Fantasy Baseball Player Prospecting: Will Middlebrooks, Matt Adams, Shelby Miller
by Chris Hadorn
on April 19, 2012 @ 14:21:32
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.
Entering the 2012 season, the general consensus around baseball was that Boston Red Sox 3B prospect Will Middlebrooks would need a full season of development at Triple-A Pawtucket before he was ready to be a full-time regular. The Red Sox already employed Kevin Youkilis at third base and sluggers Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz at the first base and designated hitter spots, so there was no clear path to Fenway for Middlebrooks.
In addition, Middlebrooks struggled with his plate discipline as he compiled 114 strikeouts to 26 walks in 439 minor league at-bats in 2011. His poor eye dampened some of the excitement generated by his .285-23-94 breakout season last year.
This year, Middlebrooks is off a torrid start, hitting .368 with five home runs, 16 RBIs, 11 runs scored and two steals in 57 at-bats. The 23-year-old has socked four home runs in his last six games.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Texan has only drawn two walks to nine strikeouts so far, but he is showing that he might be able to be an effective major league hitter in spite of his overly aggressive approach. The one thing that scouts praise Middlebrooks for is his plate coverage. He is adept at driving balls on the outside part of the plate to the opposite field.
Even though Youkilis is off to a sluggish .184 start with one home run and seven RBIs, his job security is not in jeopardy. From a strictly performance standpoint, Middlebrooks is no threat to Youkilis. The Red Sox ideally would like to see Middlebrooks get a full season of development in Pawtucket.
However, Youkilis has endured a laundry list of various ailments over the last few years so it is not inconceivable to think that Middlebrooks could eventually find his way to the majors as a contributor sometime this year. Because of the injury factor, this situation bears watching for AL-only managers and especially Youkilis owners.
When the news broke that St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman (calf) was headed to the 15-day disabled list, prospect Matt Adams was the first person that immediately came to mind for fantasy junkies as a potential replacement.
Adams, 21, was hitting .362 with three home runs and eight RBIs in 54 at-bats with Triple-A Memphis. Business decisions came into play as Adams is not currently on the team's 40-man roster. With Carpenter swinging the bat so well, there's probably concern among the brass that Adams would be brought up and wouldn't start much.
Adams, who entered Thursday's games with a career .924 OPS, was likely given consideration for a promotion, so he might not be far away if he continues to put on a hitting clinic in the Pacific Coast League. However, barring a major setback with Berkman's return or Allen Craig's rehab (knee), there doesn't seem to be a real window of opportunity ahead for Adams to play. The 2013 season looks more realistic, but expect Adams to continue to put up gaudy numbers in the minors. He has done so his entire professional career.
Shelby Miller, the 19th overall pick of the 2009 draft out of a Texas high school, had enjoyed a smooth ascent through the Cardinals system prior to this year. Now 21 and at Triple-A, Miller is going through a little bit of an adjustment period. In 13 innings at Memphis, Miller has gone 1-2, with a 6.23 ERA and a 19:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Much of Miller's struggles stem from his four home runs surrendered thus far. By comparison, he allowed four home runs in 139 2/3 innings in 2011.
The 6-foot-4 righty turned it around last night, though, by picking up his first win in Memphis' 7-5 over New Orleans. In five innings, Miller allowed one run (one homer) on five hits and four walks, while striking out nine.
Despite the slow start, there's not much to be concerned about over Miller's long-term prospects. Armed with a mid-90s fastball and nasty 12-to-6 curveball, Miller has No. 1 or 2 starter-type stuff. The right-hander is smoothing out the rough edges in his craft (sharpening his command, improving his changeup), so some bumps are in the road are to be expected.
With Miller being at Triple-A, some fantasy players were probably hoping for his fast ascent to the majors, but those expectations should be tempered for the time being. Mid- to late summer is a more realistic expected time of arrival for Miller.
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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