Minor Leaguers in Fantasy Baseball, Part 1

The upcoming rookie class in the Kansas City Royals farm system has a chance to be historic given its abundance of blue-chip star power.  In a way, it is already historic after placing nine prospects in Baseball America’s preseason Top 100 list.  Coverage of the minor leagues is growing exponentially year over year and knowledge of the next crop or even next, next crop can give you an edge in fantasy baseball in many different ways. That is important in an era where edges are evaporating left and right.

The easiest way is of course loading your supplemental minor league roster with future stars and waiting for them to emerge.  That sounds easy enough, but it doesn’t always pan out so smoothly unless you can predict the future.  Another not-so-easy issue when it comes to prospects is the handling of them in trades.  How much is potential really worth?  If a team that is building for the future offers you some useful pieces for the 2011 run in exchange for your top 10 guys, do you pull the trigger?

One of the ills of the fantasy community I speak of a lot here is the desire to have the shiny new toy to the detriment of their team whether overspending in an auction or overdrafting in a snake draft.  That affliction is only likely to maintain or even get worse after the 2010 season.

FIRST YEAR PHENOMS

Last year introduced a veritable throng of rookies to the fantasy landscape who made a major impact on races everywhere.  Seven different rookies popped more than 15 home runs (Mike Stanton 22, Tyler Colvin 20, Gaby Sanchez 19, Ike Davis 19, Jason Heyward 18, Buster Posey 18, and Pedro Alvarez 16) , 14 in all reached double digits while eight swiped 10+ bags half of whom topped 15 (Austin Jackson 27, Jose Tabata 19, Ian Desmond 17, Roger Bernadina 16).  There were 11 batters who hit .280 or better in 200+ plate appearances.  Of those, eight had more than 300 plate appearances (Jackson, Starlin Castro, Neil Walker, Posey, Tabata, Chris Johnson, Danny Valencia, Jon Jay and Florida’s Logan Morrison was close at 287).

On the pitching side, we had a 40-save closer (Neftali Feliz), a 13-game winner (Jaime Garcia) nearly 100 strikeouts and a sub-2.00 ERA from a non-closing reliever (Jonny Venters) and six guys with 12+ starts and ERAs at or below 3.50 (Daniel Hudson 2.45, Garcia 2.70, Stephen Strasburg 2.91, Madison Bumgarner 3.00, Jhoulys Chacin 3.28 and Travis Wood 3.51 [cheated a smidge there]).

EMERGING TALENT

And that is just a sampling of the first year players making their mark on the game last year.  There were several other strong performances in one category or another that were instrumental to their fantasy team’s success.

If last year is being dubbed “Year of the Pitcher”, then the subtitle has to be “…and the Rookie” as the overall impact of freshmen was historically awesome.  In other words, it shouldn’t be an expectation year-to-year.  Especially because identifying who will make the rookie impact is no easy feat. 

Just looking at the 25 names I mentioned as superlatives from last year, nine were in the top 20 of Baseball America’s preseason top 100 (including six of the top nine), but the highest rated of the remaining 16 was 62nd (Davis) and 11 didn’t make the list.

To be continued…

This is part one of a series on minor leaguers and their place in fantasy baseball.  This is just an appetizer looking back at last year’s crop, but could that amazing success cloud our judgment of rookies going forward?  Tomorrow I will take a look back at an older draft class to see how it has panned out.  What can we learn from it and how will it help us today as we contemplate offers from leaguemates for the Mike Trouts, Julio Teherans and Jesus Monteros of the world?

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