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.
Richards was 12-2, with a 3.06 ERA and a 100:40 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 141 innings with Arkansas. However, the 2009 first-round supplemental selection has benefited from throwing in the pitcher-friendly confines of Dickey-Stephens Park. His ERA at home is 1.78 compared to a 4.57 ERA in away contests.
In addition, he averaged only 6.38 strikeouts per nine innings in the Texas League so he's heavily dependent on his defense - not exactly an ideal rookie to gamble on while he is skipping a level.
Ever since sporting a 6.57 ERA during his collegiate years at the University of Oklahoma, Richards has improved immensely as a pro, sporting a 27-8 record and 3.10 ERA. The 23-year-old has a good assortment of pitches which includes a low- to mid-90s fastball with sinking action and a good slider. His curveball and changeup have gotten better but aren't reliable offerings.
The Angels drafted Richards based on his raw stuff and ceiling, and he's made strides since, justifying the Halos' bold selection. At this point in time, though, he's more of an innings-eater type who is still working on his command and trying to establish his third and fourth pitches. Richards is an impressive raw talent, but he's not ready to be a fantasy star just yet.
Based on his starting rotation opportunity, he's worthy of AL-only consideration if one is chasing victories. He's probably going to have a tough time registering average marks in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts, though.
Chase Headley's fractured pinkie on his left hand has opened the door for San Diego Padres third base prospect James Darnell. After placing Headley on the 15-day disabled list, the Friars called up Darnell from Triple-A Tucson, where he was hitting .272 with six home runs, 13 RBIs and an .844 OPS in 103 at-bats.
His minor league season has been a tale of two stops. Even while playing his home games in the pitcher-friendly atmosphere of Double-A San Antonio, Darnell was outstanding, hitting .333 with 17 home runs, 62 RBIs, 62 runs scored and a 1.038 OPS in 288 at-bats. He also drew more walks (52) than strikeouts (48) at San Antonio.
Granted, he was repeating the level as a 24-year-old after hitting just .223/.317/.352 at home last season. Some gave him a mulligan for last year's down year, attributing his struggles to a hand injury early in the season.
Albeit his sample size at Tucson was small, Darnell's performance was underwhelming considering the hitter-friendly atmosphere of his home surroundings. He clubbed six home runs, which is a positive sign, but he hit just .211 on the road, and his walks-to-strikeout ratio dropped to 12:22, demonstrating that he was still adjusting to the new level.
Darnell, a solid second-tier hitting prospect, is capable of producing a .270-20-80 season someday, but he hasn't shown the consistency to feel confident about his hitting prospects at PETCO Park, a purgatory for batters.
He will also split time with rookie Logan Forsythe at third base, making him a questionable play in NL-only formats. In keeper formats, Darnell is worthy of an acquisition to gamble on his long-term potential, though. He has a chance to break camp with the Padres next spring.
The Toronto Blue Jays have summoned right-handed pitching prospect Henderson Alvarez from Double-A New Hampshire, where the Venezuelan was 8-4, with 2.86 ERA and a 66:17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 88 innings.
The 21-year-old has two impressive pitches in a low- to mid-90s fastball and a nasty changeup. He generates a healthy rate of ground balls and has done a good job of keeping the ball in the park. His breaking stuff is inconsistent, though, so he projects more as a fourth starter until he can develop a third pitch to generate more strikeouts.
At his age, though, time is on his side to realize his ceiling. In AL-only formats, he is a risky play for this season, but he's worthy of stashing in keeper leagues.
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.