Dec
08

Prospects Report: Hunting for 2011 and beyond

Stashing prospects can be pretty daunting. What positions matter? Go with those than can arrive quickly, or the ones with the best long-term potential?

It is a matter of personal preference. We would say look up the highest ceiling stars, the early-20 phenoms, regardless of the numbers, minor-league level or who might be blocking them. But it is different strokes for different folks.

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You certainly will be able to question our top prospect selections below, too. But these are also a matter of preference. Don't consider this stuff as written in stone, as much as a quick-help guide for you to find a potential stashee for 2011 and beyond. It is still the middle of 2010, after all.

We list the top five Fantasy keeper prospects by position and with their 2010 level they have reached. We start with the so-so positions and finish with the behemoth ones -- outfield and pitchers -- where the debates could lead to an entirely different top-five grouping. These players retain rookie eligibility and are not currently in the major leagues:

Catchers

  1. Jesus Montero, NYY -- Triple-A
  2. William Myers, KC -- High Class A
  3. Wilin Rosario, COL -- Double-A
  4. Tony Sanchez, PIT -- High Class A
  5. Hank Conger, LAA -- Triple-A

With the callup of J.P. Arencibia and the breakthroughs of Buster Posey and Carlos Santana, this position is not all that intriguing -- as if it ever is. There are some promising long-term talents in the majors, though, if you add Matt Wieters to that aforementioned trio. Catcher tends to be a popular position to stash prospects, if only because it is such a weak position on rosters that anything with promise is more intriguing than running a Jason Kendall out there every week in Fantasy.

Top 2011 prospect: Montero, NYY. He has enjoyed a huge second half to remain the best the historically thin position has to offer.
Top 2010 disappointment: Tyler Flowers, CHW. His power has been apparent in Triple-A, but his low average might keep him from being a potential starter next spring.
Top 2010 draftee: Yasmani Grandal, CIN. He has yet to sign, but the Miami product would have to be considered one of the top five at the position.

First basemen

  1. Freddie Freeman, ATL -- Triple-A
  2. Eric Hosmer, KC -- Double-A
  3. Brandon Belt, SF -- Double-A
  4. Jonathan Singleton, PHI -- Low Class A
  5. Mark Trumbo, LAA -- Triple-A

This is traditionally the strongest position in Fantasy Baseball and yet the worst to stash long-term keeper prospects. The reason is most keeper formats limit the number of years you can stash these guys and it tends to take years before a young first baseman can produce enough to be a valuable, trustworthy option in a standard league. It is a stud position. There really aren't that many studs here and when they arrive, they will be marginal Fantasy options initially. Ike Davis has arrived this year, for instance, and has done well among rookies at the position, but he has hardly made a dent among the Fantasy stars at this position. Justin Smoak, Chris V. Carter, Logan Morrison and even Brett Wallace have shown early they will need time to really rake, too.

Top 2011 prospect: Freeman, ATL. We go with Freeman over Hosmer right now, because he is doing it at a higher level. Freeman's power has really come on of late, too.
Top 2010 disappointment: Yonder Alonso, CIN. It doesn't matter as much that Alonso got off to a slow start as Joey Votto is a 27-year-old breakthrough Fantasy player of the year and not likely to switch positions now.
Top 2010 draftee: TBD. There wasn't a first baseman selected in the top 50 picks this June, which tells you how much this position is more about veteran sluggers who get moved to this position when they cannot play elsewhere.

Second basemen

  1. Dustin Ackley, SEA -- Triple-A
  2. Brett Lawrie, MIL -- Double-A
  3. Jason Kipnis, CLE -- Double-A
  4. Jemile Weeks, OAK -- Double-A
  5. Alexi Amarista, LAA -- Double-A

Yet another position that yields little down on the farm, because most of the best long-term options at the position are still trying to play shortstop (Reese Havens with the Mets) or perhaps other positions (like San Diego's Logan Forsythe moving from third). Ackley has made his move to second and will be slotted at that position on CBSSports.com in 2011. He is listed at first base now, because that was the position he played at North Carolina when he was drafted in Round 1 in 2009. We hate to say it, but after the top couple here, even catcher or first base are much more intriguing positions to stash someone.

