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Fantasy Baseball, Week 6 PCL Updates: Mike Zunino, Zack Wheeler & Gary Brown

Every fantasy baseball player has two loves, numbers and prospects. As the first month of the season draws to a close and small sample sizes begin to transform into trends, we watch ever so closely looking to stay a step ahead of our competition. Certain categories, like strikeouts, speed or power always seem to be scarce therefore lets take a look at three PCL prospects that possess one of those skills.

Zack Wheeler | SP | Las Vegas 51’s (Mets): Plenty of us have been watching the 6’4’’ righty progress since he was traded for Carlos Beltran (2011) in an attempt for the Giants to make a World Series run. That didn’t work out for the Giants but it did give the Mets a possible front line starter for years to come. Fast forwarding to 2013, it was just recently (4/30) that Wheeler picked up his first, ever so important, pitcher win. So far, control has been a problem for Wheeler as he had 17 walks in just 36 innings (4.25 BB/9). However, the control issues are not a new occurance, as he compiled 88 walks in 146.2 innings (5.4 BB/9) as a Giants prospect in 2010 and part of 2011. An article on this very subject was published last week on MILB.com  pointing to a possible mechanical issue that could have contributed to the problem.

Some of Wheeler’s other numbers, like his K% of 25.3 for 2013 are more consistent. It sits right in line of his 25.6 career minor league K%. However, his 2013 ERA of 4.00 (drastically reduced by his 1 ER in his last 12.2 IPs) does not keep the trend that his K% does. 36 innings, thus far, does definitely fit the ‘’small sample size’’ definition. However, the Mets, and savvy prospective fantasy owners, know that the dreaded, hitter-friendly PCL ballparks in which Wheeler will be pitching in play a role. These parks have contributed to Wheeler already allowing 3 HRs and allowing a BABIP of .320 in 2013. Whereas, Wheeler’s prior highest HRs allowed was 7, in 2011 (115 innings).

Wheeler possesses a repertoire of a fastball, that sits around 94-95 and topping out around 98, a curveball and recently added slider (according to Baseball America) all being above average pitches. His changeup, however, is still a work in progress. ESPN’s Keith Law states it ‘’ is probably too hard to be truly effective.’’ Even with work on the changeup needed, it is widely speculated that Wheeler will see time in the Mets rotation in 2013 and as soon as that word comes, he is a must add in most fantasy formats.

Gary Brown | OF | Fresno Grizzlies (Giants): Speed, Brown has it, fantasy players are always on the lookout for it. In 2012, Brown was ranked as the Giants top prospect (according to Baseball American) and given an 80 speed (on the 20-80 scouting scale). Unfortunately, that ‘’80’’ speed is useless, especially in fantasy, if you can not turn it into SBs. In Brown’s 2012 season that is exactly what happened, as he was caught stealing 18 times in 51 chances. That, combined with being caught 19 times (in 72 chances) in 2011 and being caught three times in five chances in 2013, is the makings of a trend that won’t help him make the majors any time soon.

Of course, to be a bad baserunner you have to get on base. Brown’s OBP has been sporadic at best in his young career. In 2011, while Brown was in A-Ball, his OBP was a stellar .407 in 638 plate appearances. That high OBP contributed to his being so highly touted by many talent evaluators. While the drop of ‘’elite status’’ after 2012 can be contributed to his .347 OBP (in 610 PAs). Throw in a drop in his Slugging % from .519 to .385 and you have the makings of a player who at one point would not be included in a trade for Carlos Beltran, to maybe a 4th outfielder/defensive sub, at best.

2013 has not been any kinder to the 6’1’’, 190 pound right-hander as his batting average (.195) isn’t above the Mendoza Line. Right-handed pitchers are especially tough for Brown. In 95 ABs against righties he has produced a triple slash of .158/.208/.221. He also only has eight walks compared to 28 Ks (.29 BB/K), which continued at its present course, would be his lowest BB/K (.46 in 2012/ .60 in 2011) since his first season in pro ball. As far as fantasy relevance in 2013, Brown could see a September callup when rosters expand but no fantasy team should expect rostering him unless it is the deepest of NL Only leagues.

Mike Zunino | C | Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners): Every fantasy team that waited on a catcher in their draft is now waiting on Zunino’s eventual call to the majors. Zunino has been on the fast track ever after being the third overall pick in the 2012 draft out of Florida. The start to his season was great, blasting four HRs in the first eight games but he has cooled off drastically since, hitting only 1 HR in his last 10. Power will be his best fantasy attribute, as evident of his .689 Slugging % in 2012 (161 ABs in A and AA) and continued success early on of .488 (84 ABs) this season.

Zunino has an unusual lack of opportunities to face lefties early this season, only seeing southpaws 10 times (two hit) thus far. Obviously, that will even out some as the season goes along. Nevertheless, his lack of pro ball experience is going to be what keeps him in the minors, not the Mariner’s currently constructed, offensively challenged lineup. As far as fantasy owners are concerned, jump at the chance to claim him for the HRs and SLG% potential.

—-All stats updated through Sunday, May 5th

Written by JJ Kay, a special to TheFantasyFix.com.

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