Freddie Freeman (Icon SMI)
10. Freddie Freeman, Atl, 1b – Fast Freddie Freeman is a misnomer; he isn’t very fast (but how can you resist the moniker? It just flows so well). Freddie, however, makes up for his lack of speed with the ability to hit for power and average. If he translates his 2010 triple A line of 73/18/88/.319 to the majors, he’s a cheap Billy Butler at the end of your draft. He didn’t exactly impress during his 24 PA debut with the varsity team, striking out a third of the time and hitting .167, but again, it was only 24 appearances. With no Derrek Lee around, Freeman has the starting first base gig all to himself. He plays a loaded position, but if Mr. Freeman gives you 20 hr 95 rbis and hits .295 – not completely out of the realm of possibility – you will be happy you didn’t select Chubbs Butler way earlier.
Danny Espinosa (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
9. Danny Espinosa, Wash, 2b – Espinosa is getting a lot of love from Bill James over at fangraphs. James projects Espy to put up a 20/20 season to go with 70 runs and 60 rbis, a .255 avg being the lowlight. To put that in perspective, no second baseman put up 20 hr and 20 steals last year. Only 3 stole 20+, and only 8 bopped 20 or more. Although I don’t see Espinosa putting up top 10 type numbers such as these, a more conservative estimate of 60/15/55/20/.250 still yields a solid line from a rookie middle infielder. He strikes out quite often (23% and 29% in triple A and majors debut respectively), but his power/speed profile combined with his position and probably opening day starter status makes him a very attractive pick late, when you are faced with the Ryan Theriots of the world.
Craig Kimbrel (David J. Phillip)
8. Craig Kimbrel, Atl, RP – With Billy Wagner’s retirement, Kimbrel is currently in the running to close for Atlanta, which gives him a huge boost in value. Kimbrel is a career reliever who has put up insane K rates at all levels (since being drafted in 2008 he has posted around a 13k/9 or above, including a 17k/9 with the Braves during a 21 game stint last year). He has command troubles, but that’s nothing new for hard throwing relievers. If Kimbrel can lower that walk rate to 3-4 per 9, he could be dominant: a 30+ save rookie with loads of strikeouts. I would definitely keep an eye on Kimbrel once the big name closers are off of the board, paying close attention to how the reliever roles play out in Atlanta’s bullpen. At this point new Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has Kimbrel and Jonny Venters in a co-closer role, but that could change at a moment’s notice.
Dustin Ackley (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
7. Dustin Ackley, Sea, 2b – Ackley kid at first glance is not someone you would think of as a potential impact rookie for 2011. He’s only got a year of pro experience, going from the rookie league to triple A in just over a hundred games. His minor league numbers don’t exactly spell domination either (he hit .274 with 5 hrs and 37 runs in 52 AAA games; .260/2/42 in 82 AA). So what gives? Ackley is a perfect example of an opportunity prospect with high upside. Seattle has a big hole at 2b, now that Jose Lopez is gone, and all signs point to the team not competing in 2011. So they have an incentive to bring up the kids and see what they have for the future, if not right away, then at least by May or June. Ackley is a former 1st rd pick in 2009, and could showcase a great combination of speed, power and average if he reaches his potential. He isn’t a defensive wizard, so he could end up all over the infield outside of shortstop. If he doesn’t break camp with the Mariners, he will probably get the call up by June, after a few more months of seasoning down on the farm. You could do worse than Ackley as a late round flyer. He gets the nod over Espinosa since they both have the chance to start and Ackley’s ceiling seems to be higher.
Aroldis Chapman (Wikimedia)
6. Aroldis Chapman, Cin, RP – Chapman was a hyped up darling last year at this time as well. His 100+ mph heater gets most of the attention, as does his ridiculously high walk rate. He didn’t exactly dominate minor league hitters as a starter – mainly due to lack of control – but he did impress as a reliever for the Reds down the stretch. The problem for them is: now what? Keep him in the pen as a fire-breathing set up man and heir to the closer chair – Francisco Cordero doesn’t seem long for this world in my opinion – or send him back to the minors to work on becoming a bonafide ace? Its obvious that Cincy’s 30 million dollar man would be worth more to them taking the ball every 5 days, but with the plethora of young arms already in the rotation, they just might keep him in the bigs as a set up man, with a possible spot start/save opportunity here and there should injury or ineffectiveness open the door. I have him at #6 because of his set up and possible closer value for this year, but he could easily be useless for at least the first half of 2011 if the Reds take the more prudent path and let him work out his control issues in triple A. High risk high reward, even if you think he’s worth a late round pick. If you hit on him, he could be a big time reliever for your team, providing a wealth of Ks and some saves as well.