Carlos Santana missed some time with a minor knee injury, but he’s back at it.  Through 15 games for Triple-A Columbus Santana is 17 for 51 (.333) with 10 runs, 4 doubles, 5 HRs, 16 RBIs, 2 SBs, and 11 walks. His on-base percentage is .452, his slugging percentage is .706, and his OPS is 1.157.

With Lou Marson hitting .088 (3 for 34) and Mike Redmond (soon to be 39) better suited for a back-up role (and mentor), Santana could get his call before long.

Aroldis Chapman continues to impress for Triple-A Louisville. Through three starts he’s 1-1 with a 0.60 ERA and 18 Ks in 15 innings. It’s not all rose for Chapman though. He also has 10 walks so far. He’ll have to work out his control issues before the Reds call upon him.

Stephen Strasburg does not share that problem. In 12-1/3 innings for Double-A Harrisburg he has surrendered just 3 Walks in 12-1/3 innings. He’s racked up 17 Ks already to go with his 2-0 record, 0.73 ERA, and 0.811 WHIP. I expect Strasburg will test the Triple-A waters before the Nationals give him the call. They do not want to rush their prized prospect. Plus, his clock doesn’t start.

Carlos Santana is killing it for Triple-A Columbus. In four games Santana is 7 for 16 (.438) with 6 runs, 2 doubles, 4 HRs, 8 RBIs, and 2 walks. His on-base percentage is .500, his slugging percentage 1.313, and his OPS a ridiculous 1.813. He has 21 total bases in four games. If he continues to rake like this, he’ll be getting a call sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile Aroldis Chapman was impressive in his debut for Triple-A Louisville. He went 4-2/3 innings allowing one run while striking out nine. In spring training Chapman was 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA. He had 15 Ks in 10-2/3 innings.

Chapman isn’t the only pitcher on the fast track. Stephen Strasburg shined this spring for the Nationals going 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA. He had 12 Ks in 9 Innings. In his debut for Double-A Harrisburg Strasburg allowed one earned run (plus 3 unearned) in five innings to pick up the victory. He struck out 8 while walking 2.

It’s just a matter of time before these three get their call.

Written by
Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Acquired in the deal that sent George Sherrill to Los Angeles, Josh Bell appeared on the precipice of a Major League job heading into 2010 before the Orioles signed both Garrett Atkins and Miguel Tejada.  Now, just an injury away of getting an opportunity, Bell should certainly still be on the radars of fantasy baseball owners.

2009 Statistics (split between two Double-A teams):
448 At Bats
.295 Batting Average (132 Hits)
20 Home Runs
76 RBI
65 Runs
3 Stolen Bases
.376 On Base Percentage
.516 Slugging Percentage
.339 Batting Average on Balls in Play

What You Need To Know:

  • His power was good all year, but he really turned things up after the trade hitting nine home runs in 114 AB for the Orioles’ Double-A team.
  • In 2009 he was the MVP of the Southern League All-Star Game after he went 2-4 with a home run and two RBI.
  • Baseball America ranked him as the team’s second best prospect (and 37th overall) heading into 2010, ahead of the highly touted Jake Arrieta.  They said that he “has above-average power and a good approach, showing the ability to work counts to get on base”.
  • He was selected in the fourth round (136th overall) of the 2005 draft.
  • One of the biggest knocks against him is his ability to hit lefties.  Despite being a switch hitter, he hit .340 against right-handers in 2009 and .198 against left-handers.  He’s always had similar struggles, posting averages of .240 (Rookie League), .246 (two levels of Single-A) and .262 (Single-A) from 2006-2008 against southpaws.
  • He does strikeout a fair share, at 25.5% over his minor league career.  He was below that at both levels of Double-A he played in (24.6% for the Dodgers, 21.0% for the Orioles), but it still needs to be monitored.  The more he strikes out, the tougher it’ll be for him to post a usable average in the Major Leagues.  How he performs against the upper-levels in 2010 will certainly help tell us the full story.
  • His success in 2009 comes after missing most of 2008 due to preventative knee surgery.  According to, “The surgery was for a small divot that was found in the cartilage near his kneecap. It was the kind of thing that wasn’t bothering the 21-year-old in the slightest. The problem was that, if left untreated, it would get bigger and could be career-threatening down the road.”

Final Thoughts:
He has plenty of power and given the opportunity, could prove usable in all formats, especially given how shallow 3B is in 2010.  He’s likely ticketed for Triple-A to open the season, but all it will take is an injury to one of their new corner infielders, or potentially Luke Scott, to give Bell his opportunity to shine.

Monitor him closely because once he makes an impact he could be a name you need to know for many years to come.

What are your thoughts on Bell?  Could he be usable in 2010?  What type of production do you expect from him?

