Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fenst's Farm Report: International League

Welcome back to the second edition of's Fenst's Farm Report. Baseball is nearly a month into its season and some prospects are heating up all over the minor leagues before the weather even has a chance. This edition will take a look at some of the top prospects in the International League (AAA) that are off to a hot start. Many of these players you may see on your favorite major league team in the upcoming months.

Matt LaPorta (OF-CLE)

LaPorta was Milwaukee's top pick in the 2007 First Year Player Draft. The power hitter was the 7th overall selection in the draft and was a centerpiece in the CC Sabathia deal last summer. The power hitting prospect has shined in the first month of this short season for Cleveland's AAA affiliate, Columbus. For the Clippers, LaPorta has 11 extra base hits in 68 AB's, 5 of which are home runs. The righty's .368 average is tied for 7th in the international league and his whopping 1.142 OPS is fourth. If he continues and builds on his strong performance Cleveland will be forced to call him up to the majors and find him some regular playing time. LaPorta is able to play both corner outfield positions and first base as well. With LaPorta being one injury away from a call up he could see regular time at DH as well. If he does get the call up expect solid power numbers in Cleveland's lineup, but I wouldn't expect him to be a .300 hitter. Cleveland looks as if they may have received a middle of the order guy for many years from the deal of the galaxy known only as CC Sabathia.

Austin Jackson (OF- NYY)

The young speedster Austin Jackson is off to a great start for Scranton Wilkes-Barre hitting .357 with 10 RBI so far. Where Jackson's true value comes in is his speed and he has not disappointed so far this season. Jackson has 5 steals so far this young season and added two triples as well. With the health/age concerns in the Yankees outfield, as with many prospects, Jackson is a play away from the major leagues. Jackson is striking out at a regular basis, but that is expected from a player that raw and that young. Jackson has the potential to be a 30+ base stealer once he arrives in the majors. He will need to work on his strikeout count for him to sit atop a lineup like the Yankees.

Michael Bowden (RHP- BOS)

Michael Bowden seems to be the next in line of young Red Sox pitchers ready to make an import for the big league club. Bowden is leading the International League in ERA for the Paw Sox with a 0.64 ERA in 3 starts. He is striking out more than a batter per inning and has shown good control with just 5 walks in his first three outings. Drafted in the first round out of high school back in 2005, Bowden is cruising through the competition and looks ready for the next level. The biggest problem for him is the logjam of pitchers ahead of him. Even with injuries already in the rotation he is still stuck with the Paw Sox waiting for his shot. Clay Buchholz is also pitching well and would probably be considered before Bowden as well. If your league has a minor league system, don't let this kid slip under the radar and someoen else get rewarded in the future. On a side note, if Bowden was on the Pittsburgh Pirates he probably would have already been called up, had a dominant rookie season, and then fizzled out already by this point in his career. (Yes, I know the Pirates staff has been amazing this year, but look at the past with these kids.)

Phil Hughes (RHP- NYY)

The injured Wang has vaulted Phil Hughes up into the Yankees rotation. He shined in his first opportunity this year with the parent club, winning his first game for the Yanks since 2007 (he had no wins in his brief stint last season). Hughes didn't allow a run and struck out six through six innings. If Hughes continues to pitch well he might be able to solidify himself as a full-time starter for the big league Yankees. It is always nice to see a highly touted prospect seemingly right the ship after such an awful, injury plagued season (even if he is a Yankee and for the first time in three years not on my fantasy squad...). During his time in the minors he had a 1.86 ERA and 1.03 WHIP ((walks + hits) / innings pitched).

Tommy Hanson (RHP- ATL)

Baseball America top 5 prospect Tommy Hanson has been spectacular thus far for the Gwinnett Braves. His K/9 has been incredible as he has 29 strikeouts through just 20.2 innings pitched.
I wrote two weeks ago to keep an eye on Hanson in my first installment of the Farm Report and nothing has changed. If you have a deep roster or a minor league system he is a must on your fantasy team. When Hanson comes up to the majors he will make an immediate impact for the Braves and your roster. Strikeouts will come in bunches and I don't think he will hurt your ERA, in fact he might improve it. Like I have said before, a mid 3 ERA is a good estimate for where he will be after he arrives with Atlanta.

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Kevin Fenstermacher said...

As I was saying with LaPorta. He was just called up with the injury to Travis Hafner. If he wasn't on your radar make sure he is now. Snag him before someone else does.