As Major League Baseball bangs through the postseason and fantasy baseball freaks are hard at work trying to figure out who to keep on their roster for next year, Fantasy Baseball Dugout will be looking west over the next few weeks.
Although its only October, winter baseball leagues have already begun in Mexico and Arizona. Keeping an eye on these leagues can seem very tedious, but it can also be very beneficial for fantasy baseballers in deep keeper leagues or for those looking for an early edge in 2010 (or 2011) fantasy baseball.
Most of the guys you’ll see take the field in the Arizona League are Double-A and Triple-A minor leaguers. Each team can also send one Single-A and a foreign player – unless that foreign player is from a Caribbean nation. Major League scouts and team execs are the principal people in attendance.
Each MLB team sends seven players to fill the 35-man rosters. The teams also provide managers and training staff. Players like Albert Pujols, David Wright, and Ryan Braun have all played on an Arizona Fall League roster. Even in the last couple years, fantasy baseball prospects like Phil Hughes, Clay Buchholz, Justin Smoak and Gordon Beckham all suited up in the fall league.
Below are five prospects to watch in the year’s Arizona Fall League:
- Stephen Strasburg, Phoenix Desert Dogs: Are you really surprised to see him on our list? The no. 1 2009 overall draft pick and future Washington National didn’t make the Major League team right after signing. He didn’t have an impact on your fantasy team last season. But he will make his ‘unofficial’ pro debut tonight against Scottsdale. Barring any unforeseen setbacks, expect Strasburg to pitch for the Nats sometime in 2010.
- Dustin Ackley, Peoria Javelinas: The no. 2 overall 2009 draft pick of the Mariners went 2-4 with a run scored in his AFL debut Wednesday. He may still be a full year away from the big leagues, but I wouldn’t doubt an late 2010 MLB debut for Ackley.
- Jason Heyward, Peoria Saguaros: Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year and the top prospect of the Atlanta Braves hit .323 with 17 homeruns, 63 RBI, 69 runs and 10 steals in 99 minor league games last season. Expect to see him with the big league club next year.
- Buster Posey, Scottsdale Scorpions: Posey is in line to take over catching duties for the San Francisco Giants as 35-year old Bengie Molina enters unrestricted free agency. The no. 5 overall selection in the ’08 draft was a top 20 overall prospect according to MLB.com heading into the season and his 2009 numbers in the minor leagues were .325/18/80/84/6. Expect to see him in the bigs full time in 2010.
- Mike Leake, Saguaros: Leake was the no. 8 overall 2009 pick of the Cincinnati Reds. Like Ackley, he probably won’t make the big league roster until late ’10 at the earliest. He struck out two in 2 innings of work yesterday in his ‘unofficial’ pro debut.