In this edition…
How a Japanese pitcher could push back the No. 2 pick’s ETA, why F-Mart landed in the right place and whether a former first-rounder has any hope in a new org.
When teams make moves, trades and signings in the offseason, the impact is felt by everyone — including the prospects who now have new roles or different standings in the organization. That’s the focus here, as we try to determine whether a young player’s fantasy value for next season took a hit or got a bump.
1) Danny Hultzen, Mariners
There’s been speculation this offseason that Hultzen, the No. 2 overall pick in last June’s draft, could actually break camp as a member of the Mariners rotation. Indications seemed to be be that the southpaw would at least get a shot to blow the team away with a strong spring, which would be an exciting possibility for fantasy owners, especially keeper leaguers.
Not to rain on that parade (get it? Seattle? rain?), but I think the acquisition of Japanese hurler Hisashi Iwakuma* means fantasy owners awaiting Hultzen’s arrival should probably find their slickers.
*Here’s a take on Iwakuma and his fantasy value from earlier in the offseason.
Seattle’s five-man starts off with Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda and Jason Vargas, and now Iwakuma is in the mix. Those four are locks. That leaves just one spot for Hultzen, who’ll have to compete with the less-than-idea-but-still-useable Blake Beavan and Charlie Furbush.
With a good spring, Hultzen could beat out those last two for the final spot, but the M’s also don’t have much reason to rush one of their top young arms to the bigs while they’re not going to be contending.
2012 ETA: Tricky to speculate because the range is Opening Day to September call-up, if Hultzen debuts next year at all. I think the smartest scenario for the org calls for a June/July promotion, to give the lefty a chance to get into a rhythm as a pro — and to help the franchise slow his service clock.
2012 IMPACT: Hultzen would be a must-add in all AL-onlies as soon as he’s called up, and keeper owners should be all over a 22-year-old who will pitch in a great park. He’s got the moxie and stuff to help mixed leaguers, too, but more as a spot starter.
2) Fernando Martinez, Astros
Though no longer eligible to be a prospect based on the number at-bats accumulated during fits and starts over three different seasons, Martinez was the Mets’ top prospect for about 52 straight years. Then we found out the org that once gave the Dominican $1.6 mill (really, it was former GM Omar Minaya), decided he was no longer worthy of, you know, playing baseball for them in any capacity.
As my colleague Mr. Cwik pointed out recently, F-Mart’s biggest problem is that he’s, well, injury-prone just doesn’t seem strong enough to cover it, does it? Injury-riddled! (An arthritic right knee will do that.) That, and the now-23-year-old Martinez was starting to run out of time, especially with all the lost development.
If there’s any good news for him, though, it’s that his new home might actually allow for everybody’s favorite: the change-of-scenery story. The Astros have one of the worst outfields in baseball, with J.D. Martinez, Jordan Schafer and Brian Bogusevic penciled in as the starters. (Yes, ick.) So it makes some sense that they used their top waiver claim priority to snag Martinez in a near-no-cost move.
For Houston, it’s no-lose because if Martinez does his usual — struggles at Triple-A (.265/.326/.465 slash stats over three seasons) and gets hurt — there’s not much invested. But! If he can manage to, uh, not die, well, there’s plenty of opportunity for him.
2012 ETA: This will ultimately come down to Martinez’s spring performance, but again an Opening Day roster spot wouldn’t be a total surprise. Then again, neither would an injury during the first warmups in February.
2012 IMPACT: Only owners in the deepest of deep NL-only formats should even care about Martinez for now, but he could eventually become a useable OF5 just based on having a pretty clear path to playing time.
3) Andrew Brackman, Reds
While it’s tempting to think that Brackman, who the Yankees released earlier this offseason after making him their top pick back in 2007, could become part of the shiny new Cincinnati bullpen, that just doesn’t seem to be a reality.
The Reds get kudos for adding closer Ryan Madson and lefty setup man Sean Marshall to what should be a dynamite pen (especially if Aroldis Chapman stays there), and Brackman isn’t unlike Martinez: a somewhat worthwhile shot in the dark on a former top prospect who fell out of favor with his original team. Except, Brackman has many more obstacles in his way and less value because of his role as a reliever.
The best that could realistically be expected out of Brackman, now 26, is for the 6’10” right-hander to perform well enough at Triple-A that he earns a spot as a mop-up or long man. Even then, though, we’re talking about a guy who’s lost development time to Tommy John surgery and has only really had one non-horrible campaign (3.90 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9) in 2010 before falling on his face again last year at Triple-A (6.00, 1.64, 7.0, 7.0).
2012 ETA: The guess here is Brackman will finagle his way into a few call-ups, if only out of the Reds’ curiosity.
2012 IMPACT: Really, none, given that he won’t have a shot at any sort of valuable role in the remade bullpen. Even NL-only owners don’t have to bother.
A regular third baseman, the 23-year-old Olt is blocked by Adrian Beltre despite being one of the org’s top prospects after hitting .267/.387/.504 with 14 HRs in just 240 ABs at High-A. Mendonca, also a 23-year-old 3B, is a little lesser known, but he was the team’s second-rounder in 2009 and mashed 25 HRs and 87 RBIs at Double-A — albeit with 160 whiffs. The Rangers think his power lefty bat could translate well behind the dish, if he can handle the job.
There’s very little chance either of these two makes any real impact in 2012, particularly for the two time-defending AL champ Rangers. It’s not out of the question that one or both could be used as trade bait during the season, which would probably help their causes as far as 2013 impact. Of the two, Olt is the one to watch in keeper leagues.