The minor league season is underway and so is the Fantasy Alarm prospect watch.
All season long I will be keeping a close eye on the happenings down on the farm in order to provide you with the most up to date scouting reports and player analysis. Every season there are players who catch fire in the minor leagues, get called up to the show and become important fantasy baseball pieces. Already this season a couple of hot bats have caught the attention of their team's front office and have been called up to replace injured teammates. Let's take a look at the early season trends across the minor leagues and see which players you should be keeping an eye on in the near future.
I am still a believer in Rangers 1B/3B/OF Chris Davis.
I understand that he has had a legitimate shot at the major league level and barely hit over .220, but a bat this talented shouldn't be cast off so soon. Davis was already raking for AAA Round Rock, hitting a robust .429/.435/1.095 with 4 HRs and 11 RBI when he was summoned to Texas to replace the injured Josh Hamilton on the roster. The Rangers have such a wealth of talent in their minor and major league clubs that it just isn't fair to the rest of baseball. I would keep a close eye on Davis' playing time in the coming week or so. If he continues to hit as he did in AAA, he could be a huge power-numbers find at this point in the season.
In an interesting move, Rochester (Twins) shortstop Trevor Plouffe has been moved to second base over the past few games possibly in order to prepare him for a call-up to Minnesota. The Twins will be without starting second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka for 4-6 weeks after he was taken out by Nick Swisher on a would be double play. Plouffe is a slick fielding prospect with decent power who has been red hot early on this season, hitting to the tune of .348/.407/.826 with 3 HRs and 6 RBI. There is a very good chance that he will be called up quite soon by the Twins in hopes he can add a spark to their struggling offense.
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Angels all-world outfield prospect Mike Trout is off to a blazing start for AA Arkansas. Trout went 3-for-4 with a pair of homeruns including a grand slam against the Frisco Roughriders earlier this week and has a .318/.423/.727, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 5 runs and 1 steal statline so far this season. It is going to be hard for the Angels to keep this guy away from the big league club in 2011. If he continues to own AA pitching, the Angels will likely send him to AAA Salt Lake for a couple of months before giving him a late-season call-up. I still don't think he will hit for much power in the major leagues, but Trout is an outstanding hitter with top-end speed on the basepaths.
It was interesting to see Dontrelle Willis start a game for the AAA Louisville Bats (Reds) team the other day. Willis actually did quite well in going six innings while giving up just three hits, no runs and striking out five. Most importantly, however, Willis only walked one batter on the day, which is ultimately the factor that will keep him in the minors or open the big league doors for him once again. The Reds do have many question marks in their rotation and now with Arolids Chapman's sudden drop in velocity, there could be a spot open in the bullpen for Willis pretty soon.
In addition to Dontrelle Willis, their are a number of aging former major league players still tooling around down on the farm in hopes of reclaiming former glory. Teams will usually bring up experienced talent from the minor leagues early on in the season, so these are some names to watch the progress on in the coming weeks.
Willy Mo Pena OF - AAA Reno (Diamondbacks)
Endy Chavez OF - AAA Round Rock (Rangers)
Willy Tavares OF - Colorado Springs (Rockies)
Josh Fields 3B - Colorado Springs (Rockies)
Ramon Ortiz RHP - Iowa (Cubs)
Ronnie Belliard 2B/SS/3B - Lehigh Valley (Phillies)
Jeff Suppan RHP - Omaha (Royals)
Another thing we do here on the Farm Report is to keep you abreast of which players are ready for the major leagues, rising in their quest of graduating to the show and falling down in terms of value to the big league team. So here is the first look at the minor league fantasy radar for 2011.
Chris Davis 1B/3B/OF - AAA Round Rock (Rangers)
Desmond Jennings OF - AAA Durham (Rays)
Chris Carter 1B/OF - AAA Sacramento (Athletics)
Dee Gordon SS - AAA Albuquerque (Dodgers)
Brett Lawrie 2B - Las Vegas (Blue Jays)
Lance Lynn RHP - Memphis (Cardinals)
Yonder Alonso 1B/OF - Louisville (Reds)
Tyler Flowers C - Charlotte (White Sox)
Kyle Gibson RHP - Rochester (Twins)
Jeff Mans is a co-host of The Fantasy Alarm Show on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, the Senior Writer at Fantasy Alarm and a contributor to Bleacher Report.