Fantasy Baseball Player Prospecting: Bryce Harper, more

by Chris Hadorn on May 19, 2011 @ 14:51:18 PDT

 


Your fantasy baseball rankings look a little stale. KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Player Prospecting series highlights the exploits of minor league baseball players, including top MLB prospects. Find out who'll make an impact, whether it's in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball game next week or in your fantasy baseball keeper league two years from now.

It looks like fantasy players are going to have to wait until at least 2012 for Bryce Harper. Yesterday Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told a Washington D.C. sports radio station the first overall pick from the 2010 draft won't reach the majors this season, regardless of how he performs in the minors.

The chances of a 2011 promotion were slim to begin with, so this news shouldn't be too disheartening to keeper league players that hold Harper's rights, but it pretty much renders him useless in one-year fantasy formats.

Washington Nationals OF Bryce Harper
Wait 'til next year ... or later

Making his professional debut with low Single-A Hagerstown this season, Harper has batted .366 with nine home runs, 31 RBIs, six steals and a 1.105 OPS in 134 at-bats. The 18-year-old phenom has emerged as one of the front runners for minor league player of the year honors. And most evaluators would agree that he is hands down the best prospect in baseball.

The Las Vegas native was trying to become the first 18-year-old to reach the majors since fellow first overall pick Alex Rodriguez debuted with the Seattle Mariners in 1994. That season Rodriguez hit .204 in 54 big league at-bats, so it wasn't efficient use of his service time.

This decision by the Nationals is predominantly motivated by business. Because Harper is represented by super agent Scott Boras, the Nationals are approaching this situation with the mindset that they are only assured six years of big league service from Harper and they need to get the most production out of that timeframe.

Now the question will be whether or not Harper can break 2012 spring camp with the Nationals like 1987 first overall pick Ken Griffey Jr. did as a 19-year-old with the Seattle Mariners in 1989.

During his rookie year, Griffey hit .264 with 16 home runs, 61 RBIs, and 16 steals in 455 at-bats. Not bad for a teenager who had only 61 at-bats above the Single-A level prior to his big league debut.

***

In the Tampa Bay Rays' pitching-rich system, Alex Cobb doesn't get as much publicity as Matthew Moore, Alexander Torres and Chris Archer, but he is probably the closest of the group to getting an extended look in the majors.

Last night Cobb improved to 5-0 after holding Louisville to one run, seven hits and a walk in seven innings, while striking out seven. Cobb, a sinkerballer, recorded nine of his 12 total outs via groundout. Cobb's Triple-A Durham club beat Louisville 7-4.

At Durham this season, the 23-year-old has compiled a 1.31 ERA and holds a 45-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 41 1/3 innings. He has held opponents to a .223 average and has allowed only two home runs.

On May 1, Cobb made his big league debut in a spot start against the Los Angeles Angels. In 4 1/3 innings, the right-hander allowed four runs on four hits and four walks, while striking out three.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound right-hander doesn't have the build or stuff that scouts drool over, but he has a good feel for pitching, which has helped him post a 3.00 lifetime ERA in the minors and an average of 9.67 strikeouts per nine innings over his last two seasons.

Cobb, a 2006 fourth-round pick out of Vero Beach (Fla.) High School, attacks hitters with a low-90s two-seamer, a splitter-type changeup and a big-breaking curveball.

When Jeff Niemann (back) was placed on the 15-day disabled list early in May, the Rays turned to veteran Andy Sonnanstine in the meantime as their fifth starter. If Sonnanstine struggles or another need arises, Cobb is probably the Rays' next option to fill a spot in their rotation.

While Cobb lacks sexy stuff, he does have enough pitching know-how to be an adequate starter as a rookie.

***

Yesterday 24-year-old outfielder Tony Campana made his major league debut for the Chicago Cubs, going 1-for-1 with two runs scored and a stolen base. The rookie outfielder was promoted from Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday after hitting .342 with nine RBIs, 27 runs scored and eight steals in nine tries.

Despite a lifetime .303 batting average in the minors, Campana isn't considered a highly regarded prospect, but he has shown that he can wreak havoc on the base paths. The 24-year-old averaged 57 stolen bases in the minors from 2009-10.

The former University of Cincinnati star is up to fill a bench spot as a fifth outfielder and pinch runner.

NL-only owners in need of steals would be wise to monitor his playing status and performance because he is a speed demon who could rack up some thefts if given the chance to play.

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About Chris Hadorn

Chris Hadorn has covered minor league and amateur prospects for more than a decade. He writes for San Diego's North County Times and has been a KFFL fantasy baseball contributor since 2006.


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