April 13, 2010

Alright, so it was only one week. Nevertheless, there's some prospect news to share and some rookies to review. Let's get right to the fantasy biz.

Jason Heyward (OF, ATL)

Heyward is going to be a stud. Even so, if you're in a redraft league and you grabbed J-Hey, now's the time to take all offers. The 442-foot bomb in his first major league at-bat triggered a media firestorm that's still going strong. I've seen owners deal guys like Vladimir Guerrero and Carlos Pena for him -- straight up. Pure silliness. The young slugger is 20 years old and barely has 1,000 plate appearances. There will be growing pains throughout his first season as he faces an array of breaking and off-speed pitches. Sell high if you can pry proven talent from an upside-chasing owner. Of course, in keeper leagues, don't even thinking about moving Heyward.

Neftali Feliz (SP/RP, TEX)

Wow, that didn't take long. Feliz was named the Rangers' "temporary" closer after Frank Francisco blew two consecutive save opportunities last week. The Rangers are undoubtedly hurting Feliz's long-term future as a starter because the flamethrower isn't getting the opportunity to hone his secondary pitches in the minors. That said, from a fantasy standpoint, this move to closer is gold for his 2010 owners. Feliz will rack up the strikeouts and have a ton of save opportunities on a solid Rangers squad. Despite manager Ron Washington's use of the term "temporary," don't expect Francisco to get the job back any time soon. In addition to his two blown saves this year, Francisco had a 5.82 earned run average in the second half in 2009 and his velocity has dramatically dipped to the low-90s on his heater. Feliz only has to be slightly above average to keep the role.

Jaime Garcia (SP, STL)

OK, so he's not as fantasexy as J-Hey, but this southpaw was the most impressive rookie pitcher in Week 1. In his start against the Brewers, Garcia posted the following stat line: six innings pitched, four hits, one earned run, five strikeouts, and three walks. Armed with a sinking low-90s fastball, Garcia produced 70.6-percent ground balls in the start. He should be scooped up in all NL-only leagues and is flier-worthy in mixed leagues because of his stuff and win potential on the Cardinals.

Scott Sizemore (2B, DET)

There was simply too much hype surrounding Sizemore in the offseason because he was given a starting gig before spring training even started. The 25-year-old second baseman only hit .250 with one extra-base hit in Week 1. Nevertheless, consistent with his generally patient approach in the minors, Sizemore did draw three walks and finished the week strong with a three-for-five performance on Sunday. He's going to hit .275-ish, slug 10-12 home runs, and steal 13-15 bases by season's end. Throw a trade offer out for Sizemore if you need some help at the second sack in AL-only and deep mixed leagues. You might be able to take advantage of an impatient owner.

Stephen Strasburg (SP, WAS)

Did you happen to hear about this guy Strasburg's first minor league start? Anyone? Almost 8,000 spectators showed up in Altoona, Pa. to see the "S.S. Express" get on the professional track. After a rough first inning because he was amped up, Strasburg settled down and finished with a solid line: 5 IP, 1 ER, 8 Ks, and 2 BBs. Strasburg regularly hit 99 mph with his fastball and his curve-slider hybrid buckled right-handed hitters' knees. Look for my No. 1 long-term fantasy prospect to make his debut in early June after three to four starts at both Double-A and Triple-A. Well, unless Craig Stammen and Livan Hernandez pitch lights-out and keep Strasburg on the farm. That's sarcasm, folks.

Carlos Santana (C, CLE)

I'm pretty much obsessed with this kid backstop. Santana has the power (.241 isolated power last year) and plate patience (1.08 walk-to-strikeout rate last year) to be a fantasy stud at a position of scarcity. Trust me, even though he's a gamer and a leader, Lou Marson isn't holding Santana back beyond the end of June. Santana is already assaulting the twine at Triple-A with a .438 BA, four homers, and eight RBIs in only 16 ABs. Brace yourself for impact (translation -- stash him in all formats where he's available and you have roster room).

Pedro Alvarez (3B, PIT)

In 222 Double-A ABs last year, Alvarez hit .333 with 13 home runs, a .419 on-base percentage, and .590 slugging percentage. Impressively, he also posted a 13.2-percent walk rate and .257 ISO. I would say those are all signs of being just about ready. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound left-handed slugger already has his power on display at Triple-A this year (three HRs), but those are his only three hits in 17 ABs. Why will Alvarez get his big league shot sooner rather than later? Simple: Andy LaRoche and Jeff Clement are his only obstacles. Just like Santana, Alvarez has the advanced hitting skills to make an immediate impact at a position that lacks depth. In keeper leagues, the critical question is will Alvarez keep the poundage off in order to stay at the hot corner? I have my doubts, but we will still value him as a third baseman for now. Mix in some greens, big boy, you are a cornerstone of one of my NL-only squads.

Aroldis Chapman (SP, CIN)

Here's one guy I'm staying far away from in redraft leagues. The Cuban sensation still needs time to develop his control (over 4.5 walks per nine innings in each of the past four years in Cuba) and command within the strike zone. The 6-4, 185-pound southpaw made his debut in the minors on Sunday and was dominant: 4.2 IP, 5 Hs, 0 ER, 9 Ks, and 1 BB. The 22-year-old Chapman is going to have a difficult adjustment to the majors where hitters will be more patient and less overwhelmed by his upper-90s heat. Let Chapman refine his command and control on other teams in any one-year leagues. In keeper and dynasty leagues, hold and cherish. Power lefties with sliders like Chapman are rare breeds.

Ike Davis (1B, NYM)

I've never said this before: Here's a New York prospect deserving of more hype. Check out the numbers that Davis posted last year at High-A and Double-A combined: .298 BA, 20 HRs, .381 OBP, and .524 SLG. Davis has great bat speed and a natural uppercut to his swing; he will have no problem hitting bombs out of Citi Field. The young bopper is off to a solid start at Triple-A with five hits in his first 13 ABs, one HR, and five walks. Manager Jerry Manuel recently stated that he's not going to rush Davis. Right, we will see long he can ride the retreads (Mike Jacobs and Fernando Tatis) with his job on the line. Davis will see big league action by July 15 at the latest -- even if Daniel Murphy returns from injury and is in the first base picture.

Scott Elbert (SP, LAD)

Remember this former young-gun prospect? He still lurks. Elbert has been riddled with shoulder problems throughout his career. Thus, he's a risky investment in any format. Nevertheless, there's still some upside here because he's a lefty with nice weaponry. Elbert throws a 92-95 mph fastball, late-breaking slider, and developed change. In his seven-year minor league career, Elbert has a 10.6 K/9 and .203 batting average against. You can't ignore those indicators. In his first start at Triple-A, Elbert was wild, but nasty: 6 IP, 2 Hs, 10 Ks, and 5 BBs. Keep an eye on this dude in all NL-only leagues.

* All statistics as of April 11, 2010 unless otherwise noted.

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