Monthly Archives: March 2012

2012 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Preview: Part 2

10. Yonder Alonso, SD, OF – One of the best first names in the Bigs lived up to his lofty name in his stint with Cincy last summer, to the tune of a .409 wOBA in 98 PAs. Since traded to San Diego as part of the Latos package, Alonso might not see as many balls go over the wall in spacious Petco, but he should have a full-time gig in 2011. He also hits for a good enough average and gets on base often enough (career .299/.354/.479 line) that he could have a sneaky .280/20/80 season in him, in which case he has waiver/late round gold written all over him.

9. Bryce Harper, WAS, OF – Mr. Future HOFer is ranked this low only because of the probability that he doesn’t crack a couple hundred PAs in the majors this year. Remember, he is only 19, Washington has to handle him with kid gloves, and I don’t think he is ahead of the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., who ‘only’ put up a .333 wOBA at that age – and he had a full season of action. I can’t see the Nats having him start out in D.C. in April, as by keeping him down in AAA for a couple months, they keep another year of team control. If Harper makes his debut this summer, it could be very exciting stuff. I personally would not reach for him as a 2012 stud, but would it really surprise anyone if he has a 25/20 rookie campaign in half a season?

8. Devin Mesoraco, CIN, C – Mesoraco could end up being an all-star this year, he could ride the pine 3-4 games a week or be sent down to AAA, or something in between. So it goes with young talented MLB-ready players under Dusty Baker. No question in my mind Mesoraco is the better offensive player compared to Ryan Hannigan but Baker loves his vets, which could hurt the future star this year as far as playing time. However, I have him this high because I believe his play (backed up by his .289/.371/.484 2011 Triple A season) will force Baker’s hand sooner rather than later. He has a real shot at a .270/60/17/65 season, which should place him near the upper echelon of fantasy catchers in 2012.

7. Yoenis Cespedes, OAK, OF – I am not as high on the Cuban import as some, but I do think the ’26 year old rookie’ (I’d take the 26 with a grain of salt) should be quite productive as a starter in the A’s outfield. The track record for Cuban defector position players is a mixed bag – for every Alexei Ramirez and Kendry Morales, there’s a Yuniesky Betancourt and Rey Ordonez – and international players always seem to struggle early on when joining MLB. I have him in the top 10 because he is toolsy, he should start, and because he did show amazing average/power/on base skills last season in Cuba (33 HR, .333 AVG, .424 OBP).

6. Dayan Viciedo, CWS, OF – Speaking of defectors (2008), here is another one at #6. Viciedo should have the RF job to himself this year with the trade of Carlos Quentin, and with his prodigious power potential, should also be a near lock for 20 HRs. He also shouldn’t kill you in AVG, but don’t expect too disciplined an eye at the plate, as he only last year started to be a bit more selective with his swings. He gets my vote over Alonso because of the home park, and over Cespedes because of experience.

5. Yu Darvish, TEX, SP – For $110 million dollars, if I am a Ranger’s fan, this guy needs to be a top 20 pitcher, let alone a top 5 fantasy prospect. But for our purposes, he should be the 2nd best ‘rookie’ pitcher behind Matt Moore, which should translate into a solid, if unspectacular 2012 campaign. The last Japanese pitcher hyped this much was, as we all know, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and we know how that turned out – although his owners did love that 2008 season. I’d let others buy into the hype that he is a top 20 fantasy starter, but he is a great value if he falls around #40.

4. Mike Trout, LAA, OF – Looks like the immensely talented Trout will be the odd man out to start the season in Anaheim, as there currently is no starting OF position available to him. But this is only because the front office is too heavily invested in Vernon “21 million a year for zero WAR” Wells and Torii “negative UZR” Hunter. After a few months tops, the Angels should see the light and get Trout into the starting lineup, where he should be a very good power/speed/runs threat. The skills are there, all he needs is the opportunity. I think there is a solid gap between him and the top 3 because of this, but that could change fast if one of the old men gets hurt/is terrible early.

3. Jesus Montero, SEA, DH/C – the lone holdover from last year’s list, he was only a disappointment from an opportunity standpoint, crushing in his limited ABs in Sept. This year, no excuses for ol’ Jesus; it is put up or shut up time in a starring role in the Great Northwest. The home park is not nearly the bandbox Yankee Stadium is, but his power/average combo and ability to go opposite field should translate anywhere; just temper expectations for a 30 HR rookie season. He will start out in Yahoo leagues as only a UTIL, but should gain catcher eligibility soon after the season starts, as the Mariners seem bent on letting him catch a couple of games a week. I say he puts up pretty handsomely on his way to around a .280/.340/.480 line and potential AL rookie of the year consideration.

2. Matt Moore, TB, SP – He’s the top rookie SP, and I don’t even think it is close. High K rate, solid BB rate, low WHIP, mid-90s heat, good and getting better change-up, a clear track record of dominance at all levels – including 9+ sparkling innings in the bigs last fall – the kid has it all. I don’t see much of an innings cap coming, as he pitched over 160 last year, and he could end up being TB’s ace by mid-season. But even tempering expectations gives you a back end fantasy starter to be proud of. Moore is the real deal.

1. Jason Kipnis, CLE, 2b – Kipnis just barely exceeded the rookie eligibility threshold in 2011 by a whole 6 ABs, but we will make an exception for him here. He had a hell of a debut last summer, hitting 7 HR in 150 PAs, to the tune of a .371 wOBA. While Trout, Darvish, Moore, and Montero may be sexier names for the top spot of best 2012 fantasy prospect, I think Kipnis is the safer bet to provide across the board above average to very good stats in all 5 major fantasy categories, and – bold prediction – ends up being a top 5 2B by season’s end. A .280/80/20/80/20 season is not out of the question.

2012 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Preview: Part 1

Well, its March, so time to start rolling out my 2012 top prospect list. Every year, highly regarded rookies with little to no previous MLB exposure are looked to as possible fantasy contributors for the upcoming season. It may not surprise anyone that, for the most part, first year players struggle to live up to expectations for a myriad of reasons: inexperience against MLB-type opponents, lack of roster space/position blocking, fatigue, regression at the high A level, team control issues, etc. But this doesn’t stop us in the fantasy world from dreaming that we will draft the next Jason Heyward or Ryan Braun or pick up the next Mike Stanton, Kevin Maas or Shane Spencer off of waivers (Go Yankees!) – and hopefully avoid the next Alex Gordon (pre-2011) or Brandon Wood.

I will go through my top 20 ‘impact prospects’ for the 2012 fantasy season in two installments. Obviously ‘impact’ is an amorphous term, and nothing is more debatable than a list of players who have little to no big league experience.  However, I will use some definitions to try to make ‘impact’ more concrete. For hitters: ‘impact’ means at least 130-150 ABs and production at or above a .330 wOBA, or weighted on base average (check out for more on this and FIP, used below for pitchers). Why .330 wOBA? Given that .330 is around league average from year to year, if a rookie can produce at or above that number, we will consider them to be more or less helping your fantasy team, at least on a back up level. Around that number, a guy should be giving you decent counting stats. For pitchers, it gets a little more complicated.  For starters we will use: at least 80 IP, a mid 4 ERA, and a low 4 FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, which tries to take out some of the random outcomes out of a pitcher’s control once the ball leaves their hands.  For relievers: 25 IP, mid 3 era and FIP to match.  Now, I know most fantasy formats do not use wOBA or FIP as categories; they are still too exotic for most and fantasy games are more about counting stats anyway.  However, you can rest assured that a good wOBA/good FIP usually is a good indication of solid fantasy production. For the definition of prospect, we will hover around the standard rookie eligibility definition: around 130 or less at bats, or 50 innings or less pitched at the big league level.  Some of these guys have their names all but penciled in on big league rosters, some are just complete crapshoots; some are not as talented as others, but have a much better opportunity to play everyday; most of you will disagree with me, and probably half of these guys will end up having well below league average numbers (50% was my success rate from 2011).  Anyway, on to the list with #20-11; 10-1 will follow next week:

20. Wilin rosario, COL, C – Given that the Rockies signed Ramon Hernandez this off-season, it looks like Rosario is probably another year away from being the everyday catcher in Denver. However, Hernandez is 36, and he may break down behind the plate sooner rather than later, and most definitely will need a lot of rest. If Rosario puts up solid power numbers in the minors as expected, he could get the call and provide great power from the catcher slot (combined 40 HR in a little over 700 PA the last two years in AA) as a back up/utility player. He probably won’t help average-wise – most catchers don’t – but he makes for an intriguing monitoring situation for later in the year when you make your playoff run, or when you are thinking about stocking up on young talent in keepers.

19. Tyler Skaggs, ARI, SP – Skaggs has ripped through A and AA the past two years, and his K rate, ERA, and FIP have all gotten better each year. His walk rate has held steady in the mid to high 2’s/9, a nice bonus for such a young arm, and he’s left-handed to boot. He will probably start in AAA if he holds his own in ST, and looks to be a notch below fellow prospect teammate Trevor Bauer. If he dominates the minors again, I can see him cracking the rotation during the summer, or at least making some useful spot starts. I highly doubt Joe Saunders, Josh Collmenter, and/or Trevor Cahill will all last a full season with the D’backs.