If you would like to see a free preview of the Rotoprofessor 2010 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide (available for just $5) now including a Top 50 Prospects for 2010 List, click here.

Written by
Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Let’s take a look at the Top 20 prospects for 2010.  Keep in mind, this list is meant look at the players with the best opportunity to make an impact for fantasy owners in 2010.  With that said, away we go (the entire list is Top 50, which is available to those who purchase the Rotoprofessor 2010 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide for just $5):

  1. Jason Heyward – Atlanta Braves – 20 – OF
    He is among the best prospects in the game, but at 20-years old you have to wonder if the team will push him to the Major Leagues or give him more time to develop at Triple-A.  Considering he’s had just 173 AB above Single-A, I wouldn’t expect him to break camp with the team.  Even when he gets there, he has the potential to struggle, though he has shown signs of greatness.  He hasn’t developed his power yet, though it is coming along (his flyball rate continues to improve, up to 37.5% last season leading to 17 HR).  His average in 2009 was buoyed by a tremendous BABIP (.346).  Is that impossible to see him repeat?  He’s got all the talent and certainly is worth taking a flyer on, as he is the premier prospect in the game.
  2. Stephen Strasburg – Washington Nationals – 21 – SP
    There are a ton of questions on if he will break camp with the Nationals or not, but when you have a pitcher armed with a 100 mph fastball on the fast track, all owners must take notice.  He has the potential to be among the elite as soon as 2011.
  3. Madison Bumgarner – San Francisco Giants – 20 – SP
    With Randy Johnson’s retirement, Bumgarner assumes the fifth starter duties in San Francisco.  After going 12-2 with a 1.85 ERA over 131.1 innings (9-1 with a 1.93 ERA at Double-A), he has little to prove in the Minor Leagues.  He’s not going to bring elite strikeouts (at least not yet, with just 92 in the Minor Leagues), but he certainly has the stuff and the position to be successful.
  4. Neftali Feliz – Texas Rangers – 21 – SP
    He’s proven what he can do in a Major League bullpen (1.74 ERA, 11.32 K/9 over 20 relief appearances), but will the Rangers give him a chance to open the season in the rotation?  We’ve seen a similar situation with Joba Chamberlain and the Yankees, but I don’t see the Rangers repeating their mistakes.  I’m thinking the Rangers will utilize him in both roles, depending on the number of innings they want to allow him to throw, meaning he’s likely to be worth using at some point in 2010.   As it is, with his arm, even if he’s in setup duty, he’s going to have some value.
  5. Brian Matusz – Baltimore Orioles – 22 – SP
    The Orioles 2008 first round draft pick, Matusz wasted no time flying through the system and reaching the Majors in 2009.  He may have struggled at times (4.63 ERA and 1.48 WHIP over 44.2 innings), but don’t be misled.  He was hindered by a .343 BABIP, certainly showing that a lot of his problems were related to bad luck.  He’s got tremendous upside and should spend the season in the Baltimore rotation.  You are going to watch him closely against the AL East foes, but against others he easily could prove usable.
  6. Wade Davis – Tampa Bay Rays – 23 – SP
    After exploding onto the scene in 2009 (3.72 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 8.92 K/9), he has the inside track on the Rays fifth starter spot to open the season.  For his minor league career he had a 3.29 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 8.7 K/9, so his success should not be all that surprising.  While facing the Red Sox and Yankees on a regular basis is a scary thought, he will have the opportunity and ability to thrive in his rookie campaign.
  7. Alcides Escobar – Milwaukee Brewers – 23 – SS
    One of the new “big three” shortstops and has as much talent as any of them, though the big question is where he will bat in the Brewers lineup and if they actually take the handcuffs off and allow him to run wild, utilizing his immense speed (42 SB in 430 AB at Triple-A in ‘09).  He’s guaranteed to start, with J.J. Hardy shipped to Minnesota, meaning he is worth using in all formats.
  8. Carlos Santana – Cleveland Indians – 23 – C
    He has the potential to be among the best hitting catchers in the game.  Can you imagine that the Dodgers were willing to part with him as part of the Casey Blake trade?  He hit .290 with 23 HR, 97 RBI and 91 R at Double-A in ‘09 and considering Lou Marson is now all that stands in his way, it’s just a matter of time before he makes a major impact in ‘10.
  9. Daniel Hudson – Chicago White Sox – 23 – SP
    This ranking may be a bit aggressive, but the 2008 fifth round draft pick is on the fast track.  He was impressive in 2009, posting a 2.32 ERA over 147.1 minor league innings (including a 1.60 ERA in nine Double-A starts).  He has impeccable control and while Freddy Garcia may break camp with the White Sox, it’s just a matter of time before Hudson assumes the role.
