Prospect Review


Elite Prospect Updates: Moore, Trout, Harper

Elite prospects are always popular targets come draft day, and this year we have a trio of ultra-promising young players on the cusp of the big leagues and eager to help your fantasy team. To help you prepare for the early part of the season, here's the lastest news on each of those three players. Average Draft Positions come courtesy of Mock Draft Central.

Matt Moore, LHP, TB
ADP - 104

A mild oblique strain held the game's best pitching prospect back early in Spring Training, but Moore got into his first game action this week and struck out three of the six men he faced. Thanks to his new contract extension, the Rays have no salary or free agency-related reason to send the 22-year-old southpaw to Triple-A to start the season. Either Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis will be shifted to the bullpen to free up a rotation spot, with Niemann the favorite to remain a starter. A trade is always possible as well. There's enough time left in Spring Training for Moore to make four starts, which should give him plenty of time to properly stretch out and start the team's fourth or fifth game of the regular season. Oblique issues can be tricky though, and a setback would surely have him start the season on the DL.

I ranked Moore as the 43rd best starting pitcher in fantasy baseball a few weeks ago, but I like him quite a bit more than that. I can definitely see a Madison Bumgarner-type of performance coming in 2012, which means something like 13 wins, a 3.30 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP, and 8.5 K/9. Given the tough AL East competition, I would probably take the over on the ERA though.

Mike Trout, OF, LAA
ADP - 220

Injuries are a theme in this post, but in Trout's case it's an illness. The 20-year-old told Bill Plunkett of The Orange County register that he's "feeling weak and feverish with no appetite" due to a flu-like virus which has also caused him to lose ten pounds. Trout hasn't played in close to a week now, so his already long chances of making the club out of camp have been diminished further. The Angels have a logjam of outfielders and DH-types with Mark Trumbo, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, and Kendrys Morales penciled into just three lineup spots (four if you're feeling generous and think Trumbo can cut it at third). Abreu and Wells are release candidates, but the latter will likely get a significant opportunity to show he's worth the $63MM left on his contract.

Trout was #59 on my list of fantasy outfielders mostly because his playing time is so uncertain. The talent is there for him to club double-digit homers with 30+ steals if given 400 plate appearances, although the high batting averages might not come right away. Fantasy owners won't benefit from Trout's above-average defense, but there's enough here to become a top ten fantasy outfielder in the near future. I just wouldn't expect it to happen this summer given the team's currect roster situation.

Bryce Harper, OF, WAS
ADP - 227

Harper has been limited by a calf issue this week, prompting him to tell Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that he probably won't be able to make the team out of Spring Training despite his (and manager Davey Johnson's) wishes. Still just 19, Harper has five singles and two walks in 13 at-bats this spring, and he was going to really have blow the doors off the competition to have a realistic chance to make the club. There's a open spot in the outfield calling his name and GM Mike Rizzo says he's still a candidate for the roster, but I get the sense the club is content with letting the game's best power prospect get some more time in the minors rather than throw him to the big league wolves as a teenager.

I didn't rank Harper among the game's 60 best fantasy outfielders only because I find it very hard to believe a kid that young will be that productive right away. Harper has insane power, legitimate 40 homers-a-year type of power, but no teenager has ever hit even 30 homers in a season, and only twice in the last 50 years has a 20-year-old managed 30 homers (Alex Rodriguez in 1996 and Tony Conigliaro in 1965). There figures to be a point in the not too distant future when Bryce is among the game's very players (fantasy or reality), but that probably won't happen in 2012.



A Look At Rick Porcello

20 year-old Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello was given a spot in the big league rotation today.  He'll attempt to make the jump from High A ball to the Majors.  Let's start with the scouting reports.

ESPN's Keith Law had this to say about Porcello, who posted a 5.2 K/9 and 64.1% groundball rate at High A last year:

He doesn't miss a lot of bats with the new approach, but generating ground balls keeps the pitch count down, and pitchers who throw strikes and don't give up home runs can be very successful. But bear in mind that Porcello has the raw stuff to be more of a strikeout pitcher, and when he reaches the majors, he could blend the two approaches and be one of the top pitchers in the game.

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus admits Porcello is "incredibly difficult to project" due to the Tigers' mandate last year to work efficiently.  He says Porcello's "readiness is debatable."

In other words, throw projection systems out the window (although Baseball Prospectus' top comp of Roy Halladay is intriguing).

So here we are with a prospect all the gurus love and no ability to project his stats.  What to do?  My usual recommendation is to draft/pick up now and ask questions later.  That applies, but don't be cutting anyone you drafted in the first 18 rounds or so for him.  I think Porcello will hold his own in the Majors, but he may only go five innings in a lot of his starts and the Tigers' bullpen is questionable.  So he may not win games.  And he doesn't profile as a guy who will rack up Ks like Tim Lincecum did, even if he does bump his K rate in the Majors.  It's probably best not to get seduced by Porcello in a mixed league, especially one with 12 teams or less. 



