Featured this week are a couple of scalding hot batters and an under the radar arm who’s equally hot toeing the rubber. Owners in need of help at second base (or third base once he’s able to gain eligibility upon his promotion) should be well aware of a a prominent prospect lacing the ball in Sin City. Those looking for some pop may have taken note of a Dodgers prospect clearing the fence in four consecutive games. Finally, as hard as it is to believe in a day of prospect-hyping, an organization’s two-time defending minor league pitcher of the year continues to fly under the radar in spite of a fast start in his Triple-A debut this season.
Brett Lawrie, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays, 21 years old
The prize chip for General Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays in the Shaun Marcum deal to the Milwaukee Brewers, Brett Lawrie has shown himself quite apt at handling Triple-A pitching in the early going, all the while learning to play third base. Early season struggles from Edwin Encarnacion and Juan Rivera may provide an opening for Lawrie to receive a promotion as soon as the projected “Super Two” cut date passes in early June. Still physically maturing, most of Lawrie’s extra base hits this year are likely to come in the form of doubles and triples as opposed to home runs. While only described as having average speed by Baseball America, he was able to swipe 30 bags last year and leg out 16 triples, and he already has two stolen bases this year. He’s striking out in 21.3 percent of his at bats this year, and his walk rate leaves something to be desired, so expect some ups and downs this year after his eventual callup.
He can largely be ignored in shallow leagues but is reasonable speculative stash in medium-to-large leagues that use a middle infielder position. Those hoping for a bench bat that can cover multiple position will also be pleased to know that Lawrie is being developed as a third baseman, so he will gain that eligibility in leagues as soon as he meets the appearances/starts requirements for your fantasy baseball provider.
Jerry Sands, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers, 23 years old
Drafted in the 25th round out of NCAA Division II Catawba by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008, Jerry Sands has crushed the ball at each of his minor league stops and has just reached the highest rung of the professional baseball ladder. In 40 at bats to start the 2011 season, Sands is doing his best Denzel Washington impression as a “Man on Fire”, hitting home runs in four straight contests and collecting five in total; an impressive feat no doubt, but one that should be taken with a grain of salt since he played his Triple-A home games (where he hit all of his home runs in his streak) in a home run-amplifying environment in Albuquerque. That said, he’s a slugger with a respectable strikeout rate for his career that has become downright awesome in his 40 at bats this year (small sample size noted). In addition to making frequent contact, Sands is adept at earning free passes and stealing bases when the opportunity presents itself (24 stolen bases and just three caught stealing in his minor league career).
Splitting his time between first base and the outfield corners in 2010, Sands could find himself penciled into the Dodgers lineup card replacing light hitting James Loney at first base or in place of an unexciting left field platoon that currently features Tony Gwynn Jr. and Marcus Thames and will eventually include Jay Gibbons, who is on the disabled list. He was initially unavailable in the Yahoo! player database, and is a player who, thanks to the inclusion of most other impact high minors players, bares using a high waiver priority for in larger leagues and dynasty formats.
Rudy Owens, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates, 23 years old
Throughout much of his minor league career, Pittsburgh Pirates’ 2009 and 2010 minor league pitcher of the year Rudy Owens was viewed as a soft tossing lefty with a back end of the rotation ceiling. Able to add a few ticks to his fastball as 2010 wound down, and now operating in the low-90’s, his ceiling is considered as that of a middle of the rotation type, assuming he’s able to retain his new found velocity. Beyond his fastball, Owens’ repertoire includes a slurvy breaking pitch and a changeup, neither of which are above average pitches according to Baseball America. His greatest skill/tool is his control, which his fantastic 5.74 K/BB rate supports. His pitch mix doesn’t leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling when it comes to projecting his strikeout rate in the majors, but his ability to pound the strike zone and not beat himself makes him worth monitoring in extremely deep leagues and NL-only formats, especially if he’s able to continue to induce more groundball outs than flyball outs.
Josh is a recent college graduate from SUNY Cortland where he majored in Sport Management. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad.
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