Recently I gave a heads up on six prospects who could end up playing a pivotal role in fantasy baseball this year.
This column details a second round of prospects (in case you missed it, the first round is here). Finding value in young (somewhat) unknowns is particularly important when you are playing against owners who know and follow baseball. In leagues like this, drafting based on previous performance, while key, may not be enough to ensure victory. Fielding a strong team in this environment requires that you 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, and Geovany Soto helped you to fantasy gold.
Of course, not every prospect yields immediate results. Hello there Andy LaRoche, Homer Bailey, Cameron Maybin, Clay Buccholz, and Daric Barton. You have to be careful, therefore, in what you use (whether a draft pick or a dropped player off your roster) to grab your blue chipper.
This year, the prospect headliners are David Price and Matt Wieters. You know them; they are on rosters and should be drafted in the first 20 rounds based strictly on upside. However, you are taking a bigger gamble on these two 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 move on to part II.
Fernando Martinez – OF – New York Mets – Like any hot shot minor leaguer in a New York system, people have known about Martinez for what seems like forever. That said, he is still only 20. In 352 at bats last year in AA, Martinez hit .287 with a .340 OBP and .432 SLG percentage. Given the shaky outfield situation in Flushing this year, it is possible he could see significant at bats with the big boys sooner rather than later. If so, he could provide a sneaky source of stats later in the year. Don’t be too concerned about Sheffield (old age + big ball-park + no DH doesn’t equal fantasy prowess).
Lars Anderson – 1B – Boston Red Sox – In 932 minor league at bats (133 in AA), Anderson has hit .304, with a .404 OBP and .480 SLG percentage. It is clear this kid can hit, and given the situation in Boston it might be for the big league club sooner than most expect. Specifically, David Ortiz was injured for most of last year, and he has been regressing for three years now. Mike Lowell, like Ortiz, has had his share of injuries lately. Given Kevin Youkilis’ ability to move across the diamond, any injury to either Lowell or Ortiz will likely lead to Anderson getting a call up. If he gets the call, Anderson should be able to help with either batting average or OBP, and provide a decent source of RBIs.
Trevor Cahill – SP – Oakland Athletics – In 2008, at age 20 (at high A and AA), Cahill struck out 136 batters in 124 innings. He paired that awesomeness with a mid-2.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. In his 37 innings at AA, Cahill managed 33 Ks, a 2.19 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. Apparently that was enough for Billy Beane; Cahill is slated to start the second game of the season for the A’s. There could be some growing pains given that he is barely 21, but keep your eyes on his performance out west.
Brett Anderson – SP – Oakland Athletics – Much like rotation-mate Cahill, Anderson will break camp as a major league starting pitcher. Also 21, Anderson struck out 243 batters in a combined 225.1 innings at A and AA from 2007 to 2008. Last year in 31 innings at AA, Anderson struck out 38 batters, while posting a 2.61 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. The young talent abounds in the A’s rotation. Cahill is probably the better long-term bet, but don’t sleep on this southpaw in 2009.
Matt LaPorta – 1b – Cleveland Indians – LaPorta was the centerpiece of the deal that moved C.C. Sabathia to Milwaukee for the late summer months last year. At 23, LaPorta looks ancient compared to Anderson and Cahill. His production, however, indicate that his best days are before him. Last year at AA, in 302 at bats, LaPorta hit 20 homeruns, while posting a .288 BA, .402 OBP and a .576 SLG percentage. Simply put, those numbers are awesome. Unfortunately, there is some serious traffic for LaPorta to navigate if he wants to make it to the majors. Specifically, Victor Martinez, Ryan Garko and Travis Hafner all have legitimate claims to the first base and DH positions. Those players haven’t been all that healthy or good lately, so LaPorta may get his chance just yet. He should be on your radar now.
Colby Rasmus – OF – St. Louis Cardinals – Rasmus seems like old news in fantasy circles; however, he is still two years younger than LaPorta. His minor league record includes 1,533 at bats, 64 HRs, 74 stolen bases, a .275 average, a .366 OBP and a .485 SLG percentage. While he only hit .251 in 331 AAA at bats last year, he did manage 11 home runs and 15 stolen bases. The Cardinals outfield is crowded, but at some point Rasmus will force his way onto the big league roster. He is a legitimate 10 HR/20 SB candidate the minute he gets regular playing time. Does his story remind anyone of Carlos Quentin?