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Rookies On the Way:
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians
A second round pick out of Arizona State, this 24-year old is bound for a late call-up by the contending Indians. A .300 hitter in the Minor Leagues, Kipnis has deployed a nice combination of power and speed at Triple-A this season. Considering second base is currently being help by Orlando Cabrera, who is batting just .244, it seems like promoting Kipnis would actually be an upgrade at the Major League level.
Jacob Turner, SP, Tigers
Just 20-years old, Turner was the ninth overall pick of the 2009 draft and his ability to throw strikes may be enough to earn a call-up to the Big League level. The Tigers are not afraid to bring a young hurler to the Majors, after all, they did with the 20-year old Rick Porcello just three years ago. Turner is able to miss bats more effectively than Porcello, so in other words he has greater potential.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks seem afraid to let their young players contribute. Heck it took long enough for Brandon Allen to earn the call up to the Majors this season despite blasting 25 home runs last season at Triple-A. The problem here is that Allen, who hit 18 home runs with a .306 average at Triple-A before recently earning a promotion. Then there’s Paul Goldschmidt, a former 8th round pick with 80 home runs through three Minor League seasons. It might make sense to trade one of these two boppers, but with a .424 OBP and a .616 slugging, it looks like Goldschmidt is the one they want to keep.
Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays
The Rays have come to realize that they called upon Desmond Jennings to contribute a bit too early last season. They also are doing a great job of alleviating the pressure of replacing Carl Crawford from Jennings this season by keeping him in the Minors for an extended period. However, do not be confused, Jennings is very much a long-term solution for the Rays. After a mediocre start to the season, Jennings has come on as of late with 12 home runs, 17 steals, and now a .280 average. He still fans a bit too often, but Jennings has all five tools and will make his return to the Big Leagues in the coming weeks.
Kyle Gibson, SP, Twins
The 22nd pick of the 2009 draft, Gibson is a 6’6 right-hander with front of the rotation potential. He hasn’t had the best season so far at Triple-A, as his record is just 3-8 with a 4.68 ERA. However, the number to pay attention to is the 22 walks in 90.1 innings. While his stuff is solid, as suggested by his average of a strikeout per inning, what’s more impressive is his ability to control his entire arsenal of pitches. Improved game-calling by Major League catchers should help Gibson out, but based on his stuff and control, he could be a surprise contributor in the pennant race.
By R.J. Anderson //
Last week, I looked at the Top 10 Pitching Prospects according to Front Office. This week, let’s focus on the Top 10 Hitting Prospects.
1. J.P. Arencibia
2. Freddie Freeman
3. Domonic Brown
4. Desmond Jennings
5. Yonder Alonso
6. Devin Mesoraco
7. Jesus Montero
8. Wil Myers
9. Wilin Rosario
10. Gary Sanchez
Freeman is the healthiest and most assured of a starting gig out of the rest of the options, as he figures to be the Braves’ Opening Day starter at first base. Brown suffered a broken hamate bone earlier in the spring and will miss a few weeks into the regular season. Brown was in line to become at least a part time player in the Phillies’ outfield, so look for him to be an intriguing in-season addition.
A similar thing can be written for Jennings, although his situation depends on his own health as well as his major league counterparts (namely Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon). An injury to an outfielder or infielder could leave Jennings on his way up thanks to the Rays’ flexibility with players like Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez. Alonso has been described as pure trade bait despite working out in the outfield during the exhibition season. The Reds have a pretty good first baseman already who isn’t going anywhere else anytime soon, leaving Alonso’s value as minimal.
The list is loaded with backstops. Arencibia, Mesoraco, Montero, Myers, Rosario, and Sanchez all don the tools of ignorance. Of those, only Arencibia and Montero are likely to see time in the big leagues early on, although Mesoraco could very well reach the show by season’s end. Sanchez is probably the only one that you should remove from your draft boards, as he only turned 18 in December and isn’t a viable option outside of deep keeper leagues.
As is the case with all prospects, don’t build your team expecting them to live up to your wildest dreams. Instead, use them in complementary roles until they’ve proven otherwise. After all, not every season brings a Jason Heyward to the table.
