The Fantasy Man's Top 20 Minor League Prospects for 2009. These are the minor leaguers I have my eye on for the upcoming season as players who could make the biggest impact in 2009, or even just an impact. All of these players have a chance to make the team out of the spring or at least a chance to be called up by mid-season.......
1. David Price, SP, TB - 23 - Price is a rarity in baseball maturity. Think Tim Lincecum. Think Joba Chamberlain. Think LaBron James. Price is awesome, plain and simple. You saw what he could do when he closed out Game 7 of the ALCS against the Red Sox. Price is 6'6" 225lbs with tantalizing stuff and fantastic command. As it stands, Price will fit in at the end of the rotation in Tampa and probably give you about 180 IP. Be prepared for him to be shut down in September possibly if he pulls a Lincecum-like rookie year but it looks as if he'll start the year in the rotation barring any spring set backs. If you want Price on your fantasy team, expect to pay about $8-$12 depending on hype in your league and expect to select him by round 10 in a 12 team mixed league draft if you really want him!
2. Matt Wieters, C, BAL - 22 - Between A and AA, Wieters hit .355/27/91 with a .454OBP and a 1.054OPS. What makes Wieters more intriguing is the 76K with 82BB all in 437AB. Those are Bugs Bunny numbers. The Orioles traded Ramon Hernandez to Cincinnati leaving the door wide open for Wieters. Assuming he experiences some growing pains but continues to be an OBP guy, I think it's safe to say with 450+ AB, Wieters can be a .280/20/80 guy in his first season barring any set backs. Draft him by round 13 if you're targeting him in snake drafts. He's a $5-$8 player in auction drafts.
3. Cameron Maybin, OF, FLA - 21 - Some have already said that Maybin could be the Hanley Ramirez of the Outfield this year. I seriously doubt that but Maybin does have some extreme potential. What we don't know yet however is what Maybin's ceiling really is. Maybin is 6'4" 200lbs, so he has the frame to hit 20+HR eventually, maybe even 30+ or 40 + as he fills out, we don't know yet. What we like about Maybin now, is his speed! Think Carlos Gomez with better on base skills and the same K rate. They are clones in size. In 2008, the Marlins, who acquired Maybin in a deal for Miguel Cabrera in the off season, kept Maybin down in the minors for the entire season. In AA, Maybin batted .277 with 13 HR and 21 SB along with a .375 OBP thanks to his 60 BB. What's alarming however is the 124 K in 390AB. Yikes! Naturally, Maybin's speed promotes more doubles and triples making him a potential points league or H2H leagues dream. As of now, Maybin plans to compete for the CF job for 2009. From early reports, it seems that it's not if Maybin will make the team or not, it's whether or not Maybin will lead off or bat at the bottom of the lineup. Hanley Ramirez hasn't show he can be a #3 hitter yet and with Uggla already entrenched in the #2 spot, it's possible Maybin gets pushed down to accomodate Hanley. Personally, I think Hanley should be and will be batting 3rd, and Maybin will get the nod at lead off! If that happens, I'm looking at a .270/12HR/30+SB type of season with 500+ AB from Maybin. Draft in or after the 16th round as a 4th or 5th OF and steal for $2-$4 in the auction!
4. Kila Ka'aihue, 1B, KC - 25 - Kila blasted his way through AA and AAA in 2008 putting up Daffy Duck numbers like .313/37HR/99RBI/.452OBP/1.086OPS with 104BB and only 66K. This guy is an OBP/OPS hog and reminds you of a potential Ryan Howard type. He's a big dude at 6'3" 230lbs. and could get the nod at 1B or DH in 2009 despite the log jam with Billy Butler and Mike Jacobs. Kila is a little older at 25 but there's not much use for this guy in AAA. Definitely a player with extreme power potential and on base skills to make an impact in 2009. If the Royals are smart, they'll start this guy at 1B, Billy Butler at DH, and use Mike Jacobs off the bench.
5. Travis Snider, OF, TOR - 21 - Snider had a nice showing after being called up by the Blue Jays last season as he hit .301/2HR/13RBI in 73 AB. He also had 23 K but the dude was only 20 years old. Between High A and AAA last season, Snider batted .275/23HR/91RBI/61BB/153K in 484AB. Yes, the K's are quite alarming but if he has a chance to make the team out of spring training, you'll have to suffer the growing pains with Snider. He'll have immediate 20+HR power and with 400+AB, can probably knock in 75+RBI if he gets consistent playing time. The 61 BB in the minors last year is a great indicator that there is better things to come, especially in the OBP department. Grab this guy for a buck or at the end of your snake draft and stash on that bench for a bigger second half. He'll probably start slow, but he had loads of upside!
