by Chris Hadorn
on March 9, 2011 @ 03:30:28
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.
For a rookie, Luebke earns high reviews for his command and his advanced understanding of pitching. On the flip side, not many scouts are enthralled with his assortment of pitches that includes an 88-92 mph four-seamer, a two-seamer, a slider and a changeup. Although the southpaw lacks knock-your- socks-off stuff, Luebke has had his way with hitters over the last two seasons because of his ability to pinpoint pitches. In 2010, the former Ohio State star went 10-1 with a 2.68 ERA and posted an 88-to-29 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 114 innings between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Portland.
Luebke did well against major leaguers last September, but he had some trouble with the long ball as he yielded three homers in 17 2/3 innings of work. It's a small sample size, but despite bringing a lot of positives to the table, most notably pitching half his games at PETCO Park, Luebke lives on the edge with his stuff. Luebke is on the bubble for a rotation spot this spring, but he's not expected to spend much time at Triple-A if he starts the season there.
At the plate, Espinosa is known for his power-speed combination that is not the modus operandi of many middle infielders around the league. The 23-year-old has averaged 23 home runs and 27 steals over his last two professional seasons. During a September stint in the majors, Espinosa walloped six home runs in 103 at-bats.
There's little doubt that Espinosa's power is real, but the real concern is how much his .270 career farm average will drop in the majors. He batted .214 in the bigs last year. In addition to his BA woes, the switch-hitter has strike zone issues, racking up 262 strikeouts to only 132 walks in the minors. Although there are a lot of risks with Espinosa, he is a safe bet to break camp as the Nationals' everyday second baseman.
Dominguez is being given every shot to win the Marlins' third base job this spring. Defense is Dominguez's calling card and is the primary reason why he may leave Jupiter manning the hot corner. His hitting is still a work in progress, though, as he holds just a .257 lifetime batting average in the minors. At Double-A Jacksonville last year, the 21-year-old batted .252 with 14 home runs, 34 doubles, 81 RBIs and a .744 OPS in 504 at-bats.
The 2007 first-round pick has solid pop and adequate plate discipline but will probably never be much of a contributor in batting average or steals (one career stolen base in four tries). Still very young, Dominguez shows signs of developing into a middle-of-the-road MLB batter with 20-homer power, but he'll take his lumps this year.
Alonso is nearly ready for The Show but doesn't have much of an opportunity in Cincinnati with reigning NL MVP Joey Votto entrenched at first base. In 507 at-bats between Double-A Carolina and Triple-A Louisville last season, Alonso combined to bat .290 with 15 homers, 36 doubles, 69 RBIs, 13 steals and an .820 OPS. He overcame a slow start and ended up hitting a robust .335 in the second half at Louisville.
The 2008 seventh overall pick projects as a .280-20-80 type but has the upside to outperform those figures. The Reds have gotten him some work in left field, but there hasn't been a serious attempt to convert him. The Cuban made a brief appearance there recently in spring action. Likely headed for Triple-A, Alonso will have to hack his way into the Reds lineup. Left field is his best bet, but the situation is crowded with numbers (Johnny Gomes, Fred Lewis, Chris Heisey) if not talent.
Dunn is a dark horse to threaten embattled closer Leo Nunez for the Marlins' ninth-inning duties. Originally a New York Yankees farmhand, the fireballer was acquired by Florida in a winter trade that sent Dan Uggla to the Atlanta Braves.
Dunn hurls a mid-90s fastball and a slider that works as an out pitch. In 19 innings pitched in the big leagues last year, the southpaw compiled a 1.89 ERA and had 27 strikeouts in 19 innings. He had trouble with control (17 walks) so it might take him some time to get his feet wet, decrease his walks and make a run for closer.
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.
Don't miss these great reports....
Recent KFFL releases
Fantasy Football Rankings: Standard Scoring
Fantasy Football Rankings: PPR Scoring
Fantasy Baseball Closer Depth Charts: White Sox chaos coming?
Fantasy Football Rankings: Scoring only