Matt Barnes | RHP, Red Sox | Born:  6/17/1990

As I’m writing this, Matt Barnes is on the bump for Low-A Greenville versus Delmarva, the Orioles South Atlantic League affiliate.  Delmarva is starting Dylan Bundy.  It’s a matchup of 2011 first-rounders and one could not handpick a better pitchers duel from SAL rosters.  Now, Bundy is the more highly touted prospect of the two, and I’m not disputing that.  But while Bundy already registers on fantasy radars, it’s about time we note Matt Barnes.

The 19th overall pick out of UConn, Barnes shouldn’t need significant time in the minors.  The Red Sox have started him a level (or two) below his skillset in order to work on some technical aspects and also with the intent to ease their $1.5 million investment into pro baseball – Barnes held out until the signing deadline and missed his chance at a 2011 pro debut.  Already, though, Barnes has Boston pondering a promotion as he’s posted a 0.00 ERA and a 14.06 K/9 through 19 innings of work (that doesn’t include the 9 K’s he’s posted through four innings of scoreless baseball this evening, in case you’re wondering).  At a lanky 6-4, 205, Barnes generates effortless velocity and he’s able to command his fastball into the mid-90’s.  No wonder Low-A hitting can’t touch him.  He also features a sharp curve, which he’s refining during his time in the low minors.  The development of that offering will prove crucial to his ability to climb the ladder quickly.  It won’t surprise me if Barnes finishes 2012 in Double-A, and should his dominance continue as he pushes through the next couple levels, it’s not unfathomable to think he could reach Fenway this September.  Realistically, though, look for Barnes to join the Boston rotation for the second half of 2013.

Christian Yelich | OF, Marlins | Born:  12/5/1991

We go from a South Atlantic Leauge noob to an SAL grad.  Miami has moved Christian Yelich up to High-A Jupiter to open 2012 after he tore apart the SAL in 2011.  And following a brief hiatus due to an elbow ailment, Yelich has responded to the promotion by hitting .429/.543/.857 during the early going in the Florida State League.  Regarded as one of the best minor league bats in baseball, he’s the prized piece of the Miami farm system and he’s already been tabbed as their future No. 3 hitter.  His uncanny feel for hitting separates him from the hoards of 19 and 20-year-old prospects in A-ball – there simply aren’t many hitters at that level who display such an advanced approach at the plate.  A selective hitter, Yelich knows what pitches he can drive and knows what to leave be.  He hit 15 homers in his first full season as a pro and he’s already blasted two this year.  Only expect his power production to increase as his 6-4, 189 frame fills out.

The drawback here is defense.  A weak arm and so-so speed will ultimately render Yelich a left fielder.  Good thing fantasy baseball doesn’t count defense.  Miami, though, isn’t in a rush to have Yelich in their lineup and they’ll likely take a patient approach with their top prospect.  He should reach Double-A by year’s end, putting his ETA somewhere in the late 2013 to early 2014 timetable.  When he does arrive, think young Matt Holliday from the left side, and expect him to be productive early on in his big league career.