Icons of the International League
Matt LaPorta is one of the game’s top power-hitting prospects, despite his somewhat disappointing 2009. LaPorta’s prime is coming on fast, and his strong plate coverage and natural home run swing are too much to ignore. He still has the ability to turn into a superior middle-of-the-order hitter, and he is one of my very top fantasy breakout players for 2010.
Scott Sizemore finally lived up to his skill set in 2009, blossoming into one of minor league baseball’s best second basemen. His combination of power and speed really stands out, leaving his ultimate upside at an elite level. In his prime Sizemore could produce 20 home runs, 20 steals and a .280 batting average; and his prime may not be that far off. Place Sizemore on your 2010 fantasy watch list.
Wade Davis has an above-average and varied repertoire that could catapult him to the top of Tampa Bay’s rotation in the near future. But, if that is his upside, his control, which is already suspect in the minor leagues, needs a makeover. Davis doesn’t dominate as he should, but the light switch could go on at any point, as his prime is approaching quickly, and that could solve his control issues and turn him into one of the game’s top pitching prospects.
Michael Bowden doesn’t stand out as a blue-chip heat thrower, but he has all the makings of a strong middle-of-the-rotation type that combines sometimes brilliant control with average stuff. Bowden’s ability to control the strike zone projects well to the big leagues, but carving out a spot in Boston’s 2010 rotation will be a difficult task.
Prime Prospects of the Pacific Coast League
Alcides Escobar brings gold-glove leather to the ballpark, and, frankly, it’s too good to be wasted in the minor leagues, which Milwaukee realized halfway through August. What is most impressive about Escobar’s swing consistency is that it has improved at every stop he has made up the minor league ladder. But if he wants to be an exceptional major leaguer, his plate discipline and patience will have to make similar strides.
Brett Wallace has the makings of an above-average major league third baseman, but, as most of you know, I’m not overly excited by his upside. He has a consistent swing, with solid contact ability combined with displayed plate patience. He can be a .300 hitter, but I’m just not sure that he has the home run power to take his game to the next level.
Neftali Feliz has an elite, electric fastball that he had issues controlling early in the year. But he soon found his groove, and his year culminated in a terrific major league stint in Texas’ bullpen. No one will deny Feliz’s stuff or ability to miss an opponent’s bat, but it is certainly fair to question his secondary offerings and endurance. And when it comes right down to it, Feliz may be best coming out of the bullpen.
Bud Norris sneaked up on most people in 2009, when in fact he should have been on everyone’s radar screen heading into the year, as evidenced by his year-to-year improvement since his 2007 full-season debut. He finished his season in Houston enjoying a successful major league debut, solidifying his 2010 rotation spot. With further development, Norris’ curveball could be one of the game’s best.