  10. Aroldis Chapman – Cincinnati Reds – 24 – SP
    We all know his story at this point, big arm but does he have the control to excel?  While he may not open the season in the Reds rotation, you don’t give a pitcher that big of a contract if you don’t plan on using him.  He’ll be in the Reds rotation at some point in 2010.
  11. Scott Sizemore – Detroit Tigers – 25 – 2B
    He’s in line to open the season as the Tigers starting second baseman, which immediately makes him a player to target.  He may not produce overwhelming statistics, but he’s a solid option as a middle infielder thanks to his potential to go 10/10 with a solid average.
  12. Pedro Alvarez – Pittsburgh Pirates – 23 – 3B
    The perennially rebuilding Pirates easily could turn to their 2008 First Round Pick at some point in 2010.  He reached Double-A in his first pro season, hitting .333 with 13 HR and 40 RBI in 222 AB (though the average came courtesy of a .407 BABIP).  Overall he hit 27 HR with 95 RBI in 465 AB (while hitting .288).  He has a ton of potential, though the strikeouts (26.6% at Double-A) will likely make it difficult for him to hit for a good average initially.  Still, with Andy LaRoche the only thing standing in his way, he’s going to get a shot at some point in ‘10.
  13. Justin Smoak – Texas Rangers – 23 – 1B
    The only thing blocking his way of potentially making an impact is a slow start from Chris Davis.  How unlikely does that seem?  However, after hitting just .244 with 4 HR in 197 AB in the high-powered Pacific Coast League, he has his own concerns hanging over his head.
  14. Brett Wallace – Toronto Blue Jays – 23 – 3B
    He is in-line to open the season as the Blue Jays DH, but the power has not yet developed (28 career minor league HR in 755 AB).  He also doesn’t appear likely to hit for an extreme average, meaning he’s a marginal option at best.
  15. Desmond Jennings – Tampa Bay Rays – 23 – OF
    He could produce a similar line to Carl Crawford (in just 115 AB at Triple-A he hit .325 with 3 HR and 15 SB in ‘09).  That really should tell fantasy owners all they need to know about him.  It’s debatable if he’s the best OF prospect or not, but without a doubt he’s a top prospect for 2010.  With Matt Joyce and Gabe Kapler all that’s standing in his way, it is just a matter of time, at least you’d think.  Unfortunately, at this point, word is that it will take something extraordinary to get him into the lineup in 2010, so time will tell.
  16. Chris Carter – Oakland Athletics – 23 – 1B
    Earlier in the offseason it appeared that Carter could break camp with the team, but their moves may have put a slight kink in those plans.  There are only so many available positions and with the slew of outfielders, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Jake Fox and Jack Cust all looking for AB, it’s likely someone (probably Fox) opens the season at 1B.  His power makes him worth monitoring, however, because it may just be a matter of time.  At Double-A he hit .337 with 24 HR, 101 RBI, 108 R in just 490 AB.
  17. Austin Jackson – Detroit Tigers – 23 – OF
    The opportunity is going to be there, thanks to being shipped to Detroit in exchange for Curtis Granderson.  Is he going to be successful, however?  I’ve never been the biggest fan of his as there as several questions surrounding his bat.  He has little power.  He strikes out way too much (24.4% strikeout rate at Triple-A in ‘09).  He’s got speed, but that’s just not enough to make him a solid gamble.  Think Cameron Maybin, meaning it’s going to take some time for him to potentially reach his full potential.
  18. Buster Posey – San Francisco Giants – 23 – C
    Had Bengie Molina not resigned with the Giants, Posey would have been a sure fire Top 10 prospect, even without the power potential.  Now, once again being completely blocked, he’s ticketed for full-time duty at Triple-A unless the Giants need a spark (or an injury necessitates playing time).  If you are looking for help in 2010, he’s just not the answer anymore.
  19. Jeremy Hellickson – Tampa Bay Rays – 22 – SP
    Wade Davis gets the attention given his production in 2009, but Hellickson has just as much upside, all he needs is the opportunity to succeed.  Over his Minor League career (461.0 innings) he’s posted a 2.71 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 9.9 K/9.  In any other organization he’d be given his chance out of Spring Training.  In Tampa Bay, he’ll just have to bide his time.
  20. Gaby Sanchez – Florida Marlins – 26 – 1B
    The Marlins did not address their gaping hole at 1B, meaning that one of their two young prospects will get a chance to break camp with the team.  Having already gotten a cup of coffee with the squad, it would appear Sanchez gets the first look.  He makes good contact, giving him a chance to hit for a decent average, but there isn’t much power there to get you excited about.

What are your thoughts on this list?  Who was left off?  Who is ranked too high?

