It is that time of year when major league clubs start paying close attention to the progress of their minor league prospects and adjust the timelines for their arrival to the big leagues. This process is going on right now in all MLB front offices and there is no reason it shouldn't be on the forefront of fantasy player's minds as well.
After the first two months of the season, the biggest impact free agents in fantasy baseball are those called up from the minor leagues. With the arrival of Eric Hosmer in Kansas City, the floodgates of prospects getting called up are about to open.
This is a vital time for fantasy owners to target the players they need to stay ahead of the competition or to get back in the race this season. So, in today's Farm Report let's go position by position and see which players will have the biggest fantasy impact in the coming weeks and months.
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Anthony Rizzo: AAA Tucson (Padres) .393/.461/.746, 10 HR, 43 RBI, 27 runs, 4 steals
Rizzo came over in the Adrian Gonzalez trade and is expected to be the Padres long-term replacement for him at first base. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2008 but has been cancer free since early 2009. Rizzo is a patient hitter who uses the whole field well and is disciplined enough to take what the pitcher gives him.
Unlike fellow prospect Eric Hosmer, he has learned how to turn on inside pitches and hit them out of the ballpark. He projects as a very similar player to the one he was traded for but with a better batting average and a little less natural power. Rizzo has done everything he can to prove that he is ready for the major leagues and, with the Padres' current situation at first base, should be called up pretty soon.
Also to consider: Mat Gamel (AAA Nashville/Brewers), Brandon Belt (AAA Fresno/Giants)
Dustin Ackley: AAA Tacoma (Mariners) .237/.359/.388, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 19 runs, 6 steals
Don't worry about the low batting average currently because the Mariners have told Ackley to be more aggressive at the plate in an attempt to give him more power and run producing ability. He has done a fine job in that regard and is without question the best second base prospect in the minor leagues. Seattle has a gaping hole at second base as well as plenty of room for upgrades in their lineup. Ackley has been on the fast track since he was drafted in the first round in 2009 and will be in Seattle within a month of this posting.
Also to consider: Jemile Weeks (AAA Sacramento/A's)
Dee Gordon: AAA Albuquerque (Dodgers) .299/.349/.350, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 21 runs, 14 steals
Gordon is a slap-hitting defensive wizard with speed and makeup off the charts. His hands are nearly as lightning quick as his legs in that he can get around on a ball that is practically in the catcher's mitt. The Dodgers have been without Rafael Furcal for the past month and will look to trade the aging veteran as they fall out of contention early. With Furcal's departure, Gordon will entrench himself as the Dodgers starting shortstop for years to come. The one downfall for those looking for a quick fix at shortstop is that Gordon probably won't arrive in L.A. until late June at the earliest.
Also to consider: Gil Velazquez (AAA Salt Lake City/Angels)
Brett Lawrie: AAA Las Vegas (Blue Jays) .338/.376/.588, 7 HR, 24 RBI, 26 runs, 8 steals
The only question mark about Brett Lawrie is his cockiness, which sometimes rubs teammates and opposing players the wrong way. Otherwise, he is a crazy skilled hitter who was moved to third base from second base by the Blue Jays as a way to get him to the big leagues quicker. He has done nothing to make them second guess this plan as he continues to show that he has evolved beyond minor league pitching.
Lawrie will be a good run producer in the major leagues for a long time and will probably be the first player on this list to be called up. I have already added him to several of my fantasy teams as impact third basemen are quite invisible these days.
Also to consider: Dayan Viciedo (AAA Charlotte/White Sox), Mike Moustakas (AAA Omaha/Royals), Jeff Baisley (AAA Salt Lake City/Angels)
Jesus Montero: AAA Scranton (Yankees) .330/.347/.425, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 10 runs, 0 steals
There are a lot of question marks about Montero right now, including what position he will ultimately play at the major league level and also which team he will be playing for. The one question that nobody asks is if he will hit, because that is a given. The Yankees have two better defensive catching prospects in Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine, though neither is in the class of Montero as a hitter. Many believe that the Yankees will trade Montero for the best available starting pitcher in this year’s free agent market and I think that is likely as well. Wherever he goes though, Montero will be on the big league team and have catcher eligibility, making him a very intriguing fantasy target right now.
Also to consider: Anthony Recker (AAA Sacramento/A's)
Domonic Brown: AAA Lehigh Valley (Phillies) .358/.426/.642, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 12 runs, 1 steal
It is amazing that Brown is not starting in right field for the Phillies right now. He most certainly would be if not for breaking his hand when he was hit by a pitch in the second week of spring training. Brown is a pure five-tool athlete and will be in a perfect position for fantasy success once he arrives in Philadelphia. He will be called up in the next two weeks and, in my opinion, is well worth the roster space right now.
Collin Cowgill: AAA Reno (Diamondbacks) .336/.425/.552, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 26 runs, 7 steals
Cowgill is one of those players who develops a little better each and every year. He works as hard as anybody in the minor leagues and, for that, is well respected by his teammates, managers and the Diamondbacks front office. He is the type of kid who just refuses to lose at any aspect of the game and will battle pitchers each and every time at the plate. Cowgill also makes quick adjustments, a necessity in the big leagues, and he never gets too up or too down mentally. The more I see of him, the more I believe that Cowgill is one of those out-of-nowhere players who comes in and becomes an All-Star major league player.
Desmond Jennings: AAA Durham (Rays) .289/.408/.438, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 26 runs, 8 steals
Many expected Jennings to break camp with the Rays ever since the team let Carl Crawford go in free agency. Jennings is probably more of the heir apparent to B.J. Upton now than he is to Crawford, but they can't keep him down for much longer. The Rays are definitely waiting until around June 1st to activate Jennings in order to save a season of his arbitration, but he will be a regular in the lineup once he is called upon.
Jennings has made great strides in taking walks and in hitting the ball on the ground to all fields—two areas the team wanted him to work on. Jennings won't be as great of a fantasy player as many expect, but he will be good for runs scored and stolen bases for sure.
Also to consider: Alex Presley (AAA Indianapolis/Pirates), Andy Dirks (AAA Toledo/Tigers), Kirk Nieuwenhuis (AAA Buffalo/Mets), Wily Mo Pena (AAA Reno/Diamondbacks)
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.