Baseball fans are enamored with youth, potential, and promise. Fantasy baseball owners, fickle though they may be, seem unable to resist the urge to gravitate to the younger, less experienced players, if only because they possess the lure of the unknown. As in many facets of life, something better always seems to be lurking just beyond the baseball horizon, hidden from plain sight. This is the allure of the prospect. However, not all prospects are created equal.
Each of the players profiled below were recently (2008) considered to be top-25 prospects. However, after numerous twists, turns, and tryouts, it's is abundantly clear that not all prospects are created equal. While each name on this list has struggled, sometimes mightily, some wayward prospects have made strides to improve their game and change their fantasy fortunes for the better. Others, for worse, have continued to struggle, despite getting the benefit of the doubt on numerous occasions.
David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays. Though he showed promise at points during 2009, the season was mostly a disappointing one for Price owners. To regain the trust of the fantasy faithful, Price would have to improve on his overall numbers (10-7, 4.42 ERA, 1.35 WHIP). Improve he has. A 2.84 ERA and 1.28 WHIP tell but part of the story for Price in 2010. Recently, on Aug. 9, Price became the first pitcher in Rays franchise history to win 15 games. With nearly one third of the season remaining, it's entirely possible that Price will make a run at 20 wins and will certainly be in the conversation for the American League Cy Young Award.
Matt LaPorta, 1B/OF, Cleveland Indians. The centerpiece of the trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers in 2008, LaPorta has been slow to offer a return on his promise. He struggled mightily as a rookie, hitting just .254 with a .750 OPS in 54 games. Off season hip surgery raised further concerns over his future success, in 2010 and beyond. Hitting just .218 with a .567 OPS at the time of his minor league demotion, LaPorta's performance has noticeably improved.
Since being recalled in June, the seemingly overmatched LaPorta has hit .296 while connecting on six of his seven 2010 home runs. His full-season numbers do not tell the full story for this up and comer, but his recent success is a clear indication of better things to come.
Alex Gordon, 3B/OF, Kansas City Royals. As the second pick of the 2005 amateur draft, Gordon has s difficult time gaining a foothold on his big league career. An everyday player in 2007 and 2008, his 2009 was derailed by injuries and inconsistency. It was important for Gordon to have a strong showing in 2010 to have a future in the league. A .194 April batting average prompted the team to demote him to AAA in an effort to convert him to the outfield. A .315/.442/.577 slash line is clear evidence that his bat is major league-ready, but there was still something to prove following his promotion to Kansas City. He's had an encouraging start to August. A .292 batting average with a 1.054 OPS should tell fantasy owners that Gordon, free from the pressures of playing the hot corner, may finally have a home and could soon regain fantasy relevance.
Homer Bailey, SP, Cincinnati Reds. A "top" prospect for as long as most can remember, 2010 was something of a make or break season for Bailey. Always possessing superior stuff, but seemingly unable to harness his full potential as evidenced by his 4.53 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 2009. He would need to dramatically improve on that mediocre performance if he was going to have any fantasy value going forward. A complete game shutout on May 19 gave fantasy owners a reason for optimism, but that lone shining star did not translate to long term success. His 5.51 ERA and 1.48 WHIP are clear indicators of struggles in 2010, a season that ended prematurely on May 24 with shoulder inflammation. Bailey fans will have to wait until next year for yet another year to see what the future has in store.
Brandon Wood, 3B/SS, Los Angeles Angels. Wood was expected to be a fantasy mainstay by now, but major league success has proven elusive for this one time minor league slugger. After many a false start, fantasy owners seems to have all but given up on Wood, as have the Angels. 144 games into his big league career (over four seasons), Wood carries a slash line of .181/.206/.274, making it perfectly clear that something is missing from Wood's game. Perhaps the most glaring weakness is his sheer inability to make consistent contact. For his career, Wood has a 126/11 K/BB, numbers that even the most casual observer can't help but notice.
Joba Chamberlain, RP, New York Yankees. Chamberlain's first full season as a starter (2009) was nothing short of a disaster, as his 4.75 ERA and 1.54 WHIP would indicate. A move to the bullpen as Mariano Rivera's primary set up man was supposed to better suit his abilities and hopefully salvage some fantasy value. Simply stated, it didn't. While his 20 holds have been somewhat useful in holds-leagues, Chamberlain's overall numbers have proven to be a big negative. Neither his 5.07 ERA nor his 1.47 WHIP are usable in fantasy circles, and even his 9.60 K/9 can't help a disappointing 2010, leaving fantasy owners to wonder what might have been.
Damian Schaab is a senior writer for SportsGrumblings.com, and member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Visit SportsGrumblings.com today to ensure total fantasy sports dominance.