Think someone is missing?  It’s possible they just missed out on cracking the Top 20.  If you want to see the entire Top 50 list, you can do so by purchasing the Rotoprofessor 2010 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide for just $5 by clicking here.

Written by
Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

The Rangers have proven that they are willing to push their pitching prospects, as evidenced by their usage of both Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz at the Major League level in 2009.  The next pitcher who could follow suit is 18-year old Martin Perez (he’ll turn 19 on April 4).

They pushed him to Double-A last season, where he did struggle in five starts (5.57 ERA, 14 K in 21 IP), but he was extremely successful in his time at Single-A:

5 Wins
93.2 Innings
2.31 ERA
1.23 WHIP
105 Strikeouts (10.09 K/9)
33 Walks (3.17 BB/9)
.332 BABIP

What You Need To Know:

  • Those 93.2 innings were comprised of 14 starts and 8 relief appearances.  It’s very possible that if he does make his Major League debut in 2010, he’ll be used as a relief pitcher, much like Neftali Feliz was in ‘09.
  • He’s a left handed pitcher, which has helped add to the comparisons to Johan Santana that people have been making.
  • He was undrafted, signed as a free agent out of Venezuela.
  • Baseball America recently ranked him as the third best prospect in the Rangers organization (behind Feliz and Justin Smoak) saying, “Perez is more often compared to Johan Santana nowadays for his size, delivery, moxie and electric arm. He attacks hitters with a 91-95 mph fastball, and he’s still maturing physically, so he could throw hard. He has exceptional feel for his sharp 1-to-7 curveball, which he can add and subtract from at will, throwing it anywhere from 68-81 mph. He has an uncommon ability to manipulate the ball in a wide variety of ways.”
  • has him ranked as the #18 prospect overall.  He was quoted there as saying, “There is a little bit of pressure, but I control it. I have learned to just concentrate on the game and block everything else out. You have to. You can’t worry about what others are thinking, just focus on what you are there to do.”
  • The BABIP was extremely high at Single-A, so he certainly has the potential to pitch significantly better.
  • He combined with two relievers to throw a no-hitter in ‘09.  In that game he went four innings striking out six and walking three.
  • The control is something to watch, though at his age he clearly is still developing.  While he improved at Double-A (it was a small sample size), you don’t like seeing him walking that many in the low minors with his stuff.  However, part of it could be the Rangers insistence that he throws more change-ups (as per Baseball America).

Final Thoughts:
The comparisons to Johan Santana tells you all you need to know about his long-term potential, but at 19-years old, that’s all he really has right now.  Those in yearly leagues can easily ignore him, because even if he gets to the Majors, it’s likely to be just as a relief pitcher.  Dynasty League owners, however, can safely stash him away as he is among the elite pitching prospects in the game.

What do you think?  Will he live up to the hype?  How good could he be?

If you would like to see a free preview of the Rotoprofessor 2010 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide (available for just $5), click here.

Written by
Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

I did a report on Carlos Santana all the way back in April (which you can read by clicking here), talking about just how good he could be.  He has been discussed as one of the brightest young catching prospects in baseball and in 2009, he has lived up to the hype (all stats are through August 24):

383 At Bats
.285 Batting Average (109 Hits)
20 Home Runs
86 RBI
80 Runs
1 Stolen Bases
.410 On Base Percentage
.522 Slugging Percentage
.310 Batting Average on Balls in Play

As if those numbers are not impressive enough, they don’t even touch on the best of them all.  To date, he’s struck out 76 times while walking 81 times.  That’s right, he’s struck out less then he’s walked!

In fact, for his minor league career (1,546 AB), he has 276 strikeouts vs. 279 walks.  To say that he has tremendous plate discipline is an understatement.  Prior to the season Baseball America, who ranked him as the Indians top prospect, said:

“Santana has shown good strike-zone discipline ever since signing with the Dodgers. He swings aggressively at strikes and routinely squares up balls with authority, using his lower half well and getting good extension. He has a good two-strike approach and doesn’t chase pitches outside the strike zone. He should hit for a high average and OBP with average power. He’s more athletic than most catchers.”

His BABIP is extremely repeatable and he’s shown power at all levels of the minor leagues.  If the 20 HR this season aren’t enough, he has 27 doubles and 2 triples.  That’s 49 extra base hits in just 383 AB, certainly an impressive number.  Couple that with a 45.4% flyball rate and it shows that more power may be in his future.

There’s no reason to think that even in the major leagues, the 23-year old wouldn’t be able to be a .275+ hitter with around 20 home runs, and that may just be his floor.  The ceiling could put him among the games best offensive catchers.  That’s not too bad for a player acquired from the Dodgers as part of the deal that sent Casey Blake to Los Angeles last season.

With Victor Martinez now calling Boston home and Kelly Shoppach failing to seize the job, there is every chance that the team turns to Santana in September.  What do they really have to lose?

