by Chris Hadorn
on March 10, 2010 @ 16:00:00
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?
Following the offseason departure of J.J. Hardy to Minnesota, Escobar steps in as the Brewers' starting shortstop. In a stint of 125 at-bats with Milwaukee late last season, Escobar hit .304 with one home run, 11 RBIs and four stolen bases in six attempts. The 6-foot-1, 182-pound Venezuelan hit .298 and stole 42 bases with Triple-A Nashville prior to his promotion.
The 23-year-old may one day hit home runs in double figures, but for now most of his value is tied up in his wheels and his ability to hit for a respectable batting average. Escobar has the upside to swipe 35 to 40 bases this year, but he may only reach 25 to 30 steals because the Brewers plan to bat him eighth or ninth in the batting order. Despite his expected low slot in the order, Escobar is a good target for middle infield steals in the late rounds of MLB universe formats.
Bumgarner is competing with Todd Wellemeyer to be the Giants' fifth starter. The 20-year-old southpaw was considered by some to be the top pitching prospect in baseball at the halfway point of the season in 2009, but his stock has dropped slightly. During the second half of last season, Bumgarner's fastball waned into the 87 to 90 mph range, a significant drop from the low to mid-90s heater that he displayed previously in the season. That might have come from general fatigue or too much throwing work on the side.
Despite registering a 1.93 ERA at Double-A Connecticut, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound southpaw experienced a drastic decline in his strikeout rate, averaging only 5.8 strikeouts per nine frames. However, Bumgarner's future remains bright because of his superb fastball command and his ability to fool hitters with a deceptive three-quarter delivery. During a September cup of coffee, Bumgarner pitched effectively by recording a 1.80 ERA with 10 K's in 10 innings. Long term, the lefty projects as the Giants' third starter behind Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. This season, he's a mega-upside late-rounder in deep mixed leagues.
Last spring Chapman became an international phenomenon when he light up radar guns competing for Cuba in the World Baseball Classic. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound lefty has immense talent, armed with a mid- to high 90s fastball that touched triple digits this spring and a slider with out-pitch potential. In terms of raw talent, Chapman has the tools of an ace, but he is unrefined in terms of his mechanics and control.
The Reds intend to assign Chapman to the minors to start the season but might consider him for the bigs if he has a spectacular spring. In due time, the Cuban has the chance to be a frontline starter but most likely will need his share of development to realize that ceiling. He's a roto gamble for 2010.
As a 19-year-old last season, Castro combined to hit .299 with three homers, 49 RBIs and 28 stolen bases in 39 attempts. Castro further impressed in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .376 with nine stolen bases in 26 games. Castro is a splendid contact hitter for his age who profiles as a .300 batter at the big-league level. He made strides last season in cutting down his strikeouts and improving his walk rate following his promotion to the more challenging Southern League.
The Dominican has the speed to steal 30 bases but needs to work on his efficiency. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound shortstop is a good athlete who could hit for a lot more power as he matures and grows into his body. It remains to be seen if Castro will be a well-rounded offensive contributor, but he is well ahead of the growth curve for a 20-year-old and has a long time to iron out the kinks in his game. He is expected to spend most - if not all - of the 2010 season in the upper minors and is a more realistic fantasy prospect for 2011.
The Nationals' selection of Storen with the 10th overall pick in last year's draft was labeled as a conservative, financially motivated move by many baseball insiders. However, months later the Nats had the last laugh after Storen overmatched opposing batters in the minors and emerged as possibly the top relief prospect in baseball. In 28 minor league appearances, Storen went 2-1 with a 1.95 ERA and struck out 49 batters in 37 innings.
The former Stanford star hurls a low to mid-90s fastball and complements it with two solid breaking pitches. The Nationals are leaning towards starting Storen in the minors this season but acknowledge he has a chance to make the club out of spring due to his professional experience last year. Regardless of his initial role, Storen is worth a gamble as a speculative saves add in deep formats. He is considered the Nationals' closer of the future.
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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