Not every season goes perfectly as planned and, at some point or another, teams will need to dip into their farm system for help at the big league level. Or some clubs may opt to start the season with a highly touted prospect in the lineup or rotation. Below, you can find prospects to know from each organization that have a good chance of making an impact at the Major League level in 2010 – and at the fantasy level, too. Keep this list handy as the season progresses…
Arizona Diamondbacks- 1B Brandon Allen
Why? Allen thrived in Triple-A Reno after a mid-season trade from the White Sox. The hulking 6’2’’ and 235-pound slugger hit .324/.413/.641 with 12 home runs in 145 at-bats with Reno after the trade. In a system short on talent in the upper levels of the system, Allen will be given an opportunity to conquer the starting job at first base this spring after he was extremely overmatched in his Major League debut (.288 wOBA). In 104 big league at-bats, Allen struck out in 38.5% of them. He’ll have to improve upon this to make a positive impact in 2010, especially now that the organization has signed free agent Adam LaRoche to a one-year deal. An injury to LaRoche (or, at the very least, a mid-season trade) may now be Allen’s best chance for playing time in 2010.
Atlanta Braves- OF Jason Heyward
Why? Heyward is the Braves’ top prospect and one of the best in baseball. The five-tool player ripped through High-A and Double-A last year and finished the year with a three-game cameo in Triple-A. A minor injury cut his time short in the Arizona Fall League, but with the departure of the aging and overrated Garrett Anderson, the Braves could be in need of Heyward’s services soon. He has an outside shot at being an opening day outfielder for Atlanta, but expect him to get a little Triple-A seasoning first. The 20-year-old should make a big impact soon.
Baltimore Orioles- LHP Brian Matusz
Why? Matusz breezed through the Orioles’ minor league system in his first full season with the organization. The former first-round pick has impeccable command of his pitches and knows how to pitch. He’s expected to start the season in the big league rotation after he posted a 4.08 FIP in 43 big league innings to finish up last year. He’s got some Major League experience and this will suit him well in 2010; he just managed to maintain his rookie eligibility. He’ll be a key cog in Baltimore’s rotation for years to come and could be a solid force on your team in 2010.
Boston Red Sox- OF Josh Reddick
Why? This one’s tough and it’s very possible Reddick has a minimal fantasy impact in 2010. Someone had to be chosen and most of the Red Sox’ top talent on the farm is quite young and at least a full season away from potential Major League playing time. Reddick strung together good numbers in Double-A (.382 wOBA in 63 games) and was overmatched in his big league debut and in 18 Triple-A games. He figures to spend much of his season in Pawtucket. He could be forced into big league playing time if injuries haunt the creaky J.D. Drew, nor is Jeremy Hermida a sure bet to stay on the field if he receives consistent playing time for some reason. Mike Cameron isn’t young anymore and some injuries could push Reddick and his plus power into the big league picture. But don’t bank on Reddick by any means.
Chicago White Sox- RHP Daniel Hudson
Why? Hudson blazed through the White Sox system and played for five different teams in 2009 and finished the year with the big league club. Hudson projects as a mid-rotation starter and his bread-and-butter pitch is his sinking fastball. He’ll only provide fantasy value in 2010 if he’s given the opportunity to start. He’ll have to beat out Freddy Garcia for the fifth rotation spot but even if he doesn’t, he’s next in line for starts if anyone suffers an injury.
Chicago Cubs- RHP Jay Jackson
Why? Like Boston, the Cubs system also lacks upper-level talent close to the big leagues. This makes the pick quite tough but if there’s a guy to keep a close eye on, it’s Jackson. The power arm displayed good peripherals in the minors last year. He needs to work on command, as evidenced by his 4.25 BB/9 rate in 16 Double-A starts. Jackson figures to start the year in Triple-A Iowa’s rotation and could see big league action if Randy Wells has a lackluster sophomore campaign or if injuries strike the Cubs starting rotation.
Cincinnati Reds- OF Chris Heisey
Why? Heisey had impressive stints in Double-A and Triple-A last year. He’s knocking on the big league door and with the departure of Jonny Gomes he should find some big league time in 2010. Heisey has been coined a, “cheap five-tool player” because he can do a little bit of everything. He may not open the season with the Reds and will likely have to earn playing time over Chris Dickerson and Wladimir Balentien, among others. Each of those players have limited and flawed skill sets so don’t be surprised if Heisey comes to the rescue at some point next season in Cincinnati.
