Back From The Dead: Upper Minors Edition
One of my favorite scenes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail occurs when a cart filled with dead bodies is being rolled through a fake medieval town. A cart-pusher rings a bell and proclaims, “bring out your dead,” in an upbeat and matter-of-fact tone.
We then see a second body collector enter screen with an elderly man slung over his back, protesting, “I feel fine” and “I’m not dead yet!”
“I’m getting better,” the man says, as the two collectors argue over whether or not to add him to the cart.
The prospects below represent that old man, and this was a long way to go for an introduction.
Anthony Ranaudo (SP, BOS)
As a Red Sox fan and prospect enthusiast, few people on this planet were quite as excited as I was when the Sox grabbed Ranaudo with the 39th pick in the 2010 draft. Until quite recently, that enthusiasm had not been rewarded, as Ranaudo has battled injury and ineffectiveness for much of the past two seasons. I must admit that I’d all but written Ranaudo off before the season began – I had him as the Sox’ No. 18 prospect and he was nowhere near my Top 150 list. But just 33 innings into his 2013 campaign, it appears as though reason for newfound optimism exists.
Ranaudo has a 1.64 ERA and 36 strikeouts through those 33 innings, to go along with just seven walks, three homers and 20 hits in what’s been a largely dominant start to the season. Since I’d like to avoid a thrashing by the small sample size crew, I’d point out that the scouting reports on Ranaudo are excellent so far this year as well. His fastball velocity is back in the 94-97 mph range and we’ve heard reports of a crisper curveball than he showed at any point last year. Ranaudo is finally healthy, and we’re seeing glimpses of the man who dominated the SEC for much of 2009.
What’s compelling about this from a Fantasy standpoint is that Ranaudo needs no long climb back up the ladder to prospect relevancy. He’s already in Double-A, meaning that if Ranaudo keeps this up, there’s a decent chance we’ll see him in the majors this year. You can’t forecast him as an ace any longer, to be sure, but if he rebounds to No. 3 starter territory, it’d be pretty remarkable. If your dynasty league keeps 150 MiLBers and he’s available, consider pulling the trigger.
Zack Cox (3B, MIA)
Another collegiate star from the 2010 draft, Cox’s story is similar to Ranaudo’s in its arc but almost more frustrating because of his projection when drafted. We all knew Ranaudo was a risk when he was taken, as his shoddy 2010 performance and injury battles added some red flags to his profile. Cox, though, was seen as among the draft’s safest players. No one thought he’d be a star, but everyone thought he’d hit, and the only real question surrounding his projection seemed to be whether it would come at second or third base.
Fast forward two-and-a-half years, and it’s pretty clear we were getting ahead of ourselves worrying about Cox’ defensive home. After a very good 2011 season in which Cox destroyed Triple-A and posted a wRC+ of 112 in Double-A, he simply stopped hitting. He hit .254/.294/.421 in Triple-A for the Cards last season, then hit just .253/.321/.368 after a trade to the Marlins and demotion to Double-A. Cast off not only most Top 150 but most Marlins Top 10 lists this offseason as well, Cox is making a modest comeback so far in 2013, hitting .328/.438/.426 in 73 PA, albeit with little pop.
Cox is another example of a guy who doesn’t face a long road to recovery if it clicks. I’m not sure if our readers are aware, but the Marlins are not very good this season, and currently employ Placido Polanco at third base on purpose in the year 2013. Cox doesn’t have to do much other than threaten to be replacement level to see time at some point, and while you shouldn’t expect much power it’s possible Cox can still hit enough to deserve rostering in deep mixed or NL Only leagues.
Sonny Gray (SP, OAK )
If we’re being honest, including Gray here is sort of a stretch in my opinion, as I’m still not convinced he’s going to be an effective major league starter in the long run. But with Jarrod Parker looking like a D.L. candidate, opportunity is about to come knocking at Gray’s door, and the right-hander has done enough so far this season to warrant a promotion to the major leagues.
Gray’s 2012 campaign can largely be summed up as follows: meh. He threw 148 innings in Double-A, posting a 4.14 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 5.90 K/9 and 3.47 BB/9. It’s not that those numbers are horrible, but they’re not terribly inspiring either, and they become even less so when you consider that Gray was viewed as a fast-mover out of college in 2011. I’ve been championing the undersized Gray as a reliever candidate since the draft, but the A’s have been content to leave him in the rotation, where his results have been decent enough to prevent a move to the bullpen, but uninspiring enough to knock him off most Top 100 lists.
Gray looks like he’s taken a modest step forward this season, as he’s upped his K/9 ratio to 7.26 while moving up to Triple-A and keeping his BB/9 largely consistent. He’s allowed just nine earned runs in 31 innings, and his FIP sits at 2.75. As I mentioned above, I think Gray is a potentially dominant late-inning arm with his fastball and curveball combo, but I’m less optimistic about his ability to start. If you want to use him in favorable matchups at home once he’s in the majors, though, it’s a reasonable gamble to take.