Fantasy Baseball Player Prospecting: Ryan Wheeler, Astros-Blue Jays trade
by Chris Hadorn
on July 20, 2012 @ 15:15:38
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.
Arizona Diamondbacks third basemen have combined to hit .230 with an ugly .281 on-base percentage and a .351 slugging percentage this season. As a result, the D'Backs are turning to third base prospect Ryan Wheeler to alleviate the problem at the hot corner.
Wheeler hit .351 with 15 home runs, 90 RBIs, 56 runs scored and a .960 OPS in 362 at-bats at Triple-A Reno this season. It was by far Wheeler's best full-season performance since being selected in the fifth round of the 2009 draft.
Reno is considered a hitter's paradise, but Wheeler actually posted better numbers in road games (.986 OPS) than home games (.986 OPS).
Based on his performance at Double-A and Single-A in previous seasons, the 24-year-old was considered by many talent evaluators to be an average offensive performer at the third base position.
This season the former Loyola Marymount star has finally put up the hitting and slugging numbers that are expected from the premium hitting spot of third base.
Because of Wheeler's questionable glove, there are concerns that he may eventually be pushed to first base, where his hitting performance would be subjected to additional scrutiny. The D'Backs have tried him in left field too, but the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Wheeler is too slow afoot to be a regular there.
Furthermore, Double-A third base prospect Matt Davidson has a higher ceiling, so Wheeler might not have much more than a year or two to prove that he can hack it at the position.
Based on his Triple-A performance, Wheeler has a chance to surprise this year as a middle-of-the-road contributor in NL-only leagues, so he's a must-add in those formats. However, his long-term outlook is indicative of a part-time or platoon player at a corner infield spot. Simply put, he doesn't have the premium bat at those spots, where gaudy numbers are the expectation.
On Friday the Toronto Blue Jays acquired pitchers J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter from the Houston Astros in exchange for pitcher Francisco Cordero, outfielder Ben Francisco and minor league players Asher Wojciechowski, Joe Musgrove, David Rollins and Carlos Perez.
Some of the Astros' new farmhands may turn out to be good fantasy prospects.
A first-round supplemental pick in the 2010 draft, Wojciechowski is a big-bodied pitcher (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) whom the Jays felt had the ceiling of a possible No. 1 or No. 2 starter when they drafted him. His velocity has waned from the mid-90s to low 90s since turning pro, and his secondary pitches haven't developed quite as hoped. There are times when Wojciechowski has struggled to repeat his delivery with his long body.
Despite some of the negatives, Wojciechowski has performed well in the Florida State League this year by posting a 7-3 record, a 3.57 ERA and a 77:22 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has yielded only three home runs. Even with less velocity, his fastball has been effective because it plays up due to his size.
Right now, Wojciechowski profiles more like a No. 4 starter, but he's still young enough (23) to realize his ceiling in a new organization.
The Jays brought Musgrove along slowly after drafting him in the supplemental portion of the first round of the 2011 draft out of a San Diego-area high school. But so far, his future looks extremely promising. Musgrove has registered a 1.12 ERA and a 9:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio in eight innings with rookie club Bluefield this season. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound righty features a power sinkerball that can reach the mid-90s. He has the upside of a No. 2 or No. 3 starter.
In his return to the low Single-A Midwest League, Perez has made some noticeable improvements with the bat. He has improved his slugging percentage in large part due to more doubles production, and he has done a better job of controlling the strike zone with more walks and a drastic reduction in strikeouts. The 21-year-old backstop is still a long way from the majors. The Venezuelan projects as an average offensive catcher.
In terms of raw talent, Rollins is probably the least sexy of Houston's minor league acquisitions, but his actual production might be the most impressive. The southpaw has gone 6-1 with a 2.78 ERA and a 75:36 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 77 2/3 innings with low Single-A Lansing. The 24th-round selection has also allowed only two homers. Not overpowering, Rollins relies on a fastball, a slider and a changeup. It's hard to put a lot of stock into his performance until he performs at higher levels, though.
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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