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 Denver Post. "He hasn't been right. I hope he understands he will be back."
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 Post. "I wish I could have played better and played more, but ultimately it's on me. ...
"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:
OF Brandon Belt, Giants -- He has gone back to the minors after hitting .192 (10-for-52) with the Giants out of spring training. He will spend his time in left field, perhaps to replace Pat Burrell in the second half. He has gotten off to a solid start back in Triple-A, 3-for-10 (.300) with a homer, double, four RBI and three runs.
SP Mike Minor, Braves -- Minor is stuck between a rock and a hard-thrower. Brandon Beachy beat him out for a rotation spot this spring and Julio Teheran figures to wind up in the Braves rotation by year's end. Teheran is a potentially dominant prospect with his high-90s gas. Minor is merely a solid one, but he is dominant through three Triple-A quality starts (1.45 ERA).
SP Brett Cecil, Blue Jays -- It is time to cut him. Cecil was a disaster in his Triple-A debut Tuesday, allowing 13 hits and 11 runs in 4 1/3 innings. Brad Mills (2.67 Triple-A ERA) is the better flier at this point.
2B/OF Eric Young, Rockies -- At 25, Young still has time to make an impact in fantasy, particularly in rotisserie leagues. The Rockies will go to Stewart before Young, but E.Y. is going well (.328-0-5-18-6, .411-.410).
OF Chris Carter, Athletics -- The strikeout machine isn't off to a good start. It leads to you believe maybe that power potential might never be worthwhile. It is still early, but Carter (.173) hardly looks worth owning with his 20 strikeouts in 52 at-bats.
RP/SP Jenrry Mejia, Mets -- After a spotless first two starts, he has allowed some runs in his past two, even if he isn't giving up a lot of hits. The walks (11) are troublesome, but Mejia has a 2.59 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings. He will initially be RP-only with his work a season ago, but he can be an impact starter.
Eric Mack chimes in on potential impact rookies and prospects every Wednesday at SI.com. If you have a prospect you want to see highlighted, let him know. As always, you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice on Twitter @EricMackFantasy. Hit him up. He honestly has nothing better to do with his free time.