Regardless of your league’s format, knowing the hot up-and-coming prospects is super important to fantasy success. In keeper leagues, these players, often taken in the later rounds, typically form the foundation of fantasy dynasties. In single season leagues, smartly grabbing young players in the draft or shortly after their call-up is essential to success. Anyway you look at it, it pays to know something about these general unknowns while they are still unknown. If you wait too long, you’ll be watching as they contribute meaningfully to your buddy’s team as he wins the league.
So, I introduce you to my newest recurring articles, The David Wooderson All-Stars. The purpose here is to talk further in-depth about certain prospects and young stars currently being bandied about. As always, if there’s a budding player out there that you’re curious about, leave a comment and I’ll take a look at him and perhaps discuss him in a future edition.
The David Wooderson All-Stars, because “that’s what I love about these [prospects], man. I get older, they stay the same age.”
As this is the first article in this series, I have no problems talking about a prospect who seems to be on everyone’s hot list: Jason Heyward. To put it modestly, he is going to be awesome. While Heyward won’t be able to drink legally until August, he’s already had 876 minor league ABs. Over those ABs, he has posted a .318 AVE, .391 OBP, and a .508 SLG. Every scout agrees that he has plus power potential and runs well – that delicious combination of power and speed. At least one scout compares him to Willie McCovey – not bad for a guy who should be skipping Victorian Poets & Essayists at this point in his life. Still, it’s unclear what kind of playing time he will receive this year. The Braves delayed calling up pitching prospects Tommy Hanson and Kris Medlen last year (likely for arbitration purposes) and could do the same with Heyward. It is very possible that we won’t see Heyward in the majors until the summer. This, clearly, makes him far less valuable (almost undraftable depending on league size) in non-keeper leagues. In keeper leagues, however, you should be thinking of him as an impact player for 2011 and draft accordingly. I wouldn’t expect Heyward to be a major contributor to anyone’s 2010 team until later in the season.
Determining who the best prospect entering the season is never a slam dunk. Look at 2009, when Matt Wieters and David Price contended for that honor before Opening Day. This year is no different; the debate over whether Heyward or Stephen Strasburg is the number one prospect is completely unsettled. Strasburg is, oddly, older than Heyward. Still he wont be 22 until July, so he clearly fits the “don’t stand so close to me” theme. While he doesn’t have much minor league experience to drawn upon, Strasburg did strike out 195 batters in 108 IPs in college, due largely to a plus, plus fastball which hits triple digits consistently, and great command. Still, it is unclear when Strasburg will pitch his first big league game and how effective he will be. Like Heyward, Strasburg is a better long-term play than a short term one. One other thing to keep in mind is that Strasburg is a pitcher, and therefore more susceptible to injury than a position player, like Jason Heyward would be.
While the Indians traded for Lou Marson, he is really only keeping the seat warm for Carlos Santana. Santana, who will be 24 in April, projects as a middle-of-the-order, switch-hitting masher (sound familiar?). He has a spectacular eye and good power, meaning there isn’t much holding him back from contributing on the major league stage. In 2009, in the minors, Santana hit 23 HRs, batted .290 and posted a .413 OBP. With catcher being such a weak position, it’s not a bad idea to lock up this young guy.
Speaking of young catching phenoms, Buster Posey appears to be spending the start of the season in the minors. Posey does not appear to have the power upside of a Carlos Santana, projecting to hit only 15 – 20 HRs. Given his ability to make good contact, however, he should stroke plenty of extra base hits. In 459 minor league ABs, Posey has hit 19 HRs, batted .327, posted a .427 OBP and a .538 SLG. The soon-to-be 23-year-old clearly profiles as someone who can help your ratios and counting stats. At the moment, I’d pick him before Santana. Those in non-keepers leagues can largely ignore Posey on draft day, though you should keep an eye out for his potential call-up.
Let’s talk about someone who should help your team all year long: Neftali Feliz. In 2009, he posted a sterling line: 1.74 ERA, 0.68 WHIP and an 11.3 K/9 rate. The only problem? He only pitched 31 major league innings. With such an incredibly small sample size, it’s impossible to completely rely on these numbers. Luckily, we also have his minor league track record to look at (276 IPs, 3.03 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 10.6 K/9). While these numbers indicate serious potential, there is a chance Feliz ends up a reliever, ala Jonathan Papelbon. Still, even as a reliever he can impact your ratios and provide useful amounts of Ks on a weekly basis. In addition, the Rangers; closing situation is far from clear – it wouldn’t shock anyone if Nefilz holds down the back of the bull pen and picks up oodles of saves. I’d be drafting him with confidence over Strasburg in most keeper leagues.
Scott Sizemore is being handed the keys to the Tiger’s second base position with Placido Polanco moving on. Sizemore, who is 25, profiles to hit for a decent average with a little pop and speed. In 1,455 minor league ABs, he put up a rather healthy line: .296 AVE, .383 OBP and a .441 SLG. Last year, in the minors, Sizemore hit 17 HRs and stole 21 bases. If he maintains his production in the majors, he could be a serviceable second baseman who will be available late in drafts. Given how old the position is getting (Utley (31), Roberts (32), Phillips (28)), it wouldn’t hurt to have a young second basemen around.