AL and NL SPs, OFs and RPs: Mining the Minors

Let’s break from the usual three-player Mining the Minors write-ups to cover more ground (or if you prefer, more bases — this is a baseball site after all). This time, we’ll hit on three pairs, with one of each position — starting pitcher, outfielder and reliever — coming from each league.

In addition to recently-promoted top prospects, this column offers a fantasy take on those who are formerly-elite or lesser-known, as well as veteran minor leaguers and injured major leaguers, all of whom are on the verge of getting a shot in the majors. To help owners get an idea of just how good a player is (or might be), there’s a Talent Rating, but just as important is the Opportunity Rating, which points out the likelihood that a player will make his way to or stay in the majors during the current season based on various factors (i.e., age, depth chart, recent performance, etc.).

Erasmo Ramirez, Mariners SP
TALENT: 6 (out of 10)
OPPORTUNITY: 9 (out of 10)
DOB: 5/2/1990
CURRENT LEVEL: Majors
MILB STATS: 3-2 W-L, 3.11 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 29:7 K:BB over 37.2 IPs
ON 40-MAN ROSTER: Yes
Ramirez is a short (5’11”), relatively squat (205) right-hander with a finesse arsenal that includes a low-90s fastball, useable curve and developing changeup. His forte is his excellent control, as he’s walked just 1.4/9 in five minor league seasons. Ramirez was used as a swing man out of Seattle’s bullpen earlier in the year (2.45 ERA in 11 IPs), but the club sent him back down to Triple-A to stretch out as a starter again, a role that better suits him, given that his stuff doesn’t play up much in short stints but could be utilized to eat innings every five days. (He threw 150-plus innings each of the past two years.) Any fantasy value Ramirez offers will come from his ERA and, especially, his WHIP (1.12 career), as long as he can command his fastball enough so that he doesn’t get hit around too often (8.7 H/9 career). Pitching in Safeco will help.
ETA: Ramirez was recalled Wednesday to replace Blake Beavan in the five-man, and he’s slated to make his first career big league start Thursday against the Padres at home.
POTENTIAL FANTASY ROLE: SP5 in AL 12-team leagues

Joe Kelly, Cardinals SP
TALENT: 7
OPPORTUNITY: 9
DOB: 6/9/1988
CURRENT LEVEL: Majors
MILB STATS: 2-5 W-L, 2.86 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 45:21 K:BB over 72.1 IPs
ON 40-MAN ROSTER: Yes
When Jaime Garcia went on the DL last week, fantasy owners might’ve been excited about the possibility of top prospect Shelby Miller getting promoted. Instead, the Cardinals turned to another right-hander in Kelly, in part because Miller actually has been kind of terrible in his first taste of Triple-A. The 24-year-old Kelly sits in the low to mid-90s and can reach back for a few more ticks on the gun when he wants, but he doesn’t get as many whiffs as you’d expect (7.5 K/9 career), mainly because he uses his power sinker to generate grounders (55.1% GB career). That, combined with a so-so walk rate (3.6/9 career), makes Kelly only so interesting for fantasy purposes. But there is also the possibility that his peripherals will improve in the majors, where even the Cardinals’ so-so defense could help improve Kelly’s tendency to post higher-than-average BABIPs, possibly due to poor minor league defenses behind him.
ETA: Kelly looked decent in his MLB debut last week against the Indians (5 IPs, 7 hits, 1 ER, 4:1 K:BB), and with Garcia expected to miss at least a month with a left shoulder strain, Kelly could be in line for a handful more starts.
POTENTIAL FANTASY ROLE: SP5 in NL 12-team leagues

Moises Sierra, Blue Jays OF
TALENT: 7
OPPORTUNITY: 6
DOB: 9/24/1988
CURRENT LEVEL: Triple-A
MILB STATS: .303/369/.487, 11 HRs, 37 RBIs, 54:22 K:BB over 238 ABs
ON 40-MAN ROSTER: Yes
FanGraphs prospect guru Marc Hulet recently hit on Sierra’s skill set, essentially concluding that Sierra projects to be a possible second-division starter or first-division backup in the outfield. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him turn into the right-handed hitting version of teammate Eric Thames, as both have decent pop and are fairly athletic for their size. There’s not a whole lot of fantasy value in that, but there’s more than none, too. Sierra gets a mention here for two reasons: 1) He’s been hot lately, hitting .419 with 5 HRs and 11 RBIs so far in June; and 2) the release of Vladimir Guerrero certainly doesn’t hurt Sierra’s chances at making his debut at some point this year.
ETA: Given that Sierra is likely still behind Thames and Travis Snider (just back from a wrist injury), don’t expect more than a late-season call-up.
POTENTIAL FANTASY ROLE: Reserve OF in AL 12-team leagues