By Tommy Rancel //
Although he was just called up to the big leagues for the first time
on Wednesday, Rays fans have had Desmond Jennings on
the brain for a while. Even before his breakout minor league season of
2009 – in which he hit .318/.401/.487 with 52 steals and 92 runs scored –
Jennings was regarded as the stallion-heir apparent to Carl
Crawford in the Tampa Bay lineup.
After his fantastic ’09 campaign – including being named MVP of the
Southern League (Double-A) – Jennings went from the 80th-ranked prospect
according to Baseball America to the 6th-best prospect overall. He was
invited to his first big league camp this spring, but a wrist injury
wiped out most of that audition, as well as the first part of his minor
Once healthy, the 23-year-old played in 109 games for the Triple-A
Durham Bulls. His numbers were not as impressive as they were last
season, but he still hit .278/.362/.393. At this point in his career,
Jennings has not shown much power (29 home runs in 420 career minor
league games), but he still projects as a top-of-the-order hitter,
blessed with blazing speed and advanced plate discipline.
Despite the lack of power in Durham, Jennings still scored 82 runs in
100 games. His OBP (.362) wasn’t fantastic, but it was still above
average. He walked nearly 11% of the time and struck out in less than
17% of his plate appearances. Once on base, he swiped 37 bags in 41
attempts (90% success rate).
As a September call-up on one of the most talented teams in baseball,
Jennings probably won’t rack up many at-bats over the next 30 days,
unless the Rays unexpectedly clinch a playoff berth very early. His
value to the Rays, and potential fantasy owners, will be tied to speed
and baserunning ability. Similar to Fernando Perez in 2008,
Jennings is likely to be the Rays’ primary pinch-runner and a part-time
In his MLB debut on Wednesday night, Jennings went 0-3 with two
groundouts and a swinging strikeout. We did not get a chance to see him
glide around the bases, but we did get a chance to see his speed out of
the box and his trained batting eye.
Jennings had four plate appearances, but officially only had three
(4th inning appearance negated by a B.J. Upton caught
stealing). Overall he saw 19 pitches (14 officially) and worked three
full counts. In his final at-bat, Jennings came up with the bases
loaded. He grounded out on what amounted to a swinging bunt. On the
other hand, had the force play not been on at home – and a slow runner
in Dioner Navarro at third – Jennings would’ve been
easily safe as he burned through the chalk on the way to first base.
If you have the need for some steals and runs, then Jennings is worth
a spot in (really) deep mixed and AL-only leagues. They will come
sporadically, but he should provide a handful of both. If Jennings is
available in your keeper league, though, jump on him immediately.
For more on Desmond Jennings and other September call-ups, check
out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy
by Eno Sarris //
In recent weeks, prospects like Chris Carter, Domonic Brown, Jeremy Hellickson and Logan Morrison have been called up to major leagues and we’ve been right on top of them. Which prospects are still in the minor leagues who might help your fantasy team down the stretch?
Looking at Baseball America’s midseason Top 25 prospects, one thing immediately becomes clear. There are a lot of guys down in HIgh-A ball who won’t be coming up any time soon. So, we’ll sort the list for age and proximity to the major leagues, because we want to find some names that will help fantasy owners in all sorts of leagues this year.
Number three on the list is Desmond Jennings in Tampa Bay’s organization. Other than shoulder and wrist injuries that set him back a little this year, and may have sapped some of his power, he’s been great. His career .297/.380/.441 line in the minor leagues shows that he can get on base and show decent power, but it’s the 163 stolen bases against only 31 caught stealings (84% success) in 400 games that are really eye-popping.
Unfortunately for Jennings, the major league outfield in Tampa Bay is pretty stacked, and there’s little room for him to accrue impactful playing time even if he is called up in September when the rosters expand. Fantasy owners desperate for speed can hold on to him, but a deep team like the Rays may not have much room for him to make an impact, barring a major injury.
