In 2010, Major League Baseball saw a mammoth influx of young talent, but fantasy baseball players can't expect that impact each year. Properly valuing rising farm players' talent, timetable and opportunity will help win your fantasy baseball league.
21. Mark Trumbo, 1B, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Trumbo is slated begin the 2011 season as the Angels' starting first baseman after the club placed Kendry Morales (leg) on the disabled list on March 21. Last season the 6-foot-4, 220-pound slugger swatted 36 home runs at Triple-A Salt Lake, tying him for the most round-trippers in the affiliated minor leagues. Trumbo also batted .300 or better for the first time in his career and was able to lift his on-base percentage by 35 points to .368, thanks to an improved walk rate.
This spring Trumbo is tearing the cover off the ball, hitting .340 with five homers and 13 RBIs in 47 Cactus League at-bats. Most baseball people feel Trumbo's power will translate to the big league level, but they question whether the .275 career minor league hitter can make sufficient contact to make his pop worthwhile. He hit just .067 in a 15 at-bat stint in the majors last season, striking out eight times, but the 25-year-old has nothing left to prove with the bat in the minors, so Trumbo is certainly worth a vote of confidence in AL-only formats.
Trumbo stepping in
Deep mixed can bid while keeping in mind that his lineup spot might not be secure when Morales returns; Trumbo's power makes him worth the speculation regardless. This isn't a case when a rookie is being thrust into a starting role when he's not ready.
22. Tim Collins, RP, Kansas City Royals
Scouts aren't particularly fond of short pitchers, so it was no surprise that the 5-foot-7, 170-pound Collins went undrafted coming out of high school. Luckily, Collins lived in the same town as former Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi and was able to impress the executive enough to land a professional contract for $10,000. Since signing in 2007, the lefty has dominated hitters in the minors, compiling a 2.26 ERA and 329 strikeouts in 223 innings.
Despite his gaudy numbers, Collins has still had a hard time garnering respect as he has been traded twice in the last year alone. Collins is closing in on one of the big league club's two left-handed relief spots in the Royals' bullpen. The diminutive southpaw has a deceptive delivery which makes it difficult for hitters to pick up his low-90s fastball, plus changeup and curveball. Beginning the year as a situational reliever, Collins won't have much fantasy value initially, but he's a dark horse to possibly replace closer Joakim Soria over the long term, if the Royals decide to unload the veteran stopper.
23. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Cleveland Indians
Chisenhall will have a clear path to Cleveland when he's ready. The 22-year-old is being sent to Triple-A Columbus this season for the last leg of his development. Last season at Double-A Akron, Chisenhall hit .278 with 17 home runs, 84 RBIs and 81 runs scored in 460 at-bats.
There are two trains of thought on Chisenhall. The stats/performance based analysts believe he is a solid player, but feel he hasn't quite dominated minor league pitching (.798 career OPS) to project stardom. On the other hand, scouts love his pretty swing and believe he still has the room to grow into a .290 hitter with 20- to 25-homer power. Only 22, Chisenhall is still ahead of the growth curve, and the best news is that he doesn't have a real threat blocking his way to the hot corner in Cleveland. He is expected to arrive sometime in the second half this season at the latest.
24. John Lamb, SP, Kansas City Royals
The 20-year-old Lamb is an advanced pitcher for his age, a strike thrower with three quality pitches in his arsenal. The southpaw attacks hitters with a low- to mid-90s fastball, a plus changeup and a curveball that shows above-average potential. In three minor league stops last year, Lamb went 10-7 with a 2.38 ERA and struck out 159 batters in 147 2/3 innings.
He did struggle during a late stint at Double-A, but the Royals have sent him back there this season to master the level. This season Lamb will likely join fellow prospects Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, Chris Dwyer and Aaron Crow in the Northwest Arkansas rotation, which should prove to be the best starting staff in all of the minors. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Lamb is the most polished of the Royals' young arms and has a chance to reach Kansas City by the end of the season.
25. Manny Banuelos, SP, New York Yankees
Last week Yankees fans got a glimpse of their future when Banuelos pitched 2 2/3 innings against the rival Boston Red Sox in front of national television audience on ESPN2. The 20-year-old wasn't flawless, but he showed poise and raised some eyebrows when he struck out Kevin Youkilis on a 3-2 count with a changeup. In 2010, Banuelos posted a 2.51 ERA and fanned 85 batters in 64 2/3 innings in three minor league stops.
The Mexican lefty attacks hitters with a low- to mid-90s fastball, a curveball and a changeup that ranks as the best of his secondary pitches. Banuelos is lauded for his fastball command, control and clean delivery, but there are questions about his smallish stature (5-foot-11, 155 pounds) and whether he will hold up over the long haul. Given the Yankees' starting pitching issues at the back end, there might be some pressure for the Yankees to accelerate Banuelos to the big leagues if things go bad in the Bronx. He is expected to pitch at Double-A Trenton to start the year.