Every Friday I will be taking a look at a prospect in the lower levels of the minors who could be on his way up very quickly, either to a new level or up toward the top of prospect ranking lists. This week's prospect may be one of the biggest jumpers of all if he can continue his performance thus far. This prospect started the season on John Sickels' top 120 prospects list at #74. That prospect? Matt Barnes of the Boston Red Sox.
Age at End of 2012 Season: 22
On 40 man Roster: No
Have a question about this prospect or something else fantasy or prospect related? Send me a tweet over at Twitter @jasonsbaseball.
Read more about Barnes and what his fantasy value may be after the jump...
Barnes was drafted by the Red Sox out of the University of Connecticut last year, and was the top draft pick of the Red Sox that season. He ended up signing for a $1.5 million bonus, but did not pitch during the 2011 season. 2012 was his first full professional season, and the Red Sox started him out with a full season assignment in Low-A Greenville.
What Does He Bring To The Game?
Barnes really appears to be extremely polished of a prospect, which I would kind of expect from a high draft pick college pitcher. Here's a brief scouting report, from SoxProspects.com:
Fastball sits 93-95 mph and tops out at 98 mph. Shows excellent downward finish in lower tier of strike zone, but tends to flatten out when elevated. Ball comes out of his hand fluidly. Works fastball to both sides of the plate. Solid-average fastball command. Also throws a high-70s curveball with tight rotation and deep break. Feels offering well to create hard snap. Can hold onto ball too long when throwing curve, but grades as a plus pitch.
The numbers thus far this year definitely show him to be a high-level pitching prospect, although I don't know if anyone expected him to be as dominant as he has thus far.
Where Is He This Season?
Well, Barnes started his season with the Red Sox' low-A affiliate in the Sally League, and was dominant there. In 5 starts for Greenville, he went 2-0, threw 26 2/3 innings, allowed just 12 hits, 1 earned run, and just 4 walks. Oh, and he struck out 42 also, good for a K/9 of 14.2. He has since been promoted to High-A Salem, and his first start out of the gates was no different: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 earned run, 1 walk, and 12 strikeouts.
What Could His Path to The Majors Be?
I thought at the start of the season that Barnes would probably not get promoted to High-A until at least mid-June, but it was increasingly clear that he was simply overmatching the hitters in Low-A. I think that unless Barnes continues to put up 12 strikeout starts in High-A, he will likely remain there for the rest of the season. It would not surprise me, however, if he did end up finishing the season in AA.
Given that, I think he could make his debut at some point during the 2013 season, but will more likely be in the Majors to stay for the 2014 season.
What Could He Do When He Arrives?
The general consensus about Barnes seems to be that he has the upside to be a #2 starter, with a #3 more likely. For fantasy purposes, I could see him being a top 40 starting pitcher, with flashes of even better. He seems likely to have high strikeout potential, and a lot of either poor contact or misses entirely due to plus velocity and command. If I had to make a guess at ranges right now, I would say an ERA sub 3.75, WHIP around 1.20-1.25, and around a strikeout per inning. All of those would probably be somewhere around 75% of what I think his peak potential could be.
Barnes was only a bit on prospect radars after last season, but with a solid year of performance under his belt I could very well see him jumping into the top 25 on some prospect lists. That seems like it would have more to do with how many of the prospects at the top of the list have already graduated, but he looks like a legit top-25 type, even if he doesn't end up ranked there.