Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fenst's Farm Report

Welcome to the first installment of’s newest article, Fenst's Farm Report. Here, you’ll uncover the action that is taking place in the minor leagues; the hitting, the pitching, and the top prospects to watch carefully, because these are the guys that you will count on to shape your fantasy squad in the future.

There are already many top prospects starting up in the majors that you should keep an eye on, such as Oakland pitchers Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill. Young studs Colby Rasmus, Elvis Andrus, Travis Snider, Rick Porcello, Cameron Maybin and Dexter Fowler are all on major league rosters as well. Even with all of these young players already up in the majors, though, there remains plenty to pay attention to down on the farm. With the season just getting underway, I will highlight some of the top prospects that are waiting for their chance to impact their major league organization as well as your fantasy team.

David Price (SP- Tampa Bay)

Price has been on the radar ever since he was drafted first overall in the ’07 draft out of Vanderbilt. He proved during his September call-up at the end of last season and throughout the ’08 playoffs that he is the real deal. He had a 1.93 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 14 innings in September, and was just as dominant in the post-season. Look for Price to get the call-up very soon after receiving the Longoria treatment this year starting in the minors. He has already demonstrated that he is major league ready and should supplant Jeff Niemann in the Rays rotation in the near future. Price was a mid-round draft pick, but may be undervalued with his start in the minors. Jump on him quick if possible, and expect to reap the rewards for the remainder of the season.

Matt Wieters (C- Baltimore)

Wieters is a rare talent in what is considered by far the weakest position in fantasy baseball. After his call-up – which will be sooner rather than later – he will already be considered to be in the upper echelon of catchers. I am already on the bandwagon, as I have stashed him away in every league I could. You may think it is crazy to value a player this much before a major league at bat, but look at Longoria last season. Expect a .280+ avg. and 15+ homers even though he will be getting a late start to the season. Wieters hit .355 with 27 home runs in 2 leagues in the minors last season. He also shows great plate discipline and has a fantastic approach at the plate for such a young player (more walks than strikeouts last year).

Gordon Beckham (SS/2B- Chicago {AL})

Beckham was the 8th pick in the 2008 First Year Player Draft by the Chicago White Sox. It is very rare that a player makes it on an opening day roster the year following their draft (which is what Beckham was trying to do this year) but he came extremely close. Even with Chris Getz winning the starting job in Chicago, it is hardly locked in and Beckham could see a lot of time up in the majors this season. If he, does expect solid numbers from him including some decent pop from the second base position (tied for the DIV-1 NCAA lead with 28 homers during his last year at Georgia). He will also have shortstop eligibility, which is a huge bonus considering both positions are quite weak this season. In just 22 at-bats, Beckham is tearing the cover off the ball in AA after a very good campaign in the South Atlantic League (Low A) last season. He might not have the impact of Wieters or Price, but make sure he is on your radar if he does get the call.

Tommy Hanson (SP- Atlanta)

This young strikeout machine is waiting in the wings to take over a rotation spot in Atlanta. In two starts so far this young season, he has 17 strikeouts and an ERA under 1 for Atlanta’s AAA affiliate- Gwinnett. Hanson had over 160 K’s in 138 innings between two levels last year (high-A and AA). With Glavine also contemplating retirement, the move to Hanson could be right around the corner. If Hanson can use his tools effectively at the next level, he is a future ace. As for this season I could easily see him posting a mid 3 ERA and close to a strikeout per inning. Keep an eye on this situation as it could change quickly. If he is sitting in free agency in deep leagues he makes a better option to fill out your roster than a back-end-of-the-rotation starter without much upside. Keep him on your watch list.

Justin Smoak (1B- Rangers)

Smoak was the Rangers’ first round pick in the ’08 First Year Player Draft (11th overall). He has drawn many comparisons to former Rangers slugger Mark Teixeira and had 63 home runs in his three-year career at South Carolina. Just like Teixeira, Smoak is a switch-hitter with power to all fields and the first baseman of the future for the Rangers. The issue he is dealing with now is the logjam of infielders in front of him in the Rangers organization. They have Hank Blalock and young slugger Chris Davis that both will spend some time at first base this year. Both players can play third base, but longtime shortstop Michael Young has slid over to third this year to make room for prospect Elvis Andrus. If Smoak does get some time up in the majors this year expect plus power numbers, especially in that lineup and the “Bandbox in Arlington.”

As with all SportsJudge articles, feel free to comment with any opinions or questions and stay tuned for the next installment of the new and improved Down on the Farm!

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