Top 2011 prospect: Ackley, SEA. Yet another No. 1 who has earned his status with improvement after a slow start. No one tool stands out right now, but eventually he will be a star.
Top 2010 disappointment: Scott Sizemore, DET. He is the poster child of the position's weakness in the majors and Fantasy. Everyone drooled over his potential, which was left completely unfulfilled.
Top 2010 draftee: Delino DeShields, HOU. The Red Sox are trying Kolbrin Vitek in center because they have Dustin Pedroia long term, Vitek was taken 12 picks after DeShields, but he has better projectability with his pop at this point. DeShields looks like poor man's version of his father at this stage, a slap-hitting basestealer.

Third basemen

  1. Mike Moustakas, KC -- Triple-A
  2. Brandon Laird, NYY -- Triple-A
  3. Lonnie Chisenhall, CLE -- Double-A
  4. Josh Vitters, CHC -- Double-A
  5. Jared Goedert, CLE -- Triple-A

This is not your third-base crop from a few years ago, when this position dominated prospect charts with the likes of Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun and even Alex Gordon. It is much thinner now, perhaps because it has been such a declining position in the majors and Fantasy, too. Big league teams have needed to move their hot-corner options more quickly. Not those four teams above. They are rebuilding non-contenders that will be patient. It is a good thing, too, because they will need some time to truly impact Fantasy leagues. Save for Mr. Goedert, who has come out of relative obscurity to challenge Moustakas among the minor-league player of the year candidates.

Top 2011 prospect: Moustakas, KC. We cannot figure out why the prospect services don't like this guy among the top five prospects in baseball. We suppose it is the mediocre numbers since a promotion to Triple-A, perhaps.
Top 2010 disappointment: Vitters, CHC. While his fellow Southern California draftee from 2007, Moustakas (second overall), has taken off, Vitters has continually battled injury and didn't dominate Double-A in the same way.
Top 2010 draftee: Zack Cox, STL. He has yet to sign, but we felt he was the best bat going into the draft and that the power will come. He is a Brett Wallace-type but one capable of staying at third base.

Shortstops

  1. Grant Green, OAK -- High Class A
  2. Dee Gordon, LAD -- Double-A
  3. Christian Colon, KC -- Low Class A
  4. Wilmer Flores, NYM -- High Class A
  5. Manny Machado, BAL -- still unsigned '10 first-round pick

Yet another popular position to target for keeper prospects, since it is so thin in Fantasy. It is mostly a defense-minded position in actual baseball, though, and the ones that can hit tend to get moved to another position due to a suspect glove. Our top five here focuses more on pop than steals, perhaps surprisingly. We like shortstops that can be the next Troy Tulowitzki more than the next Rafael Furcal. Green is the former. Gordon is the latter. Colon, Flores and Machado should all have plus power at the thin, more-speed-oriented position, too.

Top 2011 prospect: Green, OAK. You have to look how the Southern California product has come out swinging the bat. He might even be able to arrive in 2011, perhaps in a pennant race for the pitching-ready A's.
Top 2010 disappointment: Alcides Escobar, MIL. We saw a poor man's Jose Reyes, but Starlin Castro wound up trumping him among rookies in his own division. Escobar just doesn't look anything like that .300-hitting, 40-steals star.
Top 2010 draftee: Christian Colon, KC. Machado was picked out of a Miami high school at No. 3 overall, but we like the Cal-State Fullerton slugging shortstop, Colon, as the prospect to have. He could be a player that whips through the loaded Royals system.

Outfielders

  1. Bryce Harper, WAS -- still unsigned '10 first-overall pick
  2. Mike Trout, LAA -- High Class A
  3. Demond Jennings, TB -- Triple-A
  4. Brett Jackson, CHC -- Double-A
  5. Carlos Peguero, SEA -- Double-A

Here is where the bulk of the long-term keeper stashees come from, the depths of the outfield position. Just like in the majors and Fantasy, there is a lot of everything and strength in numbers: Homers, steals and average. Trout could be the minor-league player of the year, soaring in his first pro season as a 2009 first-rounder. Jennings was a bit disappointing, but he still stands to get a September callup and be the replacement for Carl Crawford, who could leave Tampa Bay via free agency this winter. Harper is the head of the class, but he still needs to sign.