Trevor Cahill Examined

Today let's take a look at A's starting pitching prospect Trevor Cahill, who's become a popular late-round sleeper even in non-keeper mixed leagues.

Cahill, a 21 year-old righty, tossed 87.3 innings last year at High A and 37 at Double A.  He was unhittable and prevented home runs well in both stints.  The move to Double A saw his strikeout rate dip below a batter per inning and his walk rate rise to one free pass every other inning.

Projections:

System ERA WHIP K9 BB9 HR9 H9
PECOTA 4.70 1.53 6.61 5.34 0.63 8.44
ZiPS 4.54 1.55 4.86 4.86 0.81 9.08
CHONE 4.82 1.58 6.64 5.46 1.18 8.79

Survey says: not a good mixed league pick due to poor control.  Cahill will probably still be tough to hit and keep the ball in the park with lots of grounders.  But even his 90th percentile PECOTA calls for 4.44 BB/9.  A reason for optimism: Cahill has walked just 3 in 16 innings this spring (1.69 BB/9).  Also his top comp at BP, Yovani Gallardo, reduced his walk rate upon arriving in the Majors.

Scouting-wise, here's how Cahill ranked on top prospects lists: Baseball America - 11th, Kevin Goldstein - 23rd, Keith Law - 24th. 

Law says Cahill's two-seam fastball is "toxic" with "ridiculous sink."  BA says the pitch has "outstanding heavy sink and late life."  Reviews on his spike curveball range (but all three sources like it), with Goldstein calling it plus-plus.  The consensus is that Cahill profiles as a #1 or #2 and is very close to big league ready.

It's easy for me to just keep recommending these top prospects.  So I'll continue to do so!  Cahill will probably break camp with the team, so what's the harm in drafting him?  If the control is a problem then wait til next year.  If not, you have a Rookie of the Year candidate.  And he could always fluke into a decent WHIP, posting an abnormally low H/9 since no one in the AL has seen him yet.



Baseball America Top 100 Prospects - ETA 2009

Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list came out today.  Let's look at those who have an estimated time of arrival of 2009, since these players might have an impact in fantasy baseball.

1. Matt Wieters, Orioles.  Eighth among fantasy catchers, even with only 375 ABs projected.  Add in some replacement level performance and you can get even more from the roster spot.  It's hard to find anyone who doesn't believe the Wieters hype, even though he hasn't played at Triple A or the Majors.

2. David Price, Rays.  I've projected Price at a 4.34 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, and 7.0 K/9 in 130 big league innings.  He's certainly capable of crushing that projection, based on his stuff.  Price tossed 129.3 total innings in 2008, so it'd be surprising to see him get far past 160 in '09.  Of course, if you can spare the roster spot you can add 40 innings of league average performance from another player.

3. Colby Rasmus, Cardinals.  If Rasmus gets 500 ABs, I think he'd be worth a buck or two.  He could flirt with 20/20, but will he hit for average as a rookie?

4. Tommy Hanson, Braves.  An injury could open up a spot in the big league rotation for Hanson.  With 200 IP, I think he could be worth around $10.  Having pitched 138 in '08, his ceiling might be in the 170 range if the Braves want to be careful.

6. Travis Snider, Blue Jays.  Even with 500 ABs I don't see much mixed league value here.  But he's similar to Price in that projections only take you so far.

7. Brett Anderson, A's.  We're not hearing a ton about the Oakland lefty in fantasy circles.  Could be worth $5-6 with 200 IP.  He's only 21 but is quite polished.

8. Cameron Maybin, Marlins.  Might be worth $7-8, as he could steal 25 bags.  Could post a nice runs total atop the Marlins' order, too.

10. Neftali Feliz, Rangers.  I'm not sure the control is there for him to have rookie fantasy success.

11. Trevor Cahill, A's.  Similar fantasy outlook to Anderson, though his control isn't as good.

12. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates.  Would the Pirates promote him that aggressively?  PECOTA doesn't seem him succeeding as a rookie.

15. Dexter Fowler, Rockies.  Crowded outfield in Colorado, but he'd be worth $5-6 over a full season (20+ SBs).

17. Lars Anderson, Red Sox.  Another guy PECOTA doesn't see as quite ready.  It'd take an injury in Boston for him to get a shot this year.

19. Alcides Escobar, Brewers.  He's a defensive-minded guy, but in a full season he'd be a 20 SB threat at shortstop.

20.  Gordon Beckham, White Sox.  An offensive-minded middle infielder is always big in fantasy.  Still, let's see him mash in the pros first.