If Santana does get a chance to play, he has the potential to be a must own in all 2-catcher formats immediately.  There are very few catchers with his type of plate discipline who brings the potential for both a solid average and power.

Given the state of the Indians offense, the team could even try him out in the middle of the line-up immediately, though that may be a long shot.  They have protected Matt LaPorta in the early going since his recall, so Santana would likely get the same treatment.

Still, with LaPorta getting regular ABs to see what he has, the team might as well do the same thing with their catcher of the future.   At 55-70, the Indians are clearly playing for their future.  With Santana already on the 40-man roster, there isn’t a need to make a move to bring him up, so there really is no downside.

Keep your eyes and ears open and see if the Indians make the move.  If they do and you play in a 2-catcher format, grab him without a second thought.  He has the potential to have a Geovany Soto type impact the moment he steps on the diamond.

What do you think of Santana?  How good could he be?

Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

There have been rumblings that the Rays may transition David Price to the bullpen, meaning that a spot may soon open up in the rotation.  For a team with tremendous young pitching depth, they likely shouldn’t miss a beat as Wade Davis, currently pitching in Triple-A, could seamlessly step in and fill the void.

Davis has been impressive, posting the following line this season:

10 Wins
145.2 Innings
3.34 ERA
1.29 WHIP
129 Strikeouts (7.97 K/9)
39 Walks (3.65 BB/9)
.292 BABIP

What’s not to like from those numbers?  Everything is right in line with his minor league career numbers:

  • K/9 – 8.8
  • BB/9 -  3.4
  • WHIP – 1.27
  • ERA – 3.28

Considering that he’s been able to duplicate those numbers against the highest level of minor league competition, there’s little reason to doubt that he could continue to be a solid pitcher in the major leagues.  In fact, in most organizations he’d already be a consistent force in a rotation, but this is Tampa Bay.

Prior to the season, the 23-year old right-hander was ranked as the Rays third best prospect (behind Price and Tim Beckham) by Baseball America.  In fact, he’s been a fixture among the team’s Top 10 for the past four years, since being selected in the third round in 2004.

Baseball America described his arsenal prior to the season by saying:

“Davis is one of the premier power pitching prospects in the game. His four-seam fastball sits in the low to mid-90s, and he can dial it up to 95-96 mph when needed. He throws his hard 11-to-5 curveball with plus control, and it’s filthy when he produces two-plane break. Davis also has a straight changeup and showed an improved cut fastball in Triple-A.”

His strength lays in his ability to get righties out, hitting just .213 against him with 4 HR this season.  He’s struggled against lefties this season (.254, 8 HR), a trend that has been there for his entire career (.273, 22 HR while righties have hit just .208 with 19 HR).

Considering he has faced 1,547 right-handed batters and 1,194 left-handed hitters, the fact that he’s allowed more home runs and nearly as many doubles (46 vs. 51) against lefties is quite disturbing.  He needs to figure out a way to get left-handers out if he wants to be successful moving forward.

Pitching in the AL East, he’s going to have to face batters like Mark Teixeira, David Ortiz & Victor Martinez, so that could become a problem, as if facing the Yankees and Red Sox was not bad enough.

For his career he’s benefited from a 45.8% groundball rate, though that number has plummeted to 36.9% in 2009.  It is something worth monitoring, because while it hasn’t hurt his HR/9 dramatically this season (0.71), at the major league level it could prove troublesome.

Overall he has the stuff to be a successful major league pitcher and clearly is worth monitoring in all formats.  Is he a pitcher that should be used every start?  Absolutely not, as he faces the potential to be blown up from time to time, if he even ends up in the rotation (though, he shouldn’t run into an innings cap having thrown 160.2 innings in ‘08).

He’s clearly worth stashing in keeper leagues immediately (if he’s available), while yearly league owners should consider him as a potential pitch-and-ditch option down the stretch.  He’ll have the potential to be brilliant, especially when facing a predominantly right-handed hitting, weaker line-up.  Outside of that, the potential is there for some gaudy numbers.

What do you think of Davis?  How good could he be?  Will he struggle this season?

Written by
Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Here is a list of prospects (currently in the minor leagues) with the potential to make the biggest fantasy impact in the second half of the season.  Some of them may just be limited to September call-ups, while others could make an impact much, much sooner.  Still, they all could prove usable in all fantasy formats before the season comes to an end.

