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 Orioles put a pebble in the way of their top prospect’s path while creating some competition with a back-end arm; the Mets have a new reason not to rush their best young pitcher; and the Cubs might not be counting on much from an outfielder with cataclysmic contact concerns.
Adam Eaton, D-backs OF: He’s now free to start in centerfield with Cody Ross and Jason Kubel flanking him without J-Up clogging one of the corners. After leading the PCL in basically every offensive category save for homers, Eaton will be in the bigs on Opening Day and is draftable in mixed leagues as an OF 4/5 who could be a good source of average, runs and steals.
Julio Teheran, Braves SP: The right-hander has a very clear path to the fifth starter’s job since Randall Delgado isn’t around anymore. The 2012 season was a massive disappointment (5.08 ERA at Triple-A), but Teheran still has a live fastball, good change-up and promising future, especially if he can improve his breaking ball (his bug-a-boo to this point). Worth a gamble as a reserve SP in NL-onlies in case something clicks.
Tyler Skaggs, D-backs SP: In addition to fellow southpaw Patrick Corbin, Skaggs has another arm to battle in Delgado. Skaggs is the best of the bunch as far as upside, but his development might be too important to the future of the club to pitch every five days in the majors just yet. He’ll have to win the job with a big spring, otherwise Skaggs could be a nice in-season reinforcement. NL owners have to draft-and-stash but mixed leaguers should keep him on Watch Lists.
Evan Gattis, Braves OF/C/1B: The 26-year-old’s long and winding journey to the majors just got a lot winding-er. With two Uptons and a Heyward in his way, Gattis’ best hope in the near- and long-term future is to become a fourth outfielder (and perhaps fill in at first base and catcher). Following a dynamite showing in winter ball — he led the Venezuelan League with 16 homers — Gattis needs to have a big spring to make sure he stays in the Braves’ plans, even in a reduced role. Just a name to know in the deepest NL formats.
We know all about Bundy by now — top pitching prospect in baseball, MLB debut at 19, yada yada yada. But Johnson, a fellow righty, is an interesting cat in that he’s a touch on the old side (25) and doesn’t throw particularly hard, but was rather effective in his stints with Baltimore in 2012, posting a 2:1 strikeout-to-hit ratio in his 38.1 innings (46 K’s, 23 hits) while working in a swing man role (12 games, 4 starts). Jurrjens no longer appears capable of holding down a regular starting job, so he’s certainly not going to block Bundy, who will come up as soon as he’s ready, no matter who else is in the rotation, although that might not be until the second half. But Johnson may have to work a little harder to earn a five-man spot now. The O’s have plenty of back-end types who could be viewed as “ahead” of Johnson on the pecking order (Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Miguel Gonzalez, etc.), but Johnson could still make the club as a long reliever — and be in position to start once the other options whittle away.
FANTASY VALUE: Bundy, obviously, is a better keeper than re-draft pick for 2013, but even with the virtual guarantee he starts out in Double- or Triple-A because of the quantity of arms in Baltimore, he could still be a late-season add in mixed leagues for his upside. Johnson is a savvy end-game grab in single-league formats, as he’s likely to be with the Orioles for much of the year in some capacity. As a reliever, he won’t hurt owners, and there’s always the chance he works his way into the rotation, which could bump his value up a bit as a streaming SP in AL-onlies.
*Colleague Marc Hulet ranked Bundy No. 1 and Johnson No. 15 — book ends! — among the Baltimore Orioles Top 15 Prospects earlier this offseason
The Marcum side to this transaction was covered by colleague Chris Cwik, so let’s focus on Wheeler here. Given the Mets situation (read: unlikely to contend until 2015), there’s no need to rush the 22-year-old pitching gem of their farm system. With Marcum now in the mix, along with Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and Matt Harvey, the Mets have five legitimate starters, allowing Wheeler to continue his development at Triple-A. After all, following a dominant showing at Double-A in 2012 (3.26 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 9.1 K/9), Wheeler saw only 33 Triple-A innings (3.27, 1.18, 8.5). Making sure everything goes according to plan for Wheeler is crucial to the Mets’ future, so bringing in Marcum as a placeholder after dealing away R.A. Dickey was a smart move by GM Sandy Alderson.
FANTASY VALUE: Wheeler has the kind of stuff and repertoire to conquer Triple-A for a few months, earn a second-half promotion and make a decent fantasy impact in mixed leagues once he’s up. Frankly, his path and, to some extent, his performance in 2013 might not be all that different from what Harvey did last year. In keeper and dynasty play, the power right-hander is even more tempting, especially given his home park.
My thoughts on Jackson have been well documented. In short: Making contact is a necessary part of hitting, and that skill has eluded Jackson on an alarming level, especially over the past couple years. Hairston isn’t a massive impediment to an elite prospect, but Jackson isn’t in that category, and the Cubs clearly want the 24-year-old lefty hitter to prove the swing work he’s done this offseason has paid off at Triple-A. There’s a 20-20 skill set in here, but until Jackson forces his way onto the active roster — or the Cubs trade away Alfonso Soriano or David DeJesus — those stats will probably be piling up in the minors.
FANTASY VALUE: At this point, Jackson is undraftable in anything other than the deepest NL leagues, where he’d merely be a late-round or $1 gamble. That could pay off, but owners should have their outfield completely filled out — and then some — before looking to select Jackson. Keeper leaguers who like high-risk/high-reward type players might invest a little more, because DeJesus will be gone after the season, but don’t say you weren’t warned.
*Hulet ranked Jackson No. 7 among the Chicago Cubs Top 15 Prospects earlier this offseason