Top 2011 prospect: Harper, WAS. We are still confident the teenager can get under contract before the upcoming Aug. 16 deadline. Once he does, he is immediately the best prospect in Fantasy.
Top 2010 disappointment: Aaron Hicks, MIN. If 2010 has taught us anything, it helped us believe in the long-term projection on toolsy outfielders like Philadelphia's Domonic Brown and Hicks, who didn't impress on the stat sheets as much as being flashy to the eye.
Top 2010 draftee: Harper, WAS. It will be interesting to see how long it will take to get him to the majors. We figure he will be up before he reaches 20, an Alex Rodriguez-like once-a-generation run producer.

Pitchers

  1. Aroldis Chapman, CIN -- Triple-A
  2. Julio Teheran, ATL -- Double-A
  3. Yunesky Maya, WAS -- Low Class A
  4. Michael Pineda, SEA -- Triple-A
  5. Kyle Drabek, TOR -- Double-A

Like the outfielders, pitching prospects are dime a dozen and it tends to flip from year to year which ones have the highest ceiling. We lost the No. 2 and 3 prospects on this list recently with the callups of Jeremy Hellickson and Mike Minor. They are both getting No. 5 starter looks amid a tight pennant race. It's the way it goes with pitchers. Strike while the iron is hot. If they don't pan out -- Brien Taylor -- dump them and look deeper. There is always a new pitching phenom working his way through the system. The depth and uncertainty make tracking pitching prospects just as much of a crapshoot as drafting them every spring in Fantasy.

Top 2011 prospect: Chapman, CIN. His disappointing pro debut will certainly have many people down on him, but you still have to remember he is a 22-year-old lefty ... in his first year as a pro ... that throws 100 mph ... and will reach the majors in less than a calendar year after signing.
Top 2010 disappointment: Brian Matusz, BAL. We cannot explain the struggles of the O's next generation -- Matusz, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta -- but this lefty is clearly the most puzzling. He had polish. Instead, he got polished and shellacked.
Top 2010 draftee: James Taillon, PIT. He was picked over the Indians' Drew Pomeranz from Ole Miss, mostly because he is a high school flamethrower with a tremendous ceiling. Pomeranz will be great too, and arrive much sooner. Neither are signed before the early deadline next week, by the way.

Most-owned minor-leaguers

If you don't want to take our word for it, here is the wisdom of the crowd. The masses on CBSSports.com are a savvy bunch and here are the current most-owned minor-leaguers. Some don't have rookie eligibility remaining, though.

