Let’s get this prospect party started with a look at the Top 25 fantasy prospects for 2010 and Beyond. As always, note the emphasis on “fantasy” here at MLBFP. This Top 25 list is based on the long-term fantasy value of the respective players. Yep, this means we don’t want any hate mail if you see some defensive dogs on the list.
Okay, before we get to our list, let’s cover the factors we examine in dissecting a prospect’s fantasy value. Specifically, we look at an individual’s skill set, opportunity for playing time, age, statistical foundation, positional value, potential for short-term impact, upside in specific categories, and the composition of his future major league team. As you can see, we have these prospects covered from every conceivable angle. Now, is the time to add our blog to your “Favorites” and subscribe to our feed if your fingers haven’t made the move as of yet.
Of course, as you know, I make my fantasy home at RotoExperts.com, where we’re stacked with valuable fantasy baseball content (and content for almost every other fantasy sport). Among other fantasy goodies, you will find my complete Top 200 Fantasy Prospect list over there at the start of next season. Make sure to check it out. In the meantime, it’s time to get to the prospect bone here at MLBFP.
#25 Dustin Ackley (OF/1B, Seattle Mariners)
Similar to Gordon Beckham last year, Dustin Ackley (photo by Tracy Proffitt) doesn’t get the fantasy love he deserves as a recent draftee. Listen, I don’t get all choked up over college statistics. These kids pad their stats with aluminum bats and against some hurlers who are still hung-over from the previous night’s frat party. That said, let’s give credit where credit is due; Ackley had a plus-.400 BA, plus-450 OBP, and plus-.590 SLG in all three seasons he played for the North Carolina Tar Heels. Last year, as a junior, the 6’1”, 182 lb first basemen hit .417, with a .517 OBP, .763 SLG, and 22 HRs. Okay, those stats choke me up just a little.
Honestly, all you need to do is watch Ackley play to know he’s going to be a sweet fantasy cog. Three words define Ackley—Natural Born Hitter. He has exceptional bat control (133:82 BB/K ratio in his college career), wicked bat speed, the ability to adjust to any pitch, and he sprays the ball to all fields. Trust me, you’re looking at a future batting champion if he continues to progress. Oh, that’s not all, he also has decent wheels. Ackley stole 10-plus bases in each of his collegiate seasons.
What’s the catch? Well, Ackley is not going to put up the power numbers in the Bigs. Unlike Beckham, the lack of an aluminum bat will have a drastic impact on his HRs and slugging percentage. Ackley will settle in as the No. 2 hitter behind Ichiro Suzuki in the Mariners’ lineup by early 2011. I would say that isn’t a bad spot for any hitter.
We’ve established this boy can rake. But, where will the Mariners play Ackley? Although he developed as an outfielder, he was forced to play first base last year because he was coming off Tommy John surgery. Most thought he would be a centerfielder in the pros. Well, here’s some news that should have you jumping on the Ackley fantasy bandwagon. There’s a real possibility the Mariners move him to second base.
Michael Saunders, Franklin Gutierrez, and Suzuki appear locked-in long-term in the outfield. Rumors are swirling that the M’s believe Ackley has the skills to play middle-infield and are considering moving him there to replace Jose Lopez in a few years. Wow, a dude with hitting skills like this playing the fantasy black hole that’s second base. Can you say fantasy gem? My educated guess is Ackley continuously climbs up my fantasy prospect list. Grab him now in all leagues.
#24 Jarrod Parker (SP, Arizona Diamondbacks)
No fantasy owner ever wants to hear these two words muttered when it comes to their pitchers—Tommy John. Jarrod Parker is plummeting down prospect lists because of a recent strained right elbow. There were fears he would need the dreaded TJ surgery. However, he’s responding well to a rehab program and hopefully will avoid the procedure. Of course, look what the surgery did for Josh Johnson; he now has a bionic arm that throws a heater in the upper-90s. Hmm…Jarrod, maybe a re-constructed elbow isn’t such a bad thing?
Parker has a sweet four-pitch repertoire that includes a mid-90s fastball, curve, slider, and developing change. The 6’1”, 180 lb righty has impressed the D-backs’ brass with his advanced poise, fierce competitiveness, and command in the zone. In 97.1 IP between High-A and Double-A, Parker had a 3.14 ERA, 95:38 K/BB ratio, and .255 BAA. He also showed a knack for inducing ground balls with a 1.60 ground out/air out rate. Notably, Parker struggled more at Double-A with a 3.68 ERA, 3.91 BB/9, and .272 BAA. However, just like Madison Bumgarner, he was 20-years-old playing at a high-level. Let’s give him a break.
D-backs manager/former player personnel guru A.J. Hinch is extremely eager to get his kids out of diapers and into the majors. Before Parker went down with the elbow injury, there were rumors he was an option for the big league rotation coming out of spring training next year. Let’s hope this injury puts those plans to rest; Parker could use more time.
I love any prospect hurler with a bulldog mentality, advanced secondary pitches, and the ability to miss bats. Parker has all three going for him. You should use this elbow issue as a fantasy buying opportunity. If you looking to acquire him via trade, stress to the other owner how long he could miss if he needs TJ surgery. Shoot, I’m confident he can be a stud even if he needs the procedure done. Fantasy tip for the day: take the risk with elbows, avoid shoulder problems.
Mark my words, Parker will be a fantasy ace. As long as the elbow recovers, we should see Parker in the majors by July of next year. We have nothing but fantasy love for this kid here at MLBFP.
#23 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Jaff Decker (OF, San Diego Padres)
Ok, let’s get this straight. This kid’s name is pronounced “Jeff.” The nurse at the hospital he was born at wrote an “a” on the birth certificate instead of an “e.” Nevertheless, his family never changed it. Yeah, they were too busy working on Jaff’s hand-eye coordination to worry about such a minor detail. I couldn’t make this stuff up.
How can you not love a dude with a back story like that? Jaff Decker has been raking since tee-all. Seriously, he had sick high school numbers. However, he fell to the Padres at a first-round supplemental spot because of his 5’10”, 190 lb frame. Decker is “The People’s Hitter.” You don’t look at him and see a potential .300-plus major league hitter on the surface. But, that’s exactly what this stocky OF will become. It’s John Kruk Jr.—open stance, wide body, sketchy facial hair, sweet bat control, and all.
Decker arrived on the professional scene with style last year hitting .352, with a 523 OBP, and .541 SLG. You see those stats and your probably thinking he only played in three games. Nope, he put up those silly numbers in 159 ABs. You gotta be kidding me? He ended up leading the league in runs, walks and OBP. Duh, as if I had to tell you that.
The big boy was no slouch this year at Low-A hitting .299, with 16 HRs, a .442 OBP, and a .514 SLG. Decker has a phenomenal eye that is indicative of a future fantasy star. He had a 19.2% walk rate and .92 BB/K rate batting third in the Fort Wayne (Padres’ Low-A affiliate) batting order. Notably, Decker has had a fairly high Batting Average on Balls in Play [BABIP] (.364 at Low-A /.432 in the AZL). Usually, such a high BABIP suggests a lucky hitter. In this case, there’s no luck involved, as Decker’s BABIP is sky high because he hits the ball freakishly hard.
The only negatives regarding “Deck” are the limited room for growth on his roundish frame and the fact he will play his home games in the airfield they call Petco Park. As a result, the 19-year-old’s power potential is limited. That’s okay, I will take a hitter with his mad-hitting skills on my fantasy team any year…even if I have to sacrifice some bombs.
Decker won’t see the majors until mid-to-late 2011. So, he’s for you competitive and passionate fantasy owners who’re digging deep for the next under-the-radar hitting star. Of course, that’s who were catering to here at MLBFP. Scoop up Decker in all dynasty and keeper leagues while your league mates are fast asleep.
#22 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Eric Young Jr. (OF/2B, Colorado Rockies)
I’ve been spewing accolades about Eric Young Jr. all year in my “New Kids on the Diamond” column for RotoExperts.com and Yahoo! Sports; I’m not about to stop now. See, EY Jr. is the type of kid you aren’t going to find in your vanilla prospect list. But, on a fantasy-focused prospect list, like here at MLBFP, Young is front and center because of his fantasy-precious tool—exceptional wheels.
