Here is the first of a four-part series showcasing the rookies who have the potential to make a fantasy impact in 2011.
With the emergence of Buster Posey and Carlos Santana last year, the catching position seems to be stronger and deeper than most years. Decent catchers will be available late this year. You should be able to take two starters in the middle to late rounds, ride the hot bat, and make out fine.
Despite the overall depth at catcher, Toronto’s J.P. Arencibia is the only rookie I would consider drafting in a standard league. There isn’t much standing in his way and there is power upside to be had.
Jesus Montero is the sexy bat that some seem to want to draft late, but I don’t see the point. The Yankees have depth at catcher with Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli, and even if injuries hit another position that Montero could successfully man, there is plenty of veteran depth to soak up the at-bats.
Hank Conger of the Angels is worth keeping an eye on, as Jeff Mathis has shown nothing with his bat since arriving on the scene. Conger is capable of raking at Triple-A, which could prompt a swift change. If he gets promoted a couple of months into the season he might be worth pouncing on.
Wilson Ramos appears to be an injury away from major playing time in Washington. You can question his upside. I do. But he could surprise.
Tyler Flowers has the ability to finally put the entire package together, but it’s a long shot. It’s going to take big numbers at Triple-A to even get him on the White Sox’ radar screen again.
A couple of young, non-rookie catchers, Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy and Jason Castro of Houston, will likely go undrafted but could surprise. Neither has big upside, but both demonstrated offensive aptitude in the minors and are the likely starters for their respective teams.
First base is always a deep position, for obvious reasons. A lot of veteran, middle-of-the-order hitters call first base home, and there shouldn’t be any rookies messing up that notion this year.
Freddie Freeman is expected to start in Atlanta, but his youth and good-but-not-great minor league numbers have me thinking he has too many question marks to even be draftable at this point. Feel free to pounce if gets off to a hot start.
Chris Carter is another one of the few who could prove me wrong; he has the power to dominate Triple-A and then is just an injury to Daric Barton or Hideki Matsui away from a full-time gig in Oakland.
Yonder Alonso has been merely getting by since being drafted in Cincinnati, but still has enough upside in his bat to make an impact. With a big start in Triple-A, Cincinnati will be tempted to find room for him.
Lars Anderson doesn’t even register with most fantasy players, but I still think he has a future. He could have a big year at Triple-A, but even then it would take a trade or a serious injury to Adrian Gonzalez or David Ortiz for Anderson to get a shot in Boston.
That leaves the most intriguing first base prospect around: Eric Hosmer. He clearly has the ability to rake in the minors, and I don’t think Kansas City would hesitate to promote him sometime midseason if that is the case. He’s worth a look at that point.
On the non-rookie front, Justin Smoak has upside and is worth a late-round flier if you’re not 100 percent comfortable with your No. 1 option. I consider Brett Wallace to be one step below Smoak, so he’s one to keep on your radar screen. Gaby Sanchez and Ike Davis had nice rookie seasons, but their 2010 numbers are about as good as it gets. I’d rather have the upside of Smoak or Wallace.