The Hot Eight: Week Three

Todd Farino@truegurufarinoCorrespondent IApril 19, 2009

We are two full weeks into the 2009 season and what have we learned so far? The correct answer: Nothing. It is still far too early to make wild decisions about players, whether good or bad.

The baseball season is a marathon and chances are the players who are out to crazy hot starts (yes I am talking to YOU Emilo Bonifacio) will come crashing down to earth in the very near future. Likewise, proven stars such as Lance Berkman and Dan Haren will be just fine.

It is time however, to begin taking notice of the minor leagues and which players are getting hot down on the farm. In this week's Hot Eight, we'll discuss a pair of prospects who are on the verge of getting a call to the show.

With all of the injuries happening all over baseball it will be critical to know which minor leaguers are next in line. You NEED to beat your competition to these players to stay atop your league all season. If you don't have the time to go pouring over all of the minor league stats, don't worry!

That is what The Hot Eight is all about.

I watch as many minor league games as anybody in the industry and will be posting to this blog every time a worthy player is brought up to the show. If you want to be proactive about this then feel free to email me or post your questions here and I will give you the answers you need.

1) Nelson Cruz (Outfield)Rangers

I understand that this may be a little late to the party with Cruz but as my Momma used to say, better late than never! Cruz has erupted for five HR and 12 RBI already and has the look of a determined star in the making.

I am as upset with myself and many of you are for not taking Cruz late in my draft. I saw his outrageous AAA numbers from last year, .341/.430/.693 with 37 HR's, 100 RBI and 24 stolen bases.

But I've seen this before out of Cruz. He's always sparkled in the minors but has not been able to hit an off-speed pitch in nearly five pro seasons.

However, something is different with Cruz this year. He looks more laid back at the plate and his feet are closer together. This is not the same player that I watched struggle for years to be a fifth outfielder.

I strongly believe that Cruz is on his way to a great season and is an absolute everyday player from here on out. If there is any opportunity to acquire him I suggest doing so now before his stock become unsellable.

2) Nyjer Morgan (Outfield)Pirates

You stubborn bastards! How can fantasy players continue to leave Morgan on the waiver wire like this even after his Hot Eight appearance last week?

Well, I am bringing him back again to stress the importance of having a player like Morgan, who is a great on-base player and has crazy speed on your team.

Why would you choose to hold Ichiro on your roster for several weeks while injured and think it is perfectly fine to leave Morgan out in the cold while he is scoring runs and stealing bases like crazy? I understand that Ichiro is a better player but he will finish with very close OBP, SB, and runs scored numbers than our man Nyjer Morgan here.

This guy is a steal and is just sitting there like the pretty faced girl at the dance who hasn't let her hair down yet. You know once that hair comes down, the eyes will sparkle, doves will fly and every other guy around will want a piece of her.

Morgan is exactly like that pretty faced girl, only slightly less sexual.

3) Adam Rosales (Third Base)Reds

Currently, this slugger is wasting away in Louisville with the Reds AAA team and hitting a whopping .387/.444/.806. Let me make this clear to any Cincinnati Reds personnel who may be monitoring this blog: YOU HAVE NO BENCH!

This is quite possibly the worst collection of useless garbage since my Grandparents Estate Sale in 1989. Darnell McDonald, Laynce Nix, Jerry Hairston? Really?

I played high school ball against Jerry Hairston and he was a hell of a ball player. But even my Glenbard East Rams found ways to getting him out at a decent clip so what in the heck is he doing taking up space on this Reds bench?

Dusty "fricking" Baker doesn't like prospects. Well, I know that Dusty does like managing and if he wants to keep his gig after this year he had better start showing something with this Reds team and a good place to start would be filling out the bench with players who the opposing manager isn't laughing at.

Rosales can hit in the big leagues. He should be their starting LF at this point and I actually would put him ahead of Encarnacion at 3B right now. If he keeps hitting like this then Rosales will get his chance in Cincinnati before the end of May.

4) Mark Teahen (3B/Outfield)Royals

Teahen is moving back to his home position of 3B after the injury to Alex Gordon. He has been the perfect team guy in moving literally all over the field in order to help his team and get some AB's.

He has earned everybody's respect in the process and his new permanent spot in the Royals lineup. He'll hit third and will drive in plenty of runs now in that spot.

I believe this is just what Teahen needed to make him comfortable and at ease with his game. There is no doubt the guy can hit. He was once one of the most prized prospects in the game.

Go back and read Moneyball and learn all about his skillset and what Teahen has to offer. He is the classic "late bloomer" who is ready to rise like a phoenix this summer.

5) Franklin Morales (LHP - Starter)Rockies

Morales was on the fast track after starring in the Rockies miracle run through the World Series in 2007. But last year he suffered with mechanical issues that found him unable to command his arsenal of pitches whatsoever.

I had heard about the Rockies working spring with his mechanics and have been impressed with the results so far. This is an excellent time to buy on Morales as he has No. 1 starter type of stuff.

Taking a shot on him as he is set to make his second start on Tuesday is a move I strongly suggest you make.

6) Gary Matthews Jr. (Outfield)Angels

Matthews will get a shot with the Angels after all now that Vlad Guerrero has landed on the DL. Matthews will take over the primary RF duties for the next couple of months and will be working to improve his trade value, which nosedived after signing the big free agent contract before last season.

Matthews had a superb 2006 season as a member of the Texas Rangers. Was it due to HGH? Was it the hitter friendly conditions in Arlington? Or was it just a matter of being healthy and having a job all to himself?

Matthews' power numbers have been respectable his first two years in L.A.. But it will take more than that to sell another team to trade and pay the remainder of his contract. But, Matthews will be playing for himself in these next two months or so, and maybe that is the motivation he needs to shine.

If you are thin on OF talent it wouldn't be a bad idea to grab Matthews right now and hope he makes himself a nice little run going forward.

7) Tommy Hanson (RHP - Starter)Braves

The problem with the Braves is not their pitching. But the team has been struggling of late mostly due to injuries to their entire offense. What we are all waiting for right now is the final verdict on Tom Glavine's career, which hangs in the balance due to yet another left arm injury.

Glavine won't bother with any comeback attempts if indeed he needs surgery and thus a permanent role in the Braves rotation will be available. The club is buying time (literally!) by sending Jo Jo Reyes out there while Hanson tears apart the minor leagues. But once his eight weeks is up and the team gains another year of service time, Hanson will assume his role in what could be a very good starting rotation.

Hanson is a power pitcher who will strike people out and going against the No. 4-5 starters of other teams should provide him an excellent opportunity for early success once he is called up. You must get him now and let him take up a roster space for the next few weeks until the final word in Atlanta is handed down.

8) Joel Zumaya (RHP - Reliever)Tigers

I add Zumaya to this list more as a reminder to those of you who still believe that this fireballer will one day stay healthy. I just cannot put any faith into Zumaya after what has been one injury after another after another since bursting on the scene in 2006.

Zumaya is on a rehab assignment right now and was successful his first time out in AAA after getting pounded in his first stop in A ball. He doesn't quite have the velocity he did before, but he is still bringing it in the mid-high 90's.

There is a chance he could assume the closer's role in Detroit at some point this season although Fernando Rodney is doing well as of right now. With closers a such obscurity right now it may be worth it to add Zumaya and put him on your team's DL if indeed your league has that spot available.

That is the Hot Eight for this week. What do you guys think? Post your comments below or email me at


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