When you are playing against owners who know and follow baseball, drafting based on previous performance, while key, may not be enough to win your league. Fielding a strong team in this environment dictates you manage to pick up major impact prospects in the later rounds of your draft or in the days after they have left Durham.
Two years ago, managing the waiver wire to ensure you grabbed Ryan Braun netted you tasty results. Last year, grabbing players like Edison Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Jacoby Ellsbury, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Evan Longoria, and Geovany Soto helped you to fantasy gold.
Of course, there was also Andy LaRoche, Homer Bailey, Cameron Maybin, Clay Buccholz, and Daric Barton. So, you have to be careful about what you use (draft pick or if you drop a player from your team) to grab your blue chipper.
This year, the headliners are David Price and Matt Wieters. You know them; they are on rosters and should be drafted in the first 20 rounds based on upside. However, you are taking a bigger gamble on these guys than those detailed below. Personally, I wouldn’t use a top 15 round draft pick on an inexperienced player likely to spend significant time in the minors. When I analyze prospects, all I care about is maximizing production from the later rounds of my draft and the waiver wire. That said, lets get to part I.
Tommy Hanson – SP – Atlanta Braves – Hanson struck out 114 hitters in 98 AA innings last year – wow. It is not hard to imagine similar strike out potential to Johnny Cueto, but Hanson could easily outshine him in the more pitcher-friendly confines of Turner Field. It is possible that the Braves, in sending him to the minors, are trying to delay his arbitration clock. This means he should get close to four months of MLB time, which should put him on your waiver wire radar by the middle of May at the latest.
Brett Wallace – 3b – St. Louis Cardinals – Wallace only has 54 minor league games (41 in A ball) to his credit. Still, he had a .427 OBP and .530 slugging percentage. In his small sample size of 49 AA at bats, Wallace managed a .367 AVG, .456 OBP, and .653 SLG. Though he bats left-handed, he seems to handle lefties and righties equally well. If Glaus’ injury persists into the summer, the Cardinals could see added pressure to bring Wallace up to the big leagues.
Mat Gamel – 3b – Milwaukee Brewers – Gamel killed the ball in AA last year, posting a 96/19/96/.329 line in 127 games. When promoted to AAA, he seemed to struggle (though he only had 21 ABs). Still, his bat isn’t what is keeping him in the minors. As soon as he gains some consistency with his glove, he should be a contributing Brewer regular. Sounds eerily similar to Ryan Braun’s story, eh? Plus, do you think Bill Hall can keep him down?
Jordan Zimmerman – SP – Washington Nationals – Zimmerman is, perhaps, the prospect most on the rise in fantasy circles. In 106 AA innings, he struck out 103 batters, while posting a 3.21 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. It looks like he’ll break camp with the Nationals, meaning he could be a sneaky source of Ks at the outset. However, you can’t expect him to post ratios similar to those of his minor league stats, as the show is a bit different than AA ball.
Dexter Fowler – OF – Colorado Rockies – in 108 games in AA last year, Fowler hit .335 with 92 runs, 9 HRs, 64 RBIs and 20 SBs. That amounts to a .431 OBP, a .515 SLG, and an OPS of .946. If he can crack the starting nine, Fowler could provide a sneaky combination of power and speed – did I mention he plays in Coors?
Neftali Feliz – SP Texas Rangers – In addition to Jared Saltalamacchia, Feliz was a key piece of bounty in the Mark Teixeira deal two summers ago. He has only pitched 45 innings in AA, but boy were those an impressive 45 innings. He struck out 47 batters, while posting a 2.98 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. Still, expectations must be tempered based on his age (21), and home ballpark.