Minor Developments: Battling for the bigs

Rob Steingall
Yahoo Sports

Despite many top prospects being reassigned to minor league camps, there are still plenty of potential rookies battling for spots on their respective major league rosters. Injuries, ineffectiveness and upside are the reasons.

With the news of Diamondbacks staff anchor Patrick Corbin likely needing Tommy John surgery, the timetable for top pitching prospect Archie Bradley immediately accelerates. While he struggled a bit in his last outing against the Mariners (2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO), the door is wide open for him to start 2014 in the majors. Bradley could use more time refining his arsenal at Triple-A, but expect strong strikeout totals from the young righty whenever his time comes. He’s very much worth a draft and stash in mixed leagues with deep benches.

The Royals have a young fireballer of their own in Yordano Ventura, who is putting together a very impressive spring. His most recent outing against Oakland gave fantasy owners a glimpse of his awesome strikeout potential (4.1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO). With Danny Duffy struggling this spring (9 IP, 15 H, 11 ER, 4 BB, 8 SO) and still trying to find his groove following his ’13 return from Tommy John surgery, the early nod for the Royals fifth starter spot will likely go to Ventura. Move him up your draft boards accordingly in mixers, and be sure to get involved in the bidding if you’re in an AL-only format. Guys who throw triple-digit gas regularly don’t grow on trees, and this may be the one year you can own him cheaply.

Astros outfielder George Springer is giving us what we expected from him, lots of walks (8), strikeouts (10) and steals (4). His .192 average and zero home runs are disappointing, but it’s such a small sample that you shouldn’t worry about the lack of power. Still, I believe Springer will struggle to hit for average when he finally reaches the majors as he adjusts to higher level pitching. His contact woes are very real; check out this great piece by Jeff Sullivan over at Fangraphs. I said last month that I believe he’s a .250-.260 hitter, a tolerable number when combined with tantalizing power and speed.

Word out of Diamondbacks camp has prospect Chris Owings with a leg up on Didi Gregorius for the starting shortstop gig, with the club opting for offensive upside over better defense. Owings offers double-digit power and speed potential, and could post a .270/15/15 line as a rookie. Continue to monitor this situation throughout the spring, but drafting Owings late would be a shrewd move for owners in mixed formats looking for combo upside.

The Cardinals have a great track record developing pitchers, and fantasy owners are hoping Carlos Martinez follows suit. He’s been solid this spring (10 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO), outperforming teammate Joe Kelly (9.1 IP, 13 H, 8 ER, 4 BB, 6 SO) by a pretty sizable margin. Despite these early results, who wins this job is very much up in the air. Martinez is the far superior talent, and an arm you want to target late in your draft. Guys like Joe Kelly are a dime a dozen, so chase the upside here.

So far, the hype has been warranted for new Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, as he’s cruised through his first three spring outings (9.1 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 10 SO). He works primarily in the low 90s, but can reach back for more in big spots. His splitter is a devastating swing and miss pitch, and his slider is also an effective weapon that generates plenty of whiffs. This quote from Yankees catcher Brian McCann sums Tanaka up best: "swing-and-miss stuff with four pitches. He's special.". Tanaka can be currently had in the early middle rounds of fantasy drafts, a bargain for a guy capable of ace-level production.

The White Sox are pleased with the early returns from first baseman Jose Abreu, who seems to be adjusting nicely to his first taste of major league pitching (.290, 1 HR, 6 RBI). His power is legit, but can he stay healthy over the course of a grinding major league season while also proving he can handle the inside fastball? Most projections have Abreu hitting .270-.280 with at least 25 home runs, production I’m willing to roll the dice on in the middle rounds of mixers.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rsteingall

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