Sunday, March 09, 2008

Drafting Minor League Players

This particular column is about the top 6 best minor league prospects and potential rookie of the year candidates out there for 2008. The players mentioned below are the players you should be concentrating on in your upcoming fantasy drafts as they have the best potential in the shortest amount of time.

For a moment, let’s lay out the guidelines. Let’s assume you are playing in a normal league, 10-14 teams, mixed league, 23-25 man total player rosters, roto or H2H (doesn’t matter here), normal 5x5 categories, $260 budget for auction leagues. This is a majority of the leagues out there today. Of course there are variations but let’s speak in generalities.

Normally, you do not want to draft every hot rookie/prospect on the board as that could obviously be catastrophic. What if your rookies don’t make the club out of spring training? What if they start the season in a huge slump? You just can never tell what’s going to happen. So instead, take a look at the absolute best prospects/potential ROY’s available in your draft. Realistically, using the guidelines I described, these should realistically be the only prospects you should consider drafting while remembering that a winning fantasy team will have a healthy dose of young players with upside and good solid veterans to carry your team.

1. Joba Chamberlain, SP/RP, NYY – I am a Joba Chamberlain maniac but when you look at his stats from last year, understand that his full season of starting stats in the minors was even better. Joba in a normal 5x5 league is super valuable even as a reliever because he could help tremendously in ERA/WHIP/K’s. Joba ranks first on this list because he is a definite to make the team out of spring training. He usually jumps off the board between rounds 12-15 and for about $8-$12 at the auction. Just be careful as the Yankees plan to cap Joba at 150 IP. Obviously if he lands in the bullpen, he’ll be fine.

2. Clay Bucholz, SP, BOS – This rookie Phenom has just as much talent as Joba and at the moment, will land that 5th spot in the rotation as it appears that Curt Schilling won’t be ready to start the season. He'll have to stage off Bartolo Colon as well. Bucholz is worth drafting sometime close to round 15. He won’t last much longer. Nab Bucholz for $8 or less.

3. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, BOS – The question here is whether or not the Red Sox will find room to start Ellsbury everyday. It’s possible he could start the season in AAA but my best guess is he makes the team as the 4th outfielder and eventually takes over full-time by late May. Even so, he’s gone by round 13 in some leagues. I wouldn’t spend more than $10 at the auction but he could be a Grady Sizemore type with more SB but a few less HR. Keep in mind he still has to beat out Coco Crisp for the starting job.

4. Carlos Gomez, OF, MIN – The Twins have said that they are moving Delmon Young to LF and Mike Cuddyer will play RF, meaning Craig Monroe will not be starting and with Jason Kubel as the DH, that leaves CF wide open for Gomez to start the season with a quality spring. If this is the case, Gomez is a candidate for 20HR/30+SB and is known as one of the fastest players in the league, even faster than Jose Reyes step for step.

5. Evan Longoria, 3B, TB – I knock him down a few because although Longoria has 25+HR potential, that’s really all we might get in 2008 along with a .275 AVG, at least that’s what you should expect. Is he this year’s Ryan Braun? Maybe, Longoria walks more than Braun and strikes less but Braun was more successful overall in the minor early last season and obviously in the majors later. Regardless, Longoria is a great 14th round or later upside pick who looks to be starting the season at 3B.

6. Cameron Maybin, OF, FLA – Maybin had a quick cup of tea and did not impress much at the end of last season in the hitting department, but he did with his speed. Maybin has lightning speed and is close in size to Carlos Gomez (both about 6’4”). The Marlins want to move Hanley Ramirez in the third slot with Dan Uggla batting second making Maybin the obvious choice to take over CF and that lead off slot. Think of Maybin as following the footsteps of Hanley Ramirez. Not great in the minors, but busting out in his first major league season. Maybin is a guy you can steal in rounds 20-23 of a normal draft or for a buck or two in the auction and land possibly 15HR/30+SB. He’s a safe choice because the Marlins really don’t have any better CF options.

The following players have some real potential, but at this point may fnd it harder to nail down an everyday job. Obviously, in keeper leagues, you'll want to look at the following a bit closer...
Homer Bailey, SP, CIN – He’s almost a lock for the rotation
Adam Jones, OF, BAL – The main piece of the Bedard deal and will start in CF
Geovany Soto, C, CHC – Extremely over-hyped but should start the season at C
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, OAK – They dumped Kotsay to make room for this stud
Jay Bruce, OF, CIN – Will have to beat out Freel/Patterson for a job, may start in AAA
Daric Barton, 1B, OAK – Talented and young and will have to beat out Dan Johnson
Colby Rasmus, OF, STL – There is a log-jam in STL but Rasmus is the most talented
Andy LaRoche, 3B, LAD – He’s out 4-6 weeks with a torn ligament in thumb
Brandon Wood, 3B, LAA – There is just no room for him at the moment
Matt Antonelli, 2B, SD – Could eventually take over at 2B by midseason
Chase Headley, OF/3B, SD – Maybe headed to LF with a good spring

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