Fantasy Baseball Prospects Report: Is Austin Meadows the answer to the Starling Marte suspension?
Austin Meadows would seem like a logical choice to step in for the suspended Starling Marte, but the Pirates say he's not ready. Scott White looks at that situation and gives his top five prospects to stash.
It makes almost too much sense.
The Pittsburgh Pirates lose an outfielder for 80 games, but their top hitting prospect just so happens to be an outfielder -- one residing at Triple-A and one whose presence inspired the Pirates to shop franchise player Andrew McCutchen this offseason.
But Austin Meadows just isn't ready, at least according to general manager Neal Huntington.
He's not wrong. True, that line of thinking often is dismissed as executive speak, code for "we're not ready for him to get service time yet," especially when the fit is as natural as this one. But Meadows is hitting .146 (6 for 41) at Triple-A so far after hitting .214 (27 for 126) there last year.
He has to prove he can hit Triple-A pitching before he moves on to the majors.
Besides, the need isn't as great as it might appear at first glance. Don't get me wrong: Starling Marte is an All-Star-caliber player, and the Pirates can't conjure another of those out of thin air. But they were already looking for excuses to get Adam Frazier in the lineup as their leadoff hitter. Marte's suspension makes it all the easier.
Which isn't to say you can't stash Meadows in redraft leagues. Huntington did acknowledge that the 21-year-old could be up at some point this year.
"We're encouraged by where Meadows will be at some point over the course of the summer," the GM told MLB.com. "He's not ready right now, but we're thrilled by where he can go."
The ninth overall pick in the 2013 draft is considered one of the game's elite outfield prospects, having hit for average at every level prior to this speed bump -- with emerging power to boot -- but I can come up with at least one other minor-league outfielder I'd be stashing ahead of him.
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Julio Urias , SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2016 majors: 5-2, 3.39 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 77 IP, 31 BB, 84 K
2017 minors: 0-0, 3.24 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 8 1/3 IP, 6 BB, 9 K
In case there was any doubt, Urias is "not an option" to replace the recently-returned-to-the-DL Rich Hill , manager Dave Roberts confirmed. You got that? He's not an option, so stop asking, OK? The 20-year-old lefty's second start went better than his first, with him issuing a more palatable two walks in 4 2/3 innings, and the early exits shouldn't concern you since every minor-league inning comes out of his eventual major-league allotment. Clearly, the Dodgers have a plan for him, and they aren't moving off it.
Yoan Moncada , 3B, Chicago White Sox
2016 minors: .294 BA (405 AB), 15 HR, 45 SB, .918 OPS, 72 BB, 124 K
2017 minors: .318 BA (44 AB), 3 HR, 2 SB, .957 OPS, 7 BB, 15 K
Moncada homered Tuesday to keep up his sparkling percentages in his first taste of Triple-A ball. It was a serious poke, too.
But he's not running as much as at previous stops and is striking out too much for comfort as well. The White Sox have nothing to play for, so they won't move him up until they're confident he's ready. Still, you won't find a prospect with a better combination of upside and proximity. The former is just as important as the latter in determining stashability, you know.
Cody Bellinger , 1B, Dodgers
2016 minors: .271 BA (410 AB), 26 HR, .872 OPS, 60 BB, 94 K
2017 minors: .348 BA (46 AB), 3 HR, 4 SB, 1.054 OPS, 5 BB, 16 K
Bellinger hit just .207 (12 for 58) in spring training but got plenty of buzz apart from his performance, and now we're beginning to see why. The power was to be expected, but the speed (he's 4 for 4 on stolen bases this year -- and 6 for 6 if you include spring training) is a nice bonus. So was the recent start in center field, which also served as a reminder that the 21-year-old could be the Dodgers' ultimate solution to left field if Andrew Toles doesn't get his act together. Why bother with the reclamation project if he's not reaching base at even a .300 clip against right-handers?
Bradley Zimmer , OF, Cleveland Indians
2016 minors: .250 BA (468 AB), 15 HR, 38 SB, .790 OPS, 77 BB, 171 K
2017 minors: .267 BA (45 AB), 1 HR, 4 SB, .815 OPS, 4 BB, 13 K
Zimmer has been a more prolific base-stealer than Austin Meadows throughout his minor-league career, which would make him the preferred stash for Starling Marte owners -- well, that and the likelihood of him reaching the majors first at age 24. Then again, Lonnie Chisenhall 's noisy return from the DL has dealt Zimmer's timetable a blow, as has Zimmer's own uninspiring start to the year. He's probably behind Tyler Naquin , who was recently sent down, in the pecking order, which is a big reason why I've flip-flopped him and Cody Bellinger since a week ago.
