April 27, 2010

Last week was a sweet time to be a first base prospect. Three kiddie corners were promoted to the bigs and they are all in line for substantial playing time. Let's examine the fantasy impact of the last week's key promotions and give you a sneak peak at youngsters waiting for the call.

Ike Davis (1B, NYM)

If you're a loyal "New Kids on the Diamond" reader, you knew Davis was primed to be promoted a week before it happened. C'mon, I'm allowed an occasional, self-serving pat on the back, right? Davis earned time with the big boys after hitting .364, with two home runs, and a .636 slugging percentage through his first 33 minor league at-bats. Let's be honest, manager Jerry Manuel pushed for Davis' promotion because he wasn't about to go down in flames with Mike Jacobs and Fernando Tatis manning the corner. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound first baseman put any power concerns to sleep last year with 20 minor league bombs and a .256 isolated power at Double-A. Davis is long gone in most NL-only leagues because he has job security until Daniel Murphy returns from the disabled list. Is he mixed league worthy? Nah, there will be too much inconsistency due to his windmill tendencies (29.0-percent strikeout rate at Double-A last year). Sell high in non-keeper leagues if you can target owners who carelessly chase and caress upside.

Justin Smoak (1B, TEX)

The Smoak puns were novel and entertaining when he was more of an unknown commodity in the minors. Now -- and I'm guilty of using my own last week -- they are overdone and annoying. Smoak has the pure power and patience to make immediate fantasy noise. The haters will point out that he only had 12 HRs and hit .214 versus lefties last year in the minors. OK, small sample sizers, how about the 62 bombs and .337 batting average versus lefties in his career at the University of South Carolina. These are meritless concerns. Let the Smoak-haters play with Chris Davis in their minor league fantasy baseball leagues. Target Smoak in mixed leagues with 12 or more owners.

Rhyne Hughes (1B, BAL)

Hughes isn't generating as much chatter as Davis and Smoak despite his promotion last week. That said, in light of Garrett Atkins' woeful hitting (.220 BA/0 HRs), Hughes has the opportunity to stick in the bigs if he performs and minimizes the strikeouts (over 30-percent K rate for four straight years). Hughes posted strong numbers last year in the minors: .279 BA, 25 HRs, and .506 SLG. He was also off to a stellar start this year at Triple-A with a .353 BA, three HRs, and a .667 SLG in 51 ABs. Hughes is worth stashing in deeper AL-only leagues because of his power potential.

Eric Young Jr. (2B, COL)

I've been begging the Rockies to give EY Jr. extended playing time because of his swipe potential. Plus, should Clint Barmes and Melvin Mora really be holding this speed demon back? Young has 264 stolen bases over the last four years in the minors. Nah, that wasn't a typo. Further, he has learned to take walks to take advantage of his speed (10.1-percent walk rate in '09). This kid would trigger nasty fantasy slobber if he was given 450-500 ABs. Young was recalled on Sunday when Brad Hawpe was placed on the DL with a strained quadriceps. Unfortunately, although EY Jr. can play outfield and second base, there's no guarantee he receives significant ABs with Barmes, Mora, Dexter Fowler, Seth Smith, Carlos Gonzalez, and Ryan Spilborghs in the picture. Monitor Young very closely in all formats. If he gets scorching hot, he could steal the second base job and 35 bags. Alternatively, he will be sent down again when Hawpe returns.

Brett Cecil (SP, TOR)

Cecil lost his rookie status and prospect shine last year after posting a 5.30 earned run average in 93.1 IP for the Jays. The 6-1, 235-pound southpaw quietly snuck back into the majors with an average performance last week against the Rays: 6.2 IP, 4 earned runs, 8 strikeouts, and 1 walk. Don't forget about this dude. In four seasons in the minors, he has a 9.0 strikeouts and 2.9 walks per nine innings. Cecil is still only 23 years old -- there's upside here despite the silence. With Brian Tallet's return in flux (forearm stiffness), Cecil could be in the Jays rotation for the long haul.

Jake Arrieta (SP, BAL)

Yep, just another promising young arm in Baltimore's system. Arrieta has been dominant this year at Triple-A with a 0.36 ERA, 8.28 K/9, and .157 batting average against. The 24-year-old righty possesses a 92-94 mph heater, an above-average slider, and a developing change. Arrieta's weakness has always been his control (3.6 BB/9 for career) and the consistency of his secondary pitches. Chris Tillman is getting rocked at Triple-A. As a result, Arrieta is next in line and will make his MLB debut at some point in May. He's a nice stash in AL-only leagues if you're looking for some K category help from the farm.

Logan Morrison (1B, FLA)

The Gaby Sanchez (.281 BA/1 HR) era will end before the first half of the season. Morrison finally appears to be recovered from last year's wrist injury. He's hitting .300 with two HRs and a .600 SLG at Triple-A. "Bam" Morrison has always been one of my personal faves because of his outstanding eye and pitch recognition skills (1.38 walk-to-strikeout rate at Double-A last year). In addition, after scouting Morrison, I'm convinced there's more pop in the 22-year old than he has shown. Morrison is a decent buy-low candidate in keeper leagues because the buzz has faded.

Jay Jackson (SP, CHC)

Jackson is starting to garner some attention because of his strong start (23 IP, 2.35 ERA, .177 BAA at Triple-A). I'm here to put the hammer on the hype. Listen, based on Lou Piniella's recent Z-cision-making, it's quite possible he announces Jackson as his ace at some point in July. That doesn't mean you should buy-in on this kid. His K/9 has dipped at every level, he has bouts of wildness and he doesn't have ground ball-friendly stuff. Most importantly, his current numbers are supported by a silly .184 batting average on balls in play. Jackson's luck will soon run out. He shouldn't be on your radar in any one-year formats and there are better investments in keeper leagues.

Brad Lincoln (SP, PIT)

Yikes, when Zach Duke is the only trusted pitcher in your rotation, you know your staff needs reinforcements. Lincoln is the answer for the Pirates and pitching deficient NL-only league owners. Lincoln has been on a long road to the majors after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2007. He rediscovered his top prospect form last year with a solid season (Double-A and Triple-A combined): 136.1 IP, 3.37 ERA, 107 Ks, and 28 BBs. Lincoln's strengths are his bulldog competitiveness, pinpoint control (1.8 BB/9 in career), and signature hook. The 24-year-old righty is still refining his command within the zone and developing his change. Nevertheless, he's just about ready for a taste of Pittsburgh. Lincoln will help in the WHIP and ERA categories when he's promoted in June. Yes, I am recommending a future Pirates starter. Please refrain from trashing my reputation and/or electronic hate until you see him pitch.

* All statistics as of April 25, 2010.

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