CBSSports.com's most-owned minor-leaguers
Player POS TM Own% Player POS TM Own% Player POS TM Own%
Travis Wood SP CIN 53 Chris Marrero LF WAS 3 Adrian Cardenas SS OAK 1
Aroldis Chapman SP CIN 37 Jake McGee SP TB 3 Hak-Ju Lee SS CHC 1
Justin Smoak 1B SEA 27 Jaff Decker OF SD 3 Jensen Lewis RP CLE 1
Nate McLouth CF ATL 22 Tim Alderson SP PIT 3 Jeremy Jeffress SP MIL 1
Desmond Jennings CF TB 22 Tony Sanchez C PIT 2 Chris Dwyer SP KC 1
Jordan Zimmermann SP WAS 18 Daniel Nava RF BOS 2 Slade Heathcott CF NYY 1
Jhoulys Chacin RP COL 17 Alex White SP CLE 2 Angel Villalona 3B SF 1
Jesus Montero C NYY 16 Nick Franklin SS SEA 2 Beau Mills 1B CLE 1
Kyle Drabek SP TOR 15 Adeiny Hechavarria SS TOR 2 Charlie Morton SP PIT 1
Derek Holland SP TEX 15 Eugenio Velez LF SF 2 Willy Taveras CF ATL 1
Chris Davis 1B TEX 15 Lucas Duda 1B NYM 2 Joe Savery SP PHI 1
Chris Tillman SP BAL 14 James Darnell 3B SD 2 Sammy Gervacio RP HOU 1
Dustin Ackley 1B SEA 13 Aaron Cunningham RF SD 2 Noel Arguelles SP KC 1
Mike Moustakas 3B KC 12 Jemile Weeks 2B OAK 2 Logan Forsythe 3B SD 1
Cameron Maybin CF FLA 12 Ryan Westmoreland OF BOS 2 Brandon Laird 3B NYY 1
Nick Blackburn SP MIN 12 Andrew Miller SP FLA 2 Lance Lynn SP STL 1
Yunesky Maya SP WAS 12 Nick Hagadone SP CLE 2 Carlos Torres SP CHW 1
Nolan Reimold LF BAL 11 Randall Delgado SP ATL 2 Chuck Lofgren SP MIL 1
Michael Taylor LF OAK 10 Scott Elbert RP LA 2 Dellin Betances SP NYY 1
Scott Sizemore 2B DET 9 Craig Kimbrel RP ATL 2 Matt Maloney SP CIN 1
Freddie Freeman 1B ATL 9 Pat Neshek RP MIN 2 Mark Rogers SP MIL 1
Martin Perez SP TEX 9 Andrew Oliver RP DET 2 Ryan Strieby 1B DET 1
Michael Pineda P SEA 9 Mark Trumbo 1B ANA 2 Troy Patton SP BAL 1
John Ely RP LA 9 John Lamb SP KC 2 Kevin Pucetas SP SF 1
Yonder Alonso 1B CIN 8 Aaron Poreda RP SD 2 Josh D. Fields RP SEA 1
Mike Trout CF ANA 8 David Huff SP CLE 2 Rick VandenHurk SP BAL 1
Casey Kelly SP BOS 8 Max Ramirez C TEX 2 Kyle Russell RF LA 1
Mat Gamel 3B MIL 7 Brandon Belt 1B SF 2 Blake Beavan SP SEA 1
Eric Young 2B COL 7 Nick Weglarz RF CLE 2 Micah Owings SP CIN 1
Julio Teheran SP ATL 7 Charles Furbush SP DET 2 Wesley Wright RP HOU 1
Tyler Flowers C CHW 7 Trevor Reckling RP ANA 2 Devin Mesoraco C CIN 1
Christian Friedrich SP COL 7 Zack Wheeler SP SF 2 Tyson Gillies RF PHI 1
Franklin Morales RP COL 6 Josh Reddick LF BOS 2 Brian Bruney RP NYM 1
Tanner Scheppers SP TEX 6 Dana Eveland SP PIT 2 Wilin Rosario C COL 1
Tim Beckham SS TB 6 Jose Iglesias SS BOS 2 Ivan DeJesus SS LA 1
Jarrod Parker SP ARI 6 Austin Romine C NYY 2 Matt Sweeney 3B TB 1
Jenrry Mejia SP NYM 6 Jerry Sands RF LA 2 Matt Palmer SP ANA 1
Brett Lawrie 2B MIL 6 Daniel Murphy 1B NYM 2 Daniel Moskos SP PIT 1
Eric Hosmer 1B KC 6 William Myers C KC 2 Chad James SP FLA 1
Dee Gordon SS LA 6 Thomas Neal LF SF 2 Kevin Mulvey SP ARI 1
Michael Montgomery SP KC 6 Chris Withrow SP LA 2 Adam Miller SP CLE 1
Aaron Hicks OF MIN 6 Jordan Schafer CF ATL 2 Zach McAllister SP NYY 1
Lars Anderson 1B BOS 5 Jordan Walden SP ANA 2 Zach Stewart SP TOR 1