22. Chris Tillman, Orioles.  Rookie success would surprise me. 

23. Justin Smoak, Rangers.  In general Baseball America seems kind of aggressive with these 2009 ETAs.  The Rangers appear set at the corners for '09.

25. Brian Matusz, Orioles.  Another guy where we don't really have a pro track record to work with.  But, everyone says he'll move quickly.

27. Matt LaPorta, Indians.  Might not hit for average, but appears big league ready and could top 20 HR as a rookie.

31. Derek Holland, Rangers.  Awesome prospect, but big league ready?  Some of these guys probably need a few months dominating Triple A before mixed leaguers should think about them.

32. Wade Davis, Rays.  See Holland.

33. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates.  Could be worth a few bucks as a rookie given the 20 SB potential.

34. Mat Gamel, Brewers.  Off to a rough start, being the last one to report to camp and having a shoulder impingement.  The numbers suggest decent rookie pop.

36. Austin Jackson, Yankees.  Center field is one of the Yanks' weakest positions, but Jackson didn't hit enough at Double A to thrill me from a fantasy perspective.

37. Elvis Andrus, Rangers.  Could steal 30 bags, so that alone would give the Rangers' shortstop value.

40. Brett Wallace, Cardinals.  This kid isn't expected to need much minor league seasoning before succeeding in the bigs.  Might be more of a 15-20 HR type though.

41. Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals.  The Nationals' top prospect is definitely with the right team as far as opportunity.  I like him as a sleeper, though he hasn't played Triple A ball.

42. Jordan Schafer, Braves.  He'll be a power/speed threat eventually, but expecting but big things from his rookie year may be pushing it.

43. J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays.  A catcher with double-digit pop should always be on the fantasy radar.  Could be a sleeper for '10.

50. Kyle Blanks, Padres.  He's blocked by Adrian Gonzalez for '09, and a little time at Triple A wouldn't hurt.

52. Carlos Carrasco, Phillies.  I think he could rack up some Ks as the Phillies' fifth starter.  Keep tabs on him.

55.  Aaron Cunningham, A's.  More of an AL-only type of sleeper.

56. James McDonald, Dodgers.  Another guy who could get you decent K numbers as a starter.  But, BA notes that his fastball is "very straight" and the velocity isn't great when he starts.

60. Todd Frazier, Reds.  If he comes up as a shortstop for the Reds, the 20 HR pop will be mighty appealing.

61. Dayan Viciedo, White Sox.  This guy is really tough to forecast.  He's got huge power but BA sees him as riskier than the more athletic Alexei Ramirez.

63. Aaron Poreda, White Sox.  He's got a ridiculous fastball, but not the strikeout rate to match.  Hasn't hit Triple A yet, but the White Sox rotation is unsettled at the back.

65. Michael Saunders, Mariners.  Even if the Mariners make room, Saunders will probably not generate enough offense as a rookie to make a fantasy impact.

66. Lou Marson, Phillies.  Phillies catcher doesn't really have much pop.

68. Nick Adenhart, Angels.  Another guy where the stuff outpaces the numbers. Maybe he can take the leap.

69. Jason Donald, Phillies.  If he's traded into a full-time role we could see double digit power/speed from the shortstop.

73. Taylor Teagarden, Rangers.  If his average is even halfday decent the 20 HR power from the catcher spot will play.

77.  Jonathan Niese, Mets.  Even with several vets vying for the spot, Niese could become the Mets' fifth starter. He'd be worth a buck or two as a rookie.

78. Reid Brignac, Rays.  I'm not seeing a big league opportunity or impact from him in '09.

79. Jeff Samardzija, Cubs.  Another guy whose K rate hasn't always matched up with his stuff.  I am not enthusiastic about his performance as a starter this year.

82. Adam Miller, Indians.  If Kerry Wood goes down but Miller somehow stays healthy, he could get some save opps.  Or maybe he'd just rack up Ks as a late-inning guy.

83. Michael Bowden, Red Sox.  Boston's rotation is not easy to crack.   Bowden could be a $10 pitcher with 200 IP though.  Realistically, the Red Sox don't figure to push him past 180.  One to watch for '09. 

84. Max Ramirez, Rangers.  20 HR pop from the catcher spot.

88. Gerardo Parra, D'Backs.  The Arizona OF doesn't have much power but could swipe 20.

90. Daniel Cortes, Royals.  I don't see Cortes as big league ready; he needs some Triple A time.

91. Chris Perez, Cardinals.  Good chance that Perez gets saves in St. Louis.  He's an excellent endgame pick.

97. Gio Gonzalez, A's.  Could be worth a look if you're desperate for Ks.

98. Daniel Bard, Red Sox.  Could snag a late-inning relief role in Boston eventually, but won't be a fantasy factor.

100. Jeremy Jeffress, Brewers.  He's got a triple-digit fastball; a possible long shot for saves in Milwaukee if he comes along quickly and Trevor Hoffman/Eric Gagne fail.



