Last month, we analyzed the fantasy implications related to the current crop of major league award winners.
Because its never too early to look at prospects for next season, let’s consider four young guns who might come in under the radar in your league next season. Even though they might be under the radar, you should still keep your eye on them for next year.
For those fantasy owners that want to get a jump on who some of those award winners may be next year, they need look no further than the 2008 Minor League award winners. Some of these players will battle for Rookie of the Year consideration in 2009, and all could be great late-round sleepers.
Nelson Cruz, OF, Texas Rangers
Cruz won the Triple-A Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player award in 2008. Playing for Oklahoma, the AAA affiliate of the Texas Rangers, Cruz went crazy at the plate this past season.
Cruz hit .342 with 37 homers and 99 runs batted in. He is 28 years old and he will have to battle for time in the crowded Rangers outfield, but he has shown signs of success. At the end of 2008, Texas promoted him to the big leagues, and he hit .330 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs in only 115 at bats.
Lou Montanez, OF, Baltimore Orioles
Lou Montanez won the Double-A Eastern League Player of the Year award playing for the Bowie Baysox in the Orioles organization. Montanez won the Eastern League triple crown, leading the league with 26 homers, 97 runs batted in, and a .335 average.
He saw some time with Baltimore later in the year and hit .295 with three bombs and 14 ribbies in 112 at bats. Keep Montanez in mind next year.
Matt Wieters, Catcher, Baltimore Orioles
Another Oriole farmhand didn’t play enough at any particular level to garner any hardware, but he could be the 2009 version of Cubs Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto. Matt Wieters split time almost evenly between Class-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie.
He combined to hit .355 with 27 home runs, 91 runs batted in and 89 runs scored in his fist season in professional baseball. Expect Wieters to see plenty of time behind the plate for the Orioles in 2009 and be among the top vote getters for 2009 AL Rookie of the Year.
Vince Mazzaro, Pitcher, Oakland Athletics
The Double-A Texas League Pitcher of the Year Award went to Vince Mazzaro. Mazzaro toiled much of the year for Midland in the Oakland system. That’s right. It appears as if Oakland has produced another young talented pitcher.
Mazzaro went 12-3 with a microscopic 1.90 ERA in 137 innings with Midland. He struck out 104 and allowed 1.10 baserunners per inning. Mazzaro made six starts in Triple-A with varying success and may not see the majors until mid-summer. Still, fantasy owners should remember the name.