Wilson Ramos C WAS 5 Ian Snell SP SEA 2 Matthew Hobgood SP BAL 1
Zach Britton SP BAL 5 Jeff Samardzija RP CHC 2 Kirk Nieuwenhuis CF NYM 1
Lonnie Chisenhall 3B CLE 5 Jared Mitchell CF CHW 2 Andrew Lambo LF PIT 1
Tyler Matzek SP COL 5 Alex Liddi 3B SEA 2 David Cooper 1B TOR 1
Jacob Turner SP DET 5 Arodys Vizcaino SP ATL 2 Wes Hodges 3B CLE 1
Josh Vitters 3B CHC 5 Hector Rondon SP CLE 2 Rob Johnson C SEA 1
Kyle Gibson SP MIN 5 Trevor May SP PHI 1 Angel Salome C MIL 1
Carlos Carrasco SP CLE 5 Chris Archer SP CHC 1 Jake Odorizzi SP MIL 1
Carlos Delgado 1B BOS 5 Will Inman SP SD 1 Ryan Garko 1B TEX 1
Simon Castro SP SD 4 Kevin Frandsen 2B ANA 1 Jay Jackson SP CHC 1
Aaron Crow SP KC 4 Danny Cortes SP SEA 1 Chris Valaika SS CIN 1
Todd Frazier OF CIN 4 William Rowell 3B BAL 1 Brendan Harris 3B MIN 1
Marc Rzepczynski SP TOR 4 Anthony Gose CF TOR 1 Andrew Brackman SP NYY 1
Phillippe Aumont SP PHI 4 J.R. Towles C HOU 1 Andrew Cumberland SS SD 1
Nate Robertson RP STL 4 Wilkin Ramirez LF ATL 1 Mike Jacobs 1B TOR 1
Shelby Miller SP STL 4 Kyle Skipworth C FLA 1 Travis D'Arnaud C TOR 1
Brad Lincoln SP PIT 4 Jiovanni Mier SS HOU 1 Danny Duffy SP KC 1
Michael Bowden RP BOS 4 Rich Hill SP BOS 1 Tyson Ross SP OAK 1
Brandon Allen 1B ARI 4 Ramon Troncoso RP LA 1 Gorkys Hernandez CF PIT 1
Donovan Tate CF SD 4 Brandon Snyder 1B BAL 1 Michael Main SP SF 1
Derek Norris C WAS 4 Daniel Espinosa SS WAS 1 Christian Colon SS KC 1
Matt Moore SP TB 4 Daniel Schlereth RP DET 1 Deolis Guerra SP MIN 1
Jeremy Hermida RF BOS 4 Jarred Cosart SP PHI 1 Greg Smith SP COL 1
Jordan Lyles SP HOU 4 Josh Lindblom SP LA 1 Daryl Jones CF STL 1
Kazuo Matsui 2B COL 3 Wladimir Balentien LF CIN 1 Fautino De Los Santos RP OAK 1
Ethan Martin SP LA 3 Bryan Morris SP PIT 1 Fernando Nieve SP NYM 1
Michael Ynoa SP OAK 3 Michael Burgess RF WAS 1 Will Rhymes 2B DET 1
Wilmer Flores SS NYM 3 Jordan Danks CF CHW 1 Brandon Erbe SP BAL 1
Hank Conger C ANA 3 Xavier Paul CF LA 1 John Bowker LF PIT 1
Carlos Triunfel SS SEA 3 Anthony Slama RP MIN 1 Michael Kirkman SP TEX 1
Dontrelle Willis SP SF 3 Kasey Kiker SP TEX 1 Bryan Anderson C STL 1
Jared Goedert 2B CLE 3 Aaron Miller SP LA 1 Engel Beltre CF TEX 1
Kenshin Kawakami SP ATL 3 Bradley Holt SP NYM 1 Jose Ceda RP FLA 1
Dioner Navarro C TB 3 Marc Krauss LF ARI 1 Alex Sanabia P FLA 1
Jonathan Singleton 1B PHI 3 Jason Knapp SP CLE 1 Reese Havens SS NYM 1
Matt Dominguez 3B FLA 3 Max Stassi C OAK 1 Chad Jenkins SP TOR 1
Jonathan Herrera 2B COL 3 Greg Halman RF SEA 1 Anthony Rizzo 1B BOS 1
Grant Green SS OAK 3 Chris Nelson SS COL 1 Juan Oramas SP SD 1
Ben Revere CF MIN 3 A.J. Pollock CF ARI 1 Brent Morel 3B CHW 1
Casey Crosby SP DET 3 Alexander Colome SP TB 1 Carlos Peguero RF SEA 1
Miguel Sano SS MIN 3 Tyler Chatwood SP ANA 1 John Mayberry LF PHI 1
Brett Jackson CF CHC 3 Bobby Borchering 3B ARI 1 Mike Carp 1B SEA 1
Akinori Iwamura 2B PIT 3 Jason Kipnis 2B CLE 1
Carlos Villanueva SP MIL 3 Tony Abreu 2B ARI 1

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