When you enter your 2011 fantasy baseball draft, you’ll need to know about the top prospects in the draft. Of course, when it comes to top prospects, you need to track them through Spring Training. Some will show that they are clearly ready for The Show. Other general managers will opt for a veteran to fill in the gap for another season so that the prospect can obtain additional seasoning in the minors and delay his eventual arbitration date when the team will have to shell out the big bucks.
When it comes to top prospects, these are the top 2011 fantasy baseball prospects who will likely start the season in the Big Leagues.
J.P. Arencibia, C, Blue Jays — Arencibia has a smashing debut when he clubbed a homerun off James Shields on August 7, 2010 on the first pitch that he saw in the MLB. Arencibia added another homer and two more hits that day, thus becoming the first player since 1900 to hit two homers and four hits in his debut. He picked up just one more hit in his 35 at bats and ended his short Big League stint with a .143 average. Arencibia was .301/32/85/0 with Las Vegas last year. Scouts like his power and in fantasy baseball, power is about all you can expect with a second catcher. His defense is below average so he’s going to have to hit some dingers to win the starting job. With John Buck gone, Arencibia will battle Jose Molina for the starting job in Toronto.
Chris Sale, RP-SP, White Sox — Sale, 21, was with the White Sox last year and did a great job going 2-1, 1.93 ERA, 1.07 WHIP in 21 games with the Sox. Even more impressive was Sale’s 32 K’s in 21.1 innings with 4 saves. Sale tops out at 95-98 and has a good changeup. At 6′ 6″ and 185 pounds, he has to hit the weights and the buffet line a little more, but there’s no peanut butter and jelly in a Major League spread so he should be able to add some pounds. White Sox GM Kenny Williams has indicated that Chicago may go with a 6 man rotation to start the season to give more time to Jake Peavy to be ready. That means that Sale is likely headed for the starting rotation as the White Sox # 5 starter rather than be sent back to the pen. When Peavy returns to the rotation full time, however, Sale is likely headed for a relief role depending on how he performs to start the season. That could make for an interesting fantasy baseball pick.
Mike Minor, SP, Braves — Minor was promoted to the Braves last year when Kris Medlen went down. On August 12, Minor had a dozen strikeouts, but fatigue caught up with him down the stretch and he ended his MLB stint at 3-2/5.97/1.58. Opponents hit .314 off of him. Minor did have a nice AAA season, however, where he went 4-1, 1.89 at Gwinnett. Minor is currently slated as the Braves # 5 starter.
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves — Freeman goes into the 2011 fantasy baseball season as the Braves starting first baseman. He is Jason Heyward’s good friend and ex-roommate through the minors. .319/18/87/6 were his numbers at Gwinnett last year where he was named the International League Player of the Year before getting a late season call-up to the bigs. Freeman had 4 hits in 24 AB’s, but one hit was a round tripper off of none other than Cy Young winner Roy Halladay. Freeman, 21, uses the entire field, knows the strike zone, and is a good 2 strike hitter. The 6′ 5″ Freeman was the Braves 2nd round pick in 2007.
Michael Pineda, SP, Mariners — Pineda is an imposing presence on the mound at 6’5″ and 245 pounds. Pineda went from AA to AAA last year. he was 8-1, 2.22 at AA and fell to 3-3, 4.76 at AAA. ”You’re talking about a 6-foot-5, 245-pound guy with a 100-mph fastball as a starting pitcher, which is very rare,” GM Jake Zduriencik said. “He’s young, but he has all the earmarks of a top-of-the-order starter for years to come.” The 22-year-old Dominican has good command and is penned as the # 5 start for Seattle.
Kyle Drabek, SP, Blue Jays — The son of former Cy Young winner Doug Drabek certainly has the pedigree. He was 14-9, 2.94 at AA New Hampshire last year before getting a September call-up to Toronto where he was 0-3, 4.76. Drabek is known as a hard worker and was the jewel in the trade that sent Halladay to the Phillies. Drabek will be the Blue Jays # 4 starter this season.
Aroldis Chapman, RP, Reds — The Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman needs no introduction to most fantasy players. In just 13.1 innings last year for Cincy, he received incredible publicity when he set the all-time speed record by hitting 105 MPH. Chapman was 2-2, 2.03 and fanned 19 in those 13.1 innings. There is no doubt that Chapman has a wild streak in him, but he is virtually impossible to hit by both righties and lefties should just forfeit their at bats. The Reds may be tempted to put him in the rotation, but we think he’s best off as a lights out closer. He’ll open the 2011 season as the set up man for Francisco Cordero, but may be moved into the closer role should Cordero faulter.
Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies — The Phillies certainly had enough confidence in Brown to allow the much more expensive Jason Werth to flee south to Washington. Brown appears to have all the tools, but he had a few growing pains during the stretch run and in the postseason. Brown hit .210 in 62 AB’s with 2 HR’s. At AA and AAA, he hit over .300 and hit a combined 20 homers with 68 RBI. Brown will be the Phillies starting right fielder with some occasional help from Ben Francisco.
Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays — Desmond Jennings was thought to be the starting left fielder for Tampa Bay this year, filling the considerable void left by the departure of free agent Carl Crawford. That was until last week when the Rays acquired veterans Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. Jennings opened the season on the DL after suffering a wrist injury in Spring Training. He went on to hit .278/3/36/37 until a September call up to the Rays where he hit .190 with 2 SB’s and 2 RBI down the stretch. Jennings game is speed and he seems like the best choice to play LF for Tampa Bay. But, if the Rays felt that way, why did they bother to pick up Damon at $5.25 million? This is a situation that you are going to have to watch closely during Spring Training to see where Jennings opens the season. He surely won’t make the Rays just to sit on the bench.