Down on the Farm: Spring into action
This year's most impressive minor-leaguer is the 30th-most owned in Fantasy.
It's a subjective term: most impressive. No doubt, several players have wowed us with their dismantling of the lower levels to this point.
But every year, one in particular emerges with numbers so impressive and a path so projectable that he becomes the embodiment of all our hopes and dreams.
You remember who that player was last year, don't you? Wil Myers , with his 37 home runs between Double- and Triple-A, became the one hitter every Fantasy owner yearned to see in the big leagues, just as Dylan Bundy , with his 30 shutout innings to begin his minor-league career, became the one pitcher. Nobody articulated it, but everybody knew.
|1.||Will Middlebrooks , 3B, Red Sox||58|
|2.||Oscar Taveras , OF, Cardinals||43|
|3.||Michael Wacha , SP, Cardinals||41|
|4.||Dan Straily , SP, Athletics||39|
|5.||Billy Hamilton , SS, Reds||37|
|6.||Ike Davis , 1B, Mets||32|
|7.||Travis d'Arnaud , C, Mets||29|
|8.||Christian Yelich , OF, Marlins||28|
|9.||Trevor Bauer , SP, Indians||28|
|10.||Dylan Bundy , SP, Orioles||26|
And what should everybody know this year?
That George Springer , with his 19 home runs a little more than halfway through the season, is the bomb diggity.
Granted, he's not the only minor-leaguer putting up big power numbers so far, but unlike Joey Terdoslavich and Xavier Scruggs , he comes with a top prospect pedigree, making his performance a little more believable.
It's also multi-dimensional. Not only is Springer homering every time you turn around, but his 23 steals also rank among the minor-league leaders. And his 42 walks in 273 at-bats give him a near-.400 on-base percentage.
Yup, those Matt Kemp comparisons are right on the money so far.
And it's not like he's achieving such heights against a bunch of teenagers who still haven't learned to throw a breaking pitch. Given the number of journeymen littering Triple-A, you could argue Double-A actually features the minor leagues' best talent. And Springer showed his performance was no fluke against the best of the best, capping off his time at Double-A with two homers in the Texas League All-Star game Tuesday night.
That's right: capping it off. The Astros have already announced he'll kick off the second half at Triple-A Oklahoma City, putting him just one step away from the big leagues.
The question, then, is why? Why do Fantasy owners, ever infatuated with the next big thing, care so little about a prospect with so much going for him?
Maybe they've finally taken my fixation with strikeout rate to heart, pointing to Springer's 96 strikeouts in 273 at-bats this year as the reason he's not ready.
Maybe, but I doubt it. Myers' 140 strikeouts in 522 at-bats last year didn't scare anyone away.
Maybe they're burned out on prospects after waiting so long for Myers' arrival and enduring the disappointing debuts of Kevin Gausman , Zack Wheeler and Mike Zunino .
Maybe, but I doubt it. Zoilo Almonte is currently the most added player in Fantasy as the latest thing to arrive from the minors, and he's not even really a prospect.
OK, so maybe they're all just smarter than I realize.
Yeah, maybe. Didn't we suffer through this same ordeal last year with Myers, waiting around for a rebuilding club to give the minor leagues' most impressive prospect a call? And it never happened, right? With winning no longer a priority for them at that stage of the season, the Royals recognized he had more value as (potentially) an overachieving minor-leaguer than (potentially) an underwhelming call-up.
That scenario seems even more likely in this case. In my 20 years following baseball, I've never seen an organization more committed to the rebuilding process than these Astros, who seem to weigh every move with the future in mind and without getting sidetracked by cheap thrills or meaningless winning streaks. It's the reason I don't see them calling up No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel this year either.
Jon Singleton is a different story because they've pretty much said they'll promote him at some point, but promoting Springer before they're completely sure he's ready can only hurt them by stunting his development or sticking him with service time too soon. If he ends up being more than ready, so what? They're losing now anyway. He can marinate. From their perspective even more than yours, that strikeout rate is legitimate reason for doubt.
So yeah, maybe that's it. Maybe the masses don't need some schlub like me telling them which players to stash.
Maybe, but I doubt it. Just look at Oscar Taveras . Between the recurring ankle injury and the underwhelming production at Triple-A, he's not coming up anytime soon, yet he's the second-most owned minor-leaguer at 44 percent. Outside of keeper leagues, he's not so worth stashing anymore.
Mostly, it's the disparity between him and Springer that bothers me. No, I don't really expect Springer to make a Fantasy impact this year, but the same goes for most of the 29 minor-leaguers owned in more leagues than him. At least for Springer, a promotion is possible. For Miguel Sano and Jameson Taillon , not so much.
So if you're plodding along with a lost-cause minor-leaguer on your bench just to give yourself a chance at a big splash, consider swapping him out for Springer. He's the bomb diggity, after all.
The Astros succeeded where the Pittsburgh Pirates could not -- by signing highly touted prospect Mark Appel .
A year after turning down a $3.8 million signing bonus from the Pirates and returning to Stanford, Appel improved his draft status -- ending up as the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft -- and his bank account, landing a $6.35 million bonus from the Astros, according to Baseball America.
Due to his quick signing, Appel is on track to make his pro debut in early July and leave the door open for his MLB debut later this summer. But Fantasy owners shouldn't begin having delusions of Appel making a significant Fantasy impact in 2013.
It's not unheard of these days for a draft pick to make his MLB debut months after his selection. One of the more notable players to have done it is White Sox hurler Chris Sale , who made his MLB debut Aug. 6, 2010 nearly two months to the date after being drafted 13th overall. However, all of Sale's 11 appearances in the minors in 2010 were in relief, which is exactly the role he filled once promoted to the majors.
Appel is slated to be used as a starter at short-season Class A Tri-City once he's done with his throwing program in Florida. The Astros could give Appel a taste of the majors late in the year, but a lot depends on how he performs in the minors and how many innings he tosses.
Appel threw 106 innings for Stanford this season. Sale threw 103 innings for Florida Gulf Coast in 2010, which was part of the reason Chicago limited him to a relief role once his pro career began. The White Sox didn't want to put too much stress on Sale's arm after logging heavy innings in college, and you better believe after the investment the Astros made in Appel that they will proceed with caution as well, especially since a playoff berth isn't in reach. The 2010 White Sox had a chance at the playoffs, which was why Sale was fast tracked to the majors as a reliever.
"Drafting and signing Mark Appel was a top priority for our organization this year," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We are an organization focused on winning championships in the future and we expect Mark to be a big part of that effort."
Lunhow gave a pretty strong indication Appel's impact is "in the future," and he likely doesn't mean immediate.
Now, it's time for five more players making headlines in the minors ...
, SP, Nationals
, OF, Royals
, 1B/3B, Rangers
Rosell Herrera, SS/3B, Rockies
Gabriel Ynoa, SP, Mets