I love fantasy prospects. I live fantasy prospects. That said, assure me you won't be that owner that wastes four to six draft picks on "promising" rookies -- just because you're addicted to chasing upside. You're better than that.
History has shown that rookies typically go through severe growing pains before they become dependable contributors. In most redraft leagues, you don't have the roster space to hoard a host of youngsters while they learn the big league ropes. You need to be careful with the amount of draft picks you expend on newbies.
I am here to steer you through the dangerous rookie waters. The players below all qualify as rookies and are listed in order of who will make the greatest fantasy impact in 2010.
I am sure that many of you were expecting another name to appear at the top of this list. The
For all you contrarians out there, I am telling you, this dude is the real deal. Seriously, just check out these numbers from his final season at San Diego State University: 109 IP, 1.32 ERA, 195 K, 19 BB, and a .172 BAA. Are you kidding me? Strasburg has a mid-to-upper-90s fastball, power curve, and plus-changeup. The 21-year-old righty won't start the season in the Nationals' rotation. However, the Strasburg Express should roll into the Nation's Capital by the end of June. If you pay the price for Strasburg in redraft leagues, you will receive close to a
Don't sleep on Mr. Davis. He has the arsenal and experience to pay immediate dividends. In his six-year minor league career, Davis had a 3.28 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, and 1.255 WHIP. Further, while many of you missed it because you were focused on your fantasy football squads, Davis pitched well last September in six starts: 36.1 IP, 3.72 ERA, 36 K, 13 BB, and a .243 BAA. The 6-5, 220-pound righty is the favorite to win the final spot in the Rays' rotation over
Were you starting to worry that I was going to leave hitters off this list? Of course, there's a valid reason pitchers post-up on the top three spots. Hitters tend to struggle when they first reach the majors because they need to adjust to major league-caliber pitching, especially off-speed offerings. In contrast, rookie hurlers have an advantage, as big league batters usually need time to understand a particular pitcher's stuff, delivery and tendencies before they have success against him. Heyward has tools galore and a shot at earning a starting job out of Spring Training. 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). The power, however, will take longer to develop. Monitor Heyward's spring performance, but don't overpay for him in redraft leagues.
As my loyal "New Kids on the Diamond" readers know, I am addicted to catchers with top-notch hitting skills. Santana has the complete hitting package -- patience, contact-ability, and power. At Double-A last year, the stocky backstop hit .290, with 23 HR, 97 RBIs, and 91 runs. Further, he displayed his excellent pitch recognition skills with a 1.08 BB/K rate and .413 OBP.
Escobar finally has the starting shortstop job now that
Jennings didn't receive much prospect love at the start of last season because his 2007 and 2008 seasons were cut short due to shoulder and knee injuries. The 6-2, 180-pound outfielder reignited the buzz last year with a strong season. At Double-A and Triple-A combined, Jennings put up the following numbers: .318 BA, 11 HR, 52 SB, .401 OBP, and a .487 SLG. Jennings has improved his plate discipline at every level (1.27 BB/K rate at Triple-A last year) and his power is slowly developing (.167 Isolated Power percentage at Triple-A). Do you enjoy having across-the-board category performers on your squads? You are looking at one. Jennings will earn a starting gig in the Rays' outfield by June and immediately become a fantasy asset. Put him on your mixed league watch list. Stash him in semi-deep AL-only leagues even though he will start the season in the minors.
Sizemore had a stellar 2009 minor league season, hitting .308, with 17 HR, 21 SB, and a .889 OPS. Of course, the hype machine is churning because Sizemore is projected to be Detroit's starting second baseman. Does the 25-year old deserve the hype? Well, to a certain extent, if only because he's a middle infielder with the ability to hit above .275, slug 12-plus HR, and steal 10-plus bases. That said, don't go overboard, because Comerica Park will sap some of that minor league power. Further, he won't have the green light on bases as much with the Tigers. Sizemore won't be spectacular, but he will be unusually consistent for a rookie -- his trademark in the minors.
I practice a fantasy prospect analysis system called "scoutistics." Yeah, I am placing some informal intellectual property protection on that word -- I better not see it turn up somewhere else. Morrison is my favorite buy low prospect in fantasy baseball. His subpar power numbers (13 HR in 2008, 8 HR in 2009) have scared off the prospect hounds. However, this is where the scouting aspect of my analysis comes into play. A pitcher-friendly league (Florida State League) and home park diminished Morrison's pop in 2008. Last year, a fracture at the base of his thumb sapped his bashing ability. Listen, I've watched this slugger in batting practice on numerous occasions -- he has no problem jacking the twine. Morrison will have at least moderate power in the bigs. At this point,
Look at the stats Bumgarner posted between High-A and Double-A last year as a 20-yearold: 12-2 record, 1.85 ERA, and .211 BAA. You would think the lefty would be receiving nothing but fantasy prospect love. Yet, there's a growing wave of mad hate surrounding "Mad-Bum." Why? Because Bumgarner's fastball velocity dipped to the high-80s/low-90s at the end of last season and his K/9 rate dropped to 5.80 at Double-A. As far as the velocity drop, isn't it entirely possible Bumgarner was simply worn down after pitching 280 innings in two years? In regard to the K/9 rate at Double-A, let's not forget that he was pitching at an advanced level for his age. In addition, he did have a 9.00 K/9 rate in his big league trial run last year. For you keeper league owners, this kid's long-term future is still extremely bright -- frontline fantasy starter bright. That said, his secondary offerings do need additional development. If he earns the No. 5 starting role in the Giants' rotation, as expected, there will be major valleys associated with his peaks in 2010.
Alvarez spent six weeks at the Athletes' Performance Institute in Arizona working on his conditioning and dietary habits. The Pirates' management made it clear that Alvarez's weight will determine whether he can remain a third baseman. C'mon Pedro, mix in some salads, I own you in multiple dynasty leagues. Clearly, due to position scarcity, he's much more valuable as a third baseman. In his first professional season, between High-A and Double-A combined, Alvarez hit .288, with a .378 OBP, .535 SLG, and 27 bombs. The big boy can hit the ball to all fields and has massive power potential (.230-plus ISO at both levels). Alvarez only has
Taylor was sent to the Blue Jays in the