Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for]]> The Futures Exchange kicks into high gear this week with Minor League action officially getting under way this past Thursday. There aren't as many games to draw from since a large chunk of the country was turned into an April icebox, forcing cancellations all over the place during the opening weekend. Nevertheless, it's still nice to have real at-bats and innings pitched to talk about.

With all the full-season leagues up and running, it's time we went the distance in this week's Exchange, covering all four categories: In the bigs, A phone call away, A year away and Down the road. So buckle up, sit back and enjoy.

In the bigs

With Nook Logan on the DL with a bad foot, the Nats called up their top prospect Kory Casto early last week. There hasn't been much to cheer about for Washington fans early on, but it's worth rooting for Casto. As for fantasy, don't let cheering for him turn into picking him up. He's off to a 4-for-23 start, and the fact that he's never played above Double-A before this year has me thinking it might take a while for him to adjust. If he does, for you NL-only people desperate for outfield help, he does have some pop, though playing home games in that park won't help. Take a wait-and-see approach for now. Yankees outfielder Kevin Thompson is what most would consider a "Minor League veteran," entering his eighth season with the Yankees organization and having just 30 big-league at-bats (all last year) under his belt. But that doesn't mean he can't play. The Yankees just called him up with Hideki Matsui hitting the DL. Melky Cabrera will get more of the playing time, for now, but the Yankees threw Miguel Cairo out there yesterday as well. If KT gets a shot, he can contribute, especially with some speed, and could help be a stop-gap for you AL-only players out there.

Dice-K aside, it wasn't a spectacular week for rookie pitchers. One who stood out, however, was Jason Hirsh. The Rockies got him, if you've forgotten, in the Jason Jennings deal this past offseason and he made his first start on April 6. Granted, it was in the much friendlier confines of San Diego's PETCO Park, but Hirsh got the win by going 6 2/3 innings, allowing just one run (on a solo homer), striking out eight and, most importantly, walking no one. This guy can flat-out pitch and I think he'll do fine at Coors. Some may see him as an NL-only guy right now, but I'd grab him early, before all the mixed league owners get on the bandwagon. He's pitching Wednesday in Los Angeles, so if you have daily transactions, he's one I'd -- borrowing from the Fantasy 411 guys -- "pitch rather than ditch" that day.

A phone call away

Speaking of pitching prospects, Triple-A ball is loaded with them. How long before the Phil Hughes watch heats up? After a rough big-league camp, Hughes looked more himself in his Triple-A debut, allowing just two hits and striking out six in five innings in extremely cold weather. That, coupled with Kei Igawa's outing, should at least have whispers starting very soon. A couple more Hughes starts and a couple more rough Igawa appearances, and Hughes could be up by May. The "other" Phil in New York -- Humber -- also looked good in his first PCL start. The Mets right-hander went five innings and gave up just one hit. The Mets rotation is off to a ridiculously good start -- and Mike Pelfrey hasn't even gone yet -- so keep Humber on the watch list in case someone falters. The Devil Rays system is known more for its hitting prospects, but keep an eye on that Durham rotation. The two I'd add to the radar screen, if you haven't done so already, are Jeff Niemann and Andy Sonnanstine. Niemann's got the bigger upside as a future ace, but Sonnanstine has done nothing but pitch well throughout his career. Combined, the Durham duo went 11 innings, giving up six hits, three runs, just two walks and 15 strikeouts in their first starts, with Sonnanstine being a touch better. They could battle it out to be the first arm called up to help out in Tampa.

Let's not ignore the bats at this level. Toronto's Adam Lind really belongs in the big leagues, but there was no room for him on the Jays' 25-man roster. Kudos to him for not sulking. He went down to Syracuse and started off 6-for-18 with a double, two homers and seven RBIs in his first four games. The guy just hits, though he's got a logjam in the outfield and at DH in front of him. If someone gets hurt, though, grab him fast. Is Nate Schierholtz putting things together? The Giants outfielder is off to an 8-for-16 start with three doubles, three homers and seven RBIs in four games. If he continues to shake off a rotten 2006 season, he's worth tracking. He's got some serious power, and if he continues to figure out how to use it, he could provide a nice jolt to that aging outfield in San Francisco by midseason.

