Thanks to the rapid evolution of social media, one of my favorite pop culture, sociological studies has increased in intensity over the last few years. Perhaps you, too, noticed your friends’ jealous reaction to their favorite musical band’s rise in fame from hosting intimate private shows inside sardine cans to sold out arenas and stadiums.
Your friends knew of them first!
Your friends were ahead of the curve!
Your friends don’t want to share!
From American Idol to the X-Factor, we thrive on knowing who will be next. We love the shiny new toy in the room. We love the sexy trend. The same holds true in fantasy baseball and the minor league system allows dedicated owners to research and pluck out the next prospect well ahead of his competition.
Here are some of the top fantasy prospects I’m keeping tabs on currently:
Tony Cingrani – With Johnny Cueto on the DL, we’ll probably see the Reds’ pitching prospect this Thursday when Cincinnati hosts the Miami Marlins. Cingrani struck out 14 batters in his first start of the season for Triple-A Louisville. He leads the International League in strikeouts with 26. His 0.00 ERA and 0.35 WHIP are also tops in the IL. If you are in need of some starting pitching, deep-league owners should feel comfortable taking a gamble on the 23-year-old southpaw.
Chris Archer – The Rays’ prospect is 2-0 with a 4.20 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 15 innings pitched. The opposition is only hitting .246 against the 24-year-old. Archer’s best shot at reaching the majors this year is if Robert Hernandez, the former Fausto Carmona, struggles in the fifth spot of the rotation. Hernandez is 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA. So, Archer’s chances of a promotion are looking strong.
Dylan Bundy – For any fantasy baseball owner who collects sports cards, they are well aware of the hype surrounding Dylan Bundy. His cards are selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay. At the moment, he’s on the Double-A Bowie Baysox’s disabled list with elbow discomfort and has yet to pitch in 2013. MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli suggests Bundy’s elbow issue was perhaps to blame for a dip in velocity this past spring. He’s the Orioles No. 1 prospect and the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball. So, don’t expect a rush up through Baltimore’s farm system this season, but definitely remember the name Dylan Bundy. If you need another reminder of how good Bundy is expected to be, check out this eBay listing
Micah Owings – Like Rick Ankiel before him, Owings is trying to make a big league comeback as an outfielder, as opposed to a pitcher, in the Nationals’ farm system. In six MLB seasons, Owings compiled a 32-33 record with a 4.86 ERA as a member of the Diamondbacks, Reds and Padres. Through the first nine games as the Syracuse Chiefs’ left fielder, Owings hit .310 with a home run, six RBI and four runs scored.
Wil Myers – The Royals dealt their top prospect in the trade that sent the Rays’ James Shields (among others) to Kansas City during the offseason. Through his first 10 games with Triple-A Durham, Myers is hitting .297 with nine RBI and six runs with a .417 OBP. Tampa Bay has been on the record that they are in no rush to promote Myers to the big leagues, but as the 29th-ranked team in runs scored (35 – only Miami has scored fewer runs), Tampa may need to think twice about marinating Myers in the minors.
Oscar Taveras – Whispers of a Taveras-for-Profar trade have continued to swirl around baseball over the last month and change. While we wait, the Cardinals’ outfielder continues to perform for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds of the Pacific Coast League. Through the first seven games, Taveras is hitting .308 with four runs, two RBI and a stolen base. He produced a four-hit game back on April 12th against Oklahoma City. Taveras hit .321 with 23 home runs and 94 RBI at Double-A Springfield last season. He doesn’t turn 21 years old until mid-June.
Jurickson Profar – When Elvis Andrus signed his eight-year, $120-million contract extension earlier this month, Profar’s fan club in the greater-Texas area must have removed their cap, extended their index finger, placed it on their head and began to scratch. Among the top prospects in all of baseball, Profar is currently a man without a position at the big league level with his current organization. Now, there are some who argue that the Rangers could elect to slide Profar over to second as Ian Kinsler is about to fall onto the wrong side of 30 years old.
Through Triple-A Round Rock’s first eight games this season, Profar is hitting .222 with five runs, three RBI and three stolen bases. He hit .281 with 76 runs scored, 14 home runs, 62 RBI, and 16 steals for the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders last season.
If I’m a fantasy owner, I’m keeping close tabs on the trade rumors between Texas and St. Louis.
Billy Hamilton – With Shin-Soo Choo a likely one-year rental (he’s a free agent after 2013), the Cincinnati Reds are preparing the 22-year-old Hamilton to take over center field in 2014. He had been playing shortstop on his way up through the system, but the Reds elected to move him out to center for a variety of reason including body preservation. If you are unaware, Hamilton possesses some wheels. His speed is his greatest asset and a career at SS could beat him up over time. He stole 155 bases with a .410 OBP last season. That’s not a misprint. Hamilton has swiped seven bases for the Louisville Bats in 2013. I wouldn’t expect him to play much for the Reds in 2013, but watch his draft stock soar in 2014 if he remains healthy.
Mike Zunino – FOXSports.com fantasy contributor John Halpin banged the Zunino drum during last Friday’s "Fantasy 15" podcast. Although his offensive production has slowed since the podcast aired, 0-10 with a RBI in his last three games, Zuzino did smack four home runs in Triple-A Tacoma’s first five games. He’s currently hitting .278 with seven runs and 18 RBI in nine games. With Jesus Montero’s (.211 BA) and Justin Smoak’s (.182 BA) sluggish starts, the momentum to promote Zunino to the Mariners has picked up steam.
Yasiel Puig – The Dodgers invested $42-million, spread out over seven years, in the Cuban defector. The 22-year-old outfielder was sent down to the minors following spring training, but is currently mashing for the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. Through the first 10 games, Puig has six multi-hit performances with two home runs, seven RBI, five runs, and two stolen bases. They are paying him major league money. So, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Puig called up before September.
Dee Gordon – The shortstop’s inability to get on base reached a point where a spring training (WBC) injury to Hanley Ramirez couldn’t even secure him a spot on the Dodgers’ 25-man roster. However, he’s played well for the Albuquerque Isotopes in the early going. Gordon is hitting .319 (.385 OBP) with five doubles, nine runs, seven RBI, and eight stolen bases.
Mike Olt – The Rangers’ perceived first baseman of the future is in a slump to start 2013. He’s hitting .108 with 18 strikeouts in 37 at bats for the Round Rock Express. Ouch.
Jorge Soler – Just served a five-game suspension for charging an opponent’s dugout with a bat in hand. He’s hitting .435 with two home runs for the Daytona Cubs of the Class A Advanced Florida State League. Soler signed a nine-year, $30-million contract with the Cubs last June.
Tyler Pastornicky – Andrelton Simmons, 23, is the current Atlanta Braves shortstop. He fought for the big league gig with Tyler Pastornicky last season. The fellow 23-year-old, Pastornicky, hit .243 in 76 games for the Braves last season, but started 2013 with the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves. Thanks, in part, to his hot start, .392 BA – seven runs – seven RBI, the Jose Reyes-less Toronto Blue Jays have inquired about a possible trade for Pastornicky, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.