StrategyMay 3, 2011

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Future Rookies: Week 5

By Josh Shepardson

A couple of youngsters performing well in the Pacific Coast League find themselves highlighted in this week’s Future Rookies. Those in need of help at the corner infield position may have noticed a Padres farm hand tearing the cover off the ball. Meanwhile, after a slow start, the top prospect in the Houston Astros system has reeled off 13 scoreless innings in his last two starts combined.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, San Diego Padres, 21 years old

2010 Hi-A1172652031632.248.333.479.812
2010 AA414662080745100.263.334.481.815
2011 AAA952373231119.389.458.7161.174

One of the key pieces going to the Padres in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, Anthony Rizzo has been on a tear in his introduction to the Triple-A level. Hitting from the left side, Rizzo takes an all-fields approach, and has done a solid job of drawing walks, a talent often referred to as an “old man skill.” His power is his greatest tool; unfortunately for him, PETCO Park is notorious for muting power from left-handed hitters. Playing in a hitter-friendly league, Rizzo’s stats need to be taken with a grain of salt. It should also be noted, he struggles mightily with left-handed pitchers, hitting just .217/.290/380 against them in 2010 and .154/.214/.231 thus far this year. Even noting his weaknesses, Rizzo could prove to be a useful player at the corner infield spot for those playing in deep leagues or NL-only formats. The putrid Padres offense is currently trotting out Brad Hawpe and Jorge Cantu at first base, meaning should Rizzo continue to hit, he’ll find himself getting promoted sometime shortly after June 1 in all likelihood.

Jordan Lyles, SP, Houston Astros, 20 years old

2010 AA1277351153.121.32
2010 AAA32011225.401.86
2011 AAA2716193.671.30

After a slow start, the Astros’ 2008 supplemental first-round pick and top prospect Jordan Lyles has pitched fantastic in his last two outings. At just 20 years of age, Lyles has flown through the minors and was considered a candidate for the Major League rotation entering the spring. Throwing a barely above-average fastball that sits in the low-90s, Lyles’ compensates for a lack of velocity and exceptional movement by locating it well and backing his fastball with a plus changeup and a plus slider. John Sickels slaps a “B+” grade on him, and Baseball America has him slotted at 42 on their 2011 top 100 prospect list. Unlikely to post eye-popping strikeout numbers, he has a chance to be helpful in ratios thanks to his ability to pound the strike zone and locate his pitches low in the zone, inducing more ground ball outs than fly ball outs. Pitching his home games at home run-friendly Minute Maid Park, his ability to translate his ground ball success to the majors will be especially key. Sometime early in the summer, expect to see the Astros promote Lyles to replace Nelson Figueroa in the rotation. Like Rizzo, Lyles appeal in yearly leagues is likely to be limited to deep leagues and NL-only formats.

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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