Fantasy Baseball

Minor league baseball report - PCL

Special to FOX Sports Adam McFadden
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Prospect hounds and savvy fantasy owners alike all wait for one thing as summer gets underway: The Super 2 deadline.

So... when is that again? Well, we’ll know in three years. No, seriously, it won’t be determined until 2015. But that’s not important for fantasy owners now. What’s important now is a date that teams feel safe enough to start calling up their young studs without losing a year of control.

The range is usually from mid-June to early July. With that just around the corner, here’s a look at some of the premier talent fantasy owners need to be aware of in the Pacific Coast League.

Players are ranked based on both talent and opportunity to make an impact in fantasy leagues this season.

1. Zack Wheeler (P) – Wheeler gets the top spot because the Mets have already said they plan on calling him very soon. So go get him now if you need a pitching boost. His arsenal is deep and devastating. Don’t let his 3.86 ERA this season fool you, Las Vegas is one of the worst pitching environments out there.

Wheeler has 59 strikeouts through 58.1 innings this season, mirroring his results throughout his minor league career. He should continue to be an elite strikeout pitcher in the majors.

2. Oscar Taveras (OF) – As a 20-year-old in Double-A last season, Taveras impressively boosted his power while cutting his strikeout rate. An ankle injury has hampered him through much of this season, but he’s still putting up a .322 AVG in limited time.

Taveras has power, speed and elite contact skills. Because of his strong plate discipline and ability to hit for average and steal bases, he has a strong shot at excelling early. Once healthy (he’s currently on the DL with the ankle injury), Taveras could be a Carlos Beltran-injury away from raking in the majors.

3. Carlos Martinez (P) – Martinez provided the tiniest glimpse of what he can do in eight innings with the Cardinals as a reliever this year when he struck out nine batters. He has displayed strong control through his time in the minors – a great sign for a 21-year-old.

The Cardinals are struggling to keep pitchers healthy and currently stretching out Martinez for a starting role. For reference: Martinez was rated better than recently promoted Michael Wacha by most analysts coming into the season.

4. Danny Hultzen (P) – He’s fully rebounded from the terrible control problem of last season (43 walks in 48.2 innings) and is excelling in Tacoma. It would be a surprise if he’s not pitching for the Mariners sometime this summer. He’s struck out more than a batter per inning at every stop since rookie ball, so he’s a guy to consider adding at the first sign of a call-up.

5. Erasmo Ramirez (P) – Few seem to realize just how good Ramirez was last season. Expect the Mariners, who are trotting out the likes of Aaron Harang and Jeremy Bonderman with startling frequency, to call him up as soon as he’s fully recovered from a triceps injury. He’s done well in two recent starts in the minors, so that time could be very soon.

In 59 innings with Seattle in 2012, Ramirez tallied an ERA of 3.36 and an elite 4.00 K/BB.

Yearly-league line

With their current production, any players below this line do not necessitate an immediate pickup upon their call to the majors if you’re playing a standard yearly league. But be sure to keep an eye on how they perform.

6. Mike Zunino (C) – Zunino has shown plenty of power with 11 home runs so far. Other than that, he’s hasn’t looked major-league ready. He’s hitting .228 with a 28.9 strikeout rate. Despite those alarming numbers, he has the talent to turn things around quickly and make an impact for the Mariners in 2013, though it’s not very likely.

7. Travis d’Arnaud (C) – Recently cleared to start rehab on his broken foot, d’Arnaud still has a chance to make an impact in fantasy leagues this season. It will just be in the second half after his unfortunate injury.

Don’t be overly worried by the catcher’s fluky start through 12 games in Triple-A. He hit .250, but drew walks in 24.5 percent of plate appearances. Neither one of those will continue once he gets back on the field.

He hit .333 with 16 home runs and 53 RBI in 303 at-bats in Triple-A last season.

8. James Paxton (P) – Things just haven’t gone Paxton’s way this season with an inflated .372 BABIP leading to a similarly inflated 4.97 ERA. The good news is that he’s made slight improvements in both his strikeout and walk rates. The back end of the Mariners’ rotation is a mess, so a strong run to improve that ERA could get Paxton a shot at the majors this season.

9. Mike Olt (3B) – Olt will turn 25 this summer and he’s off to a horrid start this season. He’s struck out in 35 of his 80 at-bats so far and is carrying a .175 average. That’s all the bad news. Still, his numbers in Double-A last season (28 home runs, .288 AVG, .398 OBP) show there’s plenty of potential. It would take a hot streak from Olt and an injury for the Rangers for him to see regular time this season.

10. Jarred Cosart (P) – Even with a slight increase in ERA, Cosart has improved. His strikeout rate is up to 24.9 percent, which is the best he’s shown since Single-A. Walks are a bit of a concern with him.

Cosart could show up with the Astros at any point this season, though his role is still up in the air.

He has electric stuff, but ugly mechanics, which have led some to think he might end up in the bullpen. Don’t rule out a ascension to the closer role if things break right for Cosart.

11. Kolten Wong (2B) – Wong displays a great ability to make contact and is hitting .325 this season. Between that and his decent speed, Wong could be a great source of runs if he finds his way to the top of the Cardinals lineup.

12. Matt Davidson (3B) – Davidson hasn’t looked as good as he did in Double-A last season when he hit 23 home runs with a BB/K of 0.55. Now in Triple-A, his plate discipline has slipped to 0.31, and his spiking strikeout rate is concerning. Still just 22, Davidson has plenty of time to figure out the next level. With the crowded infield in Arizona (especially once Eric Chavez and Aaron Hill return from injury), he’s not likely to make a big impact in 2013.

Tagged: Mariners, Rangers, Astros, Mets, Cardinals, Diamondbacks

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