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Lindor tops list of fantasy prospects in Minors

Indians shortstop makes big jump to No. 1 spot after big week in Triple-A
MLB.com @JonathanMayo

Every week, the MLBPipeline.com crew will rank the top 10 fantasy baseball prospects in the Minor Leagues. These rankings are based solely on expected 2015 fantasy production in the Major Leagues, in contrast to the MLBPipeline Top 100 Prospects list, which reflects long-term value in all phases of the game.

When Michael Lorenzen was in college at Cal State Fullerton, he was a center fielder and a closer. He had a grand total of zero starts on the mound, and he initially wanted to give playing professional ball a shot as a toolsy outfielder a shot.

Every week, the MLBPipeline.com crew will rank the top 10 fantasy baseball prospects in the Minor Leagues. These rankings are based solely on expected 2015 fantasy production in the Major Leagues, in contrast to the MLBPipeline Top 100 Prospects list, which reflects long-term value in all phases of the game.

When Michael Lorenzen was in college at Cal State Fullerton, he was a center fielder and a closer. He had a grand total of zero starts on the mound, and he initially wanted to give playing professional ball a shot as a toolsy outfielder a shot.

To say some were surprised when the Reds decided to develop him as a starting pitcher is a bit of an understatement. Lorenzen proved skeptics wrong with a very solid first full season, going straight to Double-A in 2014 and finishing third in the Southern League in ERA. He proved to be very durable, topping 120 innings -- impressive considering his previous high was in '13, when he compiled 61 innings when taking into account his relief stints at Fullerton, his pro debut and the Arizona Fall League. He was throwing well overall during his first taste of Triple-A action before he got called up.

Video: MIL@CIN: Lorenzen strikes out five in ML debut

Lorenzen has very good stuff, with an above-average fastball that sits at 93-94 mph as a starter and a very good slider. His changeup, which he didn't use in college, continues to improve. Even with that array of pitches, Lorenzen hasn't missed a ton of bats as a pro, concerning some. He does throw his fastball with a lot of sink, generating groundball outs, which could help him in Great American Ball Park. He tends to throw strikes, so his working deep counts -- as he did during his big league debut -- isn't a longterm worry.

Lorenzen is just in his second season of being a starter, so there's still growth to come. Seeing him racking up more strikeouts than the 6.27 per nine innings he averaged in 2014 is reasonable. Just don't expect it to happen overnight.

This week's Minor League fantasy prospect top 10 is below:

1. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (last week's rank: 10): Everyone knew it would be a question of when, not if, Lindor would join Cleveland at some point in 2015. A bit of a sluggish start to his Triple-A season might have put it off for a spell, but he's starting to put some heat on the decision makers. Four straight multihit games at the end of last week raised his batting average over 100 points, and he's picked up six steals in the season's opening month. Meanwhile, Jose Ramirez is hitting .175 with a .459 OPS. Think he's looking over his shoulder?

Video: LAA@CLE: Lindor grounds an RBI single to center

2. Rusney Castillo, OF, Red Sox (last week's rank: 2): The first thing Castillo had to do was get healthy, as a shoulder injury sidelined him most recently (after a thumb injury in the Arizona Fall League and a strained oblique). He did return to action on Wednesday. If he can stay out of the training room, he'll force his way into Boston's outfield plans soon.

3. Maikel Franco, 3B/1B, Phillies (last week's rank: 1): There's really nothing left for Franco to prove in Triple-A, as he continues to swing the bat well while playing most third. Ryan Howard still can't get over .200 at first in Philly. At some point, they do need to commit to the youth movement, right?

Video: Outlook: Franco will likely open 2015 on the farm

4. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets (last week's rank: 7): His first two starts were sluggish, at best, then Syndergaard had to deal with a Twitter tiff with trolls complaining about him missing a start due to illness. Upon his return, Syndergaard responded with seven shutout innings of two-hit ball, when he walked none and struck out nine. A couple more of those and could start knocking on the big league door loudly.

Video: Top Prospects: Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets

5. Blake Swihart, C, Red Sox (last week's rank: 4): Boston's big league catchers are a combined 15-for-70 (.214) at the plate. Swihart is hitting .333 while biding his time in Triple-A. There will be a time soon when the Red Sox will give the switch-hitting catcher his first shot and make Ryan Hanigan his backup

6. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers (last week's rank: 5): Seager continued to hit for average and power in Double-A before reportedly being promoted to Triple-A on Friday. Seager made three starts at third in April. Prior to this year, he had previously played part of just one game at any place other than shortstop defensively, though Alexander Guerrero might be settling in at the hot corner now.

7. Carlos Correa, SS, Astros (last week's rank: unranked): When Jed Lowrie went down with injury, and it was announced he'd be out until after the All-Star break, buzz about Correa's ascension to the big leagues was palpable. GM Jeff Luhnow quieted it by saying he wouldn't rush Correa, but it's hard to ignore the numbers as the 20-year-old leads the Texas League in batting average, slugging and OPS. Fantasy fans take note that Luhnow said he wouldn't rule out calling Correa up directly from Double-A when he's deemed ready.

Video: HOU@PHI: Correa hits a solo shot to left field

8. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Angels (last week's rank: 8): Heaney has won each of his past two starts, and he's been fairly effective in three out of his four outings in Triple-A. That might be what's best to expect once he gets a chance to debut for his new team in the big leagues this season. Nick Tropeano got the nod for a recent spot start and could compete with Heaney for Major League starts this season.

9. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Red Sox (last week's rank: unranked): The Red Sox have a trio of lefties to choose from in Triple-A, including Henry Owens and Brian Johnson. Rodriguez and Johnson have been the most effective, with Rodriguez having allowed just one walk and 12 hits in 18 2/3 innings over his first three starts.

10. Jose Peraza, 2B, Braves (last week's rank: 9):Jace Peterson has gotten his bat going in Atlanta while Peraza isn't lighting up Triple-A pitching, but that doesn't change the fact that Peraza has more upside offensively and defensively. The glovework won't matter for fantasy purposes, but Peraza's hitting ability and speed could make him a nice source of stolen bases.

Dropped out: Owens, LHP, Red Sox (last week's rank: 6)

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter.

 

Rusney Castillo, Carlos Correa, Maikel Franco, Andrew Heaney, Francisco Lindor, Eduardo Rodriguez, Corey Seager, Noah Syndergaard