A year away

Phillies fans may wonder who might be able to play third base for them in the future. Mike Costanzo is out to prove it should be him. He homered in his first two Double-A games for Reading and it's not like Wes Helms or Greg Dobbs will be long-term roadblocks for him. Costanzo is a sweet-swinging lefty hitter who should hit for average and power over time. Let's stay at the hot corner, shall we? I guess Evan Longoria's debut last summer wasn't a fluke. The Rays' top draft pick headed back to Double-A to start the year and is off to an 8-for-13 start. He's got three doubles, a homer and six RBIs in four games. Ben Zobrist is a nice little player, but if he keeps scuffling at short, it's not unreasonable to think the Rays could shuffle the infield and make room for Longoria's bat before next year.

It's officially time to watch Nick Adenhart every start. The Angels right-hander was very impressive this spring, and you got the sense that Mike Scioscia and company really liked what they saw in big-league camp. In his first Double-A start, the 20-year-old gave up one hit in 5 1/3 innings and struck out eight. I don't think it's out of the question that he sees the big leagues even before this year is over. Ditto for Astros lefty Troy Patton. He outpitched Royals No. 1 pick Luke Hochevar in a terrific early-season matchup in the Texas League. Patton went six innings, giving up one run on four hits and didn't walk a batter. The Yankees pitching prospects in Triple-A get all the buzz, and rightly so, but you may want to keep a loose eye on Chase Wright. The southpaw has been around since 2001, but he's just figuring things out now. He was the Florida State League Pitcher of the Year in 2006 and was added to the 40-man rotation for the first time. To reward the club's faith, he went out and threw seven shutout innings in his Double-A debut, yielding just three hits and no walks while striking out nine.

Down the road

The Brewers decided it'd be best to send 20-year-old SS Alcides Escobar back to the Class A Advanced Florida State League after he struggled last year with the bat. So far, so good. He's started 5-for-14 over three games and has gone a perfect 3-for-3 in steals. His defense will carry him to the bigs, but that speed could make him a good fantasy option in a few years. Speaking of speedy middle infielders, Giants SS Emmanuel Burriss is off to a 5-for-16 start in the California League. Oddly, he's only gone 3-for-5 in stolen-base attempts, but that percentage should improve and I expect he'll see Double-A before the year is over. (One note about interpreting California League stats: take them with a grain of salt. It's a ridiculous hitting league, so offensive and pitching stats are very skewed.) He could be replaced in San Jose by Brian Bocock. Supposedly behind Burriss in offensive skills, he's nonetheless off to a 6-for-16 (.375) start and has gone a perfect 6-for-6 in steals in Class A ball. A lot of baseball was cancelled in the Midwest League because of the weather, but Reds' top draft pick Drew Stubbs got off to a promising start in Dayton. The five-tool outfielder has picked up a pair of hits in each of his first two games to start the year 4-for-9 with a stolen base and two RBIs.

Twins pitching prospects get more attention at the advanced levels these days, what with names like Garza, Slowey and Perkins pitching in Triple-A. But don't forget completely about Kyle Waldrop. He's only 21 and has moved slowly through the system. A ground-ball artist, Waldrop was unhittable, literally, in his 2007 debut. He worked five innings of no-hit ball, walking no one and fanning seven. Only two hit batters kept him from being perfect. The flip side of that may have been Dodgers lefty prospect Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers' top pick in last year's draft, a teenage southpaw, was outstanding last summer in his debut. His jump to full-season ball did not start as smoothly as he walked six in just 2 1/3 innings. One start, of course, doesn't mean a whole lot, but it's worth watching his command as he moves forward, as an indicator of just how quickly he may advance.