Down on the Farm: The need for speed
With most of the impact youngsters already promoted, there aren't many in the minors for owners to target. Our Scott White highlights one last potential impact bat in his latest Down on the Farm.
It's that time of year again.
With teams tiring of their journeyman stopgaps and no longer slaves to the arbitration clock, the gates to the majors are open wide.
And oh, the pandemonium. The roster spots burned. The FAAB dollars spent. The fates forever altered by the actions of a fortunate few.
But that's behind us now. With so few resources still available and so few potential game-changers yet to arrive, I did the other day what any forethinking Fantasy owner would do with a free bench spot and a depleted waiver wire in a 12-team Rotisserie league.
I picked up Billy Hamilton.
He's sort of the last man standing, isn't he? Among the prospects many of us pegged as impact call-ups way back in spring training -- a group that included Myers, Wheeler, Puig, Cole, Zunino and Jurickson Profar -- Hamilton is the only one who hasn't gotten his shot yet.
Well, unless you count Oscar Taveras, Travis d'Arnaud and Dylan Bundy, but injuries have slowed their ascensions enough that you can't expect to see them much earlier than August or even September, if at all this year.
And of course, prospects such as Christian Yelich and Jonathan Singleton have since entered the discussion. Most talent evaluators don't perceive them as being as close to maximizing their potential as Hamilton, though, and their skill sets make them less assured of making an immediate impact when they arrive.
By now, we all know what Hamilton can do. He stole a billion bases last year. Or 155, whatever. He's not on pace for quite that many this season, but with 43 in 67 games, he hasn't exactly slowed down either. His .243 batting average at Triple-A Louisville may raise some concerns about his major-league readiness, but it's not as bad as it seems. Since May 9, he's batting .280 with enough walks to quiet concerns of the you-can't-steal-first-base adage.
|Player Name||% owned|
|1.||Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals||50|
|2.||Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals||45|
|3.||Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds||35|
|4.||Kevin Gausman, SP, Orioles||32|
|5.||Travis d'Arnaud, C, Blue Jays||30|
|6.||Ike Davis, 1B, Mets||30|
|7.||Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins||29|
|8.||Dylan Bundy, SP, Orioles||29|
|9.||Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians||28|
|10.||Tyler Skaggs, SP, D-Backs||26|
What makes his promotion seemingly all too easy is that the Reds have an opening for him. They have for months now, and they will for months more given Ryan Ludwick seemingly never-ending recovery from shoulder surgery. Xavier Paul and Derrick Robinson have done an adequate job in his absence, but neither has any business as a fourth outfielder at the major-league level, much less a starter, and both are running out of steam, with Paul batting .237 (9 for 38) and Robinson batting .212 (7 for 33) in June.
So why isn't Hamilton up already? A number of reasons. At the time of Ludwick's injury, the 22-year-old speedster was in the earliest stages of learning the outfield after playing shortstop last season and was off to a miserable start at the plate. Plus, the Reds probably felt like they could survive without him given the initial timetable for Ludwick's recovery. Now that Hamilton is up to speed and their only real hope of satisfactory production in left field for the foreseeable future -- and now that the dreaded Super Two distinction is no longer such a deterrent -- you have to think the Reds are more interested than ever in giving their top prospect his first go at it.
It's not a foregone conclusion, of course. Maybe at age 22, nothing short of a .300 batting average from Hamilton would motivate the Reds to clear a spot for him. But I have a feeling the playoff push will force the issue. The Reds have pitching coming out of their ears but can't keep up with the Cardinals offensively. Hamilton's near-mythical, once-in-a-generation-type speed will rattle opposing pitchers in a way numbers can't express. The Reds' management team of Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker will recognize it more than most. They're as old-school as old school gets.
And even if they don't, what do you stand to lose? So he eats up a roster spot for a few weeks. Considering he qualifies at one of the weakest positions in Fantasy (shortstop, remember), is virtually free for the taking on the waiver wire and could single-handedly vault you to the top of the steals category between now and season's end, stashing Hamilton is well worth the risk, provided he meets a need.
In a matter of weeks, Astros first base prospect Jonathan Singleton accomplished something it takes many baseball players years to do -- if they do it at all. Since late May, Singleton has been promoted from Class A to Double-A to Triple-A. He's ascended multiple levels in the minors and it took him only 17 games to get to Triple-A.
Now, if you didn't know Singleton's story, then you wouldn't know my opening is misleading and it's actually taken the 2009 eighth-round draft pick a few years to make it to Triple-A.
But, it is true he's joined the roster at Oklahoma City after missing the start of the season serving a 50-game suspension for violating MLB's drug policy, and Triple-A likely isn't his last stop in 2013.
"Why not?" Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said in early June when asked if Singleton was MLBbound this season. "Maybe this will all end up with him in Houston this summer."
If Singleton didn't have to serve a suspension to start the year, then it's likely he would have joined the wave of elite prospects promoted to the majors and could already be making a Fantasy impact.
Nonetheless, Singleton is working into game shape and getting his timing down at the plate. By the look of his stat line, which is highlighted by five home runs and .642 slugging percentage in 19 games, it doesn't appear Singleton's ascent will stop until Astros manager Bo Porter pencils his name into Houston's starting lineup.
"I made this perfectly clear to Jonathan when this whole situation came about," Porter said in early June, per MLB.com. "I told him, 'Your baseball skill set is one thing, but you getting this here situation under control and behind you and making better decisions moving forward is more about Jonathan 'The Man' than it is about Jonathan 'The Baseball Player.'
"Because if we get Jonathan 'The Man' right, then we're going to get the 'Baseball Player,' but if we don't get Jonathan 'The Man' right, we will never get the 'Baseball Player.' To his credit, he has gotten Jonathan 'The Man' right, and I think the baseball part of it will pretty much take care of itself."
With Singleton taking care of business on and off the field, the Astros no longer have to guess about his future, and he's turning "Why not?" into "Why wait?"
Now, it's time for five more players making headlines in the minors …
Taijuan Walker, SP, Mariners
Maikel Franco, 3B, Phillies
Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox
Cesar Puello, OF, Mets
Albert Almora, OF, Cubs
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