Spoiled we were as fantasy baseball managers in 2010. Not only did the prospect pool last year create a lot of buzz going into the regular seaeson, a number of rookies ran with their opportunity.
So we had breakout campaigns for Jason Heyward, Buster Posey, Neftali Feliz, Brian Matusz, Mike Stanton and Stephen Strasburg (until his injury), among others. Rarely do so many prospects make such a profound impact on the fantasy stat sheets so quickly.
This season, don’t expect such a large group of breakout options, but there are some definite options you want to watch right out of the gates. Some of those include:
Mike Moustakas, KC, 3B. The second overall pick in 2007 stalled a little in minor league action before fully breaking out in 2010 with more than impressive power and average numbers in both Triple and Double-A.
This spring, Moustakas has been a force at the plate for the Royals, virtually ensuring either a job right out of the gates with the major league squad, or a very short call-up time.
Considering some of the shallowness at 3B, Moustakas could be a difference maker.
Jeremy Hellickson, TB, SP. You have to love when a club does it right, like the Rays did by taking their time in bringing Hellickson up to major league speed. On many clubs, he would have seen action most of the 2010 season in the majors, but the Rays took their time.
Hellickson capitalized with a 12-3 record and a 2.45 ERA in 21 minor league starts en route to Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year.
He then notched a 4-0 record with a 3.47 ERA in 10 outings with the Rays major league squad to end the 2010 season.
Expect Hellickson to continue his rapid improvements, although a “rookie” pitcher can, over the course of a 162-game marathon, tire out later in the season. Just something to think about when mid-season trade offers arrive in your e-mailbox.
Bryce Harper, WAS, OF. Harper has been on a major hype train for quite some time. There is little doubt he has tons of potential at the major league level.
The issue for Harper is that he’s very young and somewhat raw. Most experts don’t expect the Nationals to rush him into the major league limelight until mid-season at the earliest, and there is a real chance he won’t factor into a whole lot of fantasy scoring systems until 2012.
Still, if you’re in a keeper or dynasty league, Harper needs rostered. Just temper expectations for the 2011 stretch.
Mike Trout, LAA, OF. Falling much lower than he should have in the 2009 draft (26th), Trout has done nothing but wow scouts since his minor league career started. He smoked the entry-level Arizona league and then made light work (to a tune of a .341 average, 56 stolen bases and a double-digit home run count) of two Class A stops in 2010.
The issue with Trout is that, like Harper, he’s really talented, he also will likely not see major league action until mid-season at best. Keep a close eye on his status this season. If the Angels talk about possibly calling him up, or if he is just too good at the minor league level to be ignored any longer, he’d be worth an immediate add.
Jesus Montero, NYY, C. If nothing else, the fact that the Yankees have held onto Montero despite numerous offers for him should say a lot. Sure, the Yanks still have Jorge Posada and added Russell Martin in the offseason.
But Montero offers a power-average combo that is rare at the position and will force the hand of the Bronx Bombers over the course of the season. He may not be a reliable fantasy starter for you out of the gates, but he’ll be the starting Yankees catcher by the end of the season, if not the All-Star break.
Desmond Jennings, TB, OF. Seeing an ultra-valuable Carl Crawford wind up this offseason with a division rival would be much harder to swallow if not for Jennings.
The outfielder overcame some early-season injuries in 2010 in the minors to rebound in a big way, stealing 37 bases, adding 82 runs and a .278 average.
He will get a chance to strut his stuff right away this season, and is a true leadoff contender for the Rays with plenty of speed, a respectable average and double-digit power to boot.
Domonic Brown, PHI, OF. A fractured Hamate bone has derailed the upward skyrocketing of this Philly prospect. Surgery last week will keep him out until late April at best.
However, he has the tools to be a solid power outlet for a well-stocked Philly lineup. While tons of other prospects were dumped for veteran pitching help over the years, Philadelphia brass has kept a tight grip on Brown.
He’s a guy you should add in the late rounds of you draft (if you have bench space)and stash away for safe keeping.
Freddie Freeman, ATL, 1B. One of my late-round sleepers this season, Freeman will be the Braves’ starting first-sacker right out of the gate.
For more on Freeman, go here.
Dustin Ackley, SEA, 2B. The second overall pick in the 2009 draft, Ackley provides an elite high-average bat.
He’s also been playing well this spring and should be starting at second right out of the gates in 2011 for the Mariners.
Eric Hosmer, KC, 1B. After laser eye surgery, Hosmer’s stats grew to epic propotions in 2010 minor league play, notching a .338 average, 20 homers, 86 RBI and 14 steals in High-A and Double-A ball.
This spring, in 12 at-bats so far, Hosmer has been incredible, posting a .625 average with two homers and five RBI.
That being said, Hosmer may still struggle to get a full-time major league gig until later in the season. However, with those numbers, he’s a commodity worth watching closely.
Wil Myers, KC, C/OF. It’s great the Royals have some elite prospects to look forward to, since it looks to be a long season otherwise.
Myers has elite average potential and his power numbers should continue to blossom as he gets professional experience. Some scouts actually rank Myers ahead of fellow Royals prospects Hosmer and Moustakas. In fact, ESPN’s Keith Law pegs Myers as a top-8 prospect in all of baseball.
The Royals are reportedly in the process of switching Myers to right field since his defense behind the plate isn’t as exciting as his bat. The move should help Myers see a quicker call-up to the majors.
Brandon Belt, SF, 1B. At 6-foot-5, Belt is a presence on the field and has plenty of power potential. Last year in 493 minor league at-bats, he averaged a home run in every 21.4 plate appearances, pretty impressive when considering his home run efficiency.
Belt also finished the season between three minor league clubs with a .350 average, 112 RBI and 99 runs scored.
He’s been faring well so far in spring ball, but will likely not see regular major league action until this summer. Definitely a player to keep an eye on and roster once there’s word of an impending call-up.
There are a ton of other MLB prospects with big upside. Who did I miss, and why do you think your player will be a factor in 2011 fantasy leagues?