6. Max Ramirez, C, TEX - 24 - Ramirez came out of nowhere to post some insane numbers between AA and AAA as a catcher batting .347/19/57 with 69K, 42BB, a .439OBP and a 1.067OPS in 285AB. The walks and the high OBP potential make up for the K's but Ramirez has 20+HR power in that catcher spot. The question is.... will he have a full time job coming out of the spring? If the Rangers can find a way to trade Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Hank Blalock, Ramirez could definitely get a shot at either C or DH. He'll be battling Taylor Teagarden for that spot. My prediction is that Ramirez wins over Teagarden if Saltalamacchia and Blalock both stay.7. Matt LaPorta, 1B, CLE - 24 - LaPorta batted .279/22/74 with a .386 OBP in 362 in AA (Cleveland and San Diego) as he was the cernterpiece in the C.C. Sabathia trade. LaPorta also played on the U.S. Olympic team in '08. LaPorta will provide a fair share of walks and K's but I'm still trying to decide if he's an Evan Longoria type or a Connor Jackson type. The jury is still out. I have a feeling LaPorta will start the year in AAA but certainly be a mid-season call up. Great player to grab at the end of your draft and stash. He's a player that could be drafted late by a manager or might be saved for the waiver wire. Keep an eye on the hype this spring.
8. Tommy Hanson, SP, ATL - 22 - Hanson is a monster at 6'6" 210lbs. He put himself on the map in 2008 when he threw a 14-K No Hitter for Double A Mississippi. At that point in the season, Hanson only brought his ERA down to 4.32. By the end of 2008, Hanson's line was 11-5, 2.41ERA, 0.99WHIP, 163K in 138IP. Those are awesome numbers between High A and Double A. Hanson has a real chance to make the Atlanta rotation out of spring training and is a great guy to take a flier on! The question is.... do you think Hanson can beat out a guy like Charlie Morton for that 5th spot based on last years numbers? I do.
9. Andrew McCutchen, OF, PIT - 22 - McCutchen was great in AAA last season batting .283/9HR/32SB/.372OBP/only 87K with 68BB in 512AB. That's a sweet season for a guy who could probably start in CF right now. Nate McLouth is currently your starting CF but I wouldn't mind seeing Pittsburgh shift McLouth to LF to make room for the future in McCutchen. Or, better yet, why doesn't Pittsburgh pack it in like usual and trade McLouth to a winner and then make room for McCutchen. Either way, McCutchen will get a chance to play in 2009. He has a great batting eye, keeps the K's to a minimum and has 30+SB speed. Throw in 15HR and you maybe have a Shane Victorino type but 3 inches taller.
10. Taylor Teagarden, C, TEX - 25 - Teagarden hit 6 HR in 47 AB after being called up last season while batting .319 in that span. In the minors, Teagarden only hit .211 in 2008 with 9 HR in 246 AB. However, in 2007, TT hit .300/27HR in 394 AB. When you look at the minor league numbers the past few years, they are not all that intriguing. Yes, TT has some power and showed it off in his 47 AB, but he strikes out a ton. In 756 AB in his minor league career, he has 249 K. Throw on top of that the competition for 3B, 1B, C, and DH between Teagarden, Max Ramirez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Hank Blalcok, and Chris Davis, someone is going to get left behind, and despite what other experts think, I feel that it will be Teagarden. Unless a move is made, i.e. Saltalamacchia to Boston or Hank Blalock to SF, I think Teagarden starts the year in the minors. If a move is made, Teagraden makes a great #2 catcher with upside at the end of the draft.
11. Fernando Martinez, OF, NYM - 20 - This guy is the pride and joy of the Mets farm system. No matter what, the Mets won't include Martinez in a trade. Somehow, the Mets kept him out of the Johan Santana deal and so far in this off-season, the Mets have kept him out again. I think they're going to go with some combination of Carlos Beltran, Ryan Church, Josh Reed, Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis in the outfield with Beltran and Church as the mainstays while the other guys hold the fort for Martinez to mature. Martinez possesses a fantastic power/speed combo as he had 8HR and 6SB in 352AB. Those numbers don't jump off the page at you but Martinez is only 20 but he missed some time last year with some injury. Martinez probably won't make the team out of spring training but could be a mid season call up if A. the Mets are decimated with injury or B. Martinez absolutely tears up AA.
12. Angel Salome, C, MIL - 22 - A young solid contact hitting catcher with some power could push Jason Kendall for playing time by midseason or 2010. In AA Huntsville, Salome batted .360,13HR,83RBI,3SB,.414OBP with only 57K and 33BB in 367AB. This is a guy to watch, especially if he hits in AAA. You probably don't need to stash him because he's not really on the radar, well, except for mine. Keep this guy on the back-burner as he may become useful either by midseason or for 2010.
13. Jess Todd, SP, STL - 22 - Todd blew up in the minors in 2008 pitching at all three levels and posting a combined line of 2.88ERA/1.03WHIP/136K/42BB in 153IP. Throw in that he only gave up 16 total HR, held batters to a .213BA, and has a K per 9 rate of 8. The Cardinals rotation looks set at the moment, but here is a guy who could start the year in the bullpen and be that 6th starter. We'll see Todd at some point in 2009 with a chance to crack the rotation with an injury. There is already talk that Chris Carpenter might not be ready to start the season and that's the opportunity Todd needs who word is, could probably be the #3 started right now behind Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter!