  1. Justin Smoak – 1B – Texas Rangers - Chris Davis’ demotion, nearly simultaneous to Smoak’s promotion to Triple-A, certainly had people talking.  He has a great eye at the plate, posted a 35-to-39 strikeout-to-walk rate at Double-A this season.  He’s more disciplined of a hitter then Davis, though his power is not even close to developed.  He has struggled at Triple-A thus far, hitting just .103 with 1 HR and 2 RBI over 9 games, but that’s a very small sample size and you need to give him time to adjust.
  2. Alcides Escobar – SS – Milwaukee Brewers – He has the potential to be the lightning on the top of the Brewers line-up for the next several years.  He has 30 SB this season, to go along with a .296 average and 61 runs scored.  With Craig Counsell sitting atop the line-up right now, would you blame the Brewers from making the move?   J.J. Hardy suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out of the line-up Sunday.  While it is unknown if he is going to miss any significant time or not, Escobar’s time may come sooner then you think.
  3. Matt LaPorta – OF – Cleveland Indians - I know he struggled early on this season, but he’s raking again in the minor leagues and should certainly get another chance to impress in 2009.  Over his past nine games he’s gone .412 with 2 HR, 10 RBI and 7 R.  You just can’t ignore numbers like that.
  4. Madison Bumgarner – SP – San Francisco Giants - At just 19-years old (he turns 20 on August 1), he is making quick work of the minor leagues.  In 53 Double-A innings he’s posted a 1.70 ERA while striking out 43.  He may be the best pitching prospect in baseball right now and with Randy Johnson hurt and Jonathan Sanchez (despite his recent no-hitter) a ticking time bomb (you can throw in Ryan Sadowksi and his potential regression), it could be just a matter of time before he hits the ground running.  He could easily be the top performer of this group, but young pitchers are inconsistent, making it tough to rank him above the bats.
  5. Chris Tillman/Jake Arrieta/Brian Matusz – SP – Baltimore Orioles - The team has numerous pitching options, it is just a matter of the order the team is going to give them an opportunity.  Don’t be mistaken, at least one of these three will get a chance this season and it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities that all three get a look.  For now, only since he’s at Double-A, Matusz seems to be the furthest away, but considering he’s 4-0 with a 0.34 ERA in his 4 starts for the Bowie Baysox, he may not be as far as we’d think.
  6. Jonathan Niese – SP – New York Mets - He was terrible early on this season, but he has really turned things around over his last six starts, posting a 1.04 ERA while going 5-0.  That included a complete game, 10-strikeout performance his last time out.  The Mets have talked about shaking things up, with a struggling Livan Hernandez possibly being pulled from the rotation, making Niese the likely candidate to step right in.  He’s had a taste in the majors before (not a positive one at that), but if he does get a full-time chance could prove usable for those in need.
  7. Brett Wallace – 3B – St. Louis Cardinals – The Cardinals acquired Mark DeRosa to help fill the void created by Troy Glaus’ injury only to see him get injured only three games into his tenure with the team.  The team could turn to last year’s first round draft choice, who has already spent over 50 games at Triple-A this season, hitting .303.  He’s been on fire over his last 10 games to the tune of a .351 average.
  8. Wade Davis – SP – Tampa Bay Rays – In many organizations, he may already be up and pitching in the big league rotation.  In Tampa Bay, however, with their never-ending supply of arms, he’s a depth option at Triple-A, at least for now.  In 18 starts he’s posted a 3.12 ERA and 1.29 WHIP.  It’s only a matter of time before he is given an opportunity to perform.
  9. Neftali Feliz – SP/RP – Texas Rangers – He was recently moved to the bullpen, with the Rangers eyeing a potential contribution from him in 2009.  Obviously, his value will be limited coming out of the ‘pen, but he will be a solid option for Ks, ERA and WHIP in formats that value middle relievers.
  10. Gaby Sanchez – 1B – Florida Marlins – Would it surprise anyone if the Marlins made a move, as they are right there with the Phillies, battling it out for the division?  Emilio Bonifacio is not the player he was early in the season.  Jorge Cantu could potentially be shipped out of town.  If either one loses his job, Sanchez, and his .307 average at Triple-A will get the opportunity to play.  Don’t look for much power, considering his 8 HR over 205 AB in the Pacific Coast League, limiting his potential fantasy value.
  11. Lars Anderson – 1B – Boston Red Sox - With Mike Lowell hurting, Kevin Youkilis has shifted to 3B with Mark Kotsay being the primary option at 1B.  Just how long is that going to last?  Anderson is one of the Red Sox top prospects, hitting .269 with 8 HR and 41 RBI at Double-A (after hitting .316 over 133 AB at Double-A in ‘08).  If Lowell ends up missing any length of time, it would not surprise me to see Anderson get a chance.
  12. Eric Young Jr. – 2B – Colorado Rockies - There have been rumors that the Pirates are looking to acquire him, which would give him value instantly.  Even if he’s not dealt, he’s 47 for 56 in stolen base attempts at Triple-A while hitting .290 and scoring 71 runs.  That’s a spark any team could use atop their line-up.
  13. Mat Latos – SP – San Diego Padres - The Padres are a team who are clearly going no where, so there’s a chance they look down to the farm to try and find out exactly what they have.  Latos has been amazing this season, going 8-1 with a 1.37 ERA between Single & Double-A.  An innings limit could be what ultimately costs him, but if he gets the opportunity, he’ll have the chance to be real impressive.
  14. Jarrod Parker – SP – Arizona Diamondbacks – Last season it was Max Scherzer, this year it may be Parker.  After starting the season in Single-A, Parker was promoted to Double-A where he has gone 4-4 with a 2.98 ERA and 61 K over 63.1 innings.
  15. Carlos Carrasco – SP – Philadelphia Phillies – Make no mistake about it, the Phillies are in desperate need of help in the starting rotation.  That is evidenced by their apparent signing of Pedro Martinez.  Carrasco has been up and down all season long, which does diminishes the hope all fantasy owners should have about his potential upside.  After giving up 3 earned runs over three starts (20.1 innings) from 6/20-7/2, he got bombed in his last start, allowing 6 earned runs in 4 innings.

