by Adam Thaller
Baseball takes more time and effort to develop a young player than in any other sport. There is no magic formula for success. As a fantasy baseball owner, this makes prospects a tricky subject. If you are in a keeper league you always want to have your eye on who is having success in the minors and which players are making the jump to the big club. If you are playing in a standard league, prospects can still be important if you have the right timing.
Last year, Buster Posey, Stephen Strasburg, Neftali Feliz, and Jayson Heyward were the young players that all fantasy owners coveted.
Here’s the top talent brewing down on the farm, and some of these guys will see big league action this year.
1. Mike Trout, Anaheim Angels: Last year in the minors Trout’s stats were stellar: .341 BA, 173 hits, 10 HR, and 56 steals. He was named the Minor League Player of the Year and his power numbers are only going to get better as he also slugged .490. And because he is only 19, it’s tantalizing to think what this kid will become. MLB ETA: late 2011 to early 2012.
2. Jesus Montero, New York Yankees: In Triple-A last year Montero put up really good numbers (.289 BA, 21 HRs, and 75 RBI). The two things holding him back are lackluster defensive skills and Russell Martin. He should be at the show soon, quite possibly with another team. He’s worth a look this year. Pick him up and stash him on your bench if you can, he can really hit. MLB ETA: mid-2011.
3. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals: Harper is a raw talent and the only reason he’s not number 1 on my list is because he’s so young and inexperienced. He cruised through his junior college baseball league, but has yet to see any professional action outside of Fall Ball and a handful of Spring Training at-bats. He’s been described as “a pure hitter” who attacks the baseball. If you pick Harper up expect to wait a little. MLB ETA: mid-2012.
4. Dominic Brown, Philadelphia Phillies: Brown is potentially a very dynamic, five-tool player. He hit .327 with 20 HRs in Double and Triple-A last year, but when he was called up, he severely underperformed. The Phillies claim he was fatigued and he has yet to fully solidify Jayson Werth’s old job. If he can focus in spring and take over as the starting right fielder, he could be a real steal in any draft. MLB ETA: early 2011.
5. Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays: He’s a gifted athlete, and although he’s been a little injury-prone, he still put up good numbers in Triple-A last year, hitting .278 with 3 HRs, 36 RBI, and 37 steals in 399 ABs. Jennings has power potential, though he’s seen more as a Carl Crawford type. He should be worth a look later in the year if you’re in a deep league. MLB ETA: early to mid-2011.
6. Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays: Hellickson jumped to the majors last year and gave us a peek into his talent level. He’s a power pitcher with high strikeout numbers (123 K in 119.1 IP) and a solid ERA (2.72) in the minors last year. Given Matt Garza’s departure, he’s a given to start the year with the Big Club. I’d wait to see how his spring training goes before I’d consider drafting him. MLB ETA: now.
7. Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals: Moustakas’ numbers in 2009 took a huge hit. He was hitting for power, but his average took a nosedive. Moustakas adjusted in 2010 and put up big numbers, raising his average 75 points and hitting 36 HRs and 124 RBI. He was named Texas League Player of the Year and set a record with 3 HRs and 11 RBI in one game. MLB ETA: mid-2011.
8. Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners: Ackley started 2010 cold and ended on fire. He struggled at Double-A, hitting only .263. His numbers improved at the Mariners Fall league, hitting .424 and earning himself the league MVP. Ackley is expected to hit for power, which makes him well-worth a pickup at 2nd base. MLB ETA: early to mid-2011.
9. Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds: Chapman is going to be a starter soon for the Reds, but as for now he is going to come out of the bullpen with a fastball clocked 105 mph. In 13 innings he had a 2.03 ERA and 19 Ks. He’s an interesting player, especially in leagues with holds and K/9. The injury bug could be looming however, so don’t be surprised if Tommy John is in his future. MLB ETA: now.
10. Kyle Drabek, Toronto Blue Jays: He had great success in the minors last year (2.94 ERA, 132 K). And when he was called up to the show he didn’t slow down. He’s a young pitcher, so there are going to be growing-pains, especially in the AL East, but this kid has the pedigree to be a number two starter in years to come. MLB ETA: now.