Trout, Rizzo still hold fantasy value
This weekend, baseball fans are breaking out their jerseys, dusty caps and readying themselves for the start of another long, arduous journey toward October glory. For many fans, these opening series will be their first glimpses of their beloved squads for the 2012 campaign. Spring training was obscured somewhat by a number of huge news items from other sports that dominated the headlines. Nothing, not even the opening round of The Masters, can steal the thunder of a full day of Major League Baseball action.
While we celebrate the return of Major League Baseball and the additions of players such as Cozart, Rosario, Smyly and Reed to big league rosters, we must keep one eye on the next group of players ready to make noise on fantasy rosters. During the 2012 season, I’ll be casting a discerning eye on the glory of minor league baseball and tracking the progress of our future fantasy heroes.
Injuries and early-season struggles will open doors for these players, and eager fantasy owners will be ready to pounce on the waiver wire. They won’t have to wait too long in Colorado.
Rockies fans continue to ponder the return of Jamie Moyer to Major League Baseball as the No. 2 man in their rotation. The future is coming soon in the form of former first-round selection Drew Pomeranz, a 6-foot-5 left-hander. Pomeranz will be joining the rotation in the second week of the season. The Rockies’ schedule for the first week puts him back in Triple-A briefly, but he’s scheduled to make his 2012 debut on April 15 against the Diamondbacks. Pomeranz is the antithesis of Moyer in terms of his “stuff,” having posted a ridiculous strikeout rate in 20 minor league starts last season (10.6 per nine innings).
* Pomeranz threw six shutout innings against the White Sox in his final preseason start.
Twenty-year-old outfielder Mike Trout made the leap from Double-A to the Angels last season and struggled to a .220 batting average in 40 games (11 extra-base hits, 16 RBI, four stolen bases). He faced an uphill battle for extended playing time in the crowded Los Angeles outfield, but competition for the role was halted because of an illness that reportedly caused him to shed 15 pounds. Trout also sustained a shoulder injury that limited his ability to throw.
He will begin the year with Triple-A Salt Lake and won’t likely be recalled unless the Angels experience a rash of injuries of deal away one of their outfielders. Perhaps a deal can be consummated for Bobby Abreu, who has expressed his displeasure at the prospect of losing at-bats. I’ll be tracking his progress at Triple-A in subsequent reports.
Joining Trout at Triple-A Salt Lake will be catching prospect Hank Conger. Conger batted .295 (13-for-44) this spring with five extra-base hits and five RBI. Unfortunately, the arrival of Chris Iannetta from Colorado impedes the progress of Conger, who appeared in 59 games for the Angels last season. He batted an anemic .209 in his 177 at-bats, though he did produce 14 extra-base hits. Fantasy owners in AL-only leagues were displeased that he couldn’t wrest the backup role away from Bobby Wilson.
I have been banging the drum this spring about the front of the Washington rotation. I’ll even go so far as to throw the term “Man-Crush” on the trio of Strasburg, Gonzalez and Zimmermann. It won’t be long before I’ll expand the group to include 19-year-old outfield phenom Bryce Harper. Harper begins the season at Triple-A Syracuse to work on his defense in center field and to keep the service clock from ticking. He batted .286 in spring training (8-for-28 with two doubles) with 11 strikeouts and failed to drive in a run. The 19-year-old former Golden Spikes Award winner will get his promotion later this summer.
Fantasy owners anxiously awaited Anthony Rizzo’s promotion by the Padres last season. He then flailed to an abysmal .141 batting average in 49 games (128 at-bats) before getting shipped to the Cubs this offseason. Chicago fans (and front office personnel) have been looking for a left-handed power hitter for a while, and Rizzo is expected to fit the bill soon. Bryan LaHair is a 29-year-old career minor leaguer, so fans and fantasy owners can expect a speedy promotion for Rizzo once he’s deemed “ready.” Note that LaHair has also been hampered by a back issue in the final throes of spring training.
Rizzo batted .364 (12-for-33) with two home runs and five RBI during spring training.
The Braves continue to stockpile pitching prospects, and an awful spring from Julio Teheran opened the door for Randall Delgado to leapfrog him in the battle for a spot in the rotation. Teheran pitched to a bloated 9.37 ERA in five appearances with a 1.84 WHIP. Delgado pitched marginally better (7.89 ERA), but pitched to a sub-3.00 ERA in seven major league appearances last season. Teheran dominated Triple-A batters in 2011, and he’ll work to refine his game while awaiting another shot at a big league job. That opportunity may not come in short order, as Tim Hudson is scheduled to rejoin the rotation in early May.
Finally, fantasy owners were denied the addition of another power hitter to the catcher ranks when Ryan Lavarnway was sent to Triple-A Pawtucket. He batted .429 (15-for-35) with four RBI this spring. Kelly Shoppach, he of the .224 lifetime batting average, starts the season as the backup to Jarrod Saltalamacchia.