LaHair has been Bryan LaHitter at first base thus far, ranking among the NL leaders with a 1.197 OPS through 55 at-bats. Rizzo has not been too bad himself, posting seven home runs and a 1.098 OPS at Iowa, proving he is not just another Tucson illusion. Still, I can't see the Cubs pulling the plug on LaHair anytime soon, even in a losing season, so Rizzo might not smell the majors until the team needs a DH for interleague play.
Leonys Martin (RotoWire Preseason Rank: No. 79)
There is no clear path to the majors on the eve of May for Martin, but that may not necessarily be the case moving forward. Neither Josh Hamilton nor Nelson Cruz is particularly renowned for durability, and David Murphy has never played more than 104 games in a season in a single outfield slot. The way Martin has been hitting at Triple-A Round Rock (.932 OPS, 12 walks, but 6-for-12 on the basepaths) he could be recalled to serve in fourth-outfielder/pinch-runner capacity. Former leadoff man Julio Borbon is barely keeping his head above water at Round Rock (.200/.291/.256), so the Rangers would probably look Martin's way before asking Borbon to return.
Will Middlebrooks (RotoWire Preseason Rank: No. 76)
Kevin Youkilis missed a game over the weekend with a back issue. Even though he was expected to return Monday, the malady is just a reminder of how fragile he has been since turning 30. A prolonged DL stint could open the door temporarily for Middlebrooks, who has been one of the most impressive offensive players at all of Triple-A this season with nine home runs in just 89 at-bats for Pawtucket.
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