Cleveland Indians- C Carlos Santana
Why? Santana assaulted Double-A pitchers in his first full season at the level. He had a .418 wOBA in 130 games. Santana will start the year in Triple-A behind Mike Redmond, Lou Marson, and Wyatt Toregas on the temporary depth chart. Scouts believe Santana’s impact bat is ready for the Majors but would like to see him improve his defense behind the plate first. Santana should arrive in Cleveland at some point next year and, if Marson struggles, it should happen sooner. Santana could make a lot of noise if given the opportunity. The bat is special.
Colorado Rockies- 2B/OF Eric Young
Why? Young is ready for the Majors after a successful Triple-A showing. In 119 games, he posted a .381 wOBA and swiped 58 bases. After getting his feet wet late in Colorado last year, he’ll fight incumbent Clint Barmes for time at second base in 2010. If he’s permitted to play, he could help your team in the batting-average and stolen-base departments. He won’t hit for much power but he also figures to become eligible in the outfield at some point in the season, too.
Detroit Tigers- 2B Scott Sizemore
Why? Sizemore played well in the upper levels of the Tigers system in 2009 and looks to be ready for the big leagues. With Placido Polanco’s departure to the Phillies, the door appears to be open for Sizemore to the starting second base job. He looks like an above-average second baseman in the future, but he suffered an ugly ankle injury in the Arizona Fall League. He should be ready for spring training, but it’ll be best to monitor his health as the season approaches. He could be a solid contributor if he’s healthy and claims the starting job.
Florida Marlins- 1B Gaby Sanchez
Why? After failing to secure the starting job at first base last year this may finally be Sanchez’ year. The 26-year-old had a .378 wOBA in Triple-A last year and played in 21 big league games towards the end of the season. The first-base job appears to be his for the taking and Sanchez’ blend of contact, raw power, and on-base abilities make for an intriguing package.
Houston Astros- RHP Sammy Gervacio
Why? Gervacio made his big league debut in ‘09 and overpowered hitters. He had a 2.62 FIP in 21 innings and a 10.71 strikeout-per-nine rate. He’ll likely begin the season in the Astros’ bullpen and may have the opportunity to close games. Recent acquisitions Brandon Lyon and Matt Lindstrom have first dibs on the closing job, but if the club realizes that Gervacio is the better option – or once Lyon and/or Lindstron implode – Gervacio could become very valuable in all fantasy formats.
Kansas City Royals- 1B Kila Kaaihue
Why? Kaaihue was trapped in Triple-A last year despite a breakout 2008 season. Mike Jacobs wilted with the big league team and was released this offseason. Kaaihue will be 26 years old at the outset of the season and he may finally be awarded a big league starting opportunity. He had a .368 wOBA in Triple-A last season and could prove to be quite valuable if he discovers his 2008 power levels, where he had 38 homers between three stops. Kaaihue slugged only 17 homers last year (.181 ISO) but is a walk machine (18.8% walk rate). He’s a nice sleeper entering 2010.
Los Angeles Angels- IF Brandon Wood
Why? Technically, Wood isn’t a prospect and shouldn’t be eligible for this list. But I’ll bend the rules a little here with such limited options at the upper levels of the Angels farm system. With Chone Figgins signing with the Mariners, Wood may be allowed the opportunity to start in the infield, despite floundering in each taste of the big leagues he’s had over the past three seasons. Wood has plus power and can mash homers at the expense of big strikeout numbers. Is this the year that some of his abilities finally transfer from Triple-A to Los Angeles?
Los Angeles Dodgers- RHP John Ely
Why? The cash-strapped Dodgers need some help at the back end of their rotation, and it doesn’t appear that they’ll make a big move to improve their rotation with limited financial resources. The organization may take a flier on a cheap veteran if the opportunity presents itself, but don’t be surprised if Ely is thrust into the starting rotation during the season. He has plus command and a plus-plus change-up that serves as his outpitch. However, he lacks a consistent third offering. The environment in Dodger stadium can only help him.
Milwaukee Brewers- SS Alcides Escobar
Why? The Brewers paved the way for Escobar this past winter by dealing former shortstop J.J. Hardy to the Twins. Escobar hit .304 in 125 at-bats to wrap up 2009 with Milwaukee, but he only had a .311 wOBA. He doesn’t have much home-run power nor does he exhibit good plate discipline. The plus defender wreaks havoc on the bases. He stole 42 bags last year in Triple-A and will be a valuable source of steals in all fantasy formats in 2010. Escobar should be a solid source of batting average accompanied with great stolen base numbers next season.
