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.
16. Zach Britton, SP, Baltimore Orioles
With an impressive spring, Britton is making a strong case to break camp with a spot in the Orioles' starting rotation. The southpaw went 10-7 with a 2.70 ERA in 153 1/3 innings pitched between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk last season. Britton's sinkerball gets rave reviews from scouts as it's arguably the best two-seamer in all of the minors. In 2010, the lefty only yielded seven homers and averaged 2.94 ground-outs for every air-out, in large part due to his sinker.
Britton also has a filthy slider in his arsenal that he utilizes as his out pitch, which helped him generate 7.28 strikeouts per nine innings last year. The 23-year-old is considered a high-makeup guy who has worked hard to transform himself into to a more complete pitcher. Britton doesn't have many flaws in his craft, so there's not much for him left to prove in the minors. He will probably begin the season at Norfolk, but he won't be there for long. Britton is a safe guy to gamble on and has a chance to be the best of the Orioles' talented group of young starters that includes Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta.
17. Jordan Walden, RP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Moore so for 2012, not 2011
Riddled with injuries as a starter, Walden was moved to the 'pen last year where he made a seamless transition to his new role. In 15 1/3 innings in the majors last year, Walden registered a 2.35 ERA and struck out a whopping 23 batters! The 6-foot-5, 235-pound fireballer performed so well that he assured himself of a big-league bullpen spot to start the season.
Walden hurls a fastball that sits in the mid- to high 90s and can reach triple digits on occasion. In addition to his velocity, the 23-year-old also gets quite a bit of sinking movement on his fastball, which has helped him average only 0.44 home runs allowed per nine innings in his minor league career. Manager Mike Scioscia is giving Fernando Rodney the first crack at closing this season, but Walden is widely viewed as the team's stopper of the future. Given Rodney's struggles late last year, it would be wise for his owners to keep watch on Walden for insurance.
18. Ivan Nova, SP, New York Yankees
Nova is competing with former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon, two-time All-Star Freddy Garcia and Sergio Mitre for either the Yankees' fourth or fifth spot in the starting rotation. Nova hurls a live fastball that sits in the low to mid-90s, but his secondary offerings (changeup, curveball, slider) are still works in progress.
Although the Dominican right-hander held his own in the majors late last season in posting a 4.50 ERA, his peripherals plummeted from Triple-A, namely his K/9 and K/BB. Thanks to the sink on his fastball, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound righty generates healthy ground-ball percentages and doesn't surrender many long balls. Nova won't be a strikeout machine in the majors, but he has enough ammunition to be an effective backend starter this season.
19. Ben Revere, OF, Minnesota Twins
Despite his first-round pedigree and .328 career average in the minors, Revere's stock has dropped some of late. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound outfielder hasn't quite developed the power the Twins had hoped; he has only four career home runs to his credit. Blessed with track star speed, Revere is a decent base stealer (36 of 49 in steals attempts last year), but he should better given his rare ability to motor down the line.
The one thing Revere has mastered though is his knack for putting the bat on the ball. Last year he struck out only 41 times in 361 at-bats. Like Luis Castillo in his prime, Revere is a threat to reach first on any ball hit into to play on the ground because of his wheels. This season Revere will likely spend the bulk of the season at Triple-A Rochester working on improving his on-base percentage, bunting and base stealing technique. Revere projects as a future leadoff hitter, but there's no clear opening for him in the Twins' crowded outfield.
20. Matthew Moore, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Moore is a strikeout machine. At high Single-A Charlotte last season, the southpaw fanned 208 batters in 144 2/3 innings, averaging 12.94 whiffs per nine innings! Despite the gaudy strikeout totals, Moore remarkably posted a losing record (6-11) last season with a 3.36 ERA.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound lefty attacks batters with a low- to mid-90s fastball with lots of late movement. He also has a power curveball that drops off the table and a good changeup to complement his fastball. Because of the late movement on his fastball, hitters have a tough time squaring up and making good contact on the ball. They took him deep only seven times last year. Moore has some trouble with walks (3.79 BB/9 in 2010) but was able to cut down on his free passes in the second half last season. Considering Tampa Bay's conservative handling of pitchers, Moore probably won't reach the majors this season, but he's arguably the most attractive young pitcher in AL keeper formats.