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Sunday 18th Feb 2018

Another week, another couple of premiere prospects advanced, starting with the Mets' Zack Wheeler, who was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2009 draft. Wheeler has actually had enough time for two starts with the Metropolitans (1-0, 3.18 over 11 innings). Traded for Carlos Beltran in 2010 as the Giants tried to push for post season play, Wheeler has been well enough thought of to be a "Baseball America" Top 100 prospect every year since being drafted, peaking with #11 this season.

With Minor League totals of 28-20, 3.56 over 73 starts and 391.1 innings, Wheeler has a good 420 strikeouts, but somewhat iffy 176 walks (2.39 K:BB ratio), although his hits per nine at 323 (7.4) is pretty good. Wheeler could pan out to be a solid complement to Matt Harvey, and he is likely to implode from time-to-time due to the walks. Use the eight strikeouts Wheeler nabbed through his first 11 innings as an optimistic barometer, but the eight walks over the same span to keep your expectations in check.

Minnesota brought up their #1 pick from the same 2009 draft in Kyle Gibson. In fact, it might make an interesting contrast for the rest of the season to track both Gibson and Wheeler, not so much because they were drafted and signed the same year, but because while Wheeler became a pro out of High School, Gibson opted for three years of college (University of Missouri, Columbia) before turning pro.

Over 70 starts and 368.1 Minor League innings, Gibson is 21-21, 3.54, and though he has 329 whiffs (8 per nine innings) he only has 100 walks (2.4 per nine), numbers that suggest better control than Wheeler.

What that means is that Wheeler probably throws harder, and probably has more chance to develop into a dominant pitcher. And for now, both are rookie pitchers, on teams in the middle of rebuilds. They are both decent gambles in deep leagues, and both will take their lumps for a spell.

In fact, we can look at a third #1 pitcher in Colorado's Drew Pomeranz, although Pomeranz was actually selected by the Indians in 2010, and then swapped as part of the Ubaldo Jimenez deal. At 24 years old--right in between Gibson and Wheeler--Pomeranz has already logged 26 starts and 115 innings in the Majors (4-10, 5.01) which does show the road to success is a rough one. 

Still, as a Minor Leaguer, Pomeranz is 16-8, 2.77 over 45 starts and 237.1 innings. However, this year the right-hander started the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, going 8-1, 4.20 over 85.2 innings (96K, 33BB, 83H) and a 1.35 WHIP. It is important to remember that Pomeranz is pitching in a hitter's park, in a hitter's league, although Coors will not help him that much as a shift from the equally lofty Colorado Springs environ.

Probably Pomeranz was advanced before he was ready (seven hits, two homers, and four walks against the Giants Sunday over 4.1 innings) and perhaps it is a talent thing, or a mental thing, or a little of both. Whatever, this does tell how iffy it can be from one pitcher to the next. As for Pomeranz, I would probably take Wheeler first, then Gibson, before I gambled on an untested pitcher in any format.

Looking at another arm, Stephen Fife has been pitching pretty well for the Dodgers of late, now posting a mark of 2-2, 3.41 over six starts and 34.1 innings tossed.Fife has 30 strikeouts this year, and 35 hits allowed (to ten walks, good for a 1.311 WHIP), and, I saw Fife pitch--against Team Mexico in a pre-World Baseball Classic exhibition game over the spring, and he was not even close to convincing.

Again, I would be nervous about adding him at this juncture, and would look more to Wheeler to potentially deliver the numbers I need, irrespective of the quality of his team.

Finally, one more hard thrower to look at is Bruce Rondon, the 22-year-old monster (as in he is 6'3", 275, and can throw 100 MPH) the Tigers have just recalled. Rondon has 79 saves over five years in the Tigers' Minor League system (253 strikeouts over 222.1 innings, with 124 walks to 146 hits and a 1.196 WHIP). 

Rondon has had his troubles this year with control in the Majors (0-1, 12.00 over three innings and four appearances) and, Detroit clearly needs bullpen help. All things considered he makes the best flier on the team to emerge with some saves, although Joaquin Benoit has the gig for now (and I look for Al Albuquerque to be a good gamble too), but depending upon the season the Tigers have from now on out, Rondon makes a good gamble for the rest of this year and into 2014.

The Royals finally brought Johnny Giavotella back, and hopefully they will just hand him the second base gig and let him adjust, as they have Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer (both of whom seem to be more erratic than Giavotella ever was). Over 99 games and 359 Major League at-bats, Giavotella is .242-3-36, though the 25-year-old is .306-45-324 in the Minors over 699 games, with 72 steals and a great .380 OBP (279 walks to 299 whiffs). I think the Royals owe Giavotella a chance (.289-7-48 at Triple-A Omaha this year) to really show what he can do, and I think he makes for a good pickup in an AL-only competition.

With Angel Pagan likely gone for the season, the Giants have been looking for outfield help, and Juan Perez is the latest and the greatest the team has promoted from Fresno. Perez has OK numbers at Fresno this year (.296-9-34 over 57 games), but he is a potential strikeout victim with 114 walks in the Minors to 444 strikeouts. Perez has a little speed, but the Giants still have an outfield of Andres Torres, Gregor Blanco, and Hunter Pence they can trot out on a regular basis, so I would probably pass on Perez.

However, if your outfield has a hole and is a National League format, take a look at 22-year- old Marcell Ozuna of the Marlins. True, Ozuna is a free swinger a la Perez (157 walks to 467 punchouts), but his .274-85-326 line just makes him look like a more advanced study. Hitting .296-2-26 for the Fish thus far this year, Ozuna is a line-drive hitter who should improve his plate skills (he is four years younger than Perez) as he gets older and gains more experience.

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