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Minor Developments: The bears and bulls

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Can Mark Appel live up to the hype of being a No. 1 overall draft pick?. (Getty))

Everyone who prospects has opinions, and this week, with spring training beginning, it is the perfect time to unveil five fantasy prospects I’m bullish and bearish on. Some of these players are a few years away from the major leagues.  Feel free to ask questions about these players and others in the comments or directly to me on Twitter @rsteingall.

 Bullish

Maikel Franco, 3B, Phillies: With true power bats becoming more and more scarce, Franco’s value increases.  He’s aggressive at the dish and has a knack for putting the bat on the ball, a skill which should lead him to plenty of .270 seasons while challenging the 30-homer mark throughout his prime. He’s a better hitter than Cody Asche and has a legitimate shot at supplanting him early in the season.

Kyle Crick, SP, Giants: The thing that sets Crick apart from other young pitchers is the nasty movement he has on his pitches, which is a blessing and a curse, since it does lead to more walks than usual. He should learn how to harness his stuff with more maturity, similar to how Matt Moore progressed through his minor league career. This is a big year for Crick with the key being improved command.

David Dahl, OF, Rockies: Injuries and immaturity killed Dahl’s 2013 season, dropping his stock and putting many questions in the minds of fantasy owners. I’d advise you to buy immediately, as Dahl’s special five-tool potential is rivaled by few prospects in the minors. He has the ability to challenge .290-300 annually, while adding 20 homers and 25-30 steals. Sign me up.

Garin Cecchini, 3B, Red Sox: I know, the power is underwhelming when you look at the numbers, but that doesn’t mean Cecchini doesn’t have it. His amazing plate discipline will lead to plenty of runs scored, and you could also see 10-20 steals, a nice bonus from a corner infielder. If he cranks out .280 with 15 homers in his prime, along with his on-base and base-running skills, you’ll be happy you bought in early.

 Josh Bell, OF, Pirates: Another power bat, and one you may get on the cheap following two years of underwhelming results (one cut short due to injury). He garnered the highest bonus for a non-first rounder back in 2011 ($5 million), so the pedigree is certainly there. As Bell becomes more accustomed to switch-hitting, the counting stats should only continue to rise, along with his prospect status.

Bearish

Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians: I like Lindor as a real life player, but as a fantasy prospect, he is a bit underwhelming. Scouting reports from ’09 on Alcides Escobar are eerily similar to current reports on Lindor. Both received rave defensive reviews and possess a similar offensive profile, but the power has yet to materialize in Escobar. I see a lot of similarity in Lindor’s offensive game, and that isn’t something I want to be a part of.

Austin Hedges, C, Padres: Cue the “guy who is a better real life player than fantasy player” line again. Hedges is one of the best defensive prospects to come through the minors in some time, but questions about whether the bat will come around are enough to scare me away. If he struggles to hit .250 with 10-15 homers in more neutral minor-league hitting environments, what is Petco Park going to do to those numbers?

Mark Appel, SP, Astros: I thought the Astros missed on the best pitcher by drafting Appel over Jon Gray (who I love) last year. While Appel was more polished out of college, he doesn’t have the same pure stuff and showed diminished velocity on his pitches at the end of last season. There is potential for both a plus slider and plus changeup in his arsenal, but it’s not there yet. Appel is going to be a work in progress this year, with plenty of mechanical kinks to work out.

Jake Odorizzi, SP, Rays: Last week, I likened Odorizzi to Reds pitcher Mike Leake. Both feature a deep arsenal of pitches, but nothing that blows you away. He may be a very serviceable AL-only pitcher or a guy you stream, but not somebody you build a mixed league staff around. As a player close to the majors with a solid prospect pedigree, I’d be looking to trade him in a dynasty format for a higher upside talent.

Nick Castellanos, OF/3B, Tigers: I know he’s still very young, but when you get down to the scouting reports, his future fantasy success will depend on whether his power develops. Castellanos may challenge .300 in his prime, but with an average power tool and little speed, his offensive upside may be limited. I prefer Cecchini long term because he profiles as a more complete fantasy asset despite being a year older and only in Double-A.

Rob Steingall is a syndicated fantasy analyst. Follow him on Twitter @rsteingall

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