July 20, 2010

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The All-Star break is always a slow time on the promotion front. Consequently, it's the ideal time to review some of the "impact rookies" I profiled at the start of the season and predict where they are headed for the rest of 2010 and beyond.

One quick note before we get to the fantasy biz at hand. Make sure to follow any prospect movement as the trade deadline approaches. Fantasy prospect values will change greatly as the kiddies find new addresses. You must be able to react quickly in trade talks and on the waiver wire.

Stephen Strasburg (SP, WAS)

No discussion of the 2010 rookie crop can start without mentioning the "S.S. Express." Strasburg has been absolutely dominant since his promotion with a 2.03 earned run average, 12.58 strikeouts per nine innings, and .208 batting average against. Stare down that K/9 some more; it's worth your time. As I've told you many times, he's a once-in-a-generation type pitcher. Obviously, if you're in a long-term league, you aren't letting this guy go, and you surely aren't obtaining him if you don't own him. Nevertheless, in non-keeper leagues, there's a red flag surrounding Strasburg. The Nationals plan to limit his innings pitched to 160 this year. That means he will be shutting it down in early September unless the Nats spread out his starts or he skips a few outings. Do you deal him because of the innings limit? In roto leagues, you shouldn't even consider it; get the dominant production out of him while he's pitching. In head-to-head leagues, however, it's worth consideration if you can pull some quality commodities back your way.

Brian Matusz (SP, BAL)

Matusz has been getting abused in the American League East. Specifically, he has a 3-10 record to go along with a 5.21 ERA and 1.491 WHIP. The 23-year-old lefty has been blown up in his last two starts against Toronto and Texas; his owners have watched his ERA balloon from 4.56 to its current state. Matusz is relying on his changeup too much (21.7% of his pitches) and he's clearly thinking about his mechanics excessively on the mound. His secondary stuff is too good for him not to improve in the second half. The Orioles have publicly stated they have no intention of demoting him. Do you stick with Matusz in your Fantasy leagues? Well, he's certainly worth keeping on your roster in AL-only leagues even if you're not starting him. In mixed leagues, however, there are most likely much better non-AL East pitchers on the wire.

Wade Davis (SP, BAL)

Rumors continue to swirl that Davis will be demoted or traded. Let's hope for Jeremy Hellickson's speculators that those rumors come to fruition. Davis just hasn't built off his successful 2009 debut. In fact, his 6-9 record and 4.69 ERA could be much worse. Davis's K/9 is a measly 5.69, his BB/9 sits at 4.02, his Fielding Independent Pitching is a lofty 5.77, and his batting average on Balls in Play is a friendly .275. Amazingly, luck has actually been on Davis' side. You don't need to hear me spout off any longer about the numerous reasons Hellickson should be in the majors. Just take preemptive action and stash him now. Hellickson will take Davis' spot in the rotation by August 1st and be an immediate asset in deeper mixed leagues because of his advanced command. Book it.

Madison Bumgarner (SP, SFG)

Oh, it's so nice to seeing the Mad-Bum haters finally showing some love. A 2.57 ERA and .233 BAA tend to bring out the fantasy hugs and kisses. Those well publicized velocity concerns are a topic from the ancient past. Bumgarner will continue to succeed, primarily for two reasons: 1) He has superb pitching intellect for a 20-year old and 2) He pitches in the weak-hitting National League West. Use Bumgarner as a spot starter in mixed leagues, but continue to throw him out there on an every-start basis in mono-leagues. He won't rack up the strikeouts, but he will keep the ERA low and be a WHIP asset.

Jason Heyward (OF, ATL)

You wouldn't believe the hateful tweets I received in early April when I proclaimed that owners should sell-high on Heyward. Remember, at that time, MLB Network would give us a play-by-play when Heyward was parking his car. Many of you Heyward owners just couldn't bear to listen to talk about trading him because of his "light tower power" and "massive ceiling." Those are just some of the quotes I remember. Sure, Heyward has displayed that he has excellent power and that he's a clutch player. Nevertheless, back in April, you could have named your price for this kid; hopefully, many of you did. Heyward also showed that he has a lot of learn when he comes to off-speed pitches and pitch selection (26.1-percent strikeout rate). At this point, you should hold Heyward if you own him; you've lost your sell-high window. He's a quick learner and will adapt to major league pitching in the second half. Further, he appears to finally be over the thumb injury that hindered his first-half production.

Alcides Escobar (SS, MIL)

Escobar has been a colossal disappointment. He's only hitting .244 with a .299 on-base percentage. Further, he hasn't been the weapon on the basepaths that many expected; Escobar has only swiped eight bases in eleven attempts. Here's a little secret: Light-hitting speed threats, with walk rates continuously below five-percent in the minors, are extremely risky -- even if they play a position of scarcity. Escobar's BB rate has actually improved in the Bigs (seven percent), but he still has significant pitch recognition issues. Don't expect much improvement in the second half. He's a long-term hitting project in the majors.

Pedro Alvarez (3B, PIT)

Many of Alvarez's owners lost patience and dropped him when he got off to a miserable start. Big mistake. Alvarez is batting .308 with three bombs, a .345 OBP, and .558 SLG in June. It amazes me that many owners were surprised he had early growing pains. The 23-year old is only owned in nine percent of Yahoo! leagues. Alvarez has the type of raw power you just don't leave sitting in free agency -- especially at the hot corner. Make a mixed league play if you have a need. Continue to monitor Alvarez in our daily and weekly rankings.

Logan Morrison (1B/OF, FLO)

Gaby Sanchez's surprisingly solid play has been a roadblock to a "Bam" Morrison promotion. Don't give up 2010 hope if you're a Morrison owner in NL-only leagues. Morrison is batting .314 with five HRs, a .419 OBP, and .478 SLG in the minors this year. Most important, Florida has shifted him to the OF to give him more position flexibility. There will certainly be more opportunities for playing time if either Cody Ross or Dan Uggla is traded in the next two weeks. Stash Morrison in long-term and mono-leagues now that the hype has faded.

All statistics accurate as of July 18, 2010.

Hit Bill Root with a tweet @Bill_Root or an e-mail at broot@rotoexperts.com if you have a burning fantasy prospect question. Make sure to check out our Xclusive Edge Rankings for help with your tough lineup decisions.

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