Prospect Impact: Aaron Hicks, Leonys Martin, Evan Gattis

This offseason, as transactions unfold and news breaks on the big league level, we’ll take a look at how the ripple effects shake out on the prospect side, focusing primarily on 2013 fantasy impact, with an eye toward the future, too.

This week: Another look at the Twins centerfielder of the future; a check-in on the Rangers centerfielder of the present; and a big bat who could see some action behind the plate for the Braves.

ACTION: Twins considering every option in centerfield
IMPACT: OF Aaron Hicks, Twins

I hit on Hicks (along with fellow outfield prospect Oswaldo Arcia) earlier in the offseason after Minnesota traded Denard Span, so click there for more on his 2012 performance, but it’s worth brushing up on him again now that there’s been more talk that he could break camp as the Twins’ starting centerfielder. With both Span and Ben Revere out of the picture, things are shaping up in such a way that three young players will be competing for that position in February and March — Hicks, fellow prospect Joe Benson and Darin Mastroianni.

The funny thing is, of that trio, Mastroianni has the lowest upside but may actually be the “safest” option — and possibly the best fantasy option, if only for 2013, because of his stolen base ability (he swiped 21 in fewer than 200 PAs in 2012). Hicks, on the other hand, has often taken a while to adjust to his new surroundings each time he was pushed up the ladder, and if that happens again, this time in the majors, he might not fare all that well initially. No matter how dire the club is, if the Twins sense such a scenario playing out based on Hicks’ spring performance, expect him to be sent to Triple-A — a level he’s yet to play at, by the way — for some more seasoning.

FANTASY VALUE: Hicks is worth watching over the next six weeks, and if it looks like he’s played well enough to come north with the Twins, he’ll be worth owning in all AL-only leagues, particularly those that use OBP instead of average; his .379 career OBP is more than 100 points higher than his average. But don’t consider Hicks as more than a reserve OF until he proves himself. Cohort J.D. Sussman also wrote about Hicks recently, as a prospect who could be a stolen base sleeper for 2013, and there’s merit to that, as long as expectations are set in the 15-to-20-steal range, even as a full-timer.

NOTE: If you’re wondering about Benson, who was once a solid prospect until injuries derailed his development, he’ll be in the mix, but it’s tough to get excited about a guy who was demoted from Triple-A to Double-A last year (he hit just .202 overall), missed half the season following hamate bone surgery and still swings and misses too much (24% K).

ACTION: Indians sign OF Michael Bourn
IMPACT: OF Leonys Martin, Rangers

With Josh Hamilton gone and Bourn, who was frequently linked to the Rangers as a possible landing spot to replace Hamilton, now going to Cleveland, Martin will have a big role with Texas in 2013. The club has indicated that both Martin and Craig Gentry will handle centerfield duties, and the two should fit well as a platoon: Martin hits from the left side and sports a .400 OBP and .932 OPS versus righties in the minors, whereas the righty-swinging Gentry goes .364 and .756 against southpaws. That bodes well for Martin, a Cuban defector who signed back in 2011 and will turn 25 in March, as he should get the lion’s share of at-bats as the strong side.

Martin’s minor league performance and scouting report both show a toolsy, athletic player who runs well enough to steal bases and hits well enough to contribute in average with smidge of power to boot. He missed several weeks in 2012 with a thumb injury and is still a little rough around the edges in some respects (i.e., he’s been successful on only 29 of 49 stolen base attempts), but Martin makes contact and walks a fair amount. His overall minor league slash stats — .323/.388/.503 — fall into the too-good-to-be-true realm, but he’s ready to contribute now, and if he can hold his own, Martin should be better than your typical bottom-of-the-lineup hitter, which is where he’ll likely fall with the Rangers in the short-term.

FANTASY VALUE: Martin is draftable in all formats, even mixed leagues, as he’ll be in the majors and see a good amount of action out of the gate. Unless your mixed league uses five outfielders, though, he should be more of a plug-and-play type until we get a better idea of just how his skills will translate to the bigs — and whether the Rangers will use him as the primary option against right-handers. AL-only owners should feel confident to start him regularly, as Martin should be useful in average and steals, and if he ever works his way toward the top of the lineup, there could be a nice uptick in runs scored.

*Colleague Marc Hulet ranked Martin No. 4 among the Texas Rangers Top 15 Prospects earlier this offseason.

ACTION: Braves C Brian McCann’s recovery timetable from shoulder surgery looks like a mid-to-late April return
IMPACT: C/OF/1B Evan Gattis, Braves

I touched on Gattis a few weeks ago in the wake of the Justin Upton trade that hurt his chances to contribute much in 2013. That’s still the case, although the news that McCann may not be ready to start the season at least opens the door up a bit again. At this stage, the 26-year-old Gattis is seen more as an outfielder than a catcher, but most accounts indicate that he could at least rough it behind the dish. Considering the power his righty bat carries — he hit 20 doubles and 18 homers in fewer than 300 at-bats in 2012 then went on to lead the Venezuelan Winter League with 16 more bombs — that would make him an intriguing play in fantasy. The health of McCann’s shoulder will dictate what happens with Gattis this spring. One would imagine, though, the Braves would give him time at catcher, just so they know what he can — and can’t — do if they need him to be Gerald Laird’s backup for a few games once the season begins.

FANTASY VALUE: For NL-only leagues that have an eligibility minimum of one game at a position, it’s worth knowing Gattis’ name. He’d almost certainly return to the high minors in short order once McCann is back, but Gattis’ “versatility” could put him in position to be the club’s extra outfielder/backup first baseman/backup catcher and earn him 150-200 at-bats. If you can use Gattis as a second catcher in fantasy when he’s up, you may sneak into 8-10 homers.

*Colleague Marc Hulet ranked Gattis No. 10 among the Atlanta Braves Top 15 Prospects earlier in the offseason.

We hoped you liked reading Prospect Impact: Aaron Hicks, Leonys Martin, Evan Gattis by Jason Catania!

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Jason Catania is an MLB Lead Writer for Bleacher Report who also contributes to ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Insider and MLB Rumor Central, focusing on baseball and fantasy content. When he was first introduced to fantasy baseball, Derek Jeter had 195 career hits, Jamie Moyer had 72 wins and Matt Stairs was on team No. 3. You can follow him on Twitter: @JayCat11

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Detroit Michael
Detroit Michael

How does Julio Borbon fit into the TEX CF playing time situation? I read he is out of options.

Detroit Michael
Detroit Michael

I was more concerned about a possible impact on Martin’s playing time.