by Chris Hadorn
on March 2, 2011 @ 12:05:46
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.
When taken with the seventh overall pick of the 2009 draft, Minor was considered to be more of a finesse pitcher, but last year he posted numbers indicative of a power arm. In 120 1/3 innings in the minors, Minor compiled a 3.44 ERA while racking up 146 strikeouts. His ERA ballooned to 5.98 during a late-season stint in the majors, but he was still able to average 9.52 strikeouts per nine frames in 40 2/3 innings.
After the Braves tinkered with his mechanics coming out of college, Minor's velocity boomed into the low to mid-90s. The southpaw also has a good feel for changing speeds, and his changeup is considered a top-notch secondary offering. Minor has a good chance to beat out fellow rookie Brandon Beachy and veteran Rodrigo Lopez for the fifth starter's spot this spring. Expect the left-hander to put up numbers similar what Brian Matusz did as a rookie for the Baltimore Orioles last season, but unlike the latter Minor won't have to face a DH or run through the AL East gauntlet.
The smoke-throwing Kimbrel is the long-term favorite to win the Braves' closer job following the retirement of Billy Wagner. The 22-year-old attacks hitters with a high-90s fastball and a nasty breaking ball that has out pitch written all over it. During a stint of 20 2/3 innings with the Braves last year, Kimbrel recorded a microscopic 0.44 ERA and put up an equally amazing 40 strikeouts. In fact, Kimbrel's 17.42 strikeouts per nine innings last year was the highest single-season mark in major league history among pitchers with 20 or more innings pitched.
Stuff and strikeouts aside, Kimbrel still has his faults. He walks a ton of batters (7.0 BB per 9 IP in '10) and showed an extreme fly-ball tendency in his MLB stint. That last concern should be eased by his extensive track record of high grounder rates on the farm, but that aerial trend is nonetheless worth watching. Initially, Kimbrel is expected to at least split closer duties with fellow righty Jonny Venters.
Teheran is arguably the top pitching prospect in all of the minors. In 2010 as a 19-year-old, the Columbian breezed through three different minor league levels, registering a 2.59 ERA and averaging 10.03 strikeouts per nine innings. Teheran pitched well beyond his years as he kept hitters off base (1.04 WHIP) and didn't allow many balls to leave the yard (0.6 HR/9).
The 6-foot-2, 170-pound right-hander hurls an electric fastball that usually sits in the mid-90s, and two of his secondary pitches (curveball, changeup) are reliable offerings that should get better in time. The big question is whether or not Teheran can stay healthy over the long haul. Targeted for Double-A Mississippi this year, no minor league hurler will probably be more closely scrutinized by the fantasy baseball community than Teheran this season. With a repeat of last year's performance, he could force his way onto the Braves' 25-man roster sometime after the All-Star break, but it's likelier that they'll save his debut for 2012 at the earliest.
Despite pitching for only a little more than a year, Jansen overpowered big league batters last season to the tune of a 0.61 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP and 13.7 strikeouts per nine innings. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound fireballer did not surrender a home run all year in the minors or the majors.
The converted catcher routinely dials it up in the high 90s, and his two-plane slider has transformed itself into a big league secondary pitch. Given his inexperience on the mound, there is risk with Jansen as his control can be shaky at times, but it's scary to think how much the Curacao native can grow when you consider that he has just gotten past the infancy stages of pitching. Even though Jansen eventually pitched his way into a few save opportunities down the stretch in 2010, All-Star Jonathan Broxton still has a firm grip on the ninth-inning duties. Jansen still ranks as a solid speculative candidate, though.
A fine three-sport athlete in high school, the 20-year-old Lyles is already knocking on the door to the majors after just two full seasons in the minors. Lyles doesn't light up radar guns, but he is a polished pitcher for his age who keeps batters off-balance with an assortment of four different offerings. Pitching out of a clean and easy delivery, the right-hander pounds the zone with a high-80s to low-90s fastball and relies mostly on his curveball and changeup when he needs an out.
Following a second-half promotion to Triple-A Round Rock, Lyles went through some growing pains as he posted an 0-3 record, a 5.40 ERA and a 22-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the span of 31 2/3 innings. Lyles is competing with Nelson Figueroa, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Aneury Rodriguez and Lance Pendelton for the fifth starter's spot this year but will probably be sent back to Triple-A to begin the season after his struggles there last season. Lyles is on pace to arrive in Houston sometime this summer. He projects as a middle-of-the-rotation workhorse.
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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