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Shuffling the Deck: Post-Prospects in the AL Central

Last week on TDG, I kicked off this series with a look at five post-prospects in the AL East. I’ll continue my tour of the junior circuit below with a look at the AL Central, which contains an interesting mix of rebuilding teams, teams with a legitimate shot in 2014 and the Royals, who sit somewhere in between.

Chicago White Sox: Avisail Garcia, OF

The key component returning to Chicago in the Jake Peavy deal, Garcia is exactly what the doctor ordered for a franchise short on young hitters with impact potential. Something of a “pop-up prospect” in 2012, Garcia parlayed a nice 23-game cup of coffee and a playoff roster spot into 256 PA last season, hitting .283/.309/.422 with three steals.

There’s hope that Garcia will refine his approach as he gets old, but right now, his 2013 line is somewhat of a best-case scenario for what he can produce in 2014. Extrapolated over 550-or-so PA, and adjusted for BABIP and BGBOWSLAMRL (Ben’s Gut Based On What Seems Like A More Reasonable Line) that’d look something like a .270 average with 15-18 homers, 70 RBI and 10 steals.

There’s some room for Garcia to hit a bit more power than what’s projected above. U.S. Cellular Field played as the best park in baseball for right-handed power hitters last season, and was essentially neutral for right-handed singles and doubles as well. So while Garcia is headed to an inferior offense, he’s clearly headed to a friendlier park. He’s got a chance to be a Top 60 outfielder next season.

One more to remember: Leury Garcia, UT

Cleveland Indians: Danny Salazar, SP

“Scouts are split over Salazar’s future: his injury history, size and lack of a consistent third pitch point to relief, but his command, FB/SL combo and promising change indicate starter potential. I think he breaks into the majors as an SP.”

That’s what I wrote about Salazar before the 2013 season, when I ranked him as Cleveland’s seventh-best fantasy prospect last February. I’m glad that I was at least on him at a time when few others were, but holy understatement, Batman.

For those of you who need a refresher, Salazar threw 52 innings in 10 starts for the Indians this season, striking out 65 batters and posting a 3.12 ERA with a matching FIP. He’s filthy, his cutter is the stuff of gods and he’ll be just 24 when next season begins. The sky is the limit here.

Homer Bailey finished as the 21st best starting pitcher in fantasy this season, posting 11 wins 199 strikeouts, a 3.49 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. Pitchers are always risky propositions, but if you don’t think Salazar can match that, you weren’t paying attention last fall.

One more to remember: Cody Allen, RP

Detroit Tigers: Jose Iglesias, SS

Here’s what we know about Iglesias: scouts don’t project him to be a good hitter, he has an overly aggressive approach and his .356 BABIP is not sustainable. If 2013 is the last season in which Jose Iglesias hits over .300, no one will be surprised. Hell if 2013 is the last season in which he hits over .275, I don’t think I’d blink. These are things you already knew about Jose Iglesias.

Now that we’ve established that “Iggy” isn’t going to be, let’s take a look at the type of value he could provide. Iglesias is not a burner but he does run well enough to support a BABIP of above .300 and to steal around 10 bases a season. He’s got a bit more pop than most people realize, and I could see him growing into 5-8 homer power. And in batting at the bottom of one of baseball’s best lineups, it’s within the realm of possibility that he scores in excess of 60 runs, too.

None of this is exciting, but Iglesias finished as the 25th best fantasy prospect in 2014 and he has the ability to replicate that placement next season. He should only be considered in deeper AL Only leagues, but I would take him over the likes of Brandon Crawford, Brendan Ryan, Ruben Tejeda, Pedro Florimon or Adeiny Hechavarria, to name a few potential 2014 starting shortstops. It’s not much, but it’s something.

One more to remember: Hint: I just wrote about Jose Iglesias. There is no one else.

Kansas City Royals: David Lough, OF

I like to think I have my finger on the pulse of just about every potential fantasy factor in the minors leagues. I don’t have a ton of inside access beyond what’s provided to me at Baseball Prospectus, and I never get out to see as many MiLB games as I intend, but generally, I can go 15-20 future fantasy-relevant deep for any organization.

That being said, I’m not sure I had ever heard of David Lough before 2012. And I’m pretty sure I forgot about him once again before the 2013 season. I’ll remember the name now, though, as Lough put up a respectable, largely sustainable effort as the long half of a right field platoon for the Royals. In 335 PA – 265 of them against right-handers – Lough hit .286/.311/.413 with a .326 BABIP. He hit five homers and notched five steals as well, and Lough had previously hit well in three-plus seasons in Triple-A.

Odds are good that the Royals will look to sign a right fielder, as Lough is as modest an MLB asset as he is a fantasy one. But if Lough is able to receive semi-regular playing time again – likely in a platoon with Justin Maxwell – he’s worth a look in deep AL Only leagues.

One more to remember: Hint: I just wrote about David Lough. There is no one else.

Minnesota Twins: Kyle Gibson, SP

I’ve espoused the values of one Oswaldo Arcia many times both here and around the Interwebs, so in the interest of diversity I’ll highlight another Twins post-prospect on whom I have a significant crush, one Kyle Gibson. Gibson saw his early career derailed by injuries and became someone lost in the pitching prospect fray as a result, but he’s healthy now and finally poised to spend an entire season in the majors. Yes, he’ll play for one of baseball’s worse teams, but he’ll also be in a favorable ballpark.

What can we expect from Gibson as a result? His K/9 was a bit lower than I expected last season in Triple-A, and while he might not strikeout a batter per inning, the 5.11 K/9 he showed in 50.1 MLB IP last season isn’t an accurate representation of what he can do either. If Gibson throws 200 innings this year, I’d expect somewhere in the vicinity of 170 strikeouts with an ERA south of 4.00 and a WHIP below 1.25. That’s not an elite option, but it makes him a decent flier pick in standard drafts and an excellent streamer option in all standard leagues.

I’m most excited about Gibson a year-or-so down the line, though. After he gets some MLB seasoning under his belt and refines his control a bit more, I sincerely believe he has the upside of a No .3 fantasy starter. If that timing coincides with the rise of Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Alex Meyer and the rest of Minnesota’s talented farm hands, you could suddenly be looking at a good starter behind a good team in a great ballpark. Get excited.

Two more to remember: Oswaldo Arcia, OF (of course) and Aaron Hicks

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Ben Carsley

Ben Carsley

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