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Nationals' Rendon has skills to step up
05/15/2013 7:38 AM ET

Fantasy Focus is a regular MiLB.com feature in which we use a Minor League perspective to give you the edge in your fantasy league. Have a fantasy question? Tweet it to @MiLB or @AshMarshallMLB with the hashtag #fantasyfocus.

In this week's Fantasy Focus, we take a look at Jose Alvarez -- the best Triple-A pitcher you probably haven't heard of -- and examine whether John Gast is worth a look in deep NL-only needs.

We also take a trip around some of the rehabbing big leaguers suiting up in the Minors, tell you why Anthony Rendon's stock is on the rise and give you a recap of what MLB.com's top 10 prospects have been doing the past seven days.

Stock Up, Stock Down

Stock Up: Anthony Rendon

The Nationals' top prospect played eight games with the big club as an injury replacement to established third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, where he went 6-for-25 with a double, five walks and an RBI. Since returning to Double-A Harrisburg, he's done nothing but hit. Rendon is 17-for-39 (.436) with two homers and nine RBIs in 11 games, seven of which have been of the multi-hit variety.

On the year, he leads the Eastern League in batting average (.356), OBP (.496) and slugging (.609) following this recent run. Given the dominance he's shown, the Nats shouldn't be afraid to slide him back up to their hot corner should the need arise, and you shouldn't be afraid either if you're in need of a third baseman.

Of note, considering Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa's woeful start to the season at the plate (.175/.206/.325), Rendon has played a game at second base in each of the last two weeks and has four starts (committing one error total) for Harrisburg there this season.

Stock Down: Hunter Morris

The Brewers' No. 4 prospect went on the disabled list Sunday with a mild concussion, but he had struggled immensely at the plate before that. He was batting .220 with a .693 OPS, four homers and 13 RBIs in 32 games for Triple-A Nashville.

Those are tough numbers to swallow from a first baseman who led the system hits, homers, RBIs and slugging percentage last season and was considered an outside shot to make the Major League roster out of Spring Training this year after Corey Hart went down following knee surgery. Although the Brewers have struggled to fill Hart's production at first, they won't be turning to Morris any time soon, and fantasy owners would be advised to check in again in a few weeks to see if he has turned it around.

Rehabs of Note


Joba Chamberlain threw 12 pitches in a scoreless inning for the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on Tuesday. The Yankees hurler threw nine strikes and worked around a pair of hits.

After retiring the first two batters he faced, the right-hander allowed a first-pitch single to Jordan Lennerton, who laced the ball off second baseman Corban Joseph's glove and into center field.

Nick Castellanos followed with a base hit to left field -- also on the first pitch he saw -- but Chamberlain induced an inning-ending fly ball from Danny Dorn to end his outing.

Chamberlain, on the 15-day DL with a right oblique strain, threw a 30-pitch bullpen session on Sunday and is eligible to return this weekend.

* * *

Johnny Cueto struck out four batters and allowed three hits over five scoreless innings in his second Midwest League rehab outing for the Dayton Dragons.

Sidelined since April 15 because of a strained right lat muscle and right oblique, Cueto faced 17 batters, retired the final five West Michigan hitters he faced and did not allow a runner to reach third base.

After his first start, Cueto told MLB.com, "I think I need another outing, and that's what we'll do. And after that, God willing, I will be activated." MLB.com reported Cueto may rejoin the Reds rotation within the next two weeks.

* * *

Left-hander Manny Parra pitched a scoreless inning of a rehab game for the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos on Monday.

The Reds farmhand yielded one hit and struck out two batters. Parra has been on the DL with a left pectoral muscle strain since April 26, retroactive to April 24.

Parra, who missed time last August with a left shoulder impingement, last pitched in the Majors on April 23. He's 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in six relief appearances.

* * *

Rehabbing a sprained right ankle, Brett Anderson yielded six runs on six hits and four walks while striking out three batters over 3 2/3 Texas League innings for the Midland RockHounds on Sunday.

The 25-year-old left-hander was 1-4 with a 6.21 ERA in six games -- five starts -- for the Athletics. The second-rounder had walked 15 batters over 29 innings and given up 22 runs on 32 hits.

