One of the bigger challenges I have when it comes to writing about deeper leagues is writing about minor leaguers. This isn't because I have no knowledge when it comes to minor leaguers (although if you really want to optimize your chances of winning, I urge you to soak up as much John Sickels and Kevin Goldstein as you possibly can). The challenge I have is trying to figure out which players are typically taken by now (via a farm or ultra draft) and which ones are still floating around out there.
Rather than attempting to guess, I thought instead that I'd just take a look at some of the higher profile pitchers in the minor leagues, see how they're doing, and take a stab at guessing how much of an impact I think these guys will have in 2011. Tonight I'll start with the American League.
Manny Banuelos, New York Yankees
2011: 6 GS, 26 IP, 25 H, 13 BB, 20 K, 0 HR, 2.77 ERA.
Banuelos looks like he's off to a so-so start, but a blister issue has led to the Yankees being extremely cautious with their prized property. Kevin Goldstein thinks that Banuelos could be with the Yankees by the end of 2011, but I think that's a long shot. If Banuelos does pitch for the Yankees in September, I think it will be in the pen. I also wouldn't be surprised if there is an innings limit of 140-160 innings on Banuelos and the Yankees just shut him down before September. If you're in a league where you can't keep players traded to the other league, obviously keep that in mind here.
Mike Montgomery, Kansas City Royals
2011: 7 GS, 38 IP, 29 H, 21 BB, 30 K, 2 HR, 2.84 ERA.
Montgomery's numbers look good but not great thus far. He deserves credit for more than holding his own at AAA at Age 21, and extra credit for holding his own in the supercharged PCL. However, the high walk rate is definitely a concern, and while the strikeout rate is good, I suspect that Montgomery would drop into the 5.5 to 6.0 K/9 rate in the Majors. My guess is that Montgomery would put up between a 4 to a 4.5 ERA if he were in the bigs right now...or more of a back-of-the-staff kind of guy as opposed to an ace. I'm not sure if he'll see the Royals this year or not at this point. Danny Duffy is far more deserving in my mind at the moment.
Kyle Gibson, Minnesota Twins
2011 Stats: 6 GS, 32 IP, 28 H, 5 BB, 33 K, 4 HR, 3.66 ERA.
Gibson is like a lot of the pitchers already toiling for the Twins at the Major League level. His stuff isn't exciting, but he's a polished pitcher who could probably step into a big league rotation and pitch capably. The downside of this from a fantasy perspective is that you're not getting a lot of long term upside here, and if you're hoping for a sexy #1 or #2 guy in 2012, Gibson isn't who you're looking for. On the other hand, Gibson might be a safer play on the FAAB wires if you're contending this year and want to play it relatively safe. Something I didn't list on Gibson's stat line is his G/F ratio. It's a stunning 3.42 thus far this year, tying in nicely with Gibson's historical ground ball tendencies. Gibson has a better chance than anyone on this list of making the bigs this year based on his age and prior AAA experience. If the Twins fall out of it, though, they might just wait.
Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays
2011 Stats: 7 GS, 35 1/3 IP, 28 H, 10 BB, 48 K, 6 HR, 3.82 ERA.
Moore has pitched in the Rays system since 2007 and has put up a strikeout rate of over 12 per nine innings at every level. His walk rate, which is sometimes a concern, has also been stellar this year. The problem right now is the home runs. This number doesn't jibe with everything else Moore has done to date. I don't know if this is just due to a small sample size or if Moore needs to make an adjustment to the high minors, but it bears watching. Moore probably won't be up with the Rays this year. They tend to advance their prospects slowly; mid-2012 seems feasible based on the Rays history with their prospects.
Jacob Turner, Detroit Tigers
2011 Stats: 6 GS, 38 1/3 IP, 32 H, 10 BB, 32 K, 4 HR, 2.58 ERA
Turner turns 20 later this month, but even if you don't classify him as a teenager what he's doing right now in Double-A is incredibly impressive. Turner's strand rate is much higher this year, and his FIP suggests an ERA closer to four than two. These are quibbles, though. Turner definitely looks like he's going to be in the Tigers rotation at some point in the future. I doubt he'll be up this year, though, despite some reports saying the Tigers might be convinced otherwise. Turner's age makes me think that the Tigers won't rush him unless they're absolutely desperate.