2010 fantasy baseball draft preparation rookie report (and other random notes)by Matt Hagen
February 25, 2010
Rookie catchers normally won't help your fantasy squad. The good news is that you shouldn't have to rely on any of these guys in standard, shallow leagues, but participants in deep leagues or ones that employ two everyday catchers need to take notes.
Buster Posey and Carlos Santana seem to be on equal footing heading into the fantasy baseball season. It appears that both will start the year at Triple-A with the possibility to take over at the major league level in a couple of months. While the odds of that scenario coming true for Posey don't seem good while Bengie Molina is blocking his ascent, Lou Marson is the only player standing between Santana and the full -ime gig in Cleveland. I'll take Santana over Posey.
Truth be told, Tyler Flowers isn't far behind. Flowers could be first in line if an injury happens at catcher, first base, or designated hitter for the Chicago White Sox.
If you're in the market for someone who has a better shot at starting, and therefore producing, Alex Avila may be the safest investment of any rookie catcher. A quick start could cement him as the starter in Detroit, as the light-hitting veteran Gerald Laird is the only man standing in his way. Adam Moore is worth keeping an eye on, too. I'm not a fan, but he could win Seattle's catching job by default, and at 25 years old his prime is approaching quickly.
The odds of seeing significant playing time in the majors are long for Jesus Montero and Jason Castro. On the subject of Castro and the Houston catching situation, how does J.R. Towles sound as a post-hype sleeper? I like his odds more than any of the rookie catchers.
If you're looking for a deep rookie sleeper, keep Jonathan Lucroy in mind. For some reason Milwaukee has decided to rely heavily upon Greg Zaun, and if his body can't handle it, Lucroy could get a shot sooner rather than later. All indications are that Milwaukee prefers Lucroy at catcher over Angel Salome.
Chris Carter, Justin Smoak, Logan Morrison, Brett Wallace, Yonder Alonso, and Brandon Allen are strong talents, but they are all blocked at the major league level. It will take an injury or an absolute trouncing of Triple-A pitching to get them to the majors. Long term, Pedro Alvarez is still hanging onto his third base title, but he may get his first crack at the majors as a first baseman. But he too won't get there anytime before midseason. Keep an eye on all of these guys as June hits, but none of them are worth a draft investment.
Freddie Freeman may be closer than people realize, but his bat is too unpolished at this point for my taste. Mike Carp is a deep sleeper and may get a look in Seattle, but he doesn't have the talent of the others.
And that's it for first basemen capable of making a fantasy impact. You want a non-rookie post-hype sleeper? I don't like giving away my main targets, but if he's still there, I'm taking Chris Davis late in every single draft I am a part of. But even Davis' potential breakout won't prevent me from targeting this year's top overall first basemen above most other positions.
Scott Sizemore is on radar screens, but he is still supremely underrated. This year at second base, I feel very comfortable passing on the first couple of tiers in order to land Sizemore and a backup plan later in the draft. It's all about value, and I think that Sizemore is a serious Rookie of the Year contender. Even if you pass on the first couple of tiers and someone steals Sizemore from under you, the position is deep enough to recover.
Adrian Cardenas could get a full-time shot at some point this season in Oakland. His main position is second base, but I'm sure he could play a passable shortstop.
The only other rookie second baseman that I could see making an impact in 2010 is Eric Young, but he will probably be relegated to Triple-A thanks to Troy Tulowitzki and Clint Barmes. But if the bad Barmes shows himself, Young's speed could come into play.
Ian Desmond is getting some looks, but he doesn't have enough bat to invest in. Dustin Ackley seems to be getting some pub as a second baseman, but I wouldn't count on it until he mashes at the higher levels.
For the sake of balance, and because finding them can make you a fantasy champion, if you're on the prowl for a post-hype sleeper at second base . . . there isn't one. But if Rickie Weeks falls in your draft, he's worth a shot. Orlando Hudson and Freddy Sanchez don't seem to be getting the respect that they deserve either. As I said before, it's a deep position.
Rookie third basemen who could make an impact are few and far between.
Pedro Alvarez was mentioned earlier as a player to watch as midseason approaches, but Carlos Triunfel and Lonnie Chisenhall should spend 2010 gaining experience in the minors. The one guy who could prove to be a solid contributor is David Freese, but he doesn't have much upside.