Minnesota Twins- 3B Danny Valencia
Why? Valencia handled Double-A very well (.380 wOBA) in 57 games, which earned him a promotion to Triple-A. There he held his own with a .326 wOBA but had to go through an adjustment period over 71 games. Valencia still hit .286 in Triple-A but saw his walk rate go from 12.4% in Double-A to a meager 2.9% after the promotion. He may need some more seasoning in the minors, but Valencia has a shot at cracking the Twins’ opening day roster with the departure of former third baseman Joe Crede. Valencia will have to battle Brendan Harris for playing time at third, but, with Harris coming off a poor year, the Twins may opt to give the newer blood a shot.
New York Mets- OF Fernando Martinez
Why? Martinez’s raw talent and tools are just overwhelming. Some may forget that he’s still just 21 years old despite making his Major League debut last year before injuries sidelined him. Martinez finally started hitting for some power to start 2009 in Triple-A (.382 wOBA with a .540 slugging percentage in 45 games) before falling on his face (.240 wOBA) in 29 big league games. He’s healthy now and set to start the year in Triple-A, but he will be banging on the Mets’ door. If the Jeff Francoeur rollercoaster starts hitting too many lows, Martinez should get his shot with the Mets in the middle of the season, and he may be ready to arrive in a big way.
New York Yankees- C Jesus Montero
Why? The Yankees are so stacked at the big league level that it’s plausible the organization will not need to rely on any rookies in 2010. A fractured middle finger robbed Montero of the last six weeks of his season, but he downright assaulted High-A (.446 wOBA) and Double-A (.406 wOBA) pitching in 2009. Montero’s defense is pretty brutal behind the plate, so he doesn’t have the best odds of sticking at the position and Jorge Posada isn’t going anywhere soon. Montero won’t supplant Mark Teixeira at first, but the 20-year-old Montero’s bat is ready for The Show. He could find himself at DH for the Yankees at some point next year if the injury-prone Nick Johnson gets hurt. If this happens, you can expect production from Montero; also, keep in mind he’s valuable trade bait for the Yankees if a need arises for the team at the big league level. Any team acquiring him would likely want to see how he can mash in the Majors right now.
Oakland Athletics- 1B Chris Carter
Why? Carter hit for an ungodly .450 wOBA in 125 Double-A games last year, which earned him a promotion to Triple-A, where he spent 13 games. Carter will likely start 2010 back in Triple-A but he’s going to push for the big league first-base job soon. If Carter continues his power hitting ways in Triple-A, the team may opt for him over the lesser-power-hitting Daric Barton. Carter’s .406 BABIP in Double-A won’t translate to the upper levels and Majors but his plus-plus power is some of the best in the minors. He’ll hit for big power and strike out a lot.
Philadelphia Phillies- LHP Antonio Bastardo
Why? The Phillies are like the Yankees in that they won’t need to rely on any rookies in 2010. The farm system has changed a lot with the Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay trades and uber-prospect Dominic Brown doesn’t figure to get any big league time in 2010. Bastardo made five starts for the Phillies before the Cliff Lee acquisition and he did well in Double-A and Triple-A. He appears ready for Major League action and it may first come in the bullpen where he’d offer little-to-no fantasy value. However, Bastardo may get a shot at the last rotation spot if injuries arise after the J.A. Happ/Jamie Moyer fifth starter situation is settled. But Bastardo’s a long shot to make any significant impact in 2010.
Pittsburgh Pirates- LHP Brad Lincoln
Why? With superior prospects Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata destined for more Triple-A seasoning and no immediate opening with the big league squad, Lincoln figures to have the best chance to play in the big leagues. He may have to wait for an opportunity to arise in the Major League rotation, but Kevin Hart might be destined for the bullpen and Daniel McCutchen may not hold down the fifth rotation slot for very long. Lincoln’s Double-A performance (2.96 FIP in 13 starts) was impressive and he looked solid in Triple-A, as well (3.85 FIP in 12 starts). Lincoln exhibited good peripherals in Triple-A and his .332 BABIP should be due for some regression while his 62.8% LOB rate should increase, thus helping his ERA. If the former first-rounder performs well in Indianapolis and a need arises for him in the Pirates rotation, he has the makings of a pleasant surprise to fantasy owners.
