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.
In case 39-year-old Jason Varitek decides to hang up his cleats after this season, the Boston Red Sox have a contingency plan ready in Ryan Lavarnway to possibly challenge Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the starting backstop job.
Melancon has long-term comp
Despite his consistent power production over the last three years, Lavarnway doesn't quite get the notoriety of upper-level catching prospects such as Jesus Montero and Devin Mesoraco, but it's hard to argue with his track record.
The Yale alumnus is hitting a combined .289 with 17 home runs, 50 RBIs, 45 runs and an .886 OPS in 263 at-bats between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket this season. Since his promotion to Triple-A in mid-June, Lavarnway has not skipped a beat, batting .309 with three home runs and a .951 OPS in 14 International League games.
The 23-year-old socked 22 home runs in 2010 and 21 dingers in 2009, so he is on pace this year to eclipse his previous power numbers. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound catcher has solid plate discipline as he has posted a lifetime .374 on-base percentage in the minors.
Although he doesn't project as a .300 hitter with his long swing, Lavarnway has a chance to develop into an above-average hitter for a catcher because of his ability to drive the baseball.
Like most catchers, though, Lavarnway's defense is ultimately is what is going to get him playing time at the major league level, and the general feeling is that his glove work is average at best. Nearly ready, Lavarnway should arrive in the majors no later than this September.
Closer Mark Melancon hasn't really had much stiff competition behind him in the Houston Astros' bullpen, but that might change now that the club has called up David Carpenter, a reliever with backend stuff.
Carpenter logged 19 shutout innings and nine saves at Triple-A Oklahoma City this year, while recording 21 strikeouts to six walks. The 26-year-old right-hander attacks hitters with a low- to mid-90s fastball and a slider. The Astros acquired Carpenter last season in a summer trade that sent veteran third baseman Pedro Feliz to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Don't bank on a closer change, but Carpenter could be worth an NL-only flie and is worth monitoring in deep dynasty leagues.
No pitcher in the minors has emerged quite like Brad Peacock this season, and the Washington Nationals prospect has shown no signs of slowing down. In Double-A Harrisburg's 9-2 win over Richmond Tuesday, Peacock (9-2) picked up the win after throwing 5 2/3 shutout innings, allowing just one hit and three walks. He struck out six.
In 92 2/3 innings this season, Peacock has compiled a 2.14 ERA and has posted an eye-popping 120:21 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has held opposing batters to a .176 average and has only allowed four balls to leave the yard.
Even though Peacock posted strong peripherals in the past, he has been able to take his craft to an elite level this year because of a mechanical tweak. During his delivery, Peacock now holds the ball closer to his body for a longer period of time, giving him a deceptive throwing motion that makes his plus stuff even tougher to pick up.
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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