Young was hitting .299, with 7 HRs, 118 Rs, and 58 SBs at Triple-A before he got the call to the bigs in late August. Baby Young has posted a .324 BA, with 1 HR, and 2 SBs, in limited action (34 ABs), since his promotion. The best is yet to come, my fantasy prospect friends.
This 5’10”, 180 lb sparkplug will be a fantasy force despite the lack of hype. Like Daddy, Young has a sweet, short swing (82% contact rate at Triple-A) that will produce plenty of knocks in the wide open spaces at Coors Field. Seriously, Young is going to run for days when he slaps doubles in the gaps in the Mile High city. Scary.
The 24-year-old is learning that walks are as good as doubles given his speed. In 2007, Young BB/K rate was a measly .44 at High-A. This year, he pumped that rate up to .71 with some added patience. Some more walks would pay huge fantasy dividends for Young’s owners. Trust me, it will happen with Young Sr. looking over his shoulder. This kid is ready to become the NL-style version of Chone Figgins at the top of the Rockies’ order. He will routinely hit .290, with 80-plus runs, and 45-50 SBs in the majors. Book it.
Young is on my short list for top 2010 impact rookies. He has been playing both OF and 2B in his audition this year. C’mon, Clint Barmes is not a starting 2B. Barmes is only hitting .243 with a .291 OBP for the Rocks. Sure, he has 22 dingers. This squad, however, needs Young’s leadoff skills much more than Barmes’ bop.
While EY Jr. has a slightly below-average glove, it is improving and won’t hold him back. Young will make a fantasy impact at a premium position in 2010. Make a move for him in keeper leagues; keep him in the back of your fantasy mind for 2010 re-draft leagues.
#21 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Chris Carter (1B/DH, Oakland Athletics)
All this Chris Carter does is hit homers.
Okay, he does a little more than that, but I couldn’t resist. This beast didn’t get the credit he deserved headed into the season. Carter hit .259, with 39 HRs, and .569 SLG last year at High-A. Yet, many prospect experts focused on his high strikeout rate (30.8%) and kept him off their prospect lists. While the swing-and-miss tendency worried me as well, I plugged him in at No. 78 on my preseason Top 200 Fantasy Prospect List. Yes, this is where I’m looking for some sturdy pats on the back.
Carter came into the season as the 6th ranked prospect in the Oakland system according to Baseball America. However, BA just ranked him 3rd on their recent list of 2009 Standout Prospects. Yep, the 6’4”, 225 lb kid is starting to turn fantasy heads; he has established himself as the best power-hitting prospect in the game. Go ahead, I challenge you to name a better power-hitting gem in the minors. Bring it.
Carter hit .337, with 24 HRs, and a .567 SLG at Double-A this year. He was promoted to Triple-A in late August and more than held his own. In fact, Carter has gone Kanye West-crazy with the stick in the Pacific Coast League Playoffs, hitting bombs in each of the first four playoff games. It’s already obvious that Carter’s “all-fields” power translates to any level.
The big man cut down on his strikeouts this year as well. Specifically, in 490 ABs at Double-A, Carter cut his strikeout rate down to 24.3%. There’s no question he needs work on this aspect of his game. But, let’s not go critique crazy, dudes with power like this can get away with striking out more than your average bear. It comes with the bomber territory.
Significantly, it ain’t all dingers and whiffs with Carter. He raised his minor league batting average over 70 points from last year. Further, he took 85 free passes between Double-A and Triple-A. Carter’s ability to take a walk will earn him a regular job in the majors and make him a more attractive fantasy asset. Of course, if he could close some of the massive holes in his swing, he could be a fantasy star.
Carter has nice athletic ability for a big dude. There’s been some talk about moving him to the OF because of his “relatively” impressive agility. I placed “relatively” in quotes because he’s being compared to other men his size; I don’t think Carter is swift enough to be an OF. The talk has picked up since the A’s acquired defensively-challenged 3B Brett Wallace. There are persistent rumors that Wallace will be permanently moved to first base. This is a situation that bares monitoring.
My best guess is that Carter locks down the DH spot for the A’s at some point next year and settles into that role for the long-term. This is a potential 2010 fantasy impact rookie you want to get your paws on immediately. Kids with raw power and sweet plate discipline don’t come around the fantasy diamond too often. While Carter’s home park will do some power-sapping, don’t let that dissuade you from making a move for him in your keeper leagues. You can probably get him cheap if your league mates are going off last year’s prospect lists. Make the move now.
#20 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Brian Matusz (SP, Baltimore Orioles)
Okay, it’s official. I have a sick obsession with fantasy prospects.
How did I confirm this piece of obvious news? Well, I was legitimately giddy last week when I found out Brian Matusz was being shut down for the season. The move kept Matusz at 44.2 IP for the season and kept him under the 50 IP maximum for rookie eligibility. Yes, just another fantasy prospect I can spout off about all off-season and spring training.
The 6’5”, 200 lb southpaw had the most advanced secondary stuff of any pitcher in the minors this year. Bar none. Specifically, it doesn’t get much better than Matusz’s sweeping curve and deceptive change when you’re talking 22-year-old hurlers. I’ve been blown away by the big lefty’s fearless ability to use his change even when he’s behind in the count. It’s key to his strength of keeping hitters off-balance. While he also possesses a low-90s fastball and “show me” slider, his curve and change are his calling card pitches.
Prior to his promotion to the bigs, Matusz had a miniscule 1.91 ERA, 121:32 K/BB ratio, and .211 BAA in 113 IP between Double-A and High-A. At Double-A alone, he had an 8.94 K/9 rate and 2.14 BB/9 rate. The lanky lefty also had an impressive 1.32 ground out /air out ratio and only gave up seven home runs in his minor league stint this season. Umm, I would say he deserved that promotion.
Matusz was surprisingly summoned to the majors in early August in the wake of injuries and horrific starts by O’s pitchers. The kid got a rude awakening to big league ball. In six August starts, Matusz had a 5.28 ERA and .328 BAA. Ouch, ugly stuff. Ahh…but here at MLBFP, we dig deeper.
In each of Matusz’s last three starts, he went seven innings and allowed four or less earned runs. During that same stretch of 21 innings, he has had 15 Ks and 4 BBs. Overall, Matusz had a 7.66 K/9 and 2.82 BB/9 in the majors. Further, he was absolutely dominant against lefties holding them to a .200 BAA and .222 OBP. Whether you look his indicators or watch him paint the corners in game action, it’s clear Matusz is a future front-end fantasy starter.
The O’s have a plethora of top-shelf promising pitchers lined up for the future in Matusz, Chris Tillman, and Jake Arrieta. If you ask your humble expert, I’m telling you that Matusz ends up the best of the bunch. He already has the skills to give you production in the Ks, BBs, and WHIP categories. Further, with the O’s offense looking more explosive in the future, the youngster should be able to rack up the wins as well.
I know, it’s hard to get your fantasy head around this idea that Orioles pitchers are the future of the American League. Nevertheless, trust me, you want their young guns on your radar—especially Matusz.
#19 Hector Rondon (SP, Cleveland Indians)
Who? Yeah, I know that’s what some of you are thinking. No worries, I’m here to tell you all about this low-flying fantasy missile.
Why? I have no doubt that some of our more savvy readers now are asking why we have Hector Rondon ranked ahead of Brian Matusz. Hey, we intensely scout these kids; you will learn to trust us. We guarantee it. In fact, take this time to subscribe to our feed in the right-hand corner of the blog—it’s for your benefit.
Let’s get to fantasy business. Rondon tore through High-A last year with a 3.60 ERA, 9.00 K/9, 2.61 BB/9, and .239 BAA. Yet, he received less love than Jessica Simpson at a Cowboys game coming into the season. What gives? Well, as we all know, Baseball America justifiably drives a prospect’s value. Rondon was missing in action on BA’s Indians’ Top 10 list—a reputation killer!
Hector the Batter Ejector was obviously ticked about the lack of respect. Rondon made Double-A hitters look like tee-ball-caliber chumps at the start of the season with a 2.75 ERA, 9.13 K/9, 2.00 BB/9, and .227 BAA. In a nutshell, the 6-3, 180-pound Venezuelan righty just built on his High-A success.