Scott Cousins, Marlins OF
TALENT: 6
OPPORTUNITY: 9
DOB: 1/22/1985
CURRENT LEVEL: Triple-A
MILB STATS: .292/.355/.472, 7 HRs, 32 RBIs, 12 SBs, 48:19 K:BB over 195 ABs
ON 40-MAN ROSTER: Yes
Ever since Emilio Bonifacio went down with a sprained left thumb in mid-May, centerfield has been, well, this for the Marlins. The position has been manned by everyone from former Rookie of the Year-turned-dud Chris Coghlan to Four-A types like Bryan Petersen and Justin Ruggiano, who currently finds himself holding the job all by himself. Yes, it’s a mess. With Bonifacio out until after the All-Star break, why not give Cousins a chance? He was the team’s fourth outfielder out of spring training a year ago but never saw frequent action before getting hurt. And while he, too, shouldn’t really be a starting outfielder for a major league club, let alone one with playoff hopes, Cousins does have the ability to handle centerfield and has a decent enough power-speed combo that could help fantasy owners in very deep leagues if given at-bats.
ETA: Cousins deserves another shot, this time with semi-regular PT, as opposed to the dribs and drabs he received in 2011. It would seem only reasonable that he gets recalled before Bonifacio returns, and if he performs, he could stick as the fourth outfielder.
POTENTIAL FANTASY ROLE: Reserve OF in mixed 14-team leagues or OF5 NL 10-team leagues

Sean Doolittle, A’s RP
TALENT: 7
OPPORTUNITY: 9
DOB: 9/26/1986
CURRENT LEVEL: Majors
MILB STATS: 0-0 W-L, 0.72 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 1 SV, 48:7 K:BB over 25 IPs
ON 40-MAN ROSTER: Yes
Doolittle’s a feel-good story, as a former supplemental pick back in 2007 by Oakland whose career as a first baseman went from promising to nonexistent due to multiple injuries. Doolittle was unfortunately starting to live up to his last name, essentially missing all of the 2010 and 2011 seasons and was looking, very possibly, at the end of his career — until he made the switch from hitter to pitcher. Now a lefty reliever at 25 years old, Doolittle absolutely rocketed through the A’s system this year, going from High-A to Double-A to Triple-A to the majors in two months. (One glance at his stats above is all you need to see why.) He owns a power fastball and the ability to get both righties and lefties out. If it weren’t for Ryan Cook, Doolittle could very well be Oakland’s closer by season’s end, but those in holds leagues will enjoy all the Ks.
ETA: Doolittle was promoted last week and has been dynamite in his first few appearances, racking up 10 Ks and 1 BB in 5 IPs. His bullpen role will only increase once the A’s trade off Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes.
POTENTIAL FANTASY ROLE: RP4/5 in mixed 12-team leagues or AL 10-team leagues

Brad Boxberger, Padres RP
TALENT: 7
OPPORTUNITY: 8
DOB: 5/27/1988
CURRENT LEVEL: Majors
MILB STATS: 1-2 W-L, 4.70 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 5 SVs, 35:15 K:BB over 23 IPs
ON 40-MAN ROSTER: Yes
After coming over from the Reds in the Mat Latos deal, Boxberger has struggled a bit while pitching on the precipice of his MLB debut, which finally came earlier this week. The righty sits mid-90s and has a solid slider that gets swings and misses when it’s on, but he’s struggled with his control throughout his career (4.3 BB/9), which has held him back from what could be closer-of-the-future potential. That’s really his only obstacle to becoming a legitimate setup man — with an outside shot to close — who should rack up strikeouts (12.1/9 career), while limiting hits (7.4/9 career) and homers (just 8 in 114.2 IPs since becoming a full-time reliever in 2010).
ETA: Boxberger threw his first big league pitch Sunday, although it wouldn’t be shocking to see him shuttled up and down if he has trouble throwing strikes. With Huston Street a trade candidate and Andrew Cashner being transitioned from reliever to starter (in the minors), there’s an opening coming in the ninth inning in San Diego, but Boxberger has to make nice with the sixth and seventh innings first.
POTENTIAL FANTASY ROLE: RP5 in mixed NL 10-team leagues




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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


13 Responses to “AL and NL SPs, OFs and RPs: Mining the Minors”

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  1. Scott Clarkson says:

    Amazingly Doolittle is still not in the ESPN player pool….

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    • Mr. Thell says:

      I always wonder why people keep using ESPN. I tried it about 5-6 years ago and had such a terrible experience that I’ve never gone back. Have they improved their UI, research tools and reliability? They used to be notorious for messing up drafts, player pools and waivers.

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  2. Mike says:

    He is, just as a 1B still…

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    • Jason Catania says:

      byron: Here’s a good video of his motion, which is maybe a tick higher than three-quarters and very whippy. You can see he hides the ball well, so righties can’t pick it up and lefties have even more trouble. Also seems to have pretty darn good command (he hits the outside corner multiple times), which is amazing given that he’s basically learning on the job. He’ll certainly hit some rough patches because of that, but I don’t think this is a deception thing that the league will catch up to.

      http://oakland.athletics.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=22201351&c_id=mlb

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  3. byron says:

    Doolittle’s stats through the minors and into the majors are insane! But he’s never pitched 12 innings at any level, and only 31 ever; does he have some sort of crazy deception that hitters are going to figure out on the second, third go-around?

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  4. joe bananas says:

    great read thanks for this!

    a question regarding new leadoff guys – who would be a safer play ROS: presley or aoki? looking to use one (or both) over luke scott/jd martinez.

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    • Jason Catania says:

      joe bananas: Safer? I think Aoki, just because his spot on the active roster is more secure than Presley’s. Presley has more upside (maybe by a hair) but also more downside.

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  5. MikeInNJ says:

    Can you evaluate Adam Eaton in one of your future posts (if you haven’t already done so)?

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