Fantasy gems are found in all shapes and sizes, but one place to begin your search for the next late-round stud is the high levels of the minor leagues. Many of these players make an impact in Spring Training, and force their Major League team into a mid-season call up, or a trade. You saw it in 2008 with the likes of Evan Longoria, Mike Aviles, and Joey Votto, to name a few. The minors is loaded with studs ready to emerge, and help your fantasy team to victory. There’s nothing wrong with being known as the minor league expert in your fantasy league.
That being said, there are some players who have an abundance of talent, but no place to showcase it. These are names you should know, because a trade to another city could put them in a position to contribute from Opening Day on. They might be add-ons in a major trade, but you should pay attention… they might end up on your fantasy roster in the late rounds.
These five players could use a plane ticket to meet a major league manager:
1. Andrew McCutchen – OF – Pittsburgh Pirates – Blocked by Nate McLouth and possibly Nyjer Morgan, McCutchen would have to shift to left field to smell the major league grass in 2009. He’s a stereotypical leadoff man with excellent patience at the plate and above average speed, and at just 21 years old, he could still develop a consistent power stroke. With a strong spring, he could be in the Opening Day lineup for the cash-strapped Pirates… or he could be on a plane elsewhere.
2. Kila Ka’aihue – 1B – Kansas City Royals – The Royals have no spot available for Ka’aihue, so a trade might be his best shot at playing time. The big-hitting Hawaiian posted a line of .315-37-100 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2008, and his 104 walks in 401 at-bats shows his eyes are ready for major league pitchers. If he is still a Royal in March, he’ll probably spend 2009 at Omaha, but look for a mid-season arrival if injuries strike Mike Jacobs or Billy Butler.
3. Kyle Blanks – 1B – San Diego Padres – Blanks is staring upward at budding superstar Adrian Gonzalez, who at 26, figures to be the first baseman for the Padres for the next decade. His .325-20-107 line at Double-A San Antonio in 2008 means he’s ready to progress, but with a roadblock like Gonzalez, Blanks could find himself on the trade block soon. He’s only 22, so if Gonzalez demands a huge free agent contract after the 2010 season, Blanks could be ready to shine.
4. Micah Hoffpauir – 1B/OF – Chicago Cubs – Hoffpauir hit .342 in 73 major league at-bats in 2008, and posted a .362-25-100 line in just 71 games at Triple-A Iowa last season. With Derrek Lee at first base and Alfonso Soriano in left field, Hoffpauir’s only chance in Chicago is to win a spring job in right. He’ll be 29 when the 2009 season starts, so the sand is settling at the bottom of the hourglass. Either way, he’s a masher who could be effective as a middle-of-the-order guy for eight years.
5. Elvis Andrus – SS – Texas Rangers – The youngster had a marvelous offensive season at Double-A Frisco, hitting .295 with 65 RBI and 54 steals, but his 32 errors were bothersome. At only 20, he has time to polish his defense, but with Michael Young signed until 2013, Andrus might have to find another team to break through with. He has improved his offense at every level, so he’ll get a shot somewhere.
Joe Book has been featured on several fantasy sports web sites, and has worked as featured sports reporter for a major newspaper. His quest to become the world's top fantasy authority has led him to Fantasy Cafe. Joe is a full-time financial planner during the day, and a Disc Jockey at night. He lives in Lombard, IL with his beautiful wife.
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