Rondon was promoted to Triple-A in early July after posting a 1.33 ERA in four consecutive Double-A starts. Sick numbers. Well, the going got a tad tougher in the International League. In 74.1 Triple-A IP, Rondon had a 4.00 ERA and .282 BAA. Hmm, alarming considering his success at lower levels, but let’s get out our fantasy shovels and dig deeper. Of course, we always do at MLBFP.
Let’s start from the fact that Rondon was a 21-year-old pitching at Triple-A. We had to expect some dirty diapers from a mere baby at that level. Further, Rondon had a 7.75 K/9 and ridiculous 1.57 BB/9. Even though our arms are starting to hurt a little, let’s continue to dig. Rondon’s Triple-A stats got progressively worse as the season drew to a close. He had a 2.74 ERA in July, 3.93 ERA in August, and 6.14 ERA in September.
My friends, the core indicators are still impressive given his age, and I’m chalking up the late season swoon to fatigue. Let the mainstream haters hate; it’s underrated Rondon-love here at fantasy prospect central. I had a chance to get a first-hand look at some of Rondon’s starts this season. He has a “jumping” 91-95 mph heater, plus-breaking ball, and a quality change. Further, he has command over ALL his pitches.
Honestly, I think the reason he doesn’t get hype is because many prospect gurus don’t want to admit they were wrong about this kid. Call me a cynic. The Indians elected not to give Rondon a spot in their rotation in September. Good idea, this dude needed some rest. That said, he will be given a chance to compete for a rotation spot early next season. I’m quite sure Rondon is available in many keeper and dynasty leagues. Swoop in and grab him when you get a chance; he has No. 2 fantasy starter stuff.
#18 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Derek Norris (C, Washington Nationals)
These are about the only things I like better than a fantasy catcher with power and patience. Meet Derek Norris—a breakout catching prospect who has already mastered these skills.
The 20-year-old backstop hit .278, with 10 HRs, and .463 SLG last year in short-season ball. The numbers weren’t eye-popping and he stayed under the radar on most preseason prospect lists. For example, Baseball America had him at No. 6 on their Nationals’ Top 10 list. However, even last year Norris exhibited stellar patience with a 21.7% walk rate and .444 OBP, despite the fact he was one of the younger players in the New York-Penn league. The writing was on the prospect wall.
Norris busted out the big stick this year at Low-A by hitting 23 bombs and posting a .513 SLG. Oh yeah, he also threw in a .286 BA, 90 walks and a .413 OBP. In addition, I can guarantee you that many of those 30 doubles will turn into bombs in the near future. Geez, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to talk about a Nats’ prospect not-named Stephen Strasburg in such glowing terms. You?
The sturdy catcher was primarily a pull hitter when he first joined the pro-ranks. However, he has developed power to the opposite field. This kid is a tireless worker when it comes to fine-tuning the nuances of his hitting game – always a good sign.
As we’ve seen with other prospects on MLBFP’s Top 25 countdown, Norris struggled down the stretch with a .176 BA and 0 HRs in 74 August ABs. Ugly stuff. No worries…let’s see how you hit (or even look) after squatting for 100 games for the first time in your career. You always have to keep fatigue in mind when considering the performance of these prospects at the end of a long season.
Are you wondering why the hell I don’t have Norris ranked higher on this list since I’m so enamored by his skills and potential? Well, I’m not convinced the perenn ial cellar dwellers are going to keep him behind the dish. Obviously, his fantasy value will take a hit if he leaves the premium position. There have already been murmurs about moving him to first base or a corner outfield spot; he certainly has the bat to man these positions.
It isn’t that Norris doesn’t have the defensive skills to play catcher in the bigs. In fact, he has a strong arm, quick release and at least average blocking ability. Instead, the development of Jesus Flores will determine Norris’ final landing spot. Flores has shown flashes with the bat over the past three years. For example, he hit .301, with a .371 OBP, and .505 SLG this year. Granted, he put up these numbers in limited action (93 ABs) due to his shoulder woes. Nonetheless, he once again showed some hitting upside. Flores could still stick as the catcher of the future and kick Norris to another position. Keep your fantasy eye on Flores’ production in 2010.
#17 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Kyle Drabek (SP, Toronto Blue Jays)
Remember Kyle Drabek? He’s the kid Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was reluctant to include in any deal for Roy Halladay. Says something, huh?
In fact, there are whispers that the Blue Jays demanded that Drabek be included in any deal, and that it was a deal-breaker when the Phils refused. In the end, Amaro moved a bevy of secondary prospects for Cliff Lee and kept the young gun in the organization. Wise move.
As the son of a Cy Young award winner (Doug Drabek), Drabek surely has the pedigree. Obviously, just like with thoroughbreds, as you degenerate gamblers know, sometimes pedigree doesn’t mean a damn thing. For example, please tell me one of you out there added Pete Rose Jr. to a keeper league squad in hopes of big things. C’mon, I need an uncontrollable laugh.
The difference with Drabek is he has the electric stuff to go along with his family roots. Check out the 21-year-old righty’s stat line in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery (across High-A and Double-A): 12 wins, 3 losses, 3.19 ERA, 150 Ks, 50 BBs, and a .239 BAA. Drabek kept his K/9 over 7.00 and his BB/9 under 3.00 at both levels. This dude has the goods even though he’s still on the relative down-low in the prospect world.
Drabek has a fastball that reaches the mid-90s, a nasty curve with horizontal-like action, and a developing change. Now, some have suggested Drabek’s upside is limited because he only has two-plus pitches (fastball and curve). Don’t believe the nega-hype. Drabek didn’t start using a change until he reached the professional ranks. Further, his signature pitches are so filthy that he will turn out just fine even if his change tops out as average.
Drabek struggled after the all-star break with a 4.53 ERA and .262 BAA. Here’s another case of physical and mental fatigue setting in with a top prospect. Drabek had never pitched more than 54 innings in a season. Should we be surprised he wore down as he approached 150 IP? Of course not. Because of his workload and injury history, the Phils shut him down in late August.
The Phils were only able to snag Drabek with the 18th overall pick in the 2006 draft because he was believed to have “character issues.” Specifically, he was viewed an immature hothead with an attitude problem. Sounds like most 18-year-olds I know. Well, the ole’ Texan has matured and developed a strong worth ethic. Drabek has the top-notch stuff, command, and new perspective to be an elite fantasy starter.
Could Drabek Jr. win a Cy Young of his own? Let’s put it this way, it’s not a ridiculous question.
#16 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Domonic Brown (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)
At 6-5, 205 pounds, Brown is an exceptional athlete. In fact, Brown had a full scholarship to play WR for “The U,” but academic issues stood in his way, and Brown decided to pursue professional baseball. I know, who would have thought academics would be an obstacle to playing football for the Miami Hurricanes?
Well, Brown has turned into one of the best outfield prospects in the game. The most impressive aspect of Brown’s development is that he has improved in different areas each year. Last year, Brown had a .291 BA, nine HRs, .417 SLG, and 22 SBs for Low-A. The numbers didn’t have “star quality” on their face. However, Brown developed plate discipline in 2008 with a .89 BB/K rate and .382 OBP. As I always preach, plate discipline is a key building block for most fantasy hitting prospects. You can’t shatter the maple in the bigs until you understand the zone; take that to bed with you.
In 2009, Brown added power to the mix. Across three levels, Brown hit .299, with 14 HRs, a .504 SLG, and 23 SBs. Brown maintained his plate patience at High-A (.71 BB/K rate) and dominated the lower level with a .303 BA, 11 HRs, and .517 SLG in 238 ABs. Unfortunately, Brown lost his patience at Double-A (.38 BB/K rate) and his numbers dipped: .279 BA, three HRs, and a .456 SLG in 147 ABs. Was it a coincidence that his numbers took a hit when he became immune to walks? I think not.
Brown has often been compared to Darryl Strawberry because his build, upside and batting style (high-left elbow) as a left-handed power hitter. Hmm, I am partially on board with this comparison. Brown may never have Straw’s power, but he does have the ability to hit 25-33 HRs per year with “The Bank” as his home park. Further, Brown has the wheels to steal 25-30 SBs like Strawberry did in his prime. However, unlike the former Mets superstar who hit .259 in his career, Brown has the hitting ability to be a perennial .285 to .295 hitter. Yep, he’s a sick talent.
