by Chris Hadorn
on March 8, 2011 @ 14:26:29
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.
Showing their confidence in Arencibia, the Blue Jays said goodbye to All-Star catcher John Buck and dealt Mike Napoli this winter to make room for their first-round pick from 2007. Coming off a discouraging .236 season in 2009, Arencibia underwent LASIK surgery before going on a rampage in the Pacific Coast League; he earned MVP honors after batting .301 with 32 home runs and 85 RBIs with Triple-A Las Vegas.
Given the hitter-friendly nature of Las Vegas, there's a lot to question about Arencibia's breakout. For his whole career, he has been a pull-conscious hitter with a big swing who hasn't had a firm grip on controlling the strike zone. The big question now is whether the rookie can hit for a decent average (.250 would be a win) to make his power worthwhile. He is capable of pushing 20 homers as a rookie.
Morel is competing with Mark Teahen for the third base job this spring and is the favorite to win the competition in large part due to his defense. But offensively, Morel shows promise. He is a career .305 hitter in the minors, and he has reached double digits in stolen bases in all three professional seasons.
Playing a position where power is a premium, the Cal Poly alumnus gets some flak though for being only a .464 career slugger in the minors. Mainly a doubles hitter, the free-swinging Morel projects as a .280-15-70-10 type in the majors, but don't rule out growth on that projection. Morel is a capable hitter, and he is in an advantageous long-term situation now that the Pale Hose are trying out fellow youngster Dayan Viciedo in the outfield and possibly first base in the long term.
The offseason departure of Mike Napoli opened up an opportunity for Conger to compete for a 25-man roster spot this spring. As a 22-year-old at Triple-A Salt Lake last year, Conger batted .300 with 11 homers, 49 RBIs and 26 doubles. The switch-hitter is lauded for his quick bat, compact stroke and plate discipline. Last year he recorded almost as many walks (55) as strikeouts (58).
He's not expected to develop into much of a power hitter, though. Conger profiles as an above-average offensive catcher, but his defense is going to ultimately determine whether he breaks camp with the team and how much he plays down the line. At some point this season, expect Conger to be the offensive half of the Angels catching platoon with defensive wiz Jeff Mathis, if Mike Scioscia can overcome his Mathis man crush.
Living up to his billing as the 2008 No. 3 overall pick, Hosmer emerged as one of baseball's elite prospects in 2010. He combined to bat .338 with 20 home runs, 86 RBIs, 43 doubles, 14 steals and a .977 OPS between high Single-A Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Hosmer exhibited outstanding plate discipline with 59 walks and only 66 strikeouts, a low number for a slugger.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound first baseman is a polished hitter who has already shown the ability to drive outside pitches to left field. Outside of Jesus Montero, there might not be a better hitting prospect in the minors. Although Hosmer is getting a long look in spring training and could emerge as the starter sometime this season, the 21-year-old is expected to spend the whole season in the high minors for his final tune-up. Hosmer should assume the Royals' first base duties on a full-time basis by early 2012, at the latest.
Carter was riding high following a Texas League Player of the Year showing in 2009, but his star dimmed some last year after his average sank to .258 at Triple-A Sacramento. He still managed to pound 31 homers and 94 RBIs, proving that he can still drive the long ball with the best in the minors. Carter has averaged 33.67 homers per season over the last three years (including his MLB stint), and he has registered an impressive .540 slugging mark during his farm career.
Like most 21st century thumpers, Carter strikes out excessively, but he does make up for a lot of damage by posting healthy walk totals. While Carter is nearly ready for the big leagues, he is currently blocked from playing regularly with Daric Barton at first, Hideki Matsui at designated hitter and Josh Willingham in left field. Although he's competing for a spot this spring, he's probably headed back to Sacramento at least initially so he can play regularly.
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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