- Desmond Jennings (Nick Laham/Getty Images)
5. Desmond Jennings, TB, OF – Jennings has the tools to make Tampa forget all about Carl Crawford and his free wheelin’ base stealin’ ways. Well, maybe not completely. He doesn’t have the same power capabilities (never more than 9 home runs at any minor league level, and just 3 in AAA) and had some injury woes during 2008 and early 2010, but he can run the bases and hit for average with the best of the youngsters. He also has a career double digit walk rate, which is not far from his K rate, always a beloved ratio to us fantasy geeks. The Johnny Damon/Manny Ramirez signings complicate things, and the Rays might want to prolong their control over him by keeping him at AAA Durham until June or later. His MLB debut last fall is pretty irrelevant for predicting his future production, so move along, nothing to see there. Jennings isn’t worth drafting until very late at this point at best, but he can be a very valuable 3 category producer, with big contributions to stolen bases and runs, if given the opportunity. Don’t sleep on him as he could still figure very strongly in Tampa’s 2011 plans.
- Jesus Montero (AP)
4. Jesus Montero, NYY, C – Ah, my boy. Home Run Jesus. The heir to the throne occupied by Jorge Posada these last 11-12 seasons. At least in theory. Montero could end up being the back -up catcher to Russell Martin come opening day, after Francisco Cervelli went down with a leg injury in spring training. It has become more and more clear that Posada will see little to no time behind the plate this year, in an effort to transition him to full time DH. However, don’t put it past the Yankees to decide to wait on Montero to give him more seasoning in triple A, mostly to work on his defense and to retain more club control over him in the future. But if Martin cant regain even a semblance of his 2006-2008 form/re-injures his surgically repaired hip and the Yanks need Montero’s bat, any minor league stay will be short lived. Jesus is a proven power and average force who has a chance to put up 20+ hrs and hit close to .300 – he started slow in triple A last year but put up big time numbers in the second half and finished 21/.289 with 66 runs and a .353 OBP. His K rate did spike up to 20%, but it could just be an aberration, as he was in the mid-teens the rest of his minor league career; still be prepared for a couple of golden sombreros here and there as the kid finds his way. I wouldn’t worry too much about his defensive skills being a deterrent. If the guy hits, he’ll play. There are a bunch of variables that need to work themselves out, but lately it is looking more and more as if Jesus is primed to deliver the loaves and the fishes in 2011 – sorry, couldn’t resist.
- Mike Moustakas (Adam Foster)
3. Mike Moustakas, KC, 3b – A possible surprise at #3, we analyze one of the members of the prized Royals farm system. The positives: Moustakas is 22, he plays 3B for a non-contending team – where there is an opening now that former super-prospect Alex Gordon is in the OF – and he flat out rakes, which is the most important reason he should be given a look-see as a potential game-changer for your squad at some point in 2011. The big negative: he’s KC property. This means instead of manning the hot corner early on in the season, he will mostly likely spend unnecessary time in triple A putting up glorious #’s, while Royals fans watch whoever starts at third (right now it looks like Mike Aviles has the inside track) underwhelm as expected. A June or later call up might be the reality for Ol’ Mousy, but when he does finally get the nod, he could be a 2nd half wonder. He tore through double AA last year (21 hrs, .347 avg. and .413 OBP in 66 games) and leveled off some in AAA (15/.293/.314 in 52 games, though was victim of .271 BABIP) but his power as you can see is legit. Some might say he should be placed below names like Chapman, Jennings and Montero, and a valid argument can be made for that. But I think if he pulverizes the minors at the start of the season and KC plays like, well, KC, it will be next to impossible for the Royals to ignore what they have waiting in the wings for too long. Moose is the real deal, a potential ‘Kevin Maas Award’ winner who could make a huge impact in spite of not starting the season in the bigs.
- Domonic Brown (Nick Laham/Getty Images)
2. Domonic Brown, Phi, OF – At #2, we have Mr. Brown. Speed, power, average, he has the total 5 category fantasy package. But even in these early spring days, he has already had his fair share of adversity to deal with. He was already in a position battle with Ben Francisco for the right to replace dearly departed stud RF Jayson Werth, didn’t exactly impress in his first 15 at bats (9 Ks) and, to add injury to insult, (pun intended) he recently broke the hamate bone in his right hand (but not before getting a hit in the same at bat; Charlie Sheen would be proud), which means he will miss anywhere from 3-6 weeks. Now the good news: Brown will be back in playing form mid-April/early May, so he won’t miss much time. He dominated minor league ball throughout his career and his few at bats with the senior circuit (70 PA’s last year) aren’t a cause for concern given the small sample size. Bill James has him putting up a very, very nice line of 84/26/94/28/.288 in 596 PAs, which was admittedly pretty optimistic, even before the hand injury. But if he comes anywhere near this projection, you will be very happy you took the chance on him late. Mr. Brown has big shoes to fill and enormous expectations to boot, but even with the setbacks, he has the potential to be the best fantasy rookie of 2011.
- Jeremy Hellickson (Elsa/Getty Images)
1. Jeremy Hellickson, TB, SP – And finally at #1, the Rays latest greatest pitching phenom. Hellboy here has already gotten his share of accolades, after his impressive MLB debut last fall during TB’s playoff run, hence his #1 prospect designation. Fantasy stats show domination to the tune of a 4-0 record, with a 3.47 era and 1.10 WHIP. His peripherals didn’t disappoint either, as he struck out a shade over 8 per 9 innings and walked under 2 per 9. His hr/9 was 1.24, the only real blemish in an otherwise stellar cup of coffee. But with Helly sure to make the TB rotation (especially with Matt Garza now out of the way) as a possible #4/definite #5 with a still very good defensive alignment behind him, he could be the darling of the back of your starting rotation. He gives up a lot of fly balls, which can spell doom in the loaded AL East, but you can live with that when the upside is so tantalizing. He has had to deal with a strained hamstring in spring training, but this injury doesn’t look serious. I wouldn’t overreach for Hellickson (or any rookie for that matter), but he presents the best case for hitting the fantasy jackpot among the rookie set.
So that does it for the preview. Don’t spend too much time thinking about which one of these newbies will be a bona-fide fantasy star this year; if you do, you might win most creative draft, but you also might just win the participation trophy in your league at the end of the year. Happy Prospecting!