by Chris Hadorn
on March 4, 2010 @ 14:00:00
Prospecting for fantasy baseball players has become vital. Many minor leaguers have promising futures, but only a fraction of them have the skills to make an immediate impact in the majors and on your fantasy baseball team. Which minor league players should you target in your 2010 fantasy baseball draft? Who'll make an impact during the season?
Heyward is your classic five-tool outfielder scouts dream of. The chiseled 6-foot-4, 220-pound right fielder brings more than just tools; he is an advanced player with few weaknesses. In 362 at-bats in the minors last season, Heyward hit .323 with 17 homers, 63 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. He also drew the same amount of walks as strikeouts (51), demonstrating a sound grasp of the strike zone.
Heyward is a smart, high-character guy who makes adjustments on the fly. Heyward has been set back by nagging injuries to his hip and oblique. This spring Heyward will get every opportunity to break camp with the Braves, and manager Bobby Cox is going to have a difficult time getting rid of him. He likely will make his major league debut no later than June. Given his ripe young age, Heyward will probably undergo his share of growing pains as a rookie, but he's as attractive a long-term outfield option as one will find in keeper formats: a budding superstar in the making.
Few players have entered professional baseball with more hype than Strasburg. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander hurls two outstanding pitches, a high-90s fastball and a knee-buckling hard breaking ball. Strasburg has above-average command of both pitches, especially his fastball, which makes him tough to hit. At San Diego State last year, Strasburg went 13-1, with a microscopic 1.32 ERA, and fanned 195 batters over a span of 109 innings - one of the finest seasons in college baseball history.
While Strasburg has all the tools one desires in a pitcher, he is hardly a slam dunk to succeed due to potential injury woes that often plague young hurlers. He has yet to pitch an official game against professional hitters, which is a big jump from the Mountain West Conference. The Nationals will probably Strasburg's career in the minors, possibly at Double-A Harrisburg. Long term, Strasburg could be a top-15 or top-20 pitcher, possibly better. Unfortunately, some are expecting Tim Lincecum-level performance from him; that might inflate his 2010 price tag in both single-year and keeper formats.
The Pirates have been criticized for their conservative drafting in recent years, but they hit the jackpot with the second overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. Following an up-and-down start at high Class-A Lynchburg, Alvarez caught fire after his promotion to Double-A Altoona, hitting .333 with 13 home runs and 40 RBIs in 222 at-bats. The 6-foot-3, 234-pounder could one day hit .280 to .290 and swat 35 to 40 home runs.
The major knock on Alvarez is defense, which could force a move to first base. He doesn't have good range but reportedly shed weight in the offseason to get more nimble. Scouts have also questioned his work ethic and nonchalant attitude on the diamond. The Pirates don't want to start Alvarez's arbitration clock; he will likely start 2010 at Triple-A Indianapolis and spend at least half the year there. The Bucs are fond of their incumbent starter at third, Andy LaRoche, but he won't block who some say is the organization's best hitting prospect since Barry Bonds.
In his first full professional season, Posey started the year in high Single-A and made it all the way to the big leagues by the end of 2009. In 422 at-bats with Class-A San Jose and Triple-A Fresno, Posey combined to hit .325 with 18 home runs, 80 RBIs and six stolen bases. A polished hitter at Florida State, Posey made a smooth transition with the bat, but he showed more power than scouts expected. Over the long haul, the former Golden Spikes Award winner projects as a .300 hitter with 15-home run pop.
Posey, a converted shortstop, has become an above-average backstop defensively, so his position is safe. The Giants brought back veteran Bengie Molina on a one-year deal. Historically, rookie catchers have a high rate of washing out, so it probably was wise for the Giants not to overburden Posey. This spring Posey is competing for a backup spot, but the Giants will likely send him to Triple-A Fresno to start the season so he can play every day.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Stanton is a physical marvel with exceptional power. Just 20 years young, Stanton already has clubbed 68 round-trippers in a little more than two professional seasons. The Southern California native has the potential to steal double-digit bases even though he only has seven career thefts. Stanton is gifted with a superstar ceiling of 30 to 40 home runs in the middle of the lineup.
Unfortunately, Stanton has trouble making contact. Scouts waver on how much of an impact he will have. In 299 at-bats at Double-A Jacksonville last year, Stanton hit .231, while compiling 99 strikeouts to 31 walks. Keep in mind, though, Stanton was ahead of the growth curve playing as a teenager in the Southern League. He has shown signs of improving his pitch recognition and overall command of the strike zone. The Marlins plan to be patient with Stanton and will assign him to Double-A out of spring training. If the Marlins stay patient with his development, he has a chance to be special.
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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