He could be back as soon as this weekend, when he's eligible to come off the DL.

Will He Stick?

Will He Stick: Avisail Garcia

Garcia, who missed the opening of the season with a right heel contusion, had played just eight games with Triple-A Toledo before Austin Jackson's trip to the DL necessitated his move back to the big club. Garcia drew rave reviews last season during his late-season call-up and postseason play for the Tigers, earning the nickname "Miggy Jr." after 2012 Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.

He'll primarily take Jackson's spot in center field this time around, but with Andy Dirks and Torii Hunter holding down the two corner spots, expect the 21-year-old to be sent back to the International League for more seasoning when Jackson is healthy. In the meantime, he could be a decent play in deeper AL-only leagues.

Keep an eye on

Eddie Butler: The Rockies' No. 10 prospect is a ways from fantasy consideration, but he's one to flag for the future. The 6-foot-2 right-hander has allowed just one hit in three of his last four starts, each of which has lasted longer than six innings.

On the season, he owns a 1.49 ERA, 0.85 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings. Drafted 46th overall last June out of Radford University, Butler could be a fast mover in the Rockies system and could be well positioned to make the jump to Class A Advanced or Double-A within the next month. If he can continue this production -- or even come close to it -- at the higher levels, he'll start jumping up people's boards. Be there first.

Under the Radar

The best pitcher in the International League so far this year hasn't been a high-profile prospect like Gerrit Cole, Jake Odorizzi or Kyle Gibson.

It's a man Detroit signed as a Minor League free agent this offseason, and he's actually younger than Gibson, and, despite no hint of prospect hype around this lefty, not all that much older than Odorizzi or Cole.

Jose Alvarez, a 24-year-old Venezuelan, has been lights out for Toledo. In seven starts he's got a 1.50 ERA (second in the IL), and in 42 innings he's struck out 41 batters (tied for fourth). With only nine walks, he has more than four punchouts for every free pass, as well.

The Tigers don't have an immediate opening in their rotation, but if somebody in Detroit goes down -- pitchers get hurt, after all -- Alvarez could be the first man called upon. If so, this unheralded arm could deliver some nice results to AL-only owners who keep their eye on him.

Transaction of Note

The Cardinals have enjoyed one of the league's best rotations this year, finding elite performances from Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller and Jake Westbrook.

Only now Westbrook's had a bark in his elbow, leaving a spot open. The man the Cardinals immediately called up to fill it is their No. 8 prospect, John Gast.

The 24-year-old lefty has been one of the best pitchers in the Pacific Coast League this year, boasting a 1.16 ERA in 38 2/3 innings with 35 strikeouts to 13 walks.

It's been a bit of a breakout stretch for the 2010 sixth-rounder, and with Westbrook on the 15-day DL, he should get two or three starts to show St. Louis what he's got.

If he does well, and if Westbrook's elbow injury hampers him further down the line this year, Gast could help NL-only owners in need of a starter, or possibly even mixed-leaguers, if he resembles the last Cardinals prospect to assume a rotation spot, Shelby Miller.

Ask MiLB

I'm in a 10-team NL-only 5x5 league. I have Nick Hundley as my catcher and no one worth owning on the waiver wire. What should I expect when [Yasmani] Grandal comes back this month? Should I use my first overall waiver pick to grab him?

Grandal has shown he can hit for a solid average at any level, so there's no reason to think he can't be in that .285 region again when he gets fully back up to speed.

In a deep NL-only league, you're going to be weak at that spot the entire season unless you reached for someone like Buster Posey in your draft.

Hundley has seen most of the time behind the plate with Grandal out, but his lack of plate discipline and terrible walk-to-strikeout ratios mean his potential to contribute is limited. With little power and no speed, he's limited to helping you in average, runs scored and RBIs, all of which will take a drastic cut as his playing time decreases.

Grandal has his biggest advantage over Hundley in batting average (maybe by as many as 30 points, because I don't think Hundley can maintain his .259 average), and he's going to get you more runs and RBIs, even if the margin is not as big.

