Welcome to 2013’s inaugural edition of Prospect Pendulum: a weekly series where we take a look at three prospects with stocks on the way up, and three others with values in decline. This is Fantasy baseball we’re talking about here, so everything from injury to organizational moves to player performance can factor into where a player ranks in a given week. We’ll look to dive deeper than most on this platform too, bringing you status updates on players well outside of your typical Top 100 lists.
This week, we examine the rising fortunes of Tony Cingrani, Jackie Bradley Jr.’s initial struggles and an injury scare for the minor’s best pitching prospect.
On The Upswing
Tony Cingrani (SP, CIN)
Cingrani’s detractors point to his lack of a plus third pitch and reliance on deception, and quickly dismiss him as having a likely future as a late inning reliever. Not so fast, I say. Cingrani is not your typical soft-throwing lefty, who relies more on trickery and location than pure stuff. He has an above average fastball and a plus changeup, and the type of size and delivery that portend 200 innings per season in the big leagues. We are not talking about Tommy Milone 2.0 here. Cingrani will never reach his No. 2/3 starter ceiling if the breaking pitch doesn’t improve, but that can be said about most pitchers and there’s no guarantee he won’t figure it out. Don’t start Cingrani at home against good offenses, but in favorable matchups or bigger parks, I see no reason not to plug him in while Johnny Cueto sits out. The strikeout potential here is downright sexy.
Oswaldo Arcia (OF, MIN)
Aaron Hicks may have stolen all the headlines this spring, but as should be abundantly clear now, a strong case can be made that Arcia is the more MLB-ready bat. It’s a surprise that the Twins are willing to call up Arcia so soon in a year where they don’t figure to be competitive. Fantasy owners should be plenty glad they did, though, as the 21-year-old did horrible, mean things to High-A and Double-A last season, and entered 2013 as one of Fantasy’s more underrated prospects. Hicks is the better overall player but Arcia is better for our purposes, and it would not surprise me to see him hold his own immediately. Don’t drop an established veteran who’s slumping for him just yet, but if you really need outfield help you could do worse.
Matt Adams (1B, STL)
It turns out I was a year early in predicting Adams’ ascent to Fantasy relevance. I thought he’d grab hold of the Cards’ first base job last season, after Albert Pujols left town for the Angels. Allen Craig helped put an end to that vision, as did Adams’ poor showing in a 91 PA sample size in the majors. Adams is absolutely crushing the ball in the big leagues this season, though, hitting .524 with three homers and eight RBI in just 23 PA, despite not having an everyday job. The good news here is that with a litany of injury-prone players on his team, plus the new interleague format, Adams should at least 200 PA this season. That might not be enough to make him Fantasy-relevant in standard mixed leagues, but if he starts seeing more regular time he should be owned nearly everywhere.
Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, BOS)
Everyone spent so much time debating whether Bradley should start the season in the majors due to service time, we sort of forgot to debate whether he was ready from a performance standpoint, too. Bradley now seems destined to serve as the poster boy for the “Spring Training stats don’t matter” crowd, as the outfielder has three hits in 38 PA so far this season. Given that Bradley had just 271 at-bats above High-A coming into the season and doesn’t project as a plus offensive threat to begin with, we shouldn’t be so surprised. Bradley is playing much less frequently these days, and is nearly a lock to be sent down when David Ortiz comes off the DL. With Daniel Nava looking more and more like a viable MLB option anyway, Bradley’s presence is a bit redundant. If, for some reason, you haven’t dropped Bradley yet in redraft leagues, please do so now.
Matt Skole (3B/1B, WAS)
Sure, the Nationals have lucked (or sucked, I suppose) their way to two generational talents in Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, but the poor injury luck they’ve run into with many of their lesser prospects is pretty brutal. Skole joined a list including Anthony Rendon, Lucas Giolito, Sammy Solis and plenty of others this week, injuring his left (aka non-throwing) UCL ligament and requiring Tommy John surgery just yesterday. Despite an impressive 2012 season that saw Skole mash 27 homers in Single-A, I wasn’t terribly high on him to begin with and this injury does nothing to help. A non-throwing Tommy John injury for a probable future first baseman is by no mean a death sentence, but Skole is already 23 and now it’s unlikely he’ll see at-bats again until 2014. I get why some love the bat but I’m not among them, and I’d be comfortable cutting Skole in dynasty leagues with fewer than 150 minor leaguers.
Dylan Bundy (SP, BAL)
It might seem a little harsh to rank Bundy as “Swaying Backwards” already, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on his reported elbow soreness, and the fact that he’s yet to climb back on a mound. Despite his small size, Bundy has long been lauded for his athleticism and clean, repeatable delivery. No pitcher is a guarantee to stay healthy, but Bundy was considered a better shot than most. The Orioles insist there’s no structural damage and that Bundy was just sore, but one can simply look to recent history at Manny Banuelos and Casey Kelly to see how just resting a prospect is not always enough. There’s no reason to panic yet, but there’s plenty of cause for a healthy dose of skepticism. Let’s hope nothing is wrong, because Bundy can be special.