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Fantasy baseball Prospect Watch: Mariners' Zunino dominating

Photo: Michael O'Day/Icon SMI

Mike Zunino's hot bat and excellent defensive skills warrant a closer look from the Mariners.

We've had a week to watch this year's crop of prospects in the minor leagues, but it's still tough to gauge when teams might promote their young talent. While few prospects warrant that elusive call-up right now, Tampa Bay's Wil Myers might be the first significant debut, as tweeted by Baseball America prospect guru Jim Callis. Myers is one of the few players who doesn't need a hot streak or a big league opening to warrant a spot in the major leagues.

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Rays manager Joe Maddon told the Tampa Bay Timesthis spring that Myers is "better than advertised. Maddon added: "Offensively you can see the prodigious ability, it's absolutely there.

"He's more of a complete player than I thought because everyone has talked about hitting, hitting, hitting. So, I was expecting like a big guy who hit a lot that really didn't move that well. Even though he played the outfield, he had been a catcher. So, all these things sent confusing signals. To see him on the field, he's very athletic and should be a solid five-tool player. He should be able to play all areas of the game above average, and some well-above average."

A face-of-the-franchise type like Myers is more likely to arrive far before mid-June and sign a contract that buys out his six years of control, like Evan Longoria did in 2008. Which other prospects might we see in the not-too-distant future? Glad you asked:

Who's hot?

1. C Mike Zunino, 22, Seattle Mariners: The University of Florida product has surged to the front of the line following a four-homer start. He's hitting .385 (10-for-26) with 17 RBI and seven runs scored through six Triple-A games. While Jesus Montero (6-for-34 in nine games) will get plenty of time to prove his worth offensively, Zunino's superior defensive skills may force the Mariners to move Montero to DH or first base.

2. SP Tony Cingrani, 23, Cincinnati Reds: The loss of Sean Marshall (shoulder) to the DL raised the question of whether they might consider Cingrani as a replacement. Nope. Instead, the Reds are determined to keep him stretched out as a starter. "Cingrani is the first call-up if one of my starters go down," Reds manager Dusty Baker told MLB.com on Wednesday. "We kicked around Cingrani before. We didn't want to impede his progress in the bullpen when we're grooming him for a starter. If anything happens to one of my starters, we don't have a whole lot of quality backup." Cingrani followed his awe-inspiring 14-strikeout Triple-A debut with a modest seven strikeouts and a victory in his second start. And, we wait ...

3. OF Billy Hamilton, 22, Cincinnati Reds:Hamilton made the move from shortstop to the outfield this spring, and we already know he's hellacious on the base paths. Hamilton set a minor-league record with 155 combined steals last season, and he's started similarly fast in Triple-A: .296 (8-for-27) with six stolen bases in seven games. Chris Heisey (.161, 5-for-31) will get the first look to replace Ryan Ludwick (torn labrum, out at least three months), but Hamilton is going to be tempting for Baker once he proves worthy defensively, especially if Heisey continues to prove to be the fourth outfielder he's been in his career.

4. OF Yasiel Puig, 22, Los Angeles Dodgers:One of spring training's prospect revelations, Puig has kept a torrid pace -- albeit back in Double-A -- hitting .450 (9-for-20) through six games. He figures to get a move to Triple-A in a hurry, if the Dodgers' veteran outfield stays healthy in the first half.

5. OF Wil Myers, 22, Tampa Bay Rays:It doesn't matter what he is hitting, it is still just a matter of time. Myers doesn't have a Triple-A homer yet, but he has started 9-for-27 (.333) anyway. The fact DH Luke Scott (calf, 15-day DL) is out for the at least a couple more weeks certainly helps Myers' cause.

Who's not?

1. SP Gerrit Cole, 22, PIttsburgh Pirates:The first overall pick of the 2011 draft was on the fast track to the Pirates this spring before a slow start tripped him up. Cole hasn't looked Triple-A worthy, much less call-up worthy, combining for just six innings in his two starts, and allowing nine hits and two walks. The Pirates are treating their closest pitching prospect with kid gloves, so expect any fantasy impact he makes in the majors to come with a pitch count and innings restriction.

2. SP Zack Wheeler, 22, New York Mets:With Johan Santana (shoulder) out for the season and Shaun Marcum (shoulder) not yet ready to make his Mets debut, Wheeler had a chance to be an April call-up. However, he's allowing a .314 batting average through his two Triple-A starts, which put a damper on the possibility of that call-up. He has allowed six runs (three earned) through his 8 2/3 innings, but that pales as a warning sign compared to his six walks. He clearly has work to do right now.

3. SP Dylan Bundy, 20, Baltimore Orioles:The O's breathed a sigh of relief on the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball as a stiff forearm is now pain free for Bundy. No structural damage was found in the elbow either. He is going to restart a throwing program and try to be ready to pitch in games by May. That makes him no better than a mid-June candidate at this point.

4. 3B Mike Olt, 24, Texas Rangers:The Rangers' had considered keeping him around to play relatively full time between first, third, the outfield and at DH, but their decision to send him down to start the season appears to be justified. He is hitting just .097 (3-for-31) with 14 strikeouts in eight games. Those are NL pitcher hitting numbers.

5. SS Dee Gordon, 24, Los Angeles Dodgers:What does it say about Gordon's future when Justin Sellers (.167, 4-for-24) is the Dodgers' choice at shortstop right now? Not much, er, perhaps a whole lot. Gordon has started just 6-for-29 (.207), but he does have five steals and six runs in seven games. Gordon has to be at least as productive as Sellers, right? Right? Ugh.

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