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: The Mariners rotation won’t be as easy for a lefty in the high minors to crack; the D-backs’ third baseman of the future’s future comes into question; and the A’s utility infield prospect may fall victim to a man named Jed.
The Mariners have loads of pitching talent down on the farm, but we’ll focus on Hultzen here because he’s the only one of the bunch who is on the 40-man roster and has already pitched at Triple-A. Hultzen’s chances to crack the rotation out of spring were probably never super high, even after Jason Vargas was traded, and bringing Saunders into the fold should just about clinch that.
Hultzen, who was considered very close to big league-ready upon being selected (somewhat surprisingly) No. 2 overall in 2011, pitched fantastically at Double-A over the first half last year (1.19 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 9.4 K/9) and there was some buzz that he might get a call-up. Things took a decided turn for the worse, though, when the 23-year-old southpaw was promoted to Triple-A, where he posted a 5.92 ERA that actually looked good compared to his peripherals, namely WHIP (1.89) and walk rate (a ghastly 8.0/9). It’s a small sample size (just 48.2 IPs) that shouldn’t be read into too much, as Hultzen was adjusting to his first full pro season, but the numbers underscore the fact that more time in the minors is necessary. With Saunders around, the Mariners can afford to go that route.
FANTASY VALUE: This might very well wind up being a good thing for Hultzen, both in the short- and long-term. Even if Hultzen has a great showing in big league camp, Seattle will only be tempted — as opposed to forced — to keep him with the club. Should he conquer Tacoma for two or three months, Hultzen would prove he’s ready to debut, and it’s not like Blake Beavan or Hector Noesi is going to prevent as much. Owners in all AL-onlies will probably have to target Hultzen on draft/auction day, but those in deep mixed formats should keep Hultzen on the Watch Lists, as he will be a top in-season free agent add once he’s called upon. If you have the roster space to stash him after a handful of strong Triple-A outings, do so for help in ERA, WHIP and even strikeouts, especially pitching half his games at Safeco.
*Colleague Marc Hulet ranked Hultzen No. 3 among the Seattle Mariners Top 15 Prospects earlier this offseason.
Signing Prado to a long-term extension was a great move for the D-backs as a whole, but a tough one for Davidson in particular. The 21-year-old supplemental pick in 2009 has already handled Double-A and has big power, as evidenced by the 34 doubles and 20 homers he’s averaged over his first three full pro seasons. There are questions about his ability to stay at third base, though, and there’s also a lot of swing-and-miss with Davidson, who sports a 24% K rate for his career. The mitigating factor in all of this is Prado’s versatility, of course. The veteran will play the hot corner for Arizona in 2013, this we know, but it’s not out of the question that he could shift back to a corner outfield spot in the future, to open things up once Davidson is good to go.
FANTASY VALUE: Davidson is in position to start 2013 at Triple-A, and he could put up some crazy power digits in the hitter haven that is Reno in the offense-friendly PCL. Chances are, he earns a promotion at some point in the second half, but it’s tough to see how he would get any regular PT without any injury. Beyond this season, Davidson’s keeper value might’ve taken a slight hit with the Prado extension because his role is less assured now, but ultimately if he performs, he’ll get a shot.
Earlier in the week, Mr. Howard Bender broke down the A’s infield sitch in great depth in the wake of this Lowrie trade. One player he failed to mention, though — and maybe for good reason — is Green, the No. 13 overall pick in 2009 who spent all of 2012 at Triple-A. The 25-year-old former shortstop-turned-outfielder-turned-infielder-again continued to prove he can hit with a .296 average, .458 slugging percentage, 28 doubles and 15 homers. What he’s never shown, though, is patience (6% BB rate), but at least Green’s contact rate spiked last season with just 75 strikeouts (15% K rate).
Even after the A’s had added Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima to their infield smorgasbord, Green seemed to be in line to compete for a job this spring, either as a starter at second or third base or a backup at both. Just last week, there were reports that Green was going to get a long look in March, but with the acquisition of Lowrie, who’s expected to pitch in at either/both second and third, Green’s role would seem to be severely decreased. While it’s possible Lowrie could settle in at one position, Green would still be competing with no fewer than five other players in the infield. And it’s not like his limited experience in the outfield will help Green much, either, considering the A’s are already overflowing with options there.
FANTASY VALUE: Entering the offseason, and still just a week ago, Green looked like an under-the-radar option as an AL-only reserve who could gain eligibility at three or even four positions and fill in across the board as the kind of player who wouldn’t help a ton but also wouldn’t hurt. Believe it or not, there’s legitimate value to that in very deep single-league formats, especially with how shallow shortstop and second base are in the AL. Now that Lowrie’s been brought in, though, Green is almost guaranteed to return to Triple-A, where he’ll have to wait for either injury or ineffectiveness among those on the depth chart ahead of him. And in case you’re wondering, at this stage, Green is not worth considering in keeper leagues.
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