A Look At Travis Snider

Today let's take a look at Blue Jays outfielder Travis Snider.

Snider was drafted 14th overall out of high school in 2006.  He ascended very quickly, starting 2008 in High A ball and making it to the Majors.  Only 20 years old, he hit .301/.338/.466 in 80 big league plate appearances.

More importantly than his brief Major League stint, let's look at Snider's Major League Equivalent.  This is a translation of his minor league work in Major League terms.  That line: .277/.358/.485.  23 HR in 480 ABs.  In a way, that's what we might've expected if he spent all of 2008 in the bigs.  Would've been a phenomenal rookie season for a kid so young.

Scouting-wise, Baseball America loves Snider.  They say he has the tools to hit for average and power, but has below-average speed. 

Much like Jay Bruce in 2008, Snider's '09 opportunity is in question.  At present, the Jays are undecided at left field and DH.  However, they could sign a DH-type and continue trying Adam Lind in left.  Assuming Lyle Overbay stays, Snider could be in line for more Triple A seasoning (he's only had 18 games at the level, and keeping him there for a few months could delay free agency by a year).

Last spring Bruce was drafted in the 27th round on average, so in a 12-team mixed league you could've waited til the reserve round or picked him up midseason.  It figures to be a similar situation for Snider, and he's not the double-digit steal threat Bruce was.  Snider is certainly a top keeper, a guy who could hit .300 with 30 HR in 2010.  But for '09, he seems like more of a 20 HR type with playing time questions.  Worth a flier, nothing more in non-keeper leagues.



Prospect Review

Welcome to my debut here on RotoAuthority.  For those who don’t know me, my name is Eric Stashin and I run Roto ProfessorI will be checking in here once a week with an update on a few prospects from around the league.  If there is anyone specific you’d like to read about, please feel free to drop me a line at estashin@rotoprofessor.com.  I will do my best to cover all of the requests as quickly as possible. 

So, without further adieu, let’s take a look at the first few prospects:

Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals – A former 22nd round draft choice, Garcia entered the season ranked as the team’s fourth best prospect by Baseball America, and the team’s top starting pitching prospect.  He started the season in Double A and absolutely dominated there, going 3-2 with a 2.06 ERA over 35.0 innings of work.  He struck out 41 batters, walked 16, and didn't give up a home run.

Once promoted to Triple A, things have been much the same.  He has gone 3-2 with a 3.16 ERA over 42.2 innings.  Overall he’s 6-4 with a 2.67 ERA over 77.2 innings, striking out 79 and walking 27.

With Adam Wainwright being placed on the DL and being replaced by Joel Pineiro, at least temporarily, you have to think that it is only a matter of time before the team turns to Garcia to get a few starts.  With Clayton Kershaw up in the majors and David Price (a future topic of conversation) still at least a few months away, Garcia has just as good of a chance as anyone to be an impact pitcher for fantasy owners.  He certainly has the chance to excel at the Major League level, once given a chance.  You have to like his strikeout to walk ratio and the fact that he has been able to keep the ball in the yard (4 HR allowed in 77.2 innings).  If those stats translate to the majors, it will mean a lot of success for him. 

Long-term keeper league owners should definitely be looking to grab him now, as I think he’ll be making an impact before too long.  Once he gets a chance in the majors, I would take a chance on him in yearly leagues as well if you are in need of pitching.

Thomas Diamond, Texas Rangers – Once part of the vaunted DVD trio of pitching prospects (joining Edinson Volquez and John Danks), he is now the only one left pitching for the Rangers organization.  He’s also the only one not pitching in the Majors, but part of the reason is the Tommy John surgery he underwent last season.  At one time, Diamond was considered by some to be the best prospect of the three, so there is every chance that he could still develop into a top of the rotation pitcher, or at least pitcher for the Rangers at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Given what we have seen from Francisco Liriano recently, I don’t think it is fair to expect him to join the Rangers any time before late in the season, and even that may be too much to ask. 

He has made 4 starts at Double A since returning from the injury, going 1-1 with a 6.88 ERA over 17.0 innings.  Those numbers are obviously ugly, and part of the problem is that he has walked 13 batters.  He also has struck out 21, however, a number that should at least intrigue fantasy owners.  At Double A in 2006, he struck out 145 batters in just 129.1 innings.  He has a live arm and is certainly worth keeping an eye on for the future.

Given the success that the other two DVD starters have seen, there’s no reason to think that Diamond can’t follow suit.  I’ll update his progress again later on in the season, but 2009 could be the year that he not only gets his first taste of the Majors, but makes an impact for fantasy owners.




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