As a fantasy prospect speculator, you have to be all over a kid with tools like Brown. Whether Brown becomes slightly-above average fantasy OF, or a star fantasy slugger, depends entirely on his pitch recognition/selectivity at the big league level. Trust me, if Brown stays true to a patient approach he will be a stud because it will mean he’s hitting his pitch and getting on base to swipe precious bags for fantasy owners.
This is a dude to stash away in your keeper leagues if you’re looking for prospect with top-notch speed/power and the ability to hit for average. Umm, who isn’t? Brown will arrive in 2011 and take Raul Ibanez or Jayson Werth’s spot in the Phillies OF.
#15 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Dan Hudson (SP, Chicago White Sox)
Let’s get this straight from the outset – Dan Hudson won’t appear this high on many prospect lists. However, as I displayed last year when I drove the Gordon Beckham hype train, despite massive nega-hype, I am not afraid to go against the mainstream when there’s ample support.
Hudson pitched in every level but tee-ball last year. Across four minor league stops, Hudson posted sick stats in 26 starts and 147.1 IP: 2.32 ERA, 166 Ks, 34 BBs, and a .200 BAA. Oh yeah, those are Minor League Player of the Year worthy numbers, my fantasy friends.
The 6-4, 220-pound righty’s minor league success earned him a September cup of java with the big club. The results were mixed. In 18.2 IP, Hudson had a 3.38 ERA and .252 BAA. But, his K/9 rate dipped to 6.75 (from 9.00 at Triple-A) and he had some uncharacteristic control issues (4.34 BB/9).
Hudson is a hurler to target in your keeper leagues. The 2008 draftee has exhibited swing-and-miss ability and outstanding control over the past two years. Specifically, he had a K/9 of 9.00 or above at every minor league level and a BB/9 of 3.00 or below at every level (except Triple-A where his BB/9 was 3.38). Not only does he miss bats, but Hudson keeps the ball in the park with his “down in the zone” approach. As an illustration, Hudson only gave up five bombs in 147.1 minor league innings pitched this year. There’s a lot to like about Mr. Hudson.
So, why won’t he post up in the Top 25 on many prospect lists. Well, he lacks that dominant pitch to “wow” the scouts. Hudson possesses a low 90s four-seam fastball, promising slider, dancing change, and “show me” curve. The development of his slider and change will determine whether Hudson becomes a No. 2 fantasy starter in AL-only leagues, or a No. 1 ace.
Why do I smell a future ace? Well, if you watch D-Huddy hurl, you see a kid who knows how to pitch. Hudson has great movement on his pitches, knows how to paint the corners, and has the confidence to throw his top three pitches to any batter, in any count. Hudson is advanced well beyond the digits on his birth certificate. Sure, Hudson doesn’t light up the radar gun. But, let me ask you this – when have radar gun readings won you a fantasy title?
Hudson will undoubtedly begin next year in Triple-A since the White Sox recently scooped up Freddy Garcia’s option. Garcia will start the year as Ozzie Guillen’s fifth starter. C’mon though, do you really think Garcia will stay healthy? Even if he does stay healthy, what are the odds he’s effective?
Hudson will snag a spot in Chicago’s rotation by July. As with most young pitchers, he will have some growing pains. However, because of his maturity and advanced approach, this young gun’s learning curve will be much shorter. Go snag this dude in all formats; the dividends will come quicker than with most young guns.
#14 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Logan Morrison (1B, Florida Marlins)
Here’s your numero uno BUY LOW candidate in the fantasy prospect world – Logan Morrison – served on a championship platter.
In 2008, Morrison had a .332 BA, 38 doubles, 13 HRs, .402 OBP and .494 SLG at High-A. In an injury-shortened, 2009 season, the 6-4, 245-pound first baseman posted the following stats between High-A and Double-A: .277 BA, 8 HRs, .408 OBP and .439 SLG. Let me guess, the power numbers just don’t make you tingle, right?
As always, we must look closer. At High-A, it’s not surprising that Morrison wasn’t “bombs-away.” He played in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League and his home park was the cavernous Roger Dean Stadium (home of the Jupiter Hammerheads). Further, don’t you think some of those 38 doubles are going to turn into dingers as he advances?
Where was the power last year? Well, Morrison suffered a fracture at the base of his right thumb in April and missed approximately two months of the season. There’s no question the injury impacted his hitting and sapped his power after his return to action in June.
Trust me, Morrison has legit pop. He has already displayed the trait. At Low-A (in 2007), Morrison hit 24 HRs and had a .216 ISO average (SLG-AVG). I’ve watched this dude in batting practice – he puts on a home run show. Listen, Morrison isn’t going to hit as many bombs as a guy like Justin Morneau. In fact, he has compared himself to James Loney because of his hitting approach. That said, more power will come.
Along with the power potential, I’m in fantasy love with Morrison because of his pure hitting ability and plate recognition. Morrison had a 1.37 BB/K ratio and 84-percent contact rate at Double-A. The 22-year-old is extremely patient (18.5% BB rate at Double-A) and stays back on pitches to hit ropes to all fields. These underlying indicators all demonstrate that Logan knows what he’s doing at the dish.
Morrison has played some outfield in his minor league career. Thus, the trade of Jeremy Hermida could open up a spot for Morrison in the OF at some point next year. At the very least, Morrison is the first baseman of the future for the Marlins. Gaby Sanchez doesn’t possess even half of Morrison’s tools.
“Bam” Morrison will be planted in the Marlins’ lineup by Opening Day 2011. Seriously, just imagine what Morrison will do surrounded by Hanley Ramirez and fellow-prospect Mike Stanton in the Fish batting order. Expect a .295-.315 BA, 20-25 HRs, and .390-plus OBP when Morrison is in his prime.
#13 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Aroldis Chapman (SP, Cincinnatti Reds)
It’s not easy for me to place Aroldis Chapman in MLBFP’s Top 25. This Cuban defect could easily become a prospect reject.
That said, even though Chapman is as raw as a diaper-rashed baby’s bottom and has yet to sign with a major league squad, he deserves a spot on his list for one reason – his mouth-watering upside. We are talking about a 21-year-old (yeah, we all want to examine the birth certificate) with a 6-4, 179-pound projectable frame and the ability to hit triple digits on the radar gun. Shoot, even the biggest Chapman-haters can’t deny that his age, body-type, and arm trigger a reaction from the salivary glands.
Chapman is primarily a three-pitch-pony. He’s armed with a mid-90s fastball, late-moving slider and a developing curveball. The lanky southpaw throws a splitter and a variety of changeups as well, but those pitches are works-in-progress. Chapman’s already has the fastball velocity and nastilicious slider to have some big league success. After watching some tape on this dude, I’m convinced the slider could become his signature in the bigs rather than his heater. The pitch is extremely deceptive because it’s on an almost-identical plane as the fastball until it sends left-handed hitters fishing and back-doors right-handed batters.
Why is Chapman’s downside as dangerous as his upside? Well, the Cuban sensation still hasn’t mastered his control or command. Chapman has been known to go on walk-fests and tends to miss his spots even when he’s around the plate. For example, Chapman has had the following BB/9 rates in Cuba over the past four years: 9.0, 5.5, 4.5 and 4.7. These rates will be even higher in the majors given the transition from Cuban baseball to MLB. Trust me, major league hitters will patiently force him to find the plate, and will hammer him if he consistently makes mistakes in the zone. Chapman needs time to become a pitcher rather than a thrower; his velocity alone won’t make him a fantasy force.
There have also been questions about Chapman’s maturity and mental makeup. Can he handle the pressure of the mammoth contract once he signs? Will he melt on the mound when he experiences adversity? Will he work hard enough to become a stud pitcher? These are all still open questions. Chapman needs to plant himself on a team with a top-notch pitching coach, who can perfect his mechanics/off-speed pitches, and supporting veterans who can look over his shoulder.
