It is easy to forget the minors aren't just about developing of prospects. It is a breeding ground for potential impact fantasy pick-ups, and it doesn't end with those developing their skills before their major-league debut.
It can be a player down on a rehab assignment like Phillies rookie Domonic Brown or a young veteran trying to rediscover the skills that made him a major-leaguer in the first place, like the Rockies' Ian Stewart.
Brown, who was a popular pick for NL preseason Rookie of the Year, had surgery on his broken hamate bone in his wrist from spring training. He has had the necessary time to heal and is ready to pop off down on the farm at Class A Clearwater, where he singled in his second at-bat Wednesday.
"We just want to get him to play. He hasn't played in a long time," Phillies GM Ruben Amaro told MLB.com. "He's starting to swing the bat better. He started very slowly at extended (spring training). Today, he hit two home runs and went 4-for-5 or something like that. He's progressed much faster over the last few days, so we think he's ready for Clearwater."
Stewart, meanwhile, was banged up in spring training, but he was able to play through it and make the Opening Day roster. It did him a disservice, though, because he started just 2-for-26 (.077) and needed a surprising demotion back to the minors.
"I made it clear to him it's not a punishment," Rockies manager Jim Tracy told the
Both players are currently overlooked and potential big-time bargains in mixed leagues off the waiver wire. Brown is available in over 40 percent of fantasy leagues -- and eligible to stash on the DL -- while Stewart's ownership is at an all-time low, being available in almost three-quarters of leagues.
Stewart is supposed to be a breakthrough player of the year at age 26. Brown, 23, is supposed to be the fantasy rookie of the year.
"Obviously I am disappointed that it came to this," Stewart told the
"I need to play every day to play to my ability, and hopefully coming down (to Triple-A) and playing will get me going again and I'll be back in no time."
It shouldn't take much more than a week or two. Stewart is mashing with the Colorado Spring Skysox, going 4-for-4 on Tuesday night, homering, driving in four and raising his average to .429 (9-for-21) through six games.
And, it isn't just about what Stewart is doing against journeymen arms in Triple-A. Current third baseman Jose Lopez hasn't had a hit in nine days (0-for-15) and is batting just .143 with the Rockies. That is going to get old real quick for Tracy, who promised Stewart a quick recall.
Lopez can play second if he heats up, and streaking Jonathan Herrera (.317) certainly is going to cool off. Ty Wigginton, another second/third baseman, is best suited for a platoon role. Wiggy is hitting .333 off lefties and just .208 against right-handers this season amid a career that has seen him consistently hit better against port-siders.
Brown has even less of a roadblock in Philly, even if Ben Francisco is off to a good start (.262, four homers, 14 RBI, 10 runs, one steal, .323 OBP and .452 SLUG). Brown is an elite five-tool talent that will force his way back onto the major-league roster and into the lineup. He just might get the max 20 days on a rehab assignment.
Stewart is a must-own in all leagues with reserves, even as a minor-leaguer. Brown is a must-stash in formats with more than two available DL spots.
Stewart can still finish this season as a viable starting fantasy third baseman by going .280-20-80-80-10 (.340-.480). Brown can be a gem for rotisserie owners, even if he only hits .260 with 10 homers. He has 25-plus steals potential from his arrival on out.
The minors have to be farmed for fantasy pick-ups that aren't just rookies or retreads. Here is how the other most-owned fantasy players are faring in this category: