Fantasy Baseball Week 5: Grading the up and comers

May 3, 2009

Written by Eric Amzallag
Unlocked Sports – Baseball picks

It’s around this time of year when organizations wise up and start using their best players, regardless of how old they are or what sort of minor league service time they have. There comes a time in an GM’s life when he realizes that having Matt Wieters sitting in AAA, while Greg Zaun acts as your everyday catcher is just asking for trouble, and ridicule from people like me. But moving on, how do we as fantasy owners grade these guys? We’ve never seen them in the big leagues, we have their minor league track records in fancy spreadsheets, but how do we really know?

There are a few guys that you need to keep an eye on, and a few more that probably aren’t worth your time yet.

Let’s take Matt Wieters for our first example. The switch-hitting catcher is like Johnny Bench morphed into Matt Teixeira, and at the catcher position, he provides a ton of value. Scouts say that they have never seen another catcher this good at any point in development, so there is reason to expect that Wieters can be the all around catcher in baseball within the next two seasons. For this year, he’s going to be a huge contributor when he gets called up, so if he’s available in your league, it’s time to snap him up. According to ESPN’s Peter Gammons, his call-up could come sooner rather than later.

Though Wieters is the preeminent prospect position player, there are plenty of pitchers who are poised to make an impact on the big league level this season. One of them is already making noise in the big leagues. Jordan Zimmermann is the gem of the Washington Nationals farm system, and he has the ability to develop into a really good number two pitcher in the National League. He comes with an MLB-ready 97 MPH fastball, and a good assortment of breaking pitches. Even more impressive is that he’s managed to bounce back from trouble in his two starts, posting two wins for a once-struggling Washington club.

But can he help you this year? That depends upon your needs and how deep your league is. In NL-only leagues, he’s certainly worth carrying on the roster. In shorter, mixed leagues, he might not be at that level just yet. Zimmermann will get figured out by NL hitters, and when that happens he might pay the price. One of his problems is that he attacks the plate a little bit too much, and until he learns to hit the corners and keep the ball outside of the zone, he’ll be prone to giving up the long ball.

Soon you will see a guy by the name of Tommy Hanson, the ace prospect of the Atlanta Braves farm system. His call up will probably come in late May, and he has made a mockery of minor league hitting up to this point. He strikes out better than a batter per inning, which is a strong indicator of value in a pitcher. The problem with Hanson is that he probably won’t pitch much past the sixth inning in his starts this season, as his pitch counts will run high from walks and strikeouts. Still, he should be good for a 3.50 ERA and lots of 7 strikeout performances in his time with the Braves. If that sounds like something that can help your team, then pounce on him now if you have the roster space.

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