Chapman is reportedly looking for a $40-60 million deal. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals, and Toronto Blue Jays have all expressed interest in the international free agent. Chapman recently fired his agent, Edwin Mejia, who was deep in negotiations with many teams. Chapman has replaced Mejia with the Hendricks brothers to finish off a deal. This is a hint he may be headed to the Bronx because of the Hendricks brothers’ deep-rooted relationship with the Yanks. Our man, Scoops Sheridan, predicted back in July that Chapman would end up in pinstripes. We will soon find out if he was on the mark.
It’s obvious I have major reservations about Chapman. In fact, there’s a real possibility he only ends up slightly better than fellow Cuban, Jose Contreras, if he remains a starting pitcher. Yikes. Nevertheless, you can’t pass on him in limited-pool keeper league drafts because of his projectable body, power repertoire, and enormous ceiling. Further, even if Chapman is moved to the back of the bullpen because he can’t develop a solid third pitch, he will still provide great value in most formats as dominant closer.
Chapman will have initial struggles. He is more of a project prospect than a blue-chipper. You need to have long-term patience and a pro-risk mentality to acquire him. Don’t overpay for Chapman in trades because of the hovering red flags, but scoop him up in keeper league drafts if he’s there for the taking.
Check out the video on Chapman below. Future ace? The Yankees’ dominant closer in 2015? Overrated and overhyped No. 4 starter? Let’s hear your thoughts.
#12 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Mike Stanton (OF, Florida Marlins)
Stanton drips athleticism and raw power. He was a three-sport stud (baseball, basketball and football) at the athlete-factory they call Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California. In fact, Stanton was such an impressive defensive back that USC’s Pete Carroll was going to give him an opportunity to walk-on the football team after he signed a letter of intent to play baseball for the Trojans. Lucky for us homer-hungry owners, Stanton decided he had a better future on the diamond.
In 2008 (as an 18-year old), the big boy tore up Low-A with a .293 BA, 39 HRs, .381 OBP and .611 SLG. In 2009, in just 180 ABs, Stanton continued his domination in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League (High-A) with a .294 BA, 12 HRs, .390 OBP and .578 SLG. Most impressively, Stanton lowered his strikeout rate to 25%, after having a 32.7% rate at Low-A. The Marlins let everyone know Stanton was on the fast-track by quickly promoting him to Double-A in June.
At Double-A, Stanton still hit parking lot bombs, but he was exposed in all other areas. The Marlins’ future right-fielder posted the following stat line: .231 BA, 16 HRs, .311 OBP and .455 SLG. Stanton was clearly in “guess the pitch” mode with a 33.1% K rate, .31 BB/K ratio and 67% contact rate. My guess is this kid will be working on a little thing called pitch recognition next year in the minors.
It doesn’t take a fantasy expert to tell you Stanton is loaded with upside. He has elite power, the ability to spray balls to all fields and a superstar “look” that will have the ladies talking. Nevertheless, he needs more time if he’s going to be anything more than a two-category (HRs/RBIs) producer. Specifically, he needs to improve his recognition and discipline to boost his batting average and on-base ceilings. At this point, I see a .255 hitter in the bigs if his skills remain status quo.
Stanton will not make a significant impact in 2010. The Marlins will be extremely careful not to make the “Maybin-mistake” with this 20-year-old. Of course, he should be firmly stashed in all keeper leagues. C’mon, who doesn’t want the dude with 40-plus HR potential who will hitting behind Hanley for the next decade?
Stanton’s development will be more fun to monitor than action footage from the camera perched above Tiger’s mansion. As always, we will keep you fully informed here at MLBFP.
#11 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Madison Bumgarner (SP, San Francisco Giants)
The wait is over.
I’ve received numerous emails from loyal MLBFP followers who were anxiously awaiting the return of our “Top 25 Fantasy Prospects” feature. No worries, I’m back to feed your fantasy prospect hunger and get you ready for your 2010 drafts.
There must be some marvelous perks associated with joining the Madison Bumgarner Hate Club. Membership in the club skyrocketed at the end of last season and has continued to trend upward in the offseason. Geez, you would think Bumgarner would receive nothing but love after posting a 12-2 record, 1.85 ERA and .211 BAA across High-A and Double-A last year – as a 20 year-old? Nope, the mad hate has still been flowing for Mad-Bum.
Okay, there probably aren’t many perks associated with joining the Mad-Bum Hate Club. So, why has Bumgarner’s prospect stock taken a hit despite his ridiculous success? Three reasons, my fantasy friends:
- Radar gun obsession
- Tunnel vision analysis
- Contrarian viewpoints
Let’s examine all three reasons. As an initial matter, many began to sour on Bumgarner last year because his velocity went south – dipping from the mid-90s to the high-80s/low-90s. Okay, I agree that this velocity drop qualifies as a red flag. Nevertheless, the Giants still brought him up for a big league stint in September, and Bumgarner himself confirmed he felt completely healthy. Umm, didn’t anyone ever hear of a 20-year old kid wearing down after throwing over 280 innings in two years? These lower readings surely don’t mean he’s destined for an injury or that he has forever lost his velocity. Chill.
In addition, many tunnel vision-impaired analysts focused on the drop in K/9 rate from 10.42 at Low-A, to 8.51 at High-A, to 5.80 at Double-A. Sure, we would have liked to see an opposite trend. Again, however, Bumgarner was pitching at advanced levels for his age. In addition, many of these same critics fail to mention the 2.52 BB/9 and .209 BAA at the same level. Finally, let’s also not forget that he had a 9.00 K/9, along with a 1.80 ERA/1.10 WHIP/.229 BAA, in his short major league stint. These indicators aren’t impressive?
Finally, many analysts merely want to be contrarians. Bumgarner is one of those highly touted prospects who some experts wanted to rip last year to go against the (former) mainstream. This nega-hype just picked up steam in the offseason. At MLBFP, we aren’t letting one period of sub-par radar gun readings, or one statistical indicator from one level of the minors (low K/9 at Double-A), tarnish our view of a stud prospect who has done nothing but produce at both the minor and major league levels – as a baby. You will also never see us take a “dare to be different” viewpoint on a player just to draw some attention.
As you can tell, I am enthusiastically aboard the Bumgarner hype train. The 6-4, 215-pound lefty has tremendous command on his fastball whether he’s throwing it 89 mph or 93 mph. Further, he isn’t afraid to work inside to both righties and lefties -- a key to southpaw success. There’s no doubt that Mad-Bum’s secondary stuff is still a work-in-progress. He has a slider with a nasty late break, but he’s been inconsistent with the pitch. That said, when he does finds the proper release point for slider, he ties left-handed hitters up like a Philly pretzel and makes right-handed hitters look statuesque. Bumgarner is also working on a changeup that will make him an elite pitcher once he masters it. Seriously, given his already advanced command, how scary will this dude be once he develops his entire arsenal?
Bumgarner still needs some seasoning in the minors. Let’s hope the Giants give him that time rather than rushing him this season. Bumgarner will become a part of the Giants rotation at some point this year. Nevertheless, you don’t want to be depending on him for fantasy success in redraft leagues because there will be some growing pains as he develops his secondary weapons. Mad-Bum’s true value is in keeper leagues, where you can watch him develop into a fantasy ace.
#10 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Jeremy Hellickson (SP, Tampa Bay Rays)
It sucks being a helluva a pitching prospect in Tampa Bay – the organization is loaded with young guns.
My man Jeremy Hellickson has posted ridiculous numbers over his past two minor league seasons. Check ‘em out:
Sick, right? This 22-year-old righty has nothing left to prove in the minors. Unfortunately, he’s blocked by these dudes James Shields, Matt Garza, David Price, Jeff Niemann, and Wade Davis. Geez, talk about a massive road block.
That said, the Rays are going to find room for Hellickson at some point in 2010. In fact, the Rays have publicly stated that Hellickson will compete with Davis for the last rotation slot. I don’t buy it. Davis has already paid his minor league dues and earned a starting spot through his brief big league stint last year. Nonetheless, Hellickson will find his way into the top five once one of the starters gets injured or booted for ineffectiveness. Book it.
What I love about Hellickson is he isn’t just a strikeout machine (10.99 K/9 at Triple-A last year) – he also possesses pinpoint control and polished command. Hellickson had 1.16 BB/9 and 2.30 BB/9 walks rates in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Further, he’s displayed the ability to keep his three-pitch arsenal (heater-curve-changeup) on the corners and down in the zone even though he’s primarily throwing strikes. Obviously, this is a key for any major league pitcher who’s always around the plate.
