Group 6: (I’ll Keep an Eye On This One)
Julio Borbon (OF, Tex) – Slated to be the everyday centerfielder batting leadoff for Texas, Borbon is a thief on the bases. Having swiped 19 bags in less than a third of a season, he has a chance to become this year’s Michael Bourn. Given the protection Borbon has in the Texas lineup, one can expect him to get 100 runs scored provided he stays healthy. Target Borbon in the middle rounds after the big-name stolen base threats are gone.
Wade Davis (SP, TB) – This 24 year-old prospect provides the Rays with solid depth at the back of their young pitching rotation. Although he had one horrific outing against Boston in 2009, Wade gave up three eared runs or less in each of his other five outings. Davis plays in arguably the toughest division in the AL East, but gets enough strikeouts and keeps the walks down to be a good major league pitcher. Given Tampa’s speedy defense, the acquisition of the talented Rafael Soriano to bolster the back of the bullpen, and the announcement that the youngster won’t be put on an innings limit, Davis has the pieces in place to serve as a nice late-round sleeper for the back of your rotation.
Neftali Feliz (SP, Tex) – The Dominican flamethrower has the tools to jump to the front of the AL Rookie of the Year race, and aims to open the season in Texas’ starting rotation. Still only 21 (22 in May), Feliz is anchored slightly by control issues and his inexperience. If he can continue to keep the walks down and the heater in triple digits, Feliz could be the talk of Major League Baseball by May. Grab him as a mid-to-late round prospect with high upside, but be forewarned that he probably won’t pitch 200 innings if he stays in the rotation throughout the season, as he only pitched 108 between Triple-A and Texas last season.
David Freese (3B, StL) – Freese is expected to be the Cards’ Opening Day third baseman. With four successful seasons in the minors under his belt, the 27 year-old rookie begins his major league career in a powerful lineup, and stands to benefit from having All-Stars like Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick to drive in. Monitor Freese's progress during spring training, and keep him in mind as a speculative reserve pick towards the end of your draft, as he hasn’t proven anything in the majors yet.
Carlos Gonzalez (OF, Col) – Gonzalez sucked it up as a 2008 rookie in Oakland, then came over to the Rockies in the Matt Holliday trade. Although Gonzalez struggled in his first month in Colorado, he hit .314 the rest of the regular season, batted .588 (no, that’s not a typo) in the postseason, and provided five-category success for those intrepid enough to snag him off the waiver wire. While the A's wish they had Gonzalez back considering Holliday is long gone, Car-Gon should get substantial playing time in Colorado’s outfield, and offer considerable upside as a OF4.
Jason Heyward (OF, Atl) – The 20 year-old phenom is currently in the Braves’ farm system, but has demonstrated uncanny discipline at the plate. Having excelled at each level of the minors thus far, manager Bobby Cox is considering having Heyward begin the season in Atlanta. If his immense talent translates at the big league level, Heyward stands to be a legitimate contender for National League Rookie of the Year.
Howie Kendrick (2B, LAA) – Although we’ve been discussing him as if he were a fresh-faced prospect for years now, Kendrick enters his fifth season with untapped potential. His roller coaster 2009 involved a rough start involving a .231 BA and a .281 OBP, a trip to the minors, a July callup, and a .351 BA from the point of the callup through the end of the season. Angel manager Mike Scoscia has platooned Kendrick with Maicer Izturis, but Howie is a far better offensive talent who should take playing time away from Izturis. Kendrick, who turns 27 in July, could be a shrewd under-the-radar acquisition towards the end of your draft if you still need a second baseman.
Matt LaPorta (1B, Cle) – We’ve been hearing a lot about this kid since he played with Team USA in the Beijing Olympics a couple years ago. Now 25 but coming of hip and toe surgery, LaPorta will be handed the Indians’ starting first base gig. However, the Tribe recently acquired Russell Branyan in case LaPorta is not physically or mentally ready for everyday big league action, but LaPorta has bigger upside of the two.
Cameron Maybin (OF, Fla) – Slated to hit second between Chris Coghlan and Hanley Ramirez, the Marlins’ starting center fielder has gotten a great deal of press as a major leaguer considering he hasn’t accomplished much yet. As Maybin will be just 23 in April, he has yet to come close to tapping into his 20/20 potential. Provided he plays well in spring training, keep an eye on Maybin as a possible OF5, and hope for the breakout that the Marlins envisioned when they traded for him from Detroit. Given the protection he’ll be provided in the lineup, Maybin is being given every chance to flourish.
Nolan Reimold (OF, Bal) – Baltimore Manager Dave Trembley sees Reimold as a fixture in left field for 2010. With 15 homers, eight steals and a .279 batting average in 358 at bats, the 26 year-old has both the tools and buzz to get Oriole and fantasy fans equally intrigued. Reimold’s 30-home run potential is exciting, but his impressive plate discipline is what may keep him in the lineup.
Scott Sizemore (2B, Det) – Although the Tigers flirted with the idea of offering arbitration to veteran Placido Polanco or possibly signing free agent Orlando Hudson, Jim Leyland decided to resort to the farm system, and declared the 25 year-old Sizemore his starting second baseman. Coincidentally, Sizemore’s offensive skill set is not unlike Polanco’s and Hudson’s: a fistful of homers and steals to go with a solid BA, but strictly late-round consideration at this stage.
Travis Snider (OF, Tor) – One look at the 5’11”/230 pound Snider, and visions of 40-homer seasons come to mind. After an impressive stint in a cup of coffee at the end of the 2008 season, Snider was named the Blue Jays’ 2009 opening day left fielder. The then-21 year-old struggled in Toronto, but dominated Triple-A after he was sent down. When he was recalled in August, Snider played a bit better, but not as well as the year before. He now faces starting 2010 in the minors, and will need a big spring training to stay with Toronto. Still, he has enough upside to stash on your reserve with a late pick.
Drew Stubbs (OF, Cin) – Stubbs was forced into major league action after a flurry of injuries hit the Reds’ outfield in the second half of 2009. Upon his callup, Stubbs responded with eight home runs and 10 steals in 180 at bats. While he has proven to be a legitimate threat on the basepaths in the minors, he doesn’t have a solid track record for hitting for power, having hit only as many as 12 homers for Single-A Dayton in 2007. Stubbs shouldn’t be counted on as a power/speed threat, but if he hits more than 15 to go along with 30-40 steals in 2010, consider any additional run production gravy.
Joel Zumaya (RP, Det) – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…but Joel Zumaya is healthy! Unfortunately for his closer aspirations, the Tigers went out and got the best free agent relief pitcher available in Jose Valverde. Even when Zumaya isn’t injured and has his blazing 99+ MPH heater humming, he hasn’t been able to put it all together long enough to stay on the fantasy radar. But If Valverde experiences a rough transition to the American League, take a flier on Zumaya.