Mat Gamel may not technically qualify as a rookie, but he is one guy I would consider late in the draft. Even if you don't draft him, keep an eye on him. If he starts the season hot, you need to pounce, as Casey McGehee won't hold him back from playing time.
If Chris Davis is third-base-eligible in your league, he's your slam dunk post-hype sleeper. If not, I would feel OK about my team if I had a third base combination of Kevin Kouzmanoff and Edwin Encarnacion. Just ride the hot hand. You should be fine as long as you can make up for it at other positions.
Alcides Escobar is rated properly by most prognosticators. As a team philosophy under manager Ken Macha, Milwaukee doesn't steal bases very often, which will eventually be Escobar's main fantasy strength. But not this year. He's a backup plan in standard leagues.
Reid Brignac and Adrian Cardenas are ready for the show, but both are blocked at this point, Brignac more so than Cardenas, and are not worth a draft investment.
There isn't much out there for post-hype sleepers, but Cliff Pennington is worth keeping an eye on, and for where he is being ranked, J.J. Hardy could turn into a great investment. There is a large drop-off from the top two tiers of shortstops, which means I will be nabbing one early.
The outfield crop is always deep when you consider rookies and post-hype sleepers, but I will try to get to as many of them as I can.
If you can only afford to stash one guy on your bench for a potential midseason call-up, make it Jason Heyward. He has the potential to set the league on fire, a la Ryan Braun in 2007.
Desmond Jennings, Michael Saunders, Fernando Martinez, and Michael Taylor have the potential to become instant impact players, but none of the four are projected to break spring training with their respective big league clubs, meaning we're looking at more potential midseason call-ups. The one guy who could surprise and join the big leagues sooner than expected is Jennings, as Tampa Bay has a plan at right field, but it's of the shaky, platoon variety.
Michael Brantley is draft-worthy late based on his stolen base and run scoring potential. Austin Jackson should follow closely with his similar skill set.
The real value this year is in the talented pool of second-year players encompassing later rounds. Unless I'm staring a great value in the face, generally, I'll be passing on the first couple of tiers of outfielders. Dexter Fowler, Travis Snider, Colby Rasmus, and Matt LaPorta are the guys to target, as I honestly would not be surprised if they were all playing in the All-Star Game this year.
Unless he drops to the last couple of rounds and you have room to stash him, let Stephen Strasburg go this year, as it's hard to know when to expect him to arrive in Washington. Madison Bumgarner is getting some deserved respect, but like Strasburg, he is not a must-have in my mind. But if he's there in the last couple of rounds, I will gladly roll the dice.
The guy I like more than Bumgarner and Strasburg in 2010 is Brian Matusz. I'll be picking him up late every chance I get.
Wade Davis is the highest-rated rookie starter at this point, but I think his stock is overinflated. Plus, Tampa Bay won't hesitate to replace him if he starts slow. Jeremy Hellickson would be the top replacement option, and he is worth a late-round look.
Neftali Feliz is late-round-worthy, but his role makes him a question mark. Don't draft Jonathon Niese, but he has a permanent rotation spot within reach in New York. Hector Rondon, Jhoulys Chacin, Tim Alderson, Brad Lincoln, and Jake Arrieta are pitchers to watch as midseason approaches.
Heading the list of non-rookie late-round breakout candidates are Brandon Morrow, Trevor Cahill, Mat Latos, Derek Holland, Bud Norris, Chris Tillman, Homer Bailey, and Brett Cecil.
I want a couple of entrenched aces at the top of my rotation, but just like every year, the young depth at starting pitcher with the potential to break out is tremendous in later rounds. Let other teams use valuable draft picks on the Kevin Sloweys, Derek Lowes, Jorge de la Rosas, and Tim Hudsons of the world. And in most cases, you can be patient and wait for the breakout. If you can stay unattached to your bench players and are quick enough, nabbing these guys from the ranks of the undrafted after a breakout performance can win you a league championship.
This should be short and sweet, because rookies rarely pitch high-leverage late innings.
Neftali Feliz could slide into the closer's role with an injury or inconsistent showing from Frank Francisco. If holds is a category in your league, Feliz's strikeout rate could make him one of the more attractive setup men in baseball.
Drew Storen is the only other rookie that I could see effectively closing games at some point this season. He has a whole lot of proving to do in the minor leagues, though.
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