Similar to the other version of this column, which hits on Thursdays, the Friday edition offers a take on lesser-known farmhands and veteran minor leaguers — all with a nod to their fantasy relevance and impact, specifically, for this season. To help owners, I’ll include a player’s Talent Rating; but just as important is the Opportunity Rating, which points out the likelihood that a player will make his way to the majors during this season.
Todd Frazier, INF/OF
Current Level: Triple-A
Statistics: .285 BA; .914 OPS; 9 HRs; 26 RBIs; 32:16 K:BB over 151 ABs
40-man roster: YES
Opportunity Rating: 7
Talent Rating: 8
Obstacle(s): No defined position; team’s preference for veterans
A former top prospect who’s lost a bit of his luster in the past year, Frazier* probably would have seen his first big-league action by now were he a part of almost any other organization. But the Reds’ (i.e. Dusty Baker‘s) preference for veterans has been part of the reason Frazier has been stuck in Triple-A since the end of 2009. The other reason the 2007 supplemental pick — who’s already 25 — has yet to be called up? His lack of a true position. In his four-plus minor-league seasons, the righty-hitting Frazier has played all four infield positions as well as left field, which was his primary spot in 2009 and 2010.
*Cool FYI: He played for the Toms River, N.J., team that won Little League World Series in 1998.
So far this year, though, Frazier has gotten the most time at third base, which is probably the best path for him to make it to the bigs in both the short-term — the Reds have plenty of other left field options, from Chris Heisey in the majors to minor-leaguers Dave Sappelt and ’08 first-rounder Yonder Alonso, who’s being converted from first base — and long-term — Scott Rolen‘s contract expires after 2012 and Juan Francisco is more of a power bat off the bench than a regular. And let’s face it: Rolen isn’t the most durable of dudes these days. In fact, he just missed 19 games with a strained shoulder, which forced Cincinnati to deploy the likes of Miguel Cairo, Chris Valaika and Paul Janish at third. While it didn’t make sense to bring up Frazier then, since he was still re-acquainting himself with third base, Reds management would be wise to give Frazier a shot to make his MLB debut — even if it’s not an every-day role — should the injury-prone Rolen go down again. Especially if Frazier keeps hitting like he has recently: .361 in his past 10 games. Fantasy-wise, he will only be interesting to NL-only leaguers because he’s unlikely to get any sort of regular role this season. But he may be a nice plug-and-play option off a fantasy bench, depending on your league’s eligibility rules.
ETA: By early-July, Frazier should have enough of a handle on third to earn a promotion to Cincy, where he can help keep Rolen fresh and put his versatility and stick to good use.
Dayan Viciedo, OF
Organization: White Sox
Current Level: Triple-A
Statistics: .310 BA; .852 OPS; 6 HRs; 34 RBIs; 30:12 K:BB over 155 ABs
40-man roster: Yes
Opportunity Rating: 8
Talent Rating: 8
Obstacle(s): Adjustment to new position; plate discipline
Viciedo made a big splash late in 2008 when he signed with the White Sox only months after defecting from Cuba, where he debuted in the Serie Nacional at 15 — then became its youngest-ever All-Star a year later. His right-handed power bat has always dripped with potential, but he’s seen his prospect star fall a bit because of worries over his conditioning — he’s listed at 5’11″, 230 as a 22-year-old — and an over-aggressive approach at the plate. In fact, in Viciedo’s 106 plate appearances with the White Sox last season, he walked exactly twice, and in his first two minor-league seasons (2009 and 2010), his walk rate was just 4.0%. And like Frazier, there’s also the question of what position Viciedo will play in Chicago, as the White Sox have shuffled him from third to first to right field, where he’s played 35 of his 36 games in the field this year.
In spite of all the concerns, though, Viciedo is showing real signs of improvement. Having recovered from a fractured right thumb that cut short his impressive start to spring training in March, he’s really picked up his play this month, hitting .388 with a 1.074 OPS. And his 12:8 K:BB in May has helped him draw more walks so far this season (12, with a 7.7% walk rate overall) than he did all of last (11), so it appears he’s showing a better understanding of the strike zone, which will help him stick in the majors. In fact, his hot streak led to rumbling that he would get promoted to play some third base when Mark Teahen hit the DL, but as mentioned in yesterday’s Mining the Minors, the White Sox, who want Viciedo to focus on the outfield, chose to bring up Dallas McPherson to help cover the position.
While there’s no reason to rush Viciedo as he transitions to his new position, it seems inevitable that a guy who showed good power in his first taste of the bigs last year (.212 ISO) will be promoted at some point to help jump-start what has been a disappointing White Sox offense. As for where he would play in Chicago, if the team is serious about keeping him off third — and with first and DH occupied by Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn — the most logical place would be left, where the only thing Juan Pierre is stealing these days is a starting spot. Considering Viciedo’s working on a four-year major-league deal, the team should see what he can do sooner rather than later. Once promoted, Viciedo should get regular at-bats, and his production in homers and RBIs would make him worth adding immediately in all AL-only leagues and even some 12-teamers. But remember he’ll have less value in leagues that use OBP as a category.
ETA: Provided he continues to show an ability to handle the outfield, it seems likely that Viciedo could be up right around the one-year anniversary of his MLB debut in late-June last year.
When it comes to monitoring players for this column, I’ll do the grunt work, but if you have any suggestions for minor leaguers that you would like to see tracked, discussed and evaluated in Mining the Minors, feel free to post suggestions in the comments section. I’ll do my best to get to as many as I can going forward.