Fantasy Baseball Prospects Update - AL Edition
Drafting prospects is always a tricky proposition. There's a chance they'll never see the light of day in a major league park, or if they do the promise they showed as youngsters will have faded, and the expectations you had for them will remain unfulfilled. Still, some prospects are safer bets than others, but for a few reasons, they might still be able to be picked up in your league. Here are three to jump on before everyone else realizes their promise.
Taijuan Walker - SP, SEA
If Taijuan Walker isn't rostered in your league, it's probably due to his trip to the DL before spring training really hit full stride. His brief taste of the majors last year had baseball licking its collective chops, waiting for a full season of Walker hurling in pitcher-friendly Safeco field. The shoulder injury might have cooled things enough that he's still sitting in your free agent pool.
Go get him. Now. Walker had a minor league rehab start Wednesday night and racked up 10 Ks in just 5 IP with 84 pitches, allowing only 3 hits and 1 walk. You've likely got a Jordan Lyles or Joe Saunders in the back end of your rotation. You know the type: some guy whose best days are behind him, pitching in a bad ballpark. Taijuan is the reverse of that...on the launching pad. He's averaged double digit K/9 in his minor league career, and 3 K/BB, and the revamped Seattle offense should provide the run support that Felix never seemed to get.
If your league has any sort of minor league roster, Walker is probably not available, but if he is, he should be helping your team by mid-April. Pick him up now immediately! If not sooner!
Addison Russell - SS, OAK
Russell might seem like a stretch to jump from a full High A season to the big leagues in less than a year, but he's got all the ability required. He's shows power, speed, and an excellent glove at SS. In theory, he's blocked by Jed Lowrie, who has performed when he's healthy. But between Lowrie's ability to play almost anywhere, and his own injury history, it's not going to take much to leave a hole at shortstop, a hole that Russell is waiting to fill. Now that Russell is on the DL with a hamstring strain, he makes for the perfect DL stash. Yes he will take at least a month to come back, but many leagues let you keep DL players in the DL slot even when they come off the DL.
Baseball has a storied history of players who grabbed a small opportunity and turned it into impressive careers. Addison Russell is poised to take the Oakland starting shortstop position and keep it for years to come. In a year where shortstop depth is hard to come by, grab Russell, stash him, and be ready for a summer call up. Your team will thank you.
George Springer - OF, HOU
There's only one thing keeping George Springer off the Houston roster, and it's not talent. As soon as the Super 2 deadline in 2014 (likely in July) goes by the board, you'll Springer's name in the everyday lineup in Houston.
About the only things one could complain about with him are his K-rate and his contact rate. His K-rate was just over 30% in 2013 between AA and AAA, and his contact rates are far below MiLB averages, which point to even worse contact skills in the Majors. It's worth paying attention to, but so is 37 hr, 45 steals, 83 walks, and a .303/.411/.600 slash line, which is what he put up last year in the minors.
Springer is not a 40/40 player, at least not while 30% of his at bats aren't balls in play, but he should go for 25/30 over a full season even if it comes with a sub-.250 BA. For half a season, it's possible 12-15 hr and 15-20 sb are within reach. I snagged him in the last round of my only single season league with the belief that by mid-season he'll be a regular in my lineup. If he's out there, get him now.