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: An injury to a Red Sox outfielder could open the door for a trio of intriguing youngsters with different skill sets; and the Rangers are considering an under-the-radar prospect for a backup role.
Kalish’s continuing battle with neck and shoulder injuries has been disheartening for a player who was once a pretty promising prospect. The latest procedure is expected to keep him out for at least the first half — and possibly all — of 2013, which means there’s an opening for a backup outfield job in Boston. First, the starters: Jacoby Ellsbury will be flanked by Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes. But if we know one thing about Gomes, it’s that he should only ever play against lefties (career .223/.307/.425 vs. RHPs), so someone will need to fill in strong side of the platoon that the lefty-swinging Kalish could have. It would appear that Daniel Nava, a switch-hitter who spent much of 2012 with the Sox, could get the first shot, and Boston did just bring back Ryan Sweeney on a minor league deal.
Thing is, neither of those options are all that exciting: Nava has proven he’s a capable fourth or fifth outfielder, no more, while Sweeney has exactly two homers the past three years. So who’s next in line? Well, Hassan is currently on the 40-man roster and owns a .391 OBP since being drafted in the 20th round in 2009, but he’s also nearly 25 and looks like another backup, plus he hits right-handed like Gomes. Then there’s Brentz, a solid prospect who’s already through Double-A as a 24-year-old with an aggressive approach and some power (.479 career SLG) from the right side. And the best long-term player is Bradley, a 22-year-old supplemental pick in 2011 who spent half of his first full season in Double-A, hits lefty, has great discipline (15% BB and K rates in 2012) and good speed (24 SBs) and is a plus defender in centerfield. Chances are, Hassan gets the initial opportunity, but Bradley may eventually make the most sense, especially if Boston wants to break him in during the second half in preparation for the possibility of losing (or trading?) Ellsbury, who is a free agent-to-be.
FANTASY VALUE: For 2013, Hassan and Brentz are most likely to reach the majors, although neither will make an impact outside of being reserve outfield options in AL-only leagues. As for Bradley, with a good showing in the high minors, he could put himself in position to be a worthwhile late-season add, especially for AL owners in head-to-head formats who are in need of an uptick in steals and runs in the fantasy playoffs. In keeper leagues where Bradley’s available, owners will want to grab him sooner than later, because he could wind up starting for Boston in 2014, particularly if Ellsbury is gone.
*Colleague Marc Hulet ranked Bradley No. 3 and Brentz No. 12 among the Boston Red Sox Top 15 Prospects earlier this offseason
For all the pub that Jurickson Profar (deservedly) receives, fellow shortstop prospect Garcia tends to get overlooked. It’s Garcia and not Profar, though, who may actually wind up making the Rangers roster out of camp, as a utility infielder this season. Profar obviously means much more to Texas overall, which is why there’ve been rumblings that he’s likely to start the year playing every day in Triple-A and waiting for a chance to show what he can do as a regular, rather than wasting away on the Rangers bench. Such a fate, of course, could hinder Profar’s development, but not so much Garcia’s, since his upside is limited.
Texas is already set at shortstop (Elvis Andrus) and second base (Ian Kinsler), but what the club lacks is a capable backup to fill in up the middle, which is where Garcia comes in — and why Baker landed a minor league contract with an invite to camp. Garcia, who’ll turn 22 in March, is tiny (5’7″, 153) and known for his great defense and speed. To wit, he split time at second and short while at Double-A last season and has swiped 31 and 30 bases the past two years. Power, though, just isn’t a part of his game in any way (.339 career SLG) and neither are walks (6% career BB). The switch-hitter — another check mark for a utility job — did have his best offensive campaign in 2012, hitting .292 with a .734 OPS.
FANTASY VALUE: Garcia is strictly a deep AL-only consideration. First, he’ll have to have a good enough camp to make the team, then he’ll have to take advantage of the rare opportunities he gets while filling in for Andrus and/or Kinsler. Given that he’s yet to play above Double-A, he will likely struggle in the batter’s box, but he should be able to contribute on the bases, perhaps scoring some runs and stealing 10-15 bases. Since middle infield is such a shallow fantasy position (especially shortstop), AL owners need to be aware of any player who qualifies as SS/2B, and Garcia may be a passable reserve who can be a placeholder whenever an injury or off-day puts a starting player on the bench.
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