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Minor Impacts: July 2

Every Thursday throughout the season, Minor Impacts takes a look at some of the hottest minor league players that could have impacts at the Major League Level in the near future.

Zach Stewart: A 2008 third-round pick out of Texas Tech, Stewart has had no problems dominating hitters in professional baseball. His up-and-down college career included stints in both the starting rotation and the bullpen. His pro career has been no different; Stewart spent his debut season in the ‘pen before moving to the rotation in 2009. He made seven starts in both high-A and double-A before moving back to the bullpen with a recent promotion to triple-A. That moves pretty much signifies that the Cincinnati organization views Stewart, 22, as a prospect that can help the club in the not-too-distant future. In double-A, the right-hander allowed just 29 hits in 37 innings of work while posting rates of 2.43 BB/9 and 7.54 K/9. He also does a nice job of keeping balls-in-play on the ground.

Cody Satterwhite: Detroit loves big-time arms, and Satterwhite is yet another college product that fits the bill. A 2008 second round draft pick out of Mississippi, the right-hander’s results have never matched up to his stuff (He was heavily scouted coming out of high school too, with the same knock against him). Satterwhite has been moved aggressively through the system by the Tigers, not unlike Ryan Perry. Satterwhite, 22, has posted a 9.8 K/9 strikeout rate to this point in his career, but he’s also been too hittable (9.0 H/9), while also allowing too many base runners via the walk (5.4 BB/9). With Detroit’s pitching depth still pretty weak – and with the bullpen struggling and unproven – Satterwhite may get a taste of the big leagues before he’s ready.

Phillippe Aumont: Staying with the theme of rushing pitchers, you can’t write on the topic without mentioning the No. 1 club for rushing prospects: The Seattle Mariners. Aumont was a highly-regarded prep pitcher when he was drafted in the first round of the 2007 draft. Everyone knew he had great stuff but he was extremely raw as a pitcher after growing up in Quebec, Canada. Despite his rough edges, Aumont has had a lot of success in pro ball, including at the extreme hitter’s domain known as High Desert (high-A). Pitching in the offense-oriented California League earlier this season, Aumont posted a 3.24 ERA (3.53 FIP) and allowed just 24 hits in 33.1 innings of work. He also posted a walk rate of 3.24 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 9.45 K/9. Now in double-A, he’s continued to pitch well, leading to the possibility that he could help Seattle by the end of 2009 – or certainly early on in 2010.

Henry Rodriguez: Rodriguez deserves to be lumped in with the pitchers above because he’s a hard-throwing reliever, but he hasn’t flown through the minors like the others. In fact, he’s been teasing the A’s with his potential since Stewart and Satterwhite were freshmen in college. Rodriguez appeared to be on the verge of a breakout season with a dominating performance in high-A ball in 2008, but the wheels fell off with a promotion to double-A. Rodriguez is looking better in triple-A this season, although he’s thrown just 15.2 innings (with a strikeout rate of 14.36 K/9). Control continues to be his biggest issue (5.17 BB/9) and he’s still pretty much a one-pitch pitcher with a fastball that can touch 100 mph.

Bryan Petersen: In the pre-season, I highlighted Petersen as one of my favorite sleeper prospects because of his intriguing combination of power and speed. The outfielder got off to a bit of a slow start in 2009 at the double-A level, but he’s picked things up since the beginning of June and is hitting .395 in his last 10 games. Petersen is still not hitting for power (.085 ISO) but his average is up to .288 and he’s got his strikeout rate under control (19.8 K%). He could probably hit right-handed MLB pitchers right now (.309 average) but the left-handed hitter still struggles against southpaws (.211 in 57 at-bats). Petersen stands to benefit from Florida’s lack of minor-league outfield depth. He certainly has more upside than a player like Alejandro De Aza.

Gaby Sanchez: Staying with the Florida theme, you have to figure the club is going to realize the error of its ways with playing Emilio Bonifacio everyday at third base. With the club inches from first place in the National League East, the team could use some consistent offense from the position and Bonifacio has proven that he is not the player to provide it. Sanchez, a converted first baseman, has been playing third base at triple-A. He’s not going to win any gold gloves out there, but his defense is no worse than Bonifacio’s and his bat has much more potential. Sanchez is currently hitting .298/.366/.462 with seven homers in 171 at-bats.