Braves enjoying embarrassment of pitching riches in the minors
Teams sometimes have an embarrassment of riches down on the farm. Few organizations always have them. The Braves are one of them.
They have the young talent in the majors and on the verge back in Triple-A, too. While Craig Kimbrel, Brandon Beachy and Freddie Freeman are NL Rookie of the Year candidates with the big club, Mike Minor is biding his time back in Triple-A with a 1.75 ERA ... and the prize of all prizes, Julio Teheran, is looking way too good for the high minors.
Kimbrel leads all rookies with six saves. Beachy leads all rookies with 36 strikeouts. Freeman (.215) hasn't gotten started, but he will, because he is still drawing walks and getting extra-base hits.
It almost isn't fair, especially when you consider the elite talent Jason Heyward is at age 21 and Tommy Hanson is at 24.
As well as Minor, 23, is pitching back in Triple-A -- 29 strikeouts and a .207 batting-average against in 25 2/3 innings -- Teheran is even more exciting. The 20-year-old Colombian should be too young to handle Triple-A. Instead, he is dominating it.
Teheran, armed with dynamic mid-90s stuff, is 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA, 25 strikeouts, a .231 batting-average against and just eight walks in 30 innings pitched. Most impressive of all, he has yet to give up a homer -- something he hasn't done very often in his brief pro career.
Owned in just 20 percent of fantasy leagues, Teheran looks like a bargain stashee for fantasy owners for the second half. The question was whether he was going to be called to the majors before Minor was recalled. The question now should be: Who is going to be a better fantasy option down the road, Teheran or Hanson?
Teheran is owned in two percent fewer leagues than Minor, but he should be the most-owned minor-league pitcher, not Minor. The problem is how are the Braves going to fit in not one, but two, impact fantasy pitching prospects?
The Braves already have Hanson operating on ace-mode, Hudson making like its 2003 and Lowe still pitching more like 27 than 37. Then Beachy comes out and pitches beyond his years, posting a 3.47 ERA, .200 batting-average against and 36 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings. Oh, and Jair Jurrjens just happens to be enjoying a renaissance at 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA in his four starts.
Minor and Teheran must be feeling about as useful as a musket in a gun-fight with our U.S. military. If Teheran stays healthy, though, he is going to be arguably the biggest bullet in the Braves' arsenal by season's end. It is just about finding a spot for him.
An elite talent like this finds a way. He will come up too late to challenge Kimbrel, Beachy or Freeman for NL ROY honors, but he will be the best of that bunch long term.
It's good to be the Braves.
Minor and Teheran are the two most-owned minor-leaguers, as we mentioned, but here are how the other most-owned minor-league pitchers are faring:
The 24-year-old lefty already won 15 games in the majors last season, but a bad start (6.86 ERA) got him sent back to Triple-A. His struggles continued there, allowing 11 runs in his first start. He was much better with a quality start victory last time out, though. He should be back before long and prove to be viable in deeper leagues when matchups are right.
The Mexican is an undersized lefty at 5-feet-11, 155 pounds and a long-term project at 20. He is far less tested than Teheran at the same age. He hasn't pitched more than seven innings in a game as a pro, or more than 108 in a season. He is still on an innings count, having topped out a 4 2/3 innings through four Double-A starts. He is pretty dominant early, though, posting a 1.56 ERA, .222 batting-average against and 13 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings. His size and leftiness suggest reliever down the road, but he looks too much like a potential front-line ace still.
The 24-year-old, left-handed, Tommy John surgery survivor was supposed to be the Rays' closer by now. Instead, he was dropped down to Triple-A this week and allowed three hits and two runs in his season debut there. That was after he was hit to a .367 clip and a 5.14 ERA in the majors. He has some work to do, but he can still be an impact reliever in fantasy before the end of this season.
While he lists sixth in ownership rankings, the 23-year-old right-hander should be much higher. Fantasy is sleeping on him a bit, and the Twins are struggling (save for Francisco Liriano's no-hitter Tuesday night). They could use a shot in the arm. Gibson, a 2009 first-rounder from Missouri, is handling his first "full" season in Triple-A to date: 3.46 ERA, .220 batting-average against and 27 strikeouts in 26 innings. He fits the Twins' strikethrowing-mold perfectly, walking just four. He walked just 39 in 152 innings in his first pro season and should be able to up his innings to 180 this season. He is going to help the Twins and fantasy owners.
We already chronicled the Royals depth of riches with their prospects, namely red-hot Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, but the 21-year-old lefty Montgomery could beat them both to the majors. He has posted three consecutive quality starts and has a 2.67 ERA, .213 batting-average against and 23 strikeouts in 27 innings. The 15 walks are problematic, though. He needs a string of starts with better command before he is a real candidate for a call-up.
Moore is unlike Montgomery. He is a minor-league strikeout leader with outstanding control. He has walked just four batters to his 32 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings. He has just a 5.18 ERA in his five starts, but he has yet to have one where he pitched more innings than strikeouts racked up. He is merely in Double-A and the Rays need starting pitchers far less than most other teams -- other than the Braves.
The Cardinals have Lance Lynn up in Triple-A, but Miller is the bigger prize down in high Class A. Miller already has a pair of double-digit strikeout games, fanning 10 Monday. He has a 3.21 ERA, .216 batting-average against and 42 strikeouts in 28 innings. The 20-year-old is fit for Double-A, even if he isn't a real candidate to impact fantasy before September.
The youngest pitcher in this top 10, having turned 20 just a month ago, Perez is finally solving the Double-A that has haunted him the past year-plus. You can deal with a teenager having some growing pains at this high of a level, though. Perez stretched out to a season-high six innings in his past start and now boasts a 2.74 ERA, .217 batting-average against and 24 strikeouts in 23 innings. His age and the Rangers' pitching depth makes it unlikely he impacts fantasy this season. Long term, though, he might be as good as Teheran can be.