Fantasy Baseball Player Prospecting: Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rizzo, Taijuan Walker, more

by Chris Hadorn on April 10, 2012 @ 13:21:39 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.

Despite being the first overall pick of last June's draft, Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole hasn't received quite the same number of press clippings as his former UCLA teammate Trevor Bauer, the Arizona Diamondbacks' third overall pick from the same draft.

Even though Cole (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) dwarfs Bauer (6-foot-1, 170) in stature and lays claim to a superior fastball that reaches triple digits, the latter has drawn more fantasy attention. He is at a higher minor league level (Double-A Mobile), put up better stats at UCLA as a junior (a 1.25 ERA, to Cole's 3.31 ERA) and has an eccentric personality that has drawn comparisons to Tim Lincecum's.

Seattle Mariners SP Taijuan Walker
Not a bad AA debut for Walker

While Cole is far less likely than Bauer to debut in the majors this year, his long-term outlook remains rosy - he profiles as a No. 1 starter. Making his professional regular season debut for high Single-A Bradenton last night, Cole pitched like a first overall pick, as he allowed one run, four hits and a walk over four innings while striking out seven Palm Beach batters. All five of Cole's outs recorded in play were of the ground-ball variety. According to reports, Cole touched 100 mph twice but sat in the 94-97 range for most of the game.

In addition to his heater, Cole features a slider that serves as his out pitch and a changeup that is developing into a swing-and-miss offering. In terms of pure talent, Cole has the build and pitch arsenal that invokes comparisons to Stephen Strasburg. However, Cole lacks Strasburg's polish and is known to have some mechanical lapses. Based on the early returns from the Arizona Fall League and last night's performance, Cole is on the right track and those knocks are minor quibbles when it comes to the big picture.

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Last year Chicago Cubs prospect Anthony Rizzo posted a 1.056 OPS in the Pacific Coast League, so it should be of little surprise that he is terrorizing Triple-A pitching this year. In his first five games with Iowa, Rizzo is hitting .474 (9-for-19) with three home runs, nine RBIs, three runs scored and a 1.447 OPS. Last night, Rizzo clubbed a pair of home runs during a 3-for-3 evening in which he helped Iowa defeat Albuquerque 10-6.

It should be noted that Cubs big league first baseman Bryan LaHair is hitting .444 with a home run in three games. There won't be any rush to bring up Rizzo with no clear shot at playing time. In time, LaHair could be moved to a corner outfield spot to accommodate Rizzo, though.

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The Seattle Mariners' high Class A affiliate in the California League, High Desert, is one of professional baseball's notorious and unforgiving launching pads. It was no surprise that the M's decided it was in their best interests to have top prospect Taijuan Walker to skip the level altogether after he registered a 2.89 ERA at the low Single-A level in 2011.

Last night, the 19-year-old Walker made his Double-A debut in the more challenging Southern League and more than held his own against the older competition. Pitching for Jackson, Walker struck out eight batters over five innings while allowing two runs on four hits and a walk.

The athletic 6-foot-4, 210-pound Walker attacks hitters with a mid-90s fastball and a wicked curveball. He will probably need the duration of the 2012 season to develop his changeup and fine-tune his command, though. Post-collegiate products Danny Hultzen and James Paxton are more likely to make the jump to the majors this year even though Walker arguably has the highest ceiling of the trio.

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First baseman Lars Anderson, once a highly valued commodity in the Boston Red Sox's system, made his professional debut in left field last night in Triple-A Pawtucket's 1-0 loss to Lehigh Valley. Anderson, batting fifth behind Ryan Lavarnway and in front of Will Middlebrooks, went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

Only 24, Anderson still has age on his side, but he needs to get his bat going this year after registering a .780 OPS in 912 career Triple-A at-bats.

Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz block his ascent to Fenway, and Anderson doesn't have ideal power (14 home runs) for the first base position. But he holds a career .372 on-base percentage and got on base at a .368 clip last year, so there is reason for the Sox to find a place for him to play.

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On Monday Minnesota Twins prospect Miguel Sano socked a pair of home runs, drove in five runs and walked twice during low Single-A Beloit's 9-7 win over Kane County. Through four games, Sano has three hits in 13 at-bats (.231 average), but all of them are home runs.

Sano, who turns 19 next month, now has 30 home runs in 492 professional at-bats, good for a .581 slugging percentage. He has a chance to be the American League's version of Giancarlo Stanton.

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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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