14. Neftali Feliz, SP, TEX - 20 - Between Low A and AA last season, Feliz produced a line of 2.69ERA/1/10WHIP/153K in 127IP. Wait, what? 153 K in 127IP?? That's right! This guy is a flame thrower, that of the 100MPH club. 106K in 82IP in Low A and 47K in 45IP in AA. Not bad for a guy no one has ever heard of. What I love best is his opportunity to crack the rotation at some point in 2009. I mean,look at this competition.... Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Matt Harrison, Brandon McCarthy, Dustin Nippert, Kason Gabbard, Eric Hurley, Luis Mendoza, and Scott Feldman. It's almost laughable.....
15. Matt Gamel, 3B, MIL - 23 - Gamel has Ryan Braun like hitting potential. In 2008, Gamel batted .325/20/99/.392OBP/6SB in 529AB between AA and AAA. There is talk that Mat Gamel can make the team out of the spring but I think he's more of a mid-season call up as he'd have to beat out Bill Hall and Mike Lamb. The real problem is his defense, which was the same reason why Ryan Braun didn't make the team out of Spring Training in 2007.
16. Kyle Blanks, 1B, SD - 22 - Blanks has power potential and has proved it in the minors thus far but he's blocked by Adrian Gonzalez. What I like here is that the rest of the Padres offense is dismal outside of Kevin Kouzmanoff and Chase Headley. I'm thinking Blanks could make a switch to RF possibly as an option to get him in the lineup. Otherwise, maybe the Padres can trade him in the Jake Peavy deal where he'll get some playing time. In 2007 A Ball, Blanks hit .301/24HR/100RBI/11SB/.380OBP and only 98K with 44BB in 465AB. Then, in 2008 in AA, Blanks hit .325/20HR/107RBI/5SB/.404OBP and only 94 K with 51BB in 492AB. As you can see, Blanks performed better at the next level (AA) while decreasing his K's and increasing his BB with about 30 more AB. I like that potential. I'm confident we'll see this bat somewhere in late 2009 and right now no one is talking about him!
17. Colby Rasmus, OF, STL - 22 - Rasmus is one of the most talented prospects in the Cardinals farm system, but last years poor performance in the minors might have dropped Rasmus down a notch. Still, at 22, the talent is there as is the upside and a quality spring will put Rasmus back on the map and even more so if the Cardinals trade Rick Ankiel either before the season starts or at the July deadline. Ankiel is playing for a new contract this year which could open a spot for Rasmus. Rasmus is a Power/Speed guy, potential 20/20 but at this point, might only be a .275 type hitter as he whiffs a lot. Rasmus is a guy you draft in the last round or spend a buck on and stash as he has the talent to be called up and perform immediately.
18. Wade Davis, SP, TB - 23 - Davis is the next top pitching prospect in line for the Rays. If by chance David Price ends up in the bullpen, Davis would be a candidate to get that 5th spot. Otherwise, he's next in line after Price. Last season between AA and AAA Davis produced a combined 3.47ERA/1.30WHIP/136K in 160IP. The numbers are inflated a bit as his AA stint was only mediocre while the 53IP in AAA were stellar. Davis has nasty stuff, stands in a 6'5" 220lbs., and looks like a K/IP type of pitcher. Keep an eye in spring training to get a sense on whether to draft late or save for a waiver wire pick up. I'd recommend a last round flier and stash on a deep bench because he'll see time in late 2009.
19. J.P. Arencibia, C, TOR - Arencibia is 23, was a 1st round pick and in two minor league seasons (2007 in A and 2008 in AA), he batted .298/27/105 in 510AB. However, Arencibia has totaled only 101 K's but with only 18 BB and a .322 OBP in those two seasons, so there is much to work on. This is a guy you grab for a buck though and stash on the bench in deep leagues until July or August a la Matt Weiters or Max Ramirez of 2008. This is a guy we might be talking about for 2010!
20. Mike Moustakas, 3B, KC - 22 - Batted .272/21HR/71RBI/8SB/86K/44BB in 496AB. He can play SS or 3B and those numbers remind me of an Evan Longoria type. These are Low A numbers so there a good chance he'll start the season in High A or AA but has a great chance to be called up in September and explode. He's a highly touted prospect who gets pushed to the side a bit because he's with Kansas City, but if he gets SS eligibility, he'll become even more of a hot commodity as a prospect to watch for 2010.
On the Bubble:Pedro Alvarez, 3B, PIT - 22 - Alvarez was a top pick in the 2008 draft but some say he's ready for the bigs right now! The Padres still have Andy LaRoche and prospect Neil Walker above Alvarez on the depth charts but a good spring and hot start in the minors could shoot Alvarez up the charts. Keep an eye on his progress in the spring. His estimated time of arrival with a good showing in the minors in 2009 is 2010!