StrategyJuly 4, 2011

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Future Rookies: Week 14

By Josh Shepardson

A couple of blue chip prospects have recently moved up the minor league ladder, and now find themselves featured here this week. Neither is likely to see the majors this season, but both are tremendous dynasty league, or keeper league players worthy of mention thanks to their strong play in the early going.

Jake Odorizzi, SP, Kansas City, 21 years old

2011 Hi-A78.15221032.871.15

Part of the Brewers trade package to land Zack Greinke, Jake Odorizzi has been sensational with his new organization. Part of a loaded Royals farm system, Odorizzi may see some more of the lime light with the continued struggles of Mike Montgomery and season ending Tommy John surgery shelving John Lamb. Pitching all of last season in Lo-A, Odorizzi opened the year toying with hitters in Hi-A before recently being promoted to Double-A. The aggressive promotion of him means it isn’t out of the realm of possibility he throws his first pitch in the majors as soon as next year, something even his biggest supporters would have been hard pressed to project before the season.

A four-pitch pitcher, he has the goods to get through lineups multiple times, though his secondary offerings are described as still developing by Baseball America. At just 21 years of age, he has plenty of time to develop should he have some struggles along the way, though so far so good. Striking out better than a batter an inning in his minor league career, his fantasy outlook is good, as it is supported by solid scouting reports. While some high strikeout minor league pitchers need to hone their control and command, Odorizzi’s walk rate this year is just 2.98 BB/9, thus not a problem for him to date. The future appears bright for this young hurler. Unavailable in the Yahoo! player database, stash his name away and keep tabs on him for now.

Bryce Harper, C/OF, Washington, 18 years old

2011 Hi-A258491446194461.318.423.554.977

Former Sports Illustrated cover boy Bryce Harper has exceeded the hype in his first professional season. Over 300 plate appearances into his career, the Nationals have decided it best for his development to promote him (and spare Hi-A pitchers further beatings and kisses). His Double-A debut went well Monday night. He made four plate appearances hitting two singles and walking once. Even with his first game in the books, it remains to be seen just how steep his learning curve is. Regardless of how fast he masters the level, General Manager Mike Rizzo has already ruled out him reaching the majors this season.

One thing that not reaching the majors this year means for Harper is that the catcher eligibility you see listed above for him is likely to disappear as he’s being developed in the outfield exclusively. While having catcher eligibility would have been a nice value boost to Harper, he is an elite keeper and dynasty league player without it, and one available in the Yahoo! player data base. It’s not often a prospect comes along and gets this type of praise, but when you’re an 18 year old ripping the stitching out of baseballs in a way that matches up favorably to the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey, Jr. at the same age it is well deserved. 2012 is looking like an increasingly possible ETA for the young phenom, meaning the cost of owning him in fantasy is getting more costly every day. With trade deadlines approaching, and questions starting to be answered about the youngster, this may be last call for owning him at a reasonable price (i.e. only slight mark-up expected with any star prospect). Hop on board the Harper hype train, or prepare to be left in its wake.

Josh is a graduate of SUNY Cortland's Sport Management program, and an aspiring fantasy writer. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad. You can also follow his work at The Hardball Times and follow him on Twitter (BChad50).
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