18. Shelby Miller, STL, SP – Miller’s upside screams ace, but not in 2012. I just don’t see the Cards rushing their best prospect to the majors, even though he probably could do as well or better than Kyle McClellan, Kyle Lohse, or Jake Westbrook. Be that as it may, given his prowess in A-AA the past two years (sub 3 ERA/FIP, over 10 K/9, around 3 BB/9), I would not be surprised if he is a late season call-up to bolster the back of the rotation if St. Lou is making a playoff run. His rank is only this low due to lack of opportunity.

17. Trevor Bauer, ARI, SP – Bauer has made only 7 professional starts, across high A and AA in 2011, but that was because he spent 09-most of 11 at UCLA, where he K’ed 203 in 136 innings his last year there. In the small sample size he has in the pros, he dazzled with a 17 and 14 K/9 in A and AA respectively, though he did have control issues, with above a 4 BB/9. Still, this guy can pitch, and the D’Backs look like they will give him a shot in the spring. Even if he gets some polish in AAA as expected, Bauer has the upside to make an impact in 2012.

16. Brett Jackson, CHC, OF – Jackson turns 24 this summer, and looks to have made progress every year in the minors, culminating in a .297/.388/.551 line in 48 games in AAA in 2011. He can run (20 SBs in 115 games in 2011), he has patience at the plate (13% walk rate), and flashes some pop (20 HR). More importantly, given the Cubs’ lack of OF talent and likelihood of being in rebuilding mode, Jackson should get a good amount of reps and have himself a solid rookie campaign on the North Side.

15. Zack Cozart, CIN, SS – Cozart is a bit old for a prospect, clocking in at 26, but he only just had his first cup of coffee last fall, where he performed amazingly for a SS, albeit in just 38 PAs (.324/.324/.486). Cozart looks like the lead pony to grab the starting SS job in Cincy in 2012, and could be a great late round speculative pick, possibly good for a 70/10/60/10 .270 season. You definitely could do worse picking much earlier at this thin position.

14. Julio Teheran, ATL, SP – Though he didn’t light up the majors in his 19 IP last year, Teheran remains a top-notch pitching prospect, one who could crack Atlanta’s rotation out of ST due to Tim Hudson’s injury and an open competition for spots 4 and 5; I don’t think it will happen though, as Atlanta has other, older options in Brandon Beachy, Randall Delgado and Mike Minor, and will want to be extra careful with their future ace. Teheran had a very good 2011 otherwise (7.6 K/9, 3 BB/9, 2.55 ERA, 3.06 FIP), and could have a productive 2012 fantasy season as a summer add-on/spot starter.

13. Jarrod Parker, OAK, SP – Once the Diamondbacks top pitching prospect, and now a member of the A’s, Parker should finally arrive in the majors full-time after he proved in 2011 that he was fully recovered from Tommy John Surgery which cost him all of 2010. Parker pre-surgery showed very good strike out abilities (9 K/9), but has often struggled with control (around 3.5-4 BB/9). With the A’s 3-5 spots wide open due to injuries to Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson (and Bartolo Colon the #2 at this point), Parker could see some substantial work in the majors this year right off the bat. His pedigree suggests that work will produce a decent output.

12. Jacob Turner, DET, SP – Turner impressed Detroit so much in his three AAA starts in 2011 (10 K/9, 1.5 BB/9) that he got the call when they needed some starts in September. Alas, he did not fare well during his call-up, but I’ll chalk that up to the usual rookie shock, as I feel Turner has the skill set, home park, and offensive backing to give you some solid counting stats. Turner should have a legit shot to compete for the 4-5 spots out of ST, if the Tigers feel like giving up a year of team control. If not, look for him to join the team during the summer when Detroit should be tired of looking to Rick Porcello, Phil Coke, and a cast of also-rans to fill out the rotation. I give him the edge over Teheran because of better opportunity, and over Parker because of health.

11. Addison Reed, CWS, RP – Our first – and only – rookie reliever featured, Reed  exploded onto the scene in 2011, going from A, A+, AA, AAA to the majors all in one year. Along the way, his K/9 never fell below around 12, his BB/9 never rose above around 2.5, and his highest ERA was in his 7.1 IP in Chicago (3.68), mainly due to a crazy high BABIP of .474. Reed is big, throws hard, and has the classic closer make-up. Just don’t draft him expecting a 2012 version of Craig Kimbrel (you really shouldn’t draft any closer expecting Kimbrel-like numbers, the dude had a ridiculous 2011).