Hellickson’s signature pitch in the majors will be his change. It has excellent late movement and nice separation in velocity from his fastball (low 90s v. low 80s/high 70s). Hellickson actually began to rely on his change a little too much last year because it was so effective. Obviously, as he matures, he will learn how to perfectly mix his pitches.
So, outside of the “bodies block” in Tampa, are there any other negatives in Hellickson’s game? Well, some are concerned about his 6-1 (probably 6-0 without cleats with heels), 185-pound size. Notably, everyone is a little less obsessed with size after watching Roy Oswalt and Tim Lincecum perform at the major league level. In addition, because Hellickson has such smooth and consistent mechanics, there’s less of a concern with injury.
It’s possible “Hellboy” (WEAK nickname) is still available in some of your keeper leagues because he hasn’t gotten the recognition he deserves. If so, you should obviously jump on him if you get the chance. In deeper redraft leagues, he’s also targetable because he has the nasty stuff/advanced command combo to make an immediate impact once he reaches the bigs at mid-season. When he hits his stride, Hellickson will be a multi-category ace. Most importantly, his WHIP potential is sweet for such a young fantasy commodity.
Let’s hear your thoughts on Hellickson. How do you rate his ceiling? Do you think the Rays would give him a starting spot over Davis coming out of the spring? Hit us with your views – we love the dialogue.
#9 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Jesus Montero (C, New York Yankees)
Unlike the recently departed Austin Jackson, Jesus Montero is the real-prospect-deal and worthy of our fantasy spotlight. Between High-A and Double-A last year, the 20-year-old catcher posted a sweet line: .337 BA, 17 HRs, .389 OBP, and .562 SLG. Notably, Montero missed the last six weeks of the season with a fractured finger on his left hand. Further, he put up these stats in two pitcher-friendly leagues – the Florida State League (High-A) and Eastern League (Double-A). This is my not-so-implicit way of telling you that these numbers are damn impressive.
I dread spitting overused expressions – but Montero really is a “pure hitter.” Eastern League scouts raved about his ability to get the barrel on the twine – even on difficult pitches. This doesn’t just happen by accident. Montero’s superb pitch recognition, and patience to let the ball travel deep in the zone, are the reasons he can make solid contact more than most kiddies. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he has tremendous bat speed.
I know, what you fantasy dudes want to know about most is his power. You should already be impressed that he hit 17 bombs in those pitcher-friendly leagues, in only 347 ABs. In addition, his .200-plus ISOs (.228 at High-A/.222 at Double-A) should have you foaming at the mouth. According to the scouts who followed him on a daily basis, Montero’s power potential is a tick below 80 on the 20-80 scale. Bottom line – he has the proven skills, potential, and future little league home park to be a dynamic power hitter.
At this point, you may be wondering why I don’t have Montero ranked higher. If you’ve been a loyal MLBFP follower, or read my weekly “New Kids on the Diamond” column on RotoExperts and Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, you know I have a sick addiction to catching prospects with elite hitting skills. Here’s the issue – Mr. Montero will be changing positions. He doesn’t have the agility or arm strength to stay behind the dish. Moreover, the Yanks have another prospect, Austin Romine, targeted as Jorge Posada’s heir apparent. Obviously, Montero’s fantasy value will take a hit once he becomes a first baseman/designated hitter. Nevertheless, because he can rake to all fields and has massive power potential, he’s still TOP TEN fantasy-prospect-material.
Montero will be a big league regular by June 2011. He may even receive a post-All Star Break call this year if injuries strike in the Bronx. He could even be dealt. There were rumors swirling that the Yanks offered Montero straight up for Roy Halladay before the deal with the Phillies was completed. As we know, the villians in pinstripes aren’t afraid to deal any of their prospect chips if they can improve the current state of their squad.
Montero will be an excellent fantasy contributor in the batting average, RBI, and home run categories. Here’s my advice – go make an offer for the 6-4, 225 pounder in your keeper leagues. Make sure to emphasize to the other owner how much value Montero will lose once he changes positions. Hey, it’s true. Nonetheless, if you can get your paws on him for a decent price, you will have a future upper echelon hitter on your roster – even if he’s not a catcher.
#8 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Pedro Alvarez (3B, Pittsburgh Pirates)
What do Tiger Woods and Pedro Alvarez have in common?
Okay, you’re right if you said they both can hit jaw-dropping bombs. But what I am referring to is the fact they have both spent time at institutions this offseason making “lifestyle” changes.
Specifically, as you’ve probably heard, Tiger is reportedly at a rehab clinic in Mississippi dealing with his sex addiction issues. Alvarez, on the other hand, spent six weeks at the Athletes’ Performance Institute in Arizona improving his game through better conditioning and dietary habits.
Unless you play fantasy golf, Tiger’s “struggles” are irrelevant to you prospect hounds. However, Alvarez’s remodeled nature is significant fantasy news. Why? The Pirates’ front office has openly stated that Alvarez’s weight will dictate whether he stays at third base because it’s directly correlated to his agility. Obviously, due to position scarcity, he’s much more valuable at the hot corner.
Alvarez can rake and launch balls to all fields. The left-handed slugger compiled the following stats last year in his first professional season (High-A and Double-A): .288 BA/.378 OBP/.535 SLG. Alvarez struggled at the outset, hitting only .219 in April, but finished the year strong with.350-plus batting averages in the final two months. Yeah, second-half numbers for the minor leaguers are important as well.
“El Toro” (“the bull”) also displayed his power with 27 total home runs and ISOs north of .230, at both levels. He certainly proved his 49 career homers at Vanderbilt were no fluke. There’s really nothing this 22-year old can’t do with the bat. The only somewhat concerning indicators were his splits versus righties and lefties (.303 BA/.620 SLG v. righties and .267 BA/.394 SLG v. lefties). However, even this weakness improved as the season progressed.
Everyone wants to know which prospects on this Top 25 list are going to make an impact in 2010. Well, you’re looking at one. Alvarez only has Andy LaRoche blocking him at third. Please, LaRoche has “Mr. Utility” written all over him. Alvarez will be in the majors by mid-June and will make an immediate impact upon his arrival. His Average Draft Position in mixed leagues currently sits in the 330s and he’s coming off the board after guys like Mike Lowell and Jake Fox. Do I even need to tell you he’s vastly underrated in redraft leagues?
Alvarez’s ultimate value in keeper/dynasty leagues all depends on whether he stays focused on his conditioning, and planted at third base. He has reportedly already trimmed 10 pounds off his 235-pound playing weight from last year. Now let’s see if he can shed some additional poundage and keep the weight off during road trips where temptations will surround him. Alvarez’s weight and defense is a story we will continue to update you on here at MLBFP. As far as Tiger’s progress and ability to resist temptations, well, we will have to branch out to other correspondents for updates on that story.
#7 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Neftali Feliz (SP, Texas Rangers)
Electric and effortless.
Those are the best words to describe Neftali Feliz’s signature pitch – his fastball. As we saw last year when he was in the bigs, Feliz can kick the pitch up to the upper-90s – with ease – because of his smooth mechanics. Further, the heater isn’t your typical straight four-seamer. It has impressive movement. You gotta love any prospect with an anchor-offering like this in his arsenal.
Raise your hand (in the comments section below) if you’re a keeper league owner who gave up on Feliz last year because he was shaky as a starter and/or because he was transitioned to relief. C’mon, I know there are some of you out there – you told me about your trades and your concerns regarding the young gun.
Feliz had major command issues in the first two months of the season at Triple-A (8.40 BB/9 in April; 3.91 BB/9 in May). Notably, Feliz worked out his command problems as the season progressed. Nevertheless, he was eventually transitioned to relief, with hopes he could help the Rangers down the stretch. That experiment worked, as Feliz was dominant as a reliever (16.2 IP/2.16 ERA/20 Ks/3 BBs/.167 BAA), and eventually promoted to the majors to take a spot at the back of the bullpen.