I don't expect Grandal to replicate his 2012 numbers, but .265 with six homers, 20 runs and 25 RBIs in 60 games is certainly realistic. He'll be better than any of the backstops on the waiver wire, so feel free to use that No. 1 pick, unless you've got your heart set on a prospect like Oscar Taveras or Zack Wheeler later in the year.

 

Top 10 Prospects

Organization   Player  
Texas Rangers   Jurickson Profar Profar went 10-for-28 in seven games this week for Triple-A Round Rock. The left hand injury that forced him out of a game last Tuesday does not appear to be bothering him.
Baltimore Orioles   Dylan Bundy Bundy will not need elbow surgery, but he will be out at least six weeks after Dr. James Andrew prescribed a platelet-rich plasma injection. A mid-June return is possible.
St. Louis Cardinals   Oscar Taveras Taveras went 9-for-23 with a homer, two doubles and six RBIs in five outings, but he has not played since Sunday when he hurt his right ankle sliding into second base.
Tampa Bay Rays   Wil Myers Myers was 4-for-21 this week with a homer and six RBIs. He's hitting .194 in his past 10 games, dropping his season clip down to .261 in Durham.
Seattle Mariners   Taijuan Walker Walker gave up four runs over 5 1/3 innings in a loss at Huntsville on Thursday, and he earned a no-decision Tuesday after yielding two runs over seven frames at home vs. Tennessee.
New York Mets   Travis d'Arnaud d'Arnaud fractured his left foot April 17 after fouling off a ball in the sixth inning against Sacramento. He's expected to miss six to eight weeks.
Miami Marlins   Jose Fernandez Fernandez gave up three runs on eight hits over six innings against the Dodgers to move to 2-2. He fanned seven batters, giving him 39 in 37 big league innings.
New York Mets   Zack Wheeler Wheeler turned in his third straight quality start against Albuquerque this weekend (7 1/3 IP, 6 H, 2 R), but he is expected to miss his start in Omaha on Friday after flying to New York for tests on his collarbone.
Pittsburgh Pirates   Gerrit Cole Cole did not factor in the decision in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (7 IP, 4 H, 1 R), on Thursday, but he earned a win against Buffalo (6 IP, 5 H, 4 R) on Tuesday, despite pitching better in the previous start.
Arizona Diamondbacks   Tyler Skaggs Skaggs fanned seven batters in allowing two runs on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings against Triple-A Iowa on Saturday.

 

A Wild, Wild Whine

Ed. note: This section is on the lighter side of fantasy baseball, where staff writer Danny Wild bemoans his continued bad fortune as a fantasy owner. Shoot him an email if you can relate, or maybe some fantasy advice would be more appropriate.

It goes without saying my team remains in last place, but I no longer have the worst offense in my league. Huge victory. Maybe no coincidence, it comes after I finally ditched Pedro Alvarez. The winless Josh Beckett also wore out his stay, and with Jimmy Rollins enduring what CBS termed "a sluggish start," I made another move.

Alvarez (hitting .198) is out and Oakland's Josh Donaldson is in. Donaldson hit two homers last week, but, of course, Alvarez had three consecutive multi-hit games once I dropped him.

Beckett (0-5, 5.19) remains winless through mid May and, no surprise, I have the least amount of wins in my league. He's out and another Athletics superstar is in, A.J. Griffin. He lines up to start on Sunday.

I've benched Rollins (.248-2-12), dropped Ben Revere (.237-0-5) and picked up Jhonny Peralta (.325-3-17) at short -- Peralta hit .500 last week, so I'll ride him for awhile. One problem now is a lack of speed, as I've released both Revere and Juan Pierre, whom I penciled in for a lot of steals on Opening Day.

Then there's more good news: my two Minor League prospects, Oscar Taveras and Zack Wheeler, went down with injuries this week. David Price has blamed his struggles on allergies. A guy with seasonal allergies who pitches in an enclosed dome in a state that basically has one season? (Actually, he thinks it's due to the detergent used in the Rays' clubhouse washing machines. Can't make this up).



This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.