San Diego Padres- OF Chad Huffman
Why? The Padres system doesn’t have much talent ready for the big leagues and Huffman is going to have trouble cracking many top-10 prospect lists. He’s likely maxed out and he’ll be 25 years old this season, but he’s had success at every minor league level in the Padres system. Last season with Triple-A Portland, he had a .367 wOBA and 20 home runs. He may crack the opening day roster as a fourth or fifth outfielder but could receive playing time if one of the Padres’ starters goes down with an injury. In that situation he may surprise and be a solid contributor, as he’s been throughout the entire Friars’ farm system.
San Francisco Giants- C Buster Posey
Why? Posey was the Giants’ starting catcher prior to the re-acquisition of Bengie Molina, which allows Posey more time in Triple-A (likely whether he needs it or not). Posey destroyed pitching in Double-A (.433 wOBA) and Triple-A (.390 wOBA) in ‘09. He also received 17 big league at-bats in September and some were disappointed that he did not take more at-bats from Molina during a tight play-off run. Posey projects to hit for a high batting average, as well as average to above-average power at the big league level, and if granted regular playing time in 2010, he could help all fantasy players in all formats.
Seattle Mariners- OF Michael Saunders
Why? Saunders’ path to the big leagues got a little murkier with the Mariners’ acquisition of Milton Bradley, but the former prospect no longer has anything left to prove in Triple-A, where he had a .400 wOBA last season. Saunders didn’t do much (.244 wOBA) with 122 big league at-bats and he will likely start 2010 back in Triple-A, where he should just continue to do what he did last year. Saunders should be one of the first in line for a call to the big leagues if a regular outfielder suffers an injury, or if the Mariners organization decides it needs more punch from the DH slot, which figures to be shared by the elderly Ken Griffey Jr. and Bill Hall. The 2010 season may be the time that Saunders puts it together at the MLB level.
St. Louis Cardinals- 3B David Freese
Why? Freese will be 27 years old in 2010 and he’ll have a big opportunity to win the starting job at third base for the Cardinals in the spring. He’ll need to put his recent drinking issues behind himself, though. He overcame a foot injury in 2009 and had a .388 wOBA in 200 Triple-A at-bats. He also had a .351 wOBA in 31 big league at-bats. This could be the year that he’s a solid, and well-rounded, contributor at the big league level.
Tampa Bay Rays- RHP Wade Davis
Why? This was a tough pick because the Rays club has a number of potential big league contributors that will be loitering around in Triple-A. But after a fine Major League debut (2.90 FIP in six starts), Davis should have first dibs on opening the season with Tampa’s rotation. He had strong peripherals in Triple-A and during his six start trial with Tampa Bay. Davis has a good chance at 10-15 wins next season with an ERA south of 4.00. As such, he looks like a very solid rookie option in all fantasy formats in 2010.
Texas Rangers- RHP Neftali Feliz
Why? Feliz has a downright electric arm and he cruised through the Rangers’ minor league system. Some believe he’ll be an ace in the Majors soon, and last year he had a 2.48 FIP in 31 relief innings. Feliz is expected to be shifted back to the starting role in 2010, and he’s going to play a big role in determining the Rangers’ playoff odds in the American League West. The Rangers will closely monitor his innings count, but he has the stuff to post a very impressive season. He’ll be an AL Rookie of The Year contender.
Toronto Blue Jays- 3B Brett Wallace
Why? Wallace has been traded twice over the past year, but it looks like he’ll be a Blue Jay for a while. Wallace has one of the best pure bats in the minors and he appears to be ready for big league action after he handled Triple-A well in the Cardinals (.340 wOBA) and Athletics (.372 wOBA) organizations. He has an unusual body type and isn’t praised for his defense at the hot corner, which may move him to first base, but his bat should play there. The Jays organization is shopping incumbent first baseman Lyle Overbay, and the door may open soon for Wallace at the big league level. When it does, he should become a solid contributor almost immediately.
Washington Nationals- RHP Stephen Strasburg
Why? Perhaps the question should be why not? Strasburg’s repertoire is phenomenal and he’s got ace and multiple Cy Young award-winner written all over him. After setting an amateur signing bonus record, Strasburg is destined towards big things in Washington, and people are looking at him as the franchise’s savior. After two 59-win seasons, Nationals fans need something big to cheer about and the dynamic Strasburg is going to be it. He will be allowed to compete for a rotation spot this spring, but it’s likely that Washington eases him into pro ball with as assignment to the upper-minors to start 2010. But it’s just a matter of time before he’s deemed big league ready and the pressure will be on Washington to call him up if he mows down minor league hitters as expected. He may be worth a late-round draft pick to stash on your bench because when Strasburg arrives, he’s going to arrive in a big, big way that you don’t want to miss.