Young players have become more prominent in Major League Baseball, but fantasy baseball players can't expect every emerging prospect to carry their team. Properly valuing rising farm players' talent, timetable and opportunity will help win your fantasy baseball league.
16. Garrett Richards, SP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Path for Richards?
Richards has an electric arm with a fastball that routinely sits in the high 90s. A strike thrower, Richards issued only 2.4 walks per nine innings in the minors, but during his stint with the big club in 2011, he got too much of the plate while surrendering four gopher balls in 14 innings. Despite his success in the Texas League, Richards is still not a finished product. His slider and changeup are still a work in progress and were a big reason why he averaged only 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings at Double-A Arkansas.
The 23-year-old is competing with Jerome Williams for the fifth spot in the Angels rotation this spring. Williams is currently out with a hamstring injury, which helps Richards' chances to break camp with the big league club. If Richards can iron out some of the kinks in his craft, he has a chance to develop into a third starter.
17. Leonys Martin, OF, Texas Rangers
After the Rangers invested $15.6 million in Martin, the Cuban defector started his North American professional career with a bang, hitting .348 with four home runs, 24 RBIs, 10 steals and a 1.006 OPS in 112 at-bats with Double-A Frisco. However, Martin hit a wall after a promotion to Triple-A Round Rock as he batted just .263 with no home runs, 17 RBIs, nine steals and a .630 OPS in a span of 175 at-bats.
The 24-year-old is lauded for his above-average speed and his ability to make consistent contact. Initially, Martin showed a sound eye at Double-A, but his strike zone judgment (.316 on-base percentage) wasn't as sharp at the Triple-A level. The Rangers are hoping that Martin can eventually develop into an everyday center fielder that hits for a .280-plus average and steals 30 bases.
Martin is expected to return to Round Rock for the start of the 2012 campaign; the Rangers would like to see him master the level. Given Josh Hamilton's history with injuries, there's a good chance Martin will find his way into extended action at the major league level this year.
18. Vinnie Catricala, 3B, Seattle Mariners
Catricala is a hitting machine who plays for an organization that has had a difficult time in recent years at generating offense at the major league level. Catricala combined to hit .349 with 25 home runs, 106 RBIs, 48 doubles, 17 steals, and a 1.021 OPS in 521 at-bats between high Single-A and Double-A.
While 282 of his at-bats were accumulated at the hitter's haven of high Single-A High Desert, Catricala ended up posting a career-best 1.052 OPS at Double-A Jackson in the more challenging Southern League. And he has hit for both average and power, and posted healthy on-base percentages at every level in his professional career.
The big question is where Catricala is going to play. He's a butcher in the field at third base, and the M's have a handful of options there in Chone Figgins and youngsters Kyle Seager, Alex Liddi and Francisco Martinez. There has been speculation about a possible move to left field and first base, but he wouldn't have a clear path to play at either position.
Bottom line, Catricala has a premium bat to watch, and if he continues to hit at a high level, the Mariners will have no choice but to play him if their run scoring woes persist.
19. Chris Parmelee, 1B/OF, Minnesota Twins
Parmelee exploded on the scene during his first taste of major league ball, batting a robust .355 with four home runs, 14 RBIs and a 1.035 OPS in 76 at-bats. The performance gave Twins fans a false impression. While Parmelee is a solid across the board hitter, he doesn't do anything special, and he doesn't have the premium bat that one desires in a first baseman.
In 530 at-bats with Double-A New Britain in 2011, Parmelee hit .287 with 13 home runs, 30 doubles, 83 RBIs, 76 runs scored and a .366 on-base percentage. He slugged .436, a sub-par mark for a first baseman, but at age 24, there's still some hope for some power growth.
The Twins molded Parmelee into a more defensive hitter by choice so he would cut down on strikeouts. Because of Parmelee's shakiness versus lefties, the Twins are likely to utilize him in a platoon role this year. With Justin Morneau's Opening Day status up in the air, there's a decent chance that Parmelee could split time with right-handed hitting Ryan Doumit at first base to start the season. As a rookie, Parmelee is capable of hitting .265 with double-digit home run power and a .750-plus OPS.
20. James Paxton, SP, Seattle Mariners
Promising young arms like Paxton were a major factor in why the M's were willing to deal All-Star Michael Pineda in the winter for highly regarded hitting prospect Jesus Montero. In his affiliated pro debut last year, Paxton combined to go 6-3, with a 2.37 ERA and an eye-popping 131 strikeouts in a combined 95 innings between low Single-A and Double-A. The southpaw allowed only three home runs all year but was generous with walks (4.1 free passes per nine innings).
The former Kentucky star features a low- to mid- 90s fastball and a wicked curveball of which he has excellent command. This season the 23-year-old will need to improve on his changeup and work on smoothing his mechanics to cut down on the walks. With the M's rotation uncertain behind Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas, there's a good chance Paxton can pitch his way to Seattle by mid-summer.