Feliz opened fantasy eyes with his big league stint, logging 31 IP. Shoot, every time he pitched my Twitter page (@Bill_Root)would explode with comments about Feliz’s dominating performances. Feliz finished the season with the following MLB line: 1.74 ERA/39 Ks/8 BBs/.124 BAA. Not bad for a 20-year old, hey?
My only issue with the way Texas handled Feliz in 2009 was that the Rangers stunted the growth of his secondary pitches. For his long-term future, it would have been better for Feliz (and his owners) if he was permitted to stay in the minors, as a starter, to further develop consistency and location with his curve and change. In the end, these pitches are going to dictate how successful he is as a major league pitcher. Of course, as I said last year when discussing this issue, I guess a couple months in close contact with Rangers President Nolan Ryan didn’t hurt him.
The early word is that Feliz will be given a shot to win a rotation spot in the spring. Yeah, you would think this news would excite a prospect nut like me – it doesn’t. I would prefer to see Feliz in the minors, in the first half, refining his secondary stuff and consistency. He could also use more time to fine-tune his control and command in the zone. The flame-thrower currently has a better Average Draft Position than veteran pitchers like Scott Kazmir and Gavin Floyd. ABSURD! I won’t be a Feliz owner in redraft leagues because I won’t pay that hefty of a price. Follow my lead.
All that said, I urge you to roster Feliz in dynasty and keeper leagues. In fact, Feliz is only in my Top 10 because his ceiling is so ridiculously high. By 2012, I am extremely confident he will be blowing hitters away with his Felizicious fastball, fooling them with his deceptive curve, and inducing grounders with his sinking change. Even if you can’t swing a deal for him now in your long-term leagues, keep an eye on him as the spring and season progresses. You may find an owner much more willing to deal him if he doesn’t win a rotation spot, or is sent to the minors.
Let’s hear your thoughts on Prince Feliz. Do you believe he will make a more significant impact in 2010 than I project? Do you agree with my long-term assessment?
#6 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Justin Smoak (1B, Texas Rangers)
I still can’t believe that Justin Smoak and Matt Wieters were in the same high school lineup. Seriously, you know there’s a former high school pitcher out there who is still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the damage the Smoak/Wieters duo laid on him. Reach out to us at MLBFP if you’re that pitcher, we would love to relive some of your experiences against them – as a form of “therapy,” of course.
Justin Smoak was No. 11 on my Top 200 Fantasy Prospects preseason list in 2009. I predicted he would be a fantasy stud within four years. Despite some of his struggles last year, I am firmly sticking to my original prediction.
Smoak posted the following stats across three levels of the minor leagues in 2009 (Rookie, Double-A, and Triple-A): .290 BA/12 HRs/.410 OBP/.443 SLG. The 6-4, 220-pound first baseman displayed his tremendous plate patience throughout the season – with a 14.0-plus% walk rate at every level. Notably, Smoak was stellar at Double-A (.328 BA/.930 OPS), but struggled at Triple-A (.244 BA/.723 OPS).
Just like Madison Bumgarner, Smoak had his fair share of critics this offseason. Smoak didn’t produce the type of power numbers many expected last year in the minors. Specifically, along with only smacking 12 HRs, and having a mere .443 SLG, Smoak’s ISOs sat at .153 at Double-A and a measly .117 at Triple-A. In addition, despite the fact he’s a switch-hitter, Smoak struggled against lefties, hitting only .214, with 3 HRs, and a .626 OPS. The concerns regarding Smoak’s Triple-A numbers, power, and ability to hit southpaws are certainly valid based on his production from last year.
Am I worried about his long-term fantasy future? Nope. As far as his performance at Triple-A, let’s give him a break, it was a 197 AB sample size. Smoak made it quite clear this offseason that he can still rake by winning the MVP award at the 2009 Baseball World Cup, hitting .291 with nine bombs. I am confident he will carry that momentum into the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League (Triple-A) in 2010.
His power? C’mon, this guy hit a record 62 home runs at the University of South Carolina. The pop will come at advanced levels as he refines his swing. Most importantly, Smoak needs to keep his hands back just a tad longer as he releases his massive swing. This slight adjustment will produce more of those fanta-sexy bombs we all cherish. Smoak might not hit 40-plus HRs per year on a regular basis, but 30-35 HRs per season is almost a certainty once he reaches his prime.
Finally, let’s not overreact to the stats against lefties. Smoak hit .337 against lefties at South Carolina and .317 against lefties in his first season of pro ball (2008). You can’t judge a fantasy prospect book by one season’s worth of numbers. Further, patience is one of the greatest fantasy virtues. Do I need to spit anymore tireless clichés to get my point across?
Smoak will receive a big league promotion after the All-Star break. Do you really believe Vladimir Guerrero will stay healthy all season AND Chris Davis will produce for a full season. A spot will open in the Rangers’ lineup and Smoak will grab it. Take a late risk on him in deeper redraft leagues or follow him closely on the waiver wire. In keeper leagues, he should already be long gone in existing leagues, and will be expensive in new leagues. That said, he’s worth the jacked-up price whether you have to acquire him via trade or through the draft.
#5 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Desmond Jennings (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)
Well, it’s been a long road with our comprehensive scouting reports on the Top 25 Fantasy Prospects, but we’ve finally reached the cream of the crop – the Top Five Bad Boys.
Desmond Jennings was undervalued last year in the prospect world because his 2007 and 2008 seasons were cut short because of shoulder and knee injuries. The 6-2, 180-pound outfielder kick-started the hype machine again in 2009 with a stellar season of production. In Double-A and Triple-A combined, Jennings posted the following digits: .318 BA/11 HRs/52 SBs/.401 OBP/.487 SLG. If those stats don’t have you wishing he was on your keeper league squads, it might be time for you to focus all your attention on Fantasy NASCAR.
The most impressive aspect of Jennings’ development has been his improved plate discipline – at every level. Check out these BB/K rates throughout his minor league career – they tell a promising fantasy story:
Why is this trend so important for a dude like Jennings? Because he’s a speed demon. The more he gets on base, whether it’s via the stick or the walk, the more bases he can swipe. Of course, as we all know, SB weapons are a tough commodity to find in the fantasy world.
|Season (Level)||KK/BB Rate|
Notably, Jennings won’t be one of those one-dimensional speedsters that will drag down batting average and power numbers on your roto-squads. He’s a career .302 BA/.451 SLG hitter in the minors. Significantly, his ISOs jumped up to .170 (Double-A) and .167 (Triple-A) in 2009, after hovering around .150 at Low-A/High-A. The power is joining the speed/batting average party as this kid progresses.
You know, in scouting circles we always hear about “five-tool players.” Honestly, that term isn’t very relevant for fantasy prospect analysis. Sure, we will spit it out here occasionally at MLBFP, so you get your taste of “scouting jargon.” But, in the end, what you really care about is how much a prospect will help your squads in specific categories. Somehow I am sure I will start reading about this concept at another fantasy sports website soon – damn copycats.
Jennings is clearly on the road to becoming a six-category fantasy performer. Specifically, he will be a plus-player in terms of BA, RBIs, Rs, HRs, SBs, and OBP. Yes, I can already hear you doubters “whispering” in my ear, I can guarantee you Jennings develops 15-20 HR per year power based on his projectable frame, increased doubles last year (31), and upward-trending ISOs.
“DJ” will be the consistent fantasy producer B.J. (Upton) never became and won’t become. Jennings will find a spot in the Rays outfield by June 2010 – pushing Ben Zobrist to full-time action at second base. Stash him in AL-only leagues if you can scoop up him at a decent price. He has the advanced pitch recognition skills and speed ability to make an instant impact. In keeper and dynasty leagues? C’mon, do I really have to tell you that six-category performers are long-term fantasy assets?
#4 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Buster Posey (C, San Francisco Giants)
You know an organization believes a prospect is special when they allow him to skip Double-A ball – that’s Buster Posey.
Many Posey owners wanted to go all “Buster” (Douglas) on Giants’ GM Brian Sabean when they heard the club re-signed Bengie Molina for 2010. Fair enough. Posey’s owners wanted to see him in the starting lineup after watching him hit .325, with 18 HRs, and a .947 OPS in the minors last year. Speaking of Sabean, Tim Alderson for Freddy Sanchez last year? Really, dude?
