by Chris Hadorn
on March 1, 2011 @ 03:56:40
In 2010, Major League Baseball saw a mammoth influx of young talent, but fantasy baseball players can't expect that impact each year. Properly valuing rising farm players' talent, timetable and opportunity will help win your fantasy baseball league.
The 2007 No. 2 overall pick enjoyed a breakout season in 2010 by combining to hit .322 with 36 homers, 124 RBIs and a .999 OPS between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha. Thanks to a lightning quick bat, Moustakas is an exceptional hitting talent who projects to hit for power and average. The 22-year-old only struck out 67 times in 484 at-bats last year, a favorable contact rate for a thumper.
Moustakas is still trying to figure out how to hit lefties, and he can get pull-happy at times, but he is for the most part a polished product with the bat. Competing with the likes of Mike Aviles, Wilson Betemit and Pedro Feliz for the third base job, Moustakas is going to seize the hot corner spot at some point this season; the only question is when. More likely than not, he'll spend a month or two at Omaha before becoming a fantasy contributor.
Ackley, the No. 2 overall pick from the 2009 draft, didn't quite live up to his billing during his first professional season, hitting just .267 with seven homers, 51 RBIs, 10 steals and a .407 slugging percentage in 501 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A. However, he did exhibit signs of being a productive major leaguer as he registered a .368 on-base percentage and almost drew as many walks (75) as strikeouts (79).
The 23-year-old also earned MVP honors during an offseason stint in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League. Ackley still shows the promise of hitting .300 or better in the majors, but the big question is whether he will club double-digit home runs to complement his on-base skills. A converted first baseman/outfielder, Ackley is still learning how to play the keystone, so the Mariners ideally want to give him more minor league seasoning before handing the second base job to him for good.
In most organizations, McGee would be touted as a potential frontline starter, but he's in line to be utilized as a reliever this season by the pitching-abundant Rays. Pitching primarily as a starter last year in the Rays' system, McGee showed no ill effects from his 2008 Tommy John surgery as he posted a 3.07 ERA and averaged 10.82 strikeouts per nine innings. The southpaw's command improved even more when Tampa Bay converted him into a reliever late in the season.
Following Rafael Soriano's departure to the New York Yankees during the winter, manager Joe Maddon has been hesitant to name a replacement to the closer role, but McGee appears to be the most intriguing and promising option over the long term. He's a decent speculation candidate, but the Rays haven't been too quick to throw their youngsters into the fire without easing them in first. You'll probably have to wait on saves.
There's little question that Drabek has the ammunition to succeed as a No. 2 starter in the majors. He has a good feel for changing speeds with his fastball, he throws a big breaking curveball to put hitters away, he keeps the ball on the ground, and he is a plus athlete for pitcher.
After Drabek showed some good signs with a 4.76 ERA in three big league starts last year, the Jays are giving him the opportunity to win a backend starting rotation spot in spring training. Expect some growing pains, though. Drabek didn't quite dominate opponents at Double-A New Hampshire last year, averaging 7.3 strikeouts and 3.8 walks per nine innings. His command is still a work in progress.
Trout would top this list if 2011 impact wasn't a heavy consideration. In his first full season of professional baseball, Trout hit a robust .341 with 10 homers, 58 RBIs and a whopping 56 steals. An outstanding athlete, Trout's tools are off the charts, especially his wheels.
In addition to his god-given ability, the 19-year-old earns high marks for his makeup, aggressive style of play and his advanced feel of the strike zone. The only real concern is how much power Trout will develop as he matures. The Angels have acknowledged Trout is headed for Double-A Arkansas for the 2011 campaign, which should be a formidable challenge for the teenager. He probably won't debut in the majors until sometime in 2012, but that doesn't change the fact that he is the most promising prospect in AL keeper leagues.
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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