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.
21. Brandon Beachy, SP, Atlanta Braves
According to reports, Beachy is expected to be named the Braves' fifth starter over the more highly touted Mike Minor. In 10 innings this spring, Beachy has registered a 1.80 ERA and posted an admirable 10-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The right-hander's career minor league numbers are off the charts. Beachy holds a lifetime 2.55 ERA and has recorded 228 strikeouts, 49 walks and only eight home runs allowed in 208 career innings on the farm.
His numbers are indicative of a frontline starter, but Beachy doesn't have the sexy pedigree or stuff that put him high on prospect charts. The 24-year-old signed with the Braves in 2008 as an undrafted free agent out of Indiana Wesleyan. His arsenal that includes a low-90s fastball, curveball and changeup has been characterized as the repertoire of a backend starter or reliever. But throughout his career, Beachy has been exceptional at pounding the strike zone, which has given him a chance to succeed with less than ideal stuff.
Things are just Beachy
Beachy is not a can't-miss pitching prospect, but his track record is enticing enough to take a chance on in NL-only formats, especially considering his low price. He profiles similarly to Braves swingman Kris Medlen.
22. Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Reds
Mesoraco enjoyed his finest minor league season in 2010 by hitting a combined .302 with 26 homers, 75 RBIs and a .964 OPS between three levels. Before the breakout season, the 2007 first-round pick was considered a disappointment as he registered only a .679 OPS in his first three minor league seasons. Last season, Mesoraco improved his conditioning and plate discipline and made some mechanical adjustments to his swing; everything came together for the young catcher. Mesoraco projects to be an above-average offensive contributor in the majors with 20-home run pop.
This spring the 22-year-old backstop has left quite an impression on manager Dusty Baker with both his hitting and defense. The Reds have disclosed that Mesoraco could be the first in line for a call-up if one of their veteran catchers (Ramon Hernandez or Ryan Hanigan) is injured. Mescoraco will begin the 2011 campaign at Triple-A Louisville, and he's on track to be the Reds' opening day starter by 2012.
23. Simon Castro, SP, San Diego Padres
In 129 2/3 innings at Double-A San Antonio last season, Castro went 7-6 with a 2.92 ERA and 107 strikeouts; he started the MLB All-Star Futures Game for the World team. Standing at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, Castro possesses ideal size for a starting pitcher. The Dominican relies primarily on a low- to mid-90s fastball that he can pinpoint and throw for strikes.
His secondary offerings, a slider and changeup, show promise, but Castro needs to improve his command of both. Castro profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but he could be a frontline guy with a few subtle improvements in his craft. Slated to begin the year at Triple-A Tucson, expect to see the soon-to-be 23-year-old at PETCO Park sometime this year.
24. Jerry Sands, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Sands earned the organization's minor league player of the year honors after combining to hit .301 with 35 home runs, 93 RBIs, 18 steals and a .981 OPS between low Single-A Great Lakes and Double-A Chattanooga. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound thumper has plus power and can drive the ball to all fields. Being the slugger that he is, Sands racked up 123 strikeouts, which is no surprise, but he did draw 73 walks and record a .395 on-base percentage, demonstrating his sound approach at the plate.
A natural first baseman, Sands has been playing his share of left field and has even played some third base to give the Dodgers more options with him when his bat is ready. The Dodgers expect the 23-year-old to hit his way to Chavez Ravine this year, but the big question is where is he going to play? If the left field platoon of Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames fails to deliver this season, don't count out Sands as a wild card to fill the hole.
25. Dee Gordon, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
Following his co-MVP season in the Midwest League, Gordon, soon 23 years old, skipped a level and was assigned to the challenging Southern League where he batted .277 with two home runs, 39 RBIs, 86 runs and 53 steals. Gordon is a flashy player with track star-type speed, but he's still unrefined in many areas as a ballplayer. He slugged only .355 and reached base at a .332 clip in his age-22 campaign. Furthermore, the young shortstop was not efficient on the base paths as he was caught stealing on 20 of his 73 steal attempts.
Sabermetrically, Gordon still has a ways to go to be a quality big league player, but he does project as an impact fantasy player as a rookie with the upside to swipe 30-plus bases and post an adequate batting average. The Dodgers have All-Star shortstop Rafael Furcal signed for one more season, so Gordon is expected to spend the entire season at Triple-A Albuquerque. Given Furcal's history with injuries, Gordon's anticipated year-long stint in the Pacific Coast League is hardly set in stone.