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Cabrera, Wilson and Schafer: Mining the Minors

While big-time prospects like Trevor Bauer, Anthony Rizzo and Martin Perez got called up this week — you can find takes on those three here, here and here — these three lesser-knowns should be making their way to a ballpark near you soon.

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.).

Edwar Cabrera, Rockies SP
TALENT: 6 (out of 10)
OPPORTUNITY: 6 (out of 10)
DOB: 10/20/1987
CURRENT LEVEL: Majors (but soon back to Double-A?)
MILB STATS: 8-4 W-L, 2.94 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 15 HRs, 82:23 K:BB over 98 IPs
ON 40-MAN ROSTER: Yes
Here’s a guy who was selected to pitch in the MLB Futures Game, led the minor leagues with 217 whiffs a year ago and just got called up. What’s not to be excited about, right? Well, this, for one. Look, the lanky lefty from the Dominican Republic has done a good job of proving critics wrong as he’s climbed up the ladder so far, and he’s pitched well enough in his first shot at Double-A this year, but he also owns a .196 BABIP and 80% LOB rate — two huge red flags — to go with a whopping 15 homers allowed. It’s no surprise, then, that his debut was a disaster. This is the case of a Rockies team being so desperate for pitching that they rushed an arm that’s simply not ready for the majors. If the org is smart, Cabrera should return to Double-A and perhaps get jumped to Triple-A later in the year, with an eye on getting another shot in Colorado around this time next season. His stuff plays up because he’s been slightly older than his primary competition at each minor league level, allowing him to take advantage of young, inexperienced hitters with his great changeup. His profile, while intriguing, is not going to mesh well at Coors Field. For fantasy purposes, Cabrera shouldn’t be rostered in anything other than deep keeper or dynasty formats.
ETA: Now. But after Cabrera’s yucky debut (5 ERs, 1:3 K:BB and 3 HRs over 2.1 IPs against the Nationals), it would be silly for the Rockies to give him another turn, no matter how desperate they are.
POTENTIAL FANTASY ROLE: Reserve SP in NL 12-team leagues

Justin Wilson, Pirates SP
TALENT: 6
OPPORTUNITY: 8
DOB: 8/18/1987
CURRENT LEVEL: Triple-A
MILB STATS: 6-4 W-L, 3.57 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 7 HRs, 89:40 K:BB over 85.2 IPs
ON 40-MAN ROSTER: Yes
A lefty with a good arm, Wilson has taken a steady route to Triple-A since being drafted in the fifth round in 2008. While he does a good job of limiting hits (7.9/9 career), his control remains a concern, as he’s currently walking 4.2/9 — and that’s a career-best rate (4.5 prior to 2012). In the end, he may wind up in the bullpen, but Pittsburgh clearly is looking to see what he can do as a starter. The good news? First, in addition to the improving walk rate, Wilson’s also generating a career-high 9.4 strikeouts per nine. And second, the Pirates have an opening at the back of their rotation in the wake of Charlie Morton‘s ulnar collateral replacement surgery. If Wilson can stay hot — he had a recent three-start stretch in which he whiffed 19 against just 6 walks while allowing just 2 runs and 6 hits over 19 innings — he could put himself in position to earn a few spot starts. His fantasy upside isn’t great, but Wilson could be a factor as rotation depth in NL-onlies.
ETA: It’s tough to tell whether Wilson would get the call over fellow fringy southpaws Jeff Locke and Rudy Owens, who are more of the finesse lefty variety, but Wilson is on pace to get a shot during the second half, even if it’s only a late-season audition.
POTENTIAL FANTASY ROLE: Streaming SP in NL 12-team leagues

Logan Schafer, Brewers OF
TALENT: 6
OPPORTUNITY: 9
DOB: 9/8/1986
CURRENT LEVEL: Triple-A
MILB STATS: .295/.351/.451, 16 doubles, 7 HRs, 26 RBIs, 48 runs, 11 SBs (4 CS), 44:19 K:BB over 288 ABs
ON 40-MAN ROSTER: Yes
Schafer, a 2008 third-rounder, got off to a so-so start this year, but he’s peaking at just the right time: His .364/.396/.545 slash stats in June, to go with 5 steals, are putting him on the Brewers’ radar. Remember, Milwaukee hasn’t gotten much production out of centerfield all season (234/.294/.341) because neither Nyjer Morgan or Carlos Gomez have proven capable of handling a platoon role in 2012, let alone an everyday job. Schafer isn’t an ideal starter, either, but he’s a plus defender who makes contact (13% K rate career) with his lefty swing. There’s enough speed here that Schafer could smack some doubles and make 10+ steals a possibility. A decent add as an outfielder who likely won’t hurt fantasy owners in deep leagues, especially since his skill set should translate well to the bigs.
ETA: Given his age (25) and production this season, Schafer’s about ready. Combined with the fact that the Brewers should be willing to try someone else in center, we could be looking at a call-up around the All-Star break.
POTENTIAL FANTASY ROLE: OF5 in NL 10-team leagues or Reserve OF in mixed 14-team leagues