Honorable Mention:

  • Bud Norris – SP – Houston Astros - He finished the first half at 3-8, despite a 2.46 ERA and 107 K over 106 IP.  The biggest issue is the walks, with 49, helping him to a WHIP of 1.29 at Triple-A.  That could translate into trouble in the major leagues, but with the strikeout potential he is worth keeping an eye on.
  • Yorman Bazardo – SP – Houston Astros - He’s been solid in the PCL, at 7-4 with a 3.03 ERA.  He does a great job at keeping the walks down (21), but he also doesn’t strikeout many, with 63 in 107 innings.  He has benefited this season from a BABIP of .258, so I would be wary of him upon his recall.
  • Drew Stubbs – OF – Cincinnati Reds - The injury to Jay Bruce potentially opens a door, and with his speed he could make a significant impact.  He had 33 SB in 39 attempts, though he is hitting just .274.  That tells me that he could struggle in the average department, much like Carlos Gomez, if he does get an opportunity.
  • Carlos Santana – C – Cleveland Indians - Given the current make-up of the Indians, there is little chance that he gets an opportunity in 2009.  However, there have been rumblings of teams trying to acquire Victor Martinez.  As unlikely as that is to happen, if it does, the Indians could easily bring Santana to the majors as a September call-up.  The 23-year old is hitting .266 with 14 HR and 58 RBI, but the most impressive number, however, is his 59 walks vs. 47 strikeouts.
  • Jhoulys Chacin – SP – Colorado Rockies – At 7-6 with a 3.43 ERA at Double-A, he has the potential to get a late season call-up.  At just 21-years old, it is also possible that the Rockies are more cautious, not wanting to repeat their mistakes of the past.  The tried pushing Franklin Morales last season and he ended up sporting a 6.39 ERA.
Names like Jordan Schafer, Travis Snider, etc. were not included on this list due to the amount they have already played in the major leagues.

What do you think?  Which of these prospects will make the biggest impact in the second half?  Who was omitted?  Who belongs?

Written by
Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

If you simply looked at his record, you may be a little bit deceived at the prospects of Bud Norris making an impact at the major league level this season. How could a pitcher sporting a 3-7 record at Triple-A be of any potential value? Once you look at the rest of the numbers, you get a better idea of the entire story:

99.0 Innings
2.45 ERA
1.31 WHIP
99 Strikeouts (9.00 K/9)
47 Walks (4.27 BB/9)
.299 BABIP

The ERA is the first number to jump out at you, especially when you take into account that he pitches in the hitter-friendly (understatement) Pacific Coast League. Given his career minor league ERA of 3.69, so you can’t say that this number was something that was expected of him.

Last season at Double-A he posted a 4.05 ERA over 80.0 innings after being limited by an elbow strain. The team had him on a limited pitch count upon his return, before sending him to the Arizona Fall League to increase his innings count.
He made 12 appearances (0 starts), posting a 1.89 ERA over 19.0 innings, second only to the dazzling performance by Tommy Hanson (0.63). That gave a hint of what he could be, but his peripherals there mirror what he’s done this season, with 20 Ks vs. 13 BBs.

The strikeouts are extremely realistic. Over his minor league career he’s posted a K/9 of 9.8. Baseball America, who ranked him as the team’s #2 prospect prior to the season, described his arsenal by saying:

“Thanks to a stocky build and strong legs, he pounds the zone with his fastball and shows a hard, short slider. The fastball was clocked at 98 mph in the AFL, but he works better when it’s 93-95 and he spots it. Thanks to an adjustment in his delivery, he created better angles to attack hitters. The slider benefited the most, breaking down and away from righthanders.”

