By NL King - C.Lizza
Plucking prospects at the end of your fantasy baseball draft can be exhilerating. Sometimes you make the pick and think to yourself, "I just made the steal of the draft!" Maybe you chuckle to yourself or pat yourself on the back. Then you realize everyone else is on autodraft because it's 1:30 in the morning. Nice pick.
I decided to highlight some prospects in the National League that I am targeting who I believe can eventually help teams in NL only leagues in 2011. We are focusing purely on 2011 production so top prospects like Bryce Harper and Julio Teheran, who are a year or two away will not be discussed in this article. Nor will players who will be on the opening day rosters such as Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, Dominic Brown and Matt Dominguez. The prospects below will start the year in the minors but have a strong shot at making the team at some point later in 2011. Let's break it down by position.
Derek Norris, C - WSH - It looked like Derek Norris was going to be the Nats catcher of the future for sure but then Washington traded Matt Capps for Wilson Ramos. Norris was #72 on Baseball America Top 100 2011 Prospect List. Norris has good power potential but did only hit . 235 in high A last season. If Norris has a great first half and Ramos struggles then Norris could be up with the team sometime this summer. If Ramos shows he is a starting catcher than Norris will be trade bait.
Wilin Rosario, C - COL - If Chris Ianetta is hearing footsteps they are Wilin Rosario's. Rosario was having a huge year last year in AA (19HR, 52RBI, .285 AVG in 270 AB's) before hurting his knee and having surgery. I am sure the Rockies will not rush Rosario back but if the catcher situation with the Rockies is faltering the first half of the season. You could see Rosario take over by the 4th of July. Was ranked #49 on Baseball America's top 100 list for 2011.
Yonder Alonso, 1B - CIN - Yonder Alonso is ready to show if he is going to be a player at the major league level. The problem is his natural position is 1B and he is blocked by Joey Votto. Watch to see where the Reds play Alonso this Spring Training. He is good looking hitter and really has nothing to prove at the minor league level but the Reds need him to get everyday AB's so he very well might start the season there. Watch his spring closely, was ranked # 73 on Baseball America's top 100 list for 2011.
Brandon Belt, 1B - SF - Hard to find a minor league player who put up better numbers last year than Brandon Belt. Last year Belt played at high A, AA and AAA and at those 3 levels had 23HR, 112RBI, 99R, 22SB, . 352 AVG, .455 OBP. Bruce Bochy has said he can make the team but between all the different players the Giants have, Belt would have to have a gigantic spring for that to be given consideration. Odds are Belt will start the year in AAA (keep in mind only played 13 games at AAA last year) and if after the first couple of months Belt is still mashing he will be up with the Giants playing 1B and Huff will take control of one of the OF spots. Belt was #23 on Baseball America's Top 100.
Zack Cozart, SS - CIN - Played the whole year at AAA in 2010 and showed great power and speed potential. Cozart had 17HR and 30 steals but did just hit .255 and had 107K's in 553AB's. The Reds shortstops on the big club is Paul Janish and Edgar Renteria, those are short term solutions. If Cozart can get some of the rough edges off his game he can be the Reds starting shortstop come June 1st.
Todd Frazier, OF - CIN - Very similar to Zack Cozart in terms of good power and speed potential (had 17HR and 14SB in AAA last year) but needs to cleanup some of the rough edges on his game (.258 Avg and 127K's in 480AB's). Can play 1B, 3B, LF and maybe even 2B as well. Has been compared to Ben Zobrist on the major league level. Reds are not in love with Johnny Gomes who is on a one year deal. The Reds want someone more athletic than Gomes.
JD Martinez, OF - HOU - Has the potential to be a real nice power bat (18HR, 89RBI, .341Avg in A and AA last year). If Brett Wallace struggles the first half and Martinez excels the Astros can move Carlos Lee to 1B and have Martinez become the everyday Left Fielder.
Jerry Sands, OF - LAD - Has great power potential as Sands mashed last year in A and AA with 35HR, 93RBI's and hitting .301. The Dodgers have Marcus Thames and Jay Gibbons for Left Field. A big first couple of months for Sands and come sometime in June Sands could be the starting Left Fielder.
Simon Castro, SP - SD - Had a 3.28 ERA in 25 starts last year at AA and AAA. Looking at the back end of the Padres starting staff and Castro time will come no later than early June. Was ranked # 58 on Baseball America's top 100 list for 2011.
Jordan Lyles, SP - HOU - Had a solid season last season at AA and AAA with a 3.57 ERA. Again like Castro, once Lyles shows he is ready he will join the rotation. However, since Houston is in a rebuilding mode Lyles won't be rushed. Was ranked # 42 on Baseball America's top 100 list for 2011.
Lance Lynn, SP - STL - Went 13-10 with a 4.77 ERA at AAA last year. Needs to refine the rough edges of his game but could up by early summer.
Jenry Mejia, SP - NYM - Mets started him in the bullpen last year with the major league club. Very short sighted but hey, it's the Mets. They are going to make him into a starter and the Mets hope he will be a front of the rotation guy. Does have really good stuff, should see him sometime this summer in Flushing. Was ranked # 44 on Baseball America's top 100 list for 2011.
Jhan Martinez, RP - FLA - Hard throwing reliever and if Leo Nunez falters the closers job for the Marlins is up for grabs.
Eduardo Sanchez, RP - STL - Like Martinez a hard throwing youngster and with Ryan Franklin retiring at the end of the 2011 season will be on the short list of in-house candidates to become the next Cardinals closer.
Keep an Eye Out: These guys you most likely won't see until 2012 but if these prospects have huge first halfs and there is a need at the major league level in a big way there is a chance they get called up sometime this summer.
Devin Mesoraco, C - CIN - #64 on BA Top 100 - Game plan is to go with Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan this year. Had a huge year in 2010 between A, AA and AAA, still needs more seasoning.
Tony Sanchez, C - PIT- #46 on BA Top 100 - Pirates aren't going to rush him and should be decent offensively but a top prospect because of his defense.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B - SD - #75 on BA Top 100 - Part of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, had huge year in A and AA last year. Brad Hawpe is a stop gap.
Dee Gordon, SS - LAD - #26 on BA Top 100 - Furcal most likely on the last year of his contract.
Zack Cox, 3B - STL - #62 on BA Top 100 - The Cards 3B of the future, really needs a full season in the minors but could have a hole at 3B in 2011
Brett Jackson, OF - CHC - #38 on BA Top 100 - Has power and speed potential but unless there is an injury in the Cubs OF will spend a full season in AAA in 2011.
Casey Kelly, SP - SD - #31 on BA Top 100 - Also part of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, was just converted to a pitcher a couple of years ago, has front of the rotation stuff and will not be rushed.
Shelby Miller, SP - STL - #13 on BA Top 100 - Has front of the rotation stuff but the Cards say they will not rush him but what if they are in a pennant race.
Jarrod Parker, SP - ARZ - #33 on BA Top 100 - Missed 2010 from Tommy John Surgery will spend 2011 getting his feet back on the ground, has front of the rotation stuff and Arizona is in a rebuild so he won't be rushed.