In the interest of keeping this article manageable going forward, I will only be featuring prospects in Double-A or higher starting this week. With that change in mind, fantasy owners should be happy to know that the prospects highlighted will be the most likely to help teams this year or next. Multiple organizations are well represented this week, and whether you are looking for a hot hitting prospect, or a hot pitching prospect, you have come to the right place. Below you’ll find the AL edition of this week’s Future Rookies, with the NL edition coming tomorrow.
Ryan Lavarnway, C, Boston Red Sox, 24 years old
After a slow start with the bat, Lavarnway has turned it on in his last 10 games. In that time span he has hit .317/.429/.488 with two home runs in 41 at-bats. I was lucky enough to be in attendance for his April 17 contest against the Syracuse Chiefs and came away impressed. He worked counts, which should come as no surprise as he has an outstanding 8/12 K/BB rate, and showed off his pop by drilling a game winning home run to his pull side on a full count pitch in the top of the ninth.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been awful at the plate for the Red Sox, hitting .206/.250/.382 in the early going. Kelly Shoppach has hit well, but 21 plate appearances isn’t enough for me to forget about consecutive seasons of a sub-.200 average and a history of being an all-or-nothing backup catcher type. Lavarnway is going to get a chance at some point this season, and if the parent club continues to struggle, he could be a shot in the arm sooner rather than later.
Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston Red Sox, 23 years old
As well as Lavarnway is playing, his play pales in comparison to that of teammate Middlebrooks. I was not fortunate enough to see Middlebrooks play — which should come as no surprise, since Albert Pujols got a day off in the first MLB game I ever attended in St. Louis in 2010 — but he has since had multi-hit games and drilled a home run in all four games following the day off.
Kevin Youkilis is struggling and is already dealing with injuries. He left Saturday’s game against the Yankees early as a result of getting hit by a pitch on the leg, and was dealing with a nagging groin injury earlier in the week. Youk was in the lineup for Sunday’s game before it was rained out, but he hasn’t played in more than 140 games since 2008. Between the risk of injury, and manager Bobby Valentine’s questioning Youk’s commitment, there may be multiple avenues to Middlebrooks getting a look with the Red Sox. The club holds a team option on Youk next season, and there is a reasonable chance they will decline it. With that in mind, the Red Sox may want to get an extended look at their third baseman of the future in 2012.
Xavier Avery, OF, Baltimore Orioles, 22 years old
Avery is following up a strong Arizona Fall League with an excellent start to this season. He has below average power, but his above average speed is a standout tool from a fantasy perspective. Though he strikes out more often than a non-slugger should, he at least partially offsets that with a very good walk rate. If he continues to get on base, he could profile well as a leadoff hitter. There are no immediate openings for Avery with the Orioles, and 63 at-bats in Triple-A are far too few to declare him big league ready after a ho hum season at Double-A in 2011, but he could get a look later in the season if he continues to play well.
Derek Norris, C, Oakland A’s, 23 years old
Norris is continuing to hit for average and has drawn his first walks of the season since being featured here last week. His power is a plus tool, and he’s previously shown the ability to work walks. His improved strikeout rate and jump in batting average this year are encouraging signs that he’s taking further steps in his development.
Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels, 20 years old
The story remains the same. Trout continues to destroy minor league pitching, and continues to be blocked on the major league roster. His stat line above doesn’t show that in addition to his one home run, he has added four triples and three doubles, bringing his extra base hits total to eight. The stats above also don’t show he has been an effective base stealer, getting caught just once in seven attempts. Eventually he’ll force the Angels hand, and he’ll be well worth the wait.
Garrett Richards, SP, Los Angeles Angels, 23 years old
Richards is off to a sizzling start. He has made four starts, all have been quality starts, and he has struck out at least six batters in each while inducing groundballs in bunches. Despite a passable start from Jerome Williams against the Orioles, it shouldn’t be long before Richards replaces him as the Angels fifth starter.
Jarrod Parker, SP, Oakland A’s, 23 years old
Last week I stated in my weekly AL Waiver Wire column at The Hardball Times that I thought teammate Brad Peacock would beat Parker to the show this year. I was wrong. Parker will be taking Graham Godfrey’s rotation spot and will get his first turn in the rotation against the Chicago White Sox at home on Wednesday. He’s a good speculative add in large mixed leagues and AL-only formats.
Neil Ramirez, SP, Texas Rangers, 22 years old
A healthy Ramirez is a pleasant sight for the Rangers. He missed time last summer with shoulder pain but had no structural damage. He pitched in the Arizona Fall League, and he’s been dynamite this season. He’s thrown six scoreless innings in each of his last two turns, striking out 10 batters and allowing only one walk in those starts. There is no rush for the red hot Rangers to promote Ramirez, and furthermore, there are no rotation openings for the youngster.
Taijuan Walker, SP, Seattle Mariners, 19 years old
Double-A? Walker doesn’t need no stinkin’ Double-A. The Mariners look like geniuses in their aggressive handling of Walker. They opted to have him jump from Low-A to Double-A, and the results speak for themselves. He has gone at least five innings in all three starts and allowed no more than two earned runs in any of his turns. He has outpitched fellow high ceiling prospect teammates Danny Hultzen and James Paxton.
Danny Hultzen, SP, Seattle Mariners, 22 years old
Hultzen’s first professional start wasn’t his best, but he has been excellent in two starts since then. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last two starts, though two unearned runs have scored against him. He’s striking out more than a batter an inning while still managing to induce groundball outs at a higher rate than flyball outs (GO:AO of 1.70). He was drafted as a polished college pitcher and should see time with the Mariners sometime this summer.
A.J. Griffin, SP, Oakland A’s, 24 years old
Some of his fellow A’s pitching prospects may have higher ceilings and get more attention, but Griffin, the organization’s leader in strikeouts in 2011, has posted silly numbers in 2012. He doesn’t have a fastball that will overwhelm hitters, but he has four pitches that he can mix to get them out, and he’s doing just that this year. Griffin could end up following Parker and Peacock’s lead pitching in Sacramento later this year.
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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