The 6-1, 205-pound backstop is a sensational line drive machine with solid pitch recognition skills. He hit .320-plus at both High-A and Triple-A last year. Further, he displayed his advanced approach with a 1.00 BB/K rate at High-A and a .74 rate Triple-A. Seriously, because of his excellent bat speed and brainiac hitting style, there’s no question Posey is going to hit for a high average in the majors. Book it.
In addition, in my best Herman Edwards voice, Posey “plays to win the game.” The dude is as competitive as they come and always working on his hitting skills. Thus, you know he’s going to reach his ceiling. Not every prospect even comes close to their peak. Calling all former Matt Bush owners.
I do have serious doubts about Posey’s long-term power potential. Sure, he had 18 homers and 50 extra base hits last year in the minors. However, due to his compact/level swing and physical frame, I don’t see a guy who will ever hit 25-plus home runs per year in the majors. In fact, in most years, he will fall in the 15-20 range. Plus, playing his home games at AT&T Park in San Francisco won’t help the dinger cause. Hey, a .310-plus BA/15-20 HR fantasy catcher ain’t too bad, right?
There’s been some speculation about Posey playing other positions in 2010 with Molina in the fold. I don’t buy it. Okay, he could see some time at first base. Nevertheless, don’t go drafting him in redraft leagues and expect second base eligibility—that would be foolish.
Obviously, Posey is top-notch grab in all keeper leagues. As far as 2010, it would be shocking to see Posey in the majors in the first half given Molina’s presence and the fact he’s only had 115 ABs above High-A. The Giants surely don’t want to stunt his growth by sitting him on the pine at the major league level. Posey needs daily ABs and he will receive them at Triple-A. Now, the second half is a different story, that is when he could make his impact – especially if Molina is dealt.
#3 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Carlos Santana (C, Cleveland Indians)
I had the opportunity to interview Lou Marson last year. Good guy, gritty pro, clubhouse asset. Nevertheless, don’t expect him to keep the starting catching gig in Cleveland for long – the multi-talented Carlos Santana is lurking around the corner.
My colleague, Ben Carsley, recently spouted in his MLBFP Divisional Series that the Dodgers trade of Santana for Casey Blake will go down in the books as one of those epically lopsided trades that we all remember. I couldn’t agree more, my fantasy brother.
Santana put himself on the fantasy map with a breakout 2008 minor league season: .326 BA, 21 HRs, 10 SBs, .431 OBP, and a .568 SLG. The hitting barrage didn’t stop last year. Turn the page to 2009. In 428 Double-A ABs, the 5-11, 190-pound backstop hit .290, with 23 HRs, a .413 OBP, and .530 SLG. Impressed?
Oh, let me guess, some of you don’t trust the mere superficial statistics I’ve listed above. How does a 16.8-percent BB rate, 1.08 BB/K ratio, .241 ISO, and 80-percent contact rate grab you? Those are Santana’s advanced stats from last year. A fantasy catcher with this combination of power, batting average, and on-base percentage skills? Yeah, those surely are tears of joy running down my face – don’t judge me.
Listen, Santana gets his fair share of prospect love. C’mon though, we all know Jesus Montero and Buster Posey receive more simply because Santana is rising up the ranks in Cleveland, as opposed to New York or San Francisco. From a fantasy perspective, Santana will outshine both in the long-term. He has better all-around fantasy skills and he’s certainly not switching positions like Montero.
On my recent Blog Talk Radio show, guest John Zaleski from Fantasy Factor asked me which player I would recommend scooping up with the last pick in fantasy drafts. Easy question – Mr. Santana. Santana is 5th on my 2010 Impact Rookie List on RotoExperts.com and SI.com. Significantly, the kid’s ADP currently sits at 328.56 and he’s going off the board as 27th catcher. That’s value upside screaming at you. Please, don’t hide your ears.
In a nutshell, I am begging you through every available medium to stash Santana in semi-deepish redraft leagues and to use all means necessary to roster him in all keeper formats. Santana will make his big debut within the first couple months of the 2010 season and backup all the praise spewing from my hype-machine.
#2 MLB Fantasy Prospect: Jason Heyward (OF, Atlanta Braves)
I’ve been agonizing over whether to place Jason Heyward or Stephen Strasburg at the top of my prospect list. Really, over the past month, I’ve dedicated more time analyzing this question than I’ve spent on any other pressing issue in my life. Hi, my name is Bill Root, and I am a prospectoholic.
As you can see, unlike most other lists, Heyward is a bridesmaid on my Top Fantasy Prospects list. Nevertheless, spare me the angry emails and comments – I strongly agree that Heyward morphs into a fantasy stud over the next few years. Nevertheless, as I will explain in my Strasburg scouting report, the “S.S. Express” is more deserving of being the ultimate cream of my fantasy crop. Bluntly, as I tweeted on my Twitter account, I am not sure when there’s been a better two-some at the top of prospect lists over the past decade. Heyward and Strasburg will both be fantasy cornerstones.
I am going to keep this scouting report short and sweet because there’s been so much written about Heyward. At 6-4, 220-pounds, he’s a massive left-handed slugger. To be honest, after seeing him in his first spring training action today, he looks bigger than those measurements. Heyward destroyed minor league pitching last year despite being only 19-years-old for a majority of the season. Specifically, across three levels, Heyward hit .323, with 17 HRs, 10 SBs, and a .963 OPS.
As I stated in my Impact Rookies article, “the 20-year-old left-handed slugger will hit .280-plus upon arrival because of his superior strike zone judgment (1.47 BB/K rate at Double-A), picture-perfect swing (22.8-percent line drive rate at Double-A), and ability to hit southpaws (.357 v. lefties in career).” Notably, however, don’t expect the dingers to come in waves at the outset. The raw power is there, but he’s still developing a consistent HR stroke. In addition, because J-Hey displayed at least some struggles with off-speed stuff in the past, the fastball won’t be the pitch of choice against Heyward. Heyward will have to display patience and adjust to change-ups/breaking balls in every count situation. At that point, he will start seeing the HR-friendly heaters.
Heyward is competing for a starting job in the Braves’ outfield. Because the Braves’ didn’t grab Johnny Damon or another outfielder off the free agent wire, there’s a good chance he’s in the starting lineup on Opening Day – if he has even an average spring. That said, Heyward’s ADP is currently 295 in mixed leagues. That price is a little high, but at least in the reasonable range. Of course, based on the over-publicized news that he’s crushing cars like Grave Digger in batting practice, he just keeps shooting up draft boards.
The hype is getting a little out of control. In fact, in some leagues, I’ve seen him drafted ahead of a guy like Vernon Wells. Take a pass on Heyward in redraft leagues if you have to pay an unreasonable price – which is getting close to inevitable.
#1 MLB Fantasy Prospect - Stephen Strasburg (SP, Washington Nationals) - Scouting Report
Yep, despite the Heyward hype, the Nationals’ treasure posts up on the top spot.
Listen, I am not going to bore you with some detailed scouting report on Stephen Strasburg. You know the dude is one of the sickest arms to come along in years. As I recently stated in my “Impact Rookies” piece at RotoExperts.com and SI.com, you will receive a Tommy Hanson-like performance from Strasburg in the second half of 2010. In keeper leagues, he will develop into a Top Five starting pitcher once he masters the changeup he barely had to use in college.
Strasburg’s numbers in his final season at San Diego State University were ridiculous: 109 IP, 1.32 ERA, 195 Ks, 19 BBs, and a .172 BAA. Shoot, even his head coach in college – some guy named Tony Gwynn – was reluctant to step in against Strasburg in batting practice. The “S.S. Express” dominates with a mid-to-upper 90s fastball, power curve, and plus-change. Strasburg’s arsenal will only get better as he learns game management and hitters’ tendencies. Freakin scary.
The 6-4, 220-pound righty will start the season at Double-A Harrisburg. However, he will be promoted to the majors in early June. The Nationals’ season ticket holders will revolt if he isn’t promoted at that point after watching Livan Hernandez and Craig Stammen lob beach balls for two months. He will have some minor growing pains in his first few starts as he adjusts to life in the majors, but expect big things in the second half in redraft leagues.
You keeper league owners who tanked at some point last season to grab Strasburg are unethical, yet savvy. I hate you all.