Phillies' Franco the new No. 1 fantasy prospect
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.
If Maicer Izturis hadn't strained his groin in Spring Training, he would have been the Blue Jays' regular second baseman. And the guy who has been Toronto's best hitter in the first two weeks of the season would have been destined to spend at least a couple of months in Triple-A.
Instead, Devon Travis homered off the Yankees' Chasen Shreve on Opening Day and has hit .385/.448/.712 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 15 games. He won't keep up this torrid pace all season, but he could be one of the more productive fantasy second basemen as a rookie.
The 24-year-old Travis was a 13th-round pick out of Florida State by the Tigers in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He batted .323/.388/.487 in three seasons in the Minor Leagues but was blocked by Ian Kinsler, so Detroit traded him for Anthony Gose in November. Travis packs a lot of strength in his 5-foot-9, 195-pound frame, and he has the compact stroke, bat-on-ball skills and approach to hit for some average and power.
His numbers also will get a boost from hitting in a productive lineup and playing in one of the best home run parks in baseball. Travis isn't anything special as a defender and the Tigers planned on moving him to the outfield, but his glovework won't matter in fantasy baseball.
This week's Minor League fantasy prospect top 10 is below:
1. Maikel Franco, 3B/1B, Phillies (last week's rank: 7): Ryan Howard looks cooked and common sense dictates that the going-nowhere Phillies play for the future and incorporate Franco into their lineup. He's mashing Triple-A pitching, just like he did in the second half of 2014, but whether common sense will prevail remains to be seen.
2. Rusney Castillo, OF, Red Sox (last week's rank: 2): His power/speed potential is the best on this list, which trumps his current shoulder injury and Boston's outfield logjam. Castillo did start hitting off a tee again on Wednesday.
3. Michael Taylor, OF, Nationals (last week's rank: unranked): Denard Span's return from core muscle surgery pushed Taylor back to Triple-A ... for now. Taylor showed power and speed while with Washington and should get another shot sooner rather than later because the club's starting outfielders (Jayson Werth, Span, Bryce Harper) are injury-prone.
4. Blake Swihart, C, Red Sox (last week's rank: 5): He's clearly a better all-around catcher than Boston's big league options (Ryan Hanigan, Sandy Leon), but Swihart is going to get some time in Triple-A before he gets a chance to prove it.
5. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers (last week's rank: 9): The 2014 Minor League batting champion is terrorizing Double-A pitchers again, so Los Angeles should have him start taking ground balls at third base so he can take over for ancient Juan Uribe.
6. Henry Owens, LHP, Red Sox (last week's rank: 3): Boston ranks near the bottom of the Majors in starters' ERA (5.42), and the system's top pitching prospect is waiting in Triple-A Pawtucket. The caveat is that Brian Johnson is the PawSox left-hander who's performing the best, and Eduardo Rodriguez is the PawSox lefty with the best pure stuff, so Owens isn't necessarily first in line for a trip to Fenway Park.
7. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets (last week's rank: 4): Despite his slow start in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, which he led in strikeouts last year, his upside still makes him a better bet than Steven Matz or Rafael Montero to have an impact on New York's rotation. Syndergaard will have to get back on track before he gets that chance, however.
8. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Angels (last week's rank: 6): There's no obvious opening in Los Angeles' rotation at this point, but Heaney has the solid stuff and polish to capitalize when one materializes.
9. Jose Peraza, 2B, Braves (last week's rank: 10): Atlanta is playing better than expected and Jace Peterson is struggling, so the speedy Peraza could debut sooner than expected.
10. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (last week's rank: 8): He's not lighting it up in Triple-A, but Jose Ramirez is faring worse in Cleveland and Lindor is superior with the bat and the glove.
Dropped out: Carlos Rodon, LHP, White Sox (last week's rank: 1/promoted).