By Eric Mack
April 11, 2012

Mike Trout (11 for 24, .458), Anthony Rizzo (9 for 23, .391) and Brett Jackson (8 for 25, .320) are off to roaring starts in Triple A, and Bryce Harper is still the prospect everyone cares about most, but teams aren't going to call them up next week. They decided to send them down at the beginning of the season, and organizations generally don't switch gears so quickly.

But, if you need reinforcements, we will try to give you some prospect options here every Wednesday throughout the first half.

The Rockies' Drew Pomeranz and the A's Jarrod Parker, most likely, are going to get a call in the next week or so to fill vacant No. 5 starter spots, but to farm some other value out of the minor leagues right now, we need to look at newsworthy situations. And no news has been more prominent than the slow start of the Red Sox and their mangled bullpen.

So, the question is what do the Sox have down on the farm? The answer is some real intriguing hitters, notably Will Middlebrooks (8 for 22, .364). But that doesn't help their bullpen, and Kevin Youkilis, despite a bad spring and a slow start, is healthy and isn't going anywhere.

After Daniel Bard's so-so debut as the No. 5 starter (five runs in five-plus innings), the question remains whether he will replace Alfredo Aceves (27.00 ERA) and Mark Melancon (36.00 ERA) as the Red Sox's closer. The answer in the short term is no. Bard is slated to take his next start Monday.

If the bullpen continues to struggle, though, there could be some value in the minors. Boston might turn to a retread like Aaron Cook, Ross Ohlendorf or perhaps even Junichi Tazawa, a Tommy John surgery returnee, for the No. 5 spot, allowing Bard to slide back to a relief role. Cook, specifically, has an opt-out clause in his contract if he is not in the majors before May 1.

This trio might not look like much, but don't forget, the Red Sox were the best team in baseball a year ago if you throw out their awful April start and worse September finish. Whoever starts games for the Red Sox has fantasy value. Cook is owned in only 1 percent of's leagues, so he is at least worth an AL-only flier now in the event the Aceves-Melancon situation gets increasingly dire.

It has to be only a matter of time before Bard is the Red Sox's closer.

1. RHP Trevor Bauer, Diamondbacks

He is just too good for Double A. He might even be too good for the minors, and maybe too good for the majors. And, he is just 21 years old.

We underrated him amid the scorching hype, ranking him just No. 9 in our preseason list of top prospects to watch in the minors: "The No. 3 overall pick last June was rumored to be in the rotation mix this spring and really didn't disappoint. The D'backs just figured Josh Collmenter can hold down the No. 5 spot after the surprising year he had last season. Bauer is an elite prospect who broke Mark Prior's Pac-10 strikeout record last year. That screams front-line fantasy ace and he is more stretched out than most at this stage. So, if he arrives, look out ..."

Bauer is walking batters (seven in 10 2/3 innings), but he's also whiffing them at a herculean pace (18 strikeouts) and has allowed just a .114 batting-average against. This is your new top minor-league pitching prospect, unseating Julio Teheran. Teheran had a bad spring and a worse first start back (three runs, two walks in just 1 2/3 innings) in Triple A, where he dominated at age 20.

Only Harper (78 percent), Trout (59) and Pomeranz (44) are owned in more leagues than Bauer (38). Bauer might have a greater impact on fantasy than any of them come May.

2. OF Mike Trout, Angels

You don't need an abacus to know Trout is the real deal. He's 11 for 24 (.458) with one homer and two steals through six games.

Up in Anaheim, Peter Bourjos (.182) and Vernon Wells (.143) are off to slow starts, while bench guys Bobby Abreu (.400) and Mark Trumbo (.429) deserve more at-bats. Trout probably needs two of those guys to go in the tank for a month to get a real look.

3. 1B Matt Adams, Cardinals

Albert Pujols, who? With the way Adams has been hitting, the Cardinals might not regret letting Pujols head west.

Adams is hitting .348 (8 for 23) with three homers in his first six Triple-A games. This after winning the Texas League MVP last season, setting a Springfield record for homers (32) and leading Double A in RBIs (101) and slugging percentage (.566).

Lance Berkman, who can also play the outfield, left the game with a calf issue on Tuesday, and while he isn't headed to the DL, you have to figure the 36-year-old will need a stint there at some point this season.

Adams can mash and looks like he is going to arrive at some point this season. He is a bargain stashee at just 7 percent ownership.

4. 1B Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

Rizzo is another guy tearing up Triple A. He's 9 for 23 (.391) with three homers and nine RBIs, but his ascension will ultimately be decided by the play of Bryan LaHair at first in Chicago.

LaHair is off to a great start (.444), but the Cubs are already considering sitting him against lefties in lieu of Jeff Baker. Rizzo is a lefty himself, but you have to figure his numbers are just going to be too tantalizing for the Cubs to ignore at midseason -- even if they said they are committed to a full year of LaHair in Chicago and Rizzo in Iowa.

5. OF Brett Jackson, Cubs

The Cubs have not said they want Jackson to spend a full year in Triple A. The man blocking him, Marlon Byrd, is off to a 1-for-18 (.056) start and there are rumors he's being shopped to the Nationals for demoted $5-million starter John Lannan, who is toiling in Triple A with a 22.50 ERA.

Jackson might not bump the hot-starting Alfonso Soriano (.353), but eventually Byrd or David DeJesus will have to get out of the way. Jackson is doing his part with an 8-for-25 (.320) start through six games.

The Nats' Harper, or should we say the Syracuse Chiefs' Harper, is just 1 for 7 against left-handers and isn't setting Triple A afire with a .278 average. If the Nats do deal for Byrd, it would push back Harper's potential arrival, barring a serious extended hot streak.

It's of note that the Nats are without Mike Morse and Rick Ankiel in their starting outfield and still kept Harper down in the minors. Given his underwhelming, by his standards, start, the Nats look like they made the right choice.

Eric Mack writes fantasy for If you miss his Monday baseball trends, Wednesday prospect report or Friday pitching review, you can also find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).

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