By Bret Sayre
This is always the most serene time of the fantasy baseball season, a time of unbridled optimism. The league is entirely up for grabs. Your team hasn’t suffered any crippling injuries, yet. The player you wanted to take but just decided not to risk the extra dollar on hasn’t completely broken out, yet. These things will happen. They happen ever y year. But not yet. Right now, the veterans who showed up healthy and in great shape are still healthy and in great shape. This year’s breakout pitchers are still ready to take the league by storm and make the jump to that next level. Bounce-back seasons are still in the cards for all of the guys who disappointed you last year. I’m looking at you, Francisco Liriano. And most importantly, the sheen on all of the 2010 hyped rookie class is still being generously applied.
This is the focus of our Monday column here at Fantasy Beards. Each week we will look at all of the callups from the prior week and give you a quick synopsis of who they are, what to expect and how quickly you should rush out to see if they’re available in your league. Then each player will get two grades, one for a redraft league and one for a keeper/dynasty league – and this is what the rating system should show you:
Redraft (this year)
Keeper (future years)
Potential superstar, 1st-2nd round pick
Potential above average starter
Good AL/NL-only pickup
Potential average starter
Not yet, but keep an eye on him
Likely to max out as a bench guy
Don't bother keeping an eye on him
Not a prospect
We’ve got a lot of guys starting the year in the majors who either have no MLB experience or spent the majority of last season in the minors. So let’s focus on the guys who will enter the season with jobs, starting with the most obvious.
Jason Heyward – OF – Atlanta
You’ve heard all of the comps, all of the Bobby Cox gushing and all of the media coronations. There’s really no need to dig much deeper here. We’re looking at a huge-ceiling player with an advanced approach at the plate, who by all accounts is a grounded kid who won’t get rattled making the jump to the majors. However, even the best seasons of “greatest prospect ever” types haven’t been earth-shattering, so don’t set your expectations extraordinarily high for this season. Also remember that he’ll be starting the season hitting 7th in that lineup, so he probably won’t offer much more than 70 runs scored if he’s up for the whole season. However, he will be a star. If he’s available in your keeper league – first of all, you should probably find a more competitive keeper league (trust me, it’s fun) – pick him up immediately. Seriously, run.
Redraft: A Keeper: A+
Austin Jackson – OF – Detroit
The centerpiece of the Curtis Granderson off-season deal is ready to make his long awaited major league debut, but you’ll have to forgive everyone if there’s less excitement around this than there would have been two years ago. Jackson’s prospect shine has most definitely dimmed over the last two seasons, but he still has the skill set to be a solid regular for the Tigers (as long as he’s cheap). It would not surprise me one bit if he became a poor man’s Granderson with a little less slugging, but he may become a drag on your batting average hitting first in that lineup. I think he’s a near lock for double digit steals and homers, with more upside on the steals.
Redraft: B Keeper: B-
Scott Sizemore – OF – Detroit
It seems like you can’t talk about Jackson without discussing Sizemore as well and for good reason. They’re both rookies starting for the same club with similar skill sets. Sizemore should get on base, but may have trouble keeping his average about .250 – of course you’ll have no problem living with that if he can go 15-15 from 2B. His low average draft position makes him a great stash for your bench because if he hits his potential, you’ve got yourself a good trade chip (whether it’s Sizemore or your drafted starter..)
Redraft: B+ Keeper: B
Jaime Garcia – SP – St Louis
One of my favorite sleepers going into the season in NL-only leagues pitched his way into the St Louis rotation this spring, and he’s got the stuff to stay there. This is evidenced slightly by his 1.93 ERA and 16/5 K-BB ratio in 18 2/3 spring innings. Now, you’ll also hear that he will only be helped by super pitching coach Dave Duncan, but be careful here. I’m a little reminded of the case of Anthony Reyes, another solid pitching prospect coming up through the minors, who didn’t quite mesh with Duncan and ended up struggling and consequently being shipped out of town. I’m not overly worried about this with Garcia, but have it in the back of your mind – Duncan’s masterpieces are generally with veterans, not rookies.
Redraft: C+ Keeper: B-
Mike Leake – SP – Cincinnati
Leake is probably the most surprising rookie to find himself with a job coming out of spring training, and for good reason – he’s never thrown a minor league pitch. Of course, he impressed in his stint in the Arizona Fall League in 2009 and threw down his very polished and heady gauntlet in March. What you see is what you’re going to get with Leake. He’s as MLB-ready of a prospect as anyone not named Strasburg from this past season’s draft, and looking at his college stats from last season you’ll see why. In his junior season, he went 16-1 for Arizona State with a 1.71 ERA, 10.3 K/9 and .193 BAA in 141 IP. The Cactus League’s version of Butler, overtook the initial favorite (Maloney), the media darling (Chapman) and the minor league pedigree (Wood) to claim the job – and I don’t see him giving it back.
Redraft: B Keeper: C+
Jennry Mejia – SP/RP – New York (NL)
I know sometimes it doesn’t seem like the Mets do anything right and that’s because it’s true, and the decision to turn Mejia into a short reliever is certainly another one of those cases. Mejia’s got what the scouts love to call a “live arm”, but he’s still only got a very slight idea as to where it’s going. He’ll probably have some success right away because his stuff is really good, but he’ll run into a wall at some point probably around Memorial Day. Then they’re going to wish they let him develop as a starter in AA ball. In fact, I’m downgrading his future potential just because I have no confidence that the Mets front office won’t screw this up.
Redraft: D Keeper: C+
Adam Moore – C – Seattle
Moore is a solid, yet unexciting prospect. He needs work on his defense and that’s the reason he likely will not start the season getting the majority of the playing time. However, he will end up with that starting job sooner rather than later, and he’s got the potential to hit at around a .280-.290 clip. In AL-only and two catcher leagues, he could prove to be an asset even if he doesn’t hit double-digit HRs.
Redraft: D+ Keeper: C