by Chris Hadorn
on March 24, 2010 @ 13:00:00
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?
Norris is an advanced hitter with good power and a sound grasp of the strike zone. In 437 at-bats at high Single-A Hagerstown last season, Norris hit .286 with 23 home runs, 30 doubles, 84 RBIs and 90 walks. The 21-year-old has the potential to be an above-average hitter at the major league level, capable of clubbing 25 round-trippers and posting an .850 OPS or higher.
The only thing Norris doesn't do well at the plate is make consistent contact; he might struggle to hit .275 or better down the road. The 6-foot, 210-pound backstop draws praise for his ability to throw out base stealers and his mobility behind the dish, but he still needs considerable work in his catching skills. His defensive deficiencies give the Nationals a legitimate reason to be patient with Norris' development timetable. Norris is headed to Double-A Harrisburg for the 2010 campaign, and there's a slim chance he could earn a big league promotion in September when rosters expand. A 2011 debut is more likely, making him a hidden keeper gem.
Throughout his professional career, Frazier has played his share of shortstop, third base, second base, first base and left field. The Reds are still not sure what position he is going to end up at or whether he will be a versatile regular like Mark DeRosa. One thing is for certain: Frazier is a shrewd hitter who holds a .296 career average and a .858 OPS in the minors.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder combined to bat .292 with 16 home runs, 77 RBIs and nine steals in 514 at-bats between Double-A Carolina and Triple-A Louisville last season. Frazier does not project as a star but has the tools to be a .280-20-80-10 type in his prime. The Reds have already assigned Frazier to Triple-A Louisville this year for a final tune-up before a potential promotion sometime this summer. When called up, Frazier could play a lot due to his defensive flexibility, making him a bench candidate in deep NL-only drafts.
The Braves selected Freeman in the second round of the 2007 Draft, one round after they took blue chip outfielder Jason Heyward. Like Heyward, Freeman has made a rapid ascent through the Braves' farm system. Last season Freeman hit .302 at high Single-A Myrtle Beach, earning a promotion to Double-A Mississippi. He batted .319 in the first month at Mississippi before left wrist soreness sunk his average to .248. The Southern Californian was also playing as a teenager in the Southern League, a green age for that circuit.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound first baseman has the bat speed and uppercut swing to be a thumper, but there's much debate among scouts about whether he will club 20 or 30 big flies in his prime. Freeman swatted 18 homers with low Single-A Rome in 2008 but was limited to eight round-trippers in 2009; the wrist issue hurt, too. Only 20, Freeman has plenty of time to develop his power as his body matures. Freeman is set to spend the bulk, if not all, of the 2010 campaign in the minors with veteran Troy Glaus manning first base in Atlanta. If he doesn't receive a September cup of coffee this year, he'll probably be up sometime in 2011.
The Brewers' 2008 first-rounder held his own in his first professional stage, hitting .274 with 13 home runs, 65 RBIs and 19 steals in 372 at-bats with low Class-A Wisconsin last year. He hit .269 with no homers or RBIs during a brief 52 at-bat stint with Double-A Huntsville, but he was a 19-year-old who jumped an entire level playing against older competition. Lawrie possesses the athleticism, strength and lightning-quick bat speed to increase his power numbers as he matures.
The main dilemma with Lawrie is whether he will stick at the keystone or move elsewhere. The converted catcher was less than stellar at second base last season, but many believe his bat will profile well at any position. The 20-year-old likely will begin the 2010 campaign at high Class A Brevard County and is probably two years away from competing for a starting gig in Milwaukee.
Withrow has the electric stuff to be a frontline starter but needs to fine-tune his command and stay healthy to realize his upside. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound right-hander is an exceptional athlete with clean mechanics, armed with a mid-90s fastball and a filthy curveball. In 113 2/3 innings between high Single-A Inland Empire and Double-A Chattanooga last season, Withrow went 8-8, with a 4.51 ERA and 131 strikeouts.
A highly bloated BABIP at Inland Empire inflated his ERA, but he also hurt himself by issuing too many walks. On the bright side, the Texas native limited opponents to only five homers all season, and any growth in his dull groundball levels will only help that category. Withrow's changeup is still developing, but at times it flashes the potential to be a swing-and-miss offering. The Dodgers plan to start Withrow at Double-A this season. He probably needs another full season in the minors under his belt before he will be ready to compete for a big-league rotation spot.
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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