Fantasy baseball Prospect Watch: Marcell Ozuna's surprise debut
MIAMI -- Things can change on a dime for prospects on any day. Take for example, Marlins prospect Marcell Ozuna: one night he was in Double-A Jacksonville, smacking five homers in 10 games. The next, he was answering questions about getting his first major league hit in his surprise debut (he was called up to replace an injured Giancarlo Stanton).
"This is a new experience," Ozuna said after his debut in Miami on Tuesday. "Since I was a little guy, this was my goal. I was real nervous. When the announcer called my name, I said 'Oh my god.' I feel great."
Playing in the minor leagues is a whirlwind and nothing really prepares you for that sudden debut. The Marlins didn't offer Ozuna much help before the game, merely saying, "Just swing at the ball and get better."
Ozuna knows major-league success can be fleeting, but he's done well for himself through three games, going 4-for-11 (.364) with a double and a mini three-game hit streak. As your typical free-swinging Dominican player, he knows he will stay as long as he hits.
Fantasy owners should not put too much stock in prospects. Often, they're a savior one day and a mere pawn the next.
Just look at third-base prospects Anthony Rendon of the Nationals and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies. Rendon arrived to fill in for Ryan Zimmerman (hamstring), hit .240 in eight games and was sent back down. The Rockies called up Arenado, designated Chris Nelson for assignment and watched Arenado go 3-for-6 with a homer, two RBI and three runs in his second game. Rendon was Arenado two weeks ago and now Arenado is the one sticking around.
For this week's prospect watch, we are going to treat the minor-leaguers as commodities in a stock market (all statistics are through Thursday's games).
1. 2B/SS Nick Franklin, Seattle Mariners: With Brendan Ryan (.149) and Robert Andino (.184) struggling below the Mendoza Line at shortstop and second baseman Dustin Ackley (.417 during a 10-game hitting streak) just starting to get going, you have to wonder if the Mariners will turn to Franklin (.377) from Triple-A as their shortstop. He is not major-league ready defensively at either position, but his bat is.
2. SP Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles: He sure knows how to impress the Orioles front office in his first full pro season after being picked out of LSU. His ridiculous 29-1 strikeout-to-walk rate in Double-A gives him a chance to move quickly to the majors. The Orioles are not afraid to turn to their top prospects in time of need, as evidenced by Manny Machado's and Dylan Bundy's call-ups last year.
3. SS/2B Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers: Because of Gordon's error-prone ways at shortstop -- not to mention Hanley Ramirez's return from the DL -- the Dodgers have started working Gordon at second base before games in Triple-A. Mark Ellis (leg) might need a DL stint and Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston won't be hard to beat out either. Watch this closely in rotisserie leagues, because Gordon's bat is ready and his legs are capable of stealing 40-plus bags once he arrives.
4. SP Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates: Cole's control hasn't been good, much less near Gausman's, but he isn't giving up much of late in Triple-A. Watch his walks totals in his starts. Once those walks disappear, we could see Cole getting the call.
5. SP Anthony Ranaudo, Boston Red Sox: Hey, if we are jockeying Gausman, we have to at least mention Ranaudo, who was a first-rounder out of LSU two years prior. Ranaudo doesn't have Gausman's incredible ceiling, but he is equally scorching in Double-A. Both could be pitching against each other for the AL East title by the end of the end of the season.
1. 3B Mike Olt, Texas Rangers: Olt's Triple-A struggles have become so monumental, he needed to get his eyes checked. Seriously. They haven't found anything unusual with his vision, but his struggles make him not worth owning in non-keeper leagues right now.
2. C Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners: Not only has Jesus Montero homered twice in the past week, but Zunino has completely tanked after his hot Triple-A start. What looked like a potential May call-up is on hold for at least another month, if not longer.
3. SS Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers: In long-term keeper leagues, don't sell baseball's top prospect because of one so-so month in Triple-A. But, if you're in a yearly league, he is just sucking up a valuable reserve spot at this point. The Rangers still need Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler to get hurt before Profar is even considered.
4. SP Danny Hultzen, Seattle Mariners: He missed a start for precautionary reasons, but that developed into missing at least a month because of shoulder woes in Triple-A. However the time off will allow him to pitch deeper into the season. If he can get healthy, he could impact fantasy leagues in August. Of course, we could say that same thing about dozens of other pitching prospects by then.
5. SP Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles: Bundy's elbow exam Monday showed no structural damage to the ligament, and he was prescribed rest for six weeks. The good news is he doesn't need surgery. The bad news is he will not be a candidate to arrive before the All-Star break, if he even pitches in the minors before then. If you're holding Bundy , hoping he'll make an impact this year in non-keeper leagues, you can cut him for Gausman, Cole or Ranaudo.
1. OF Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays: What would a prospect watch be without the mention of the Triple-A exploits of fantasy's most-owned minor-leaguer? The reports are glowing right now. He is murdering lefties (.462), so when he starts to hit righties (.219), look out.
2. OF Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals: The 20-year-old (21 on June 19) Dominican wunderkind is hot right now, hitting his third homer Thursday night. The question is when will Carlos Beltran need a DL stint? Matt Holliday or John Jay aren't going anywhere either.
3. 3B Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins: Speaking of upcoming birthdays, Sano turns 20 on May 11. Someone recently asked if the Florida State League homer record is in jeopardy. No way, because Sano is going to be on the move to at least Double-A, if not higher in short order.
4. SP Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks: Organizations move lower-level prospects by the month and Bradley made the jump to Double-A after blowing away the California League through five starts. The 2011 first-rounder now looks like he is going to be on watch for a call-up. Fantasy owners take note, but it might not come until he turns 21 on Aug. 10.
5. SP Zack Wheeler, New York Mets: Here is the obligatory mention of the most-owned, minor-league pitcher. Wheeler's slow start in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League might have a cause now. He was struggling gripping the baseball in the dry desert climate -- the ball was slipping out of his hand, which led to poor control. His last start: 6 2/3 innings, eight strikeouts and just one walk. If you dropped him, pick him back up, because the Mets certainly have opportunities available whenever Wheeler is ready.