Franklin Barreto , SS, Oakland Athletics
2016 minors: .281 BA (462 AB), 10 HR, 30 SB, .753 OPS, 36 BB, 90 K
2017 spring: .283 BA (46 AB), 2 HR, 1 SB, .818 OPS, 3 BB 17 K
As the Pirates did with Austin Meadows, the Athletics have said Barreto isn't a candidate to replace the injured Marcus Semien at shortstop. But having undergone wrist surgery, Semien's absence will measure in months rather than weeks. In other words, Barreto has plenty of time to prove he belongs. He could start by making more contact -- and I'll admit I felt better about including him here a week ago, before the Semien news -- but the fact is there aren't a lot of impact prospects knocking on the door right now. The path for Barreto is clearer than for most.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Brent Honeywell , SP, Tampa Bay Rays
2016 minors: 7-3, 2.34 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 115 1/3 IP, 25 BB, 117 K
2017 minors: 1-1, 2.08 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 13 IP, 4 BB, 20 K
Honeywell so thoroughly dominated Double-A, striking out 12 in his first start and then throwing seven one-hit innings in his second, that he has already earned a promotion to Triple-A. The 22-year-old most noted for his screwball and five-pitch arsenal has made quick work of every level since getting selected in the seond round of the 2014 draft. How crazy would it be if he beats Jose De Leon , currently sidelined by a sore forearm, to the majors?
Scott Kingery , 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
2016 minors: .281 BA (531 AB), 5 HR, 30 SB, .723 OPS, 38 BB, 90 K
2017 minors: .256 BA (39 AB), 4 HR, 3 SB, 1.029 OPS, 7 BB, 10 K
Kingery doesn't get much love from prospect enthusiasts, but he made an impression in spring training, homering twice with a one-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio in 25 plate appearances and making highlight plays at second base.
"I can't say enough about Kingery, boy," manager Pete Mackanin told MLB.com at the time. "I really like what I see. He's a real good-looking young player. To be as composed as he is in his first big league camp after just getting a taste of Double-A, he really has made a great first impression."
Kingery is better known for his speed than his power, and while he's doing his best to change that, he's doing it at the notoriously hitter-friendly Double-A Reading.
Anthony Alford , OF, Toronto Blue Jays
2016 minors: .236 BA (339 AB), 9 HR, 18 SB, .722 OPS, 53 BB, 117 K
2017 minors: .514 BA (35 AB), 1 HR, 6 SB, 1.262 OPS, 8 BB, 7 K
A disastrous 2016 didn't cost Alford much of his prospect shine, with most publications giving the former Ole Miss defensive back a pass since he only recently committed to baseball full-time. He was also limited by a knee injury much of the year, and we're seeing now what he can do when healthy, particularly on the base paths. He has been the toughest out for minor-league pitchers so far, though he has hit mostly singles. Still, he's built for power, and his strike-zone judgment should reduce the learning curve.
Dane Dunning , SP, White Sox Detroit Tigers
2016 minors: 3-2, 2.02 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 35 2/3 IP, 7 BB, 32 K
2017 minors: 1-0, 0.45 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 20 IP, 1 BB, 26 K
Dunning was the other pitcher who came over with Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez in the Adam Eaton deal, and if his start to the season is any indication, the White Sox may have gotten a better haul for their center fielder than for Chris Sale , even. Then again, Dunning is a 22-year-old pitching in low Class A, which puts his 26-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in perspective. The 29th pick in last year's draft is a proven strike-thrower and should move quickly as a result, but his number may overstate his stuff.
Mike Clevinger , SP, Indians
2016 majors: 3-3, 5.26 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 53 IP, 29 BB, 50 K
2017 minors: 2-0, 0.47 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 19 IP, 5 BB, 25 K
Clevinger never found his footing in the Indians rotation last year, though he was part of the postseason roster simply by virtue of attrition. The long-haired 26-year-old has a prospect pedigree, a 96-mph fastball and a three-pitch arsenal, and he's doing everything he can to get back to the big leagues, allowing no more than four hits while striking out no fewer than eight in each of his three starts. An injury would open the door for him, as would continued struggles form either Trevor Bauer or Josh Tomlin .
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