By Bret Sayre
In a column usually filled with such optimism, it’s occasionally worth wondering – what happens when a “can’t miss” prospect misses? It usually looks a lot like what’s happening to the 2nd overall pick in the 2005 draft, Kansas City third baseman Alex Gordon. Two points in Gordon’s defense first. First of all, some of his struggles can be traced back to some unfortunate injuries he’s had over the past three seasons or so. In 2008 it was a torn quadriceps muscle, then in 2009 it was a torn labrum in his hip and finally in 2010 he suffered a broken thumb in spring training. Second of all, it’s not his fault that he was the first of three 3B prospects taken in the first 5 picks of that draft. Who were the two guys taken at #4 and $5, you ask? Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Braun. Again, not Gordon’s fault.
So what are we left with? A career batting average under .250 and a grand total of 38 HRs and 142 RBIs in 3+ seasons. And for you sabermetrically-inclined readers, that’s a 744 OPS with a 25% K-rate and a career WAR (wins over replacement) of a measly 4.9. This all from a guy who absolutely destroyed at AA-Omaha in 2006 with a .325/.427/.588, 29 HRs and 22 SBs. He was supposed to be a fantasy monster, but instead he turned into the guy the Royals picked instead of Ryan Braun. Or Ryan Zimmerman. Or Troy Tulowitski (7th overall). Or Andrew McCutchen (11th overall).
And today, Gordon was optioned to Triple-A since he had already lost his job to Alberto Callaspo, making room for the first guy on our list this week:
Mike Aviles – SS – Kansas City
Aviles was not summoned for a starting role, but he’ll have a chance to prove that his arm has come back well enough from Tommy John surgery last year in order to play shortstop. This is important because the Royals continue to trot the human punching bag known as Yuniesky Betancourt out there every day. How bad is Betancourt? So bad that people think he’s off to a good start to the season for him, and he’s got a 644 OPS. Meanwhile, Aviles posted hit .325 in 2008 with 10 HRs in 417 AB’s. Suffice to say, it’s a situation worth watching if you’re weak at SS.
Redraft: D+ Keeper: D
Wilson Ramos – C – Minnesota
Clearly the Twins are set at the catcher position for this year and many years to come, but few other teams can boast a catching prospect as solid as Ramos. What the Twins do with him is an entirely different story altogether. Ramos was called up this week to play while Mauer recovers from a heel injury which may or may not force him to the DL, and collected 4 hits in his major-league debut last night (the first Twin to do that since some guy named Kirby Puckett). While he’ll never be the best fantasy option around, Ramos did hit .317 for AA-New Britain in 2009 with 4 HRs. He’s a decent stopgap option in AL-only leagues right now, but if the Twins end up trading him – which is the hot rumor – he could walk right into a starting job and produce.
Redraft: D Keeper: C+
Jhoulys Chacin – SP – Colorado
Chacin certainly had the most electrifying debut of this entire group (Ramos’s 4-hit performance included) as he shutout the Giants for 7 innings, only allowing one hit and striking out 7. Chacin has been among the Rockies’ top prospects over the last few years, though he’s thrown only about 35 innings at the Triple-A level. This lack of experience can show through a little bit as he can struggle to find the strike zone on occasion – something which better lineups will take advantage of better than the Giants did this weekend. He’s definitely got the stuff to succeed, and if he can keep his walks under control, Chacin could turn into a spot starter in mixed leagues before long.
Redraft: C Keeper: B-
Alfredo Simon – RP – Baltimore
Yes, Alfredo Simon is your temporary closer in Baltimore and as you will often hear, “saves are saves”. For those of you who can stand a little risk, pick up Simon and hang on for as long as the ride lasts – just be fully aware that it may end tomorrow. And when it does end, it will most likely be in spectacular fashion. Unless he turns into a different pitcher, Simon has no long-term fantasy value.
Redraft: C Keeper: F
Brad Bergesen – SP – Baltimore
Bergesen’s strong 2009 performance may have been fluky, but he’s not this bad. Right now, he sports a 10.88 ERA and a 2.22 WHIP – though some of these struggles may go back to his off-season shoulder injury, which he suffered shooting a promotional video for the Orioles. Needless to say, the Orioles have since changed their policy about medical staff being present at video shoots. But as far as your fantasy team, feel free to ignore Bergesen unless he turns in a few quality starts in a row.
Redraft: D- Keeper: F
Jeff Manship – SP – Minnesota
No real write-up here since it looks like Nick Blackburn will be back for his next start, so Manship will be sent back to Triple-A. If one of the Twins starters goes down, keep an eye on him though. He’s a guy who throws enough strikes to succeed in short spurts in the majors. Very short spurts.
Redraft: F Keeper: F
Trevor Cahill – SP – Oakland
Going into the 2009 season, Cahill was generally rated higher in prospect lists than Oakland teammate Brett Anderson – now, he’s been sort of forgotten. Cahill still has the potential to have a bright future ahead of him, but for right now, he doesn’t strike out guys and gives up too many HR’s in order to be a solid pickup. He continued that in his first start after his call up, notching the same number of strikeout and HR’s allowed (3 of each). Oakland is unlikely to go to anyone during Brett Anderson’s time on the DL, so it may be worth seeing if Cahill can bounce back and string together a few decent starts. He’s much more likely to contribute positively to fantasy squads in either 2011 or 2012, and I still believe in Cahill long-term.
Redraft: D+ Keeper: B-
Josh Donaldson – C – Oakland
The last remaining minor league piece of the Rich Harden/Chad Gaudin trade from 2008, Donaldson is yet another in a line of interesting catching prospects to be summoned this week. The A’s said he would be called up to backup Landon Powell, but he started both Saturday and Sunday and could be in line for a good chunk of at bats until Kurt Suzuki returns (which may be at the end on May 9 – the day he’s eligible to return). He’s probably not worth bothering with as a short-term pickup as he hasn’t set the world on fire so far, but he’s an intriguing long-term prospect with solid OBP skills and potential 15-HR power.
Redraft: D Keeper: C
Max Ramirez – C – Texas
Ramirez was almost dealt to Boston in the off-season for Mike Lowell before Texas backed out of that deal because of the health of Lowell’s thumb. This a good thing if Ramirez wants to have any fantasy value in 2010. Ramirez was a highly-touted prospect as recently as before last season, however he flopped badly in 2009 at Triple-A. So badly in fact, that he was called up to backup Mr. Misty May (Matt Treanor). He’ll likely have no value since Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be back up as soon as he remembers out how to hit. He could still get his career back on track, but for now pass on him in anything but 2-catcher AL-only leagues.
Redraft: D- Keeper: D