Fantasy Baseball Tumbling Dice: Stumbling Forward!

by Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com on July 10, 2012 @ 09:57:02 PDT

 


Sitting here, relaxing - or better, feeling nervous and compulsive - without box scores and stats to track for a few days, I think it is a good time to take a look at some of the hot prospects on whom we set so much store, and look at their futures.

To me, they are all bright, and when I think of these guys, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper don't count. "Why?" you might ask.

Because Trout and Harper are those rare birds of players, akin to Frank Thomas. I say this because I am often asked about the prospects of prospects when first promoted and one of my standard responses is "For every Frank Thomas, there are 99 Paul Konerkos."

Certainly, I don't mean this as a slight against Konerko, a fine player with a fine career. But Thomas was a monster coming out of the blocks, hitting .318-32-109 his first full season, and the Big Hurt never looked back.

On the other hand, Konerko, who played in his first major league game in 1997, struggled over 81 games and 224 at-bats, hitting .214-7-29 in 1997, and 1998, before a trade to the White Sox and a third season with some major league time, let the first baseman know he had arrived. Konerko hit .294-24-81 in that 1999 season, in fact, with a pretty good first half of .282-11-31, and then an All-Star-worthy .305-13-50 after the break.

The thing is as with any job it generally takes most of us a little time to get the hang. Think of yourself, and your current situation, and whether or not you had the organization figured out, along with duties and expectations, that first week? Or, did it take you somewhere between a couple of months and a year or so to really feel you had command of your duties?

Well, baseball is no different in that sense, so with that in mind, let's look at a handful of players I really like for the future, and why, struggling or not.

Let's start with the Royals and their first sacker, Eric Hosmer, who started out much like Konerko's second half with the White Sox in 1999, hitting .293-19-78 with KC last year over 128 games. Hosmer, however, has struggled this year, hitting .231-9-39 over 307 at-bats. The 22-year-old is hitting .250-2-9 over the last month, an improvement, but what he really must do is adjust: something pitchers have already done to him. Once he does, Hosmer will indeed be another Konerko. He might even have some Thomas years in there.

While we are on the subject of young first basemen, the Giants' Brandon Belt fits this mold. Belt was up and down - both in the majors and minors and in the statistical environ - last year, hitting .225-9-18 with a .306 OBP. Belt had a part-time role to start this year, but Aubrey Huff's problems became Belt's opportunity, and of his .254-4-30 totals over 189 at-bats, Belt is .301-4-13 over 85 at-bats this past month, with a .950 OPS. Belt's overall OBP for this year is now up to .358, and he is the everyday first baseman. At 24 years old, Belt is just starting his upward curve.

In Atlanta, Jason Heyward's career has similarly paralleled his colleagues' above. Heyward arrived with a splash in 2010, as a 20-year-old, and hit a pretty good .272-18-72, falling to injuries and sophomore woes last year with .227-14-42 totals over 128 games. Heyward has picked it back up this season, hitting.272-14-41 over 82 games. He has also hit .330-6-12 over the last month, and without the major spotlight, is settling in for a fine career.

What about the Rays' Matt Moore, who arrived with so much fanfare last year? Oh yes, and the fact that Moore whiffed 700 minor leaguers over 497 1/3 minor league innings - an incredible statistic. Well, Moore has indeed had his problems in the Rays' rotation this year with a 5-6 record and 4.42 ERA over 99 2/3 innings. At 23, Moore is still young. He is also in a great rotation with a great manager where fortunately the likes of Jeremy Hellickson, James Shields and David Price - all brought forth as members of the Rays' system - bearing the main burden of being the stopper. Moore might well struggle this year still, but by 2013 everything will fall in place and he will be a monster. If you have him, don't let go; if there is a disgruntled owner, take advantage and acquire the lefty.

Andrew Cashner is on the shelf with a sore lat, and though he has been mostly used as a reliever this year, Cashner recently moved into the starting rotation, and with three starts has 16 strikeouts over 10 2/3 innings, with five hits, and three each of walks and runs allowed. Cashner can deal at nearly 100 mph, and he gets to pitch half of his games at Petco. Again, this kid is on the verge. He will be dominant in a year.

Hey, now you can get me on Twitter @lawrmichaels!

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About Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com

Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.

Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.

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