That certainly seems like a mix of pitches that will generate strikeouts, but his control is a major issue that will prevent him from being successful at the next level.

He has a career BB/9 of 3.8, which is marginally better then his mark this season (though, over his last ten starts he’s posted a 3.7 mark). In the AFL, it equated to a BB/9 of 6.16, albeit in an abbreviated sample size. Unless he can consistently throw strikes, there is little chance of him being successful in the major leagues.

There had been talk of him needing to develop a quality third pitch in order to success as a starting pitcher. According to an article in the Austin American-Statesman (click here to view), he has done just that, now using his change-up to go along with his fastball and slider. That certainly is a good sign, and could help to explain his improvement in the ERA department.

Considering that the bottom of the Astros rotation is filled by Brian Moehler, Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz (with Felipe Paulino from time-to-time), there certainly is the chance of him making his major league debut before the end of 2009. Of course, a potential innings limit could influence that as well.

If he does get the opportunity, he’s going to be worth monitoring. There is no doubting that he has the stuff to succeed against major league hitters, the only concern is if he can control his pitches. If he can get the walks down into the low 3’s, he has the potential to be a usable in all formats in the not too distant future (and potentially present for keeper league and NL-only owners).

In 2009, he won’t be worth more than a spot start depending on the match-up, however, thanks to his strikeout potential. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 100 times. Rookie pitchers are inconsistenct.

What do you think of Norris? Is he a pitcher that you think could develop into a usable fantasy option by 2010?

Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

We’ve tracked Jhoulys Chacin in our Prospect Reports (click here for the latest), but as he continues to impress in the minor leagues the time has come to give him his proper respect.  After opening the season at 1-3 with a 4.87 ERA at Double-A, he’s responded by going 4-2 with a 2.41 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 55 K over his past 9 starts (56 innings).

Signed out of Venezuela back in 2004 (though he did not make his professional debut until 2007), “Chacin is best known for his devastating changeup, which he pairs with a low-90s sinking fastball to induce groundballs by the bushel” according to Baseball America recently.

That is the key to his success, as he’s posted a groundball rate of 61.2% over his brief minor league career.  To put that number in perspective, last season there were only two pitchers who induced groundballs at a level better than 60%, Brandon Webb & Derek Lowe.

Before we point to the fact that the majority of his success came in the lower levels of the minor leagues, he has posted a GB% of 59.0% in Double-A this season.  While that still is against inexperienced hitters, as he continues to show success moving up through the minors, the more confident we can become in his abilities.

He also has some strikeout potential, though he hasn’t been overly impressive in that department quite yet.  To date, he’s thrown 346 minor league innings and has posted a 7.9 K/9.  While that would be usable, is there anything to make us believe he can maintain it as he continues to progress?

His repertoire would appear to be conducive to the strikeout.  His ability to develop a third pitch, will be vital in not only his ability to continue to strikeout batters (your not going to blow as many people away in the upper levels with a mid-90s heater), but his long-term success as a starting pitcher in general.

Prior to the season, the Rocky Mountain News’ Tracy Ringolsby rated the Rockies top 10 prospects for Baseball America.  He rated him #2 behind Dexter Fowler and described his third pitch by saying, “His curveball doesn’t have the sharpness that Chacin will need to be a big league starter. He can throw the pitch for strikes, and it has some power at 78-80 mph, but right now it’s below-average.”

The final thing to point to for his success is his control, which has been impeccable thus far during his minor league career.  He’s posted a career BB/9 of 2.4, though he has regressed just slightly at 2.9 thus far this season.  Even during his recent 9 game hot stretch, his BB/9 is at 3.2.

It should not be unexpected for his walk rate to increase slightly as he progresses.  He’s facing more experienced hitters who won’t chase bad balls as much or will foul off a pitcher’s pitch to stay alive in the AB.

He’s not going to regress up to 4 or 5 walks a game, however.  Control is control, something he has proven he has.  As long as he can maintain the current level, coupled with all those ground balls, he has the potential to be an asset in the WHIP department.  His minor league mark is 1.12, displaying that.

The 2008 Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year, he went 18-3 with a 2.03 ERA splitting time between two levels of Single-A at just 20-years old.  The righty is clearly on the fast track to the major leagues, and while it is not out of the question that he makes his major league debut this season, 2010 may be more likely.

The Rockies have had experience rushing pitchers to the major leagues, and not with positive results.  Look at what happened with Franklin Morales, for instance.

His time is going to come.  If you are in a long-term keeper league, stashing him away would not be a bad idea.  He has the potential to be a future ace pitcher and could be making a fantasy impact in the near future.  What more do you want?

What does everyone else think of Chacin?  Is he a pitcher you think will become a fantasy ace?  Why or why not?

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