Another September callup might be Dustin Ackley, an outfielder-turned-second baseman in the Seattle organization. Given the struggles of Jose Lopez, Ackley might even have some playing time available to him if the team shifts Chone Figgins back to third. Though Ackley doesn’t own a ton of minor league plate appearances (458), the 2nd overall pick in the 2009 draft has performed well after a few blips, and at 22 with three full years at college behind him, the team may push him. In Triple-A right now, Ackley is hitting .299/.388/.483 in a park that skews slightly toward pitchers. He has a little bit of extra-base power, but with few home runs (his overall ISO is a below-average .135) and a little bit of speed (eight stolen bases in 109 games), and is an interesting speculative pick up for deep league managers needing help at second base. With the team looking to next year, the M’s could even call him up before September 1.
Tenth on the list is a lefty pitcher, Baltimore’s Zach Britton. The Orioles are a poor team looking to the future, so the table is set for Britton to come up at any point and contribute. While Britton is only striking out 5.84 batters per nine innings in Triple-A, 6.44 batters per nine cumulatively in 2010, and 6.83 batters per nine for his minor league career, he can induce groundballs by the bundle with his sinker. HIs career groundball percentage is 62.9% and that’s stayed constant throughout – that percentage is 62% in Triple-A. The rest of the Orioles’ bevy of pitching prospects are for the most part flyball pitchers. The team may want to try out a different approach, and deep league managers looking for pitching would do well to look Britton’s way. Now it looks like the Orioles might even go to a six-man rotation to see what they have in Britton.
So far, we’ve gone through Baseball America’s top 10 and found three guys who might be useful to deep league managers – but no immediate pickups for shallow mixed-leaguers. We’ll continue to cull the list for fantasy-relevant prospects for you in the next few days.
For more on Desmond Jennings, Dustin Ackley, Zach Britton and the rest of the top prospects in baseball, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.
By R.J. Anderson
Let’s take a look at three much-hyped prospects and their potential to make fantasy impacts in 2010 and beyond. Worth noting: Since all three players aren’t sure bets to go north with their major league clubs (two are near shoo-ins for demotions), they do not own B-Ranks. The entire equation changes if the league is of the keeper variety though, so keep that in mind.
SP Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
Strasburg is being drafted 287th overall in non-keeper leagues, despite the Nationals’ stated intention to send him to the minors for mysterious reasons that allegedly have enough to do with money or service time and Strasburg’s lack of professional experience beyond the Arizona Fall League and spring training bullpen sessions. Bloomberg Sports still projects Strasburg projected to finish in the top 200 of wins, games started, innings pitched, walks, and strikeouts. An ERA projection over 6.00 is hard to take seriously, but again, the guy hasn’t thrown a pitch in minor league baseball, so anointing him as a fantasy stud this year is a reach. The lack of available data on him aside, Strasburg’s electric stuff and the Nationals’ desperate need to generate some excitement make his chances of seeing the majors at some point this year something like 95%.
OF Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
Strasburg’s division mate, Heyward could be an Atlanta Brave on Opening Day. The conservative projection for the Braves’ outfield has Melky Cabrera, Nate McLouth, and Matt Diaz starting, with Eric Hinske backing them up. None of those players are nearly as skilled as Heyward, and right field looks conveniently open for when the 20-year-old slugger ascends to the majors. Of the three vaunted prospects, Heyward seems the least likely to disappoint in 2010.
OF Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays
Unlike Strasburg and Heyward, Jennings is not only far less likely to see much – if any – major league time this year, he also has no place on the big league club. The Rays have the immensely talented Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton playing left and center field respectively, and two extremely serviceable players in Matt Joyce and Gabe Kapler to platoon in right. Jennings finds himself in the same spot Joyce did last season, blocked because of a numbers game. A dazzling defender with great plate discipline and speed, Jennings has a history of injuries that could hold him back as well. If you’re looking for rookie outfield help this season, look to Heyward, or possibly the Florida Marlins’ Mike Stanton instead.
Drafting prospects always carries risk, and these three cases are no different. As with any fantasy baseball decision, consider the value proposition. If your leaguemates fall victim to hype, don’t get into a bidding war for Strasburg, Heyward or Jennings. If all it will cost you is a late-round pick and a bench spot, Heyward and Strasburg are both worth a shot; Jennings too, if your league is deep enough.