h2h Corner ~ The David Wooderson All-Stars (III)

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. Any way 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 article, The David Wooderson All-Stars. This space will go further in-depth about the prospects and young stars who are 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 even 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.” Part I is available here, part II, here.

Long-term Plays

Justin Smoak has demonstrated Greek God of Walks plate discipline in the minors: 80 walks, 91 Ks, and a .403 OBP in 533 plate appearances. While he hasn’t hit for herculean power yet (just a .452 SLG and 15 HRs in 442 ABs), his ability to get on base more than makes up for this deficiency. Of Texas’ previous minor league standouts, Smoak is most often compared to Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez. Like Teixeira, scouts see Smoak as a slick fielding, switch-hitting first baseman. Like AGON, scouts expect Smoak’s homerun totals to look more like Gonzalez’s numbers. Smoak, who is only 23, will battle for playing time this year, though he could see some at bats if Chris Davis (continues to) struggles. As a somewhat long-term play, it could be smart to lock Smoak up on draft day in case you aren’t first to the waiver wire when he gets called up.

Coming out of North Carolina, Dustin Ackley was one of the best pure hitters in the 2009 draft. He has good bat control and plus speed. The best thing about Ackley is his running ability: he profiles as a plus runner at the major league level. While Ackley was going to be an above average centerfield for the Mariners, his major league timetable became quite uncertain given Franklin Gutierrez’s recent four-year contract extension. The Mariners, needing his bat in the majors, are testing his glove at second base. Imagine Ackley’s bat at second for a second. Yeah, you’re salivating. He is a great sleeper middle-infielder.

Short-term Plays

We have another Mariner outfield who fits the jailbait mode: Michael Saunders. How would you like this line over 64 games: 13 HRs, a .310 AVE and .382 OBP? That is what Saunders did in the minors last year before he was promoted. Sure he didn’t perform in Seattle (.221 AVE, .258 OBP), but he was only given 129 plate appearances. At just 23 years old, Saunders will certainly have more chances to prove himself. With increased opportunity will likely come better ratios, which will bring runs, HRs, RBIs and SBs (he stole 71 bags in 438 minor league games). According to most scouts, Saunders profiles to develop 20–25 HR power if he can improve his plate discipline (just six walks and 40 Ks in 122 ABs in the majors). While he won’t hit for a high average, he likely won’t kill you either, sitting at about .270–.280. He is an under the radar keeper threat to be a 20-20 player for years to come.

Next up, we’ve got Michael Brantley. Though Brantley only appeared in 28 MLB games, he managed to bat .313, post a .358 OBP and steal four bases in that limited sample. Extrapolation from these numbers would be improper; luckily, we have more than 1,849 minor league ABs to analyze. Over these at bats, Brantley hit .300, posted a .387 OBP and stole 149 bases. He won’t provide much pop, but Brantley, who won’t be 23 until May, profiles to steal a lot of bases, perhaps as soon as this year. There are definite benefits to having a cheap speedster on your team (at the very least it means you won’t have to reach for one category performers like Michael Bourn). You might have to be careful with Brantley due to the Russell Branyan signing. The signing likely pushes LaPorta to the outfield and Brantley off the starting squad.

As I mentioned above, if you want other prospects analyzed, please let me know. Also, feel free to share your insights below or at my Twitter (@h2h_corner)/Facebook pages.

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