Fantasy Baseball 2012: NL West Preview: Sleepers and Prospects
In 2011, the Arizona Diamondbacks won their first division title since 2007. In December they traded for starting pitcher Trevor Cahill to help bolster their young rotation.
The Giants had the second best ERA in the National League but also scored the fewest runs. They're getting Buster Posey back from injury, and are hoping he can help the team score enough runs to get them back into the playoffs.
The Dodgers managed to only win 82 games despite having the Cy Young award winner, Clayton Kershaw, and Matt Kemp, the MVP runner-up.
The Rockies were tied for second in the NL in runs scored but only won 73 games last year. Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez will help make this offense potent again in 2012, but their pitching will be a big question mark.
The Padres were the NL's second worst offense in 2011, something they're obviously trying to improve on in 2012. They traded for Carlos Quentin and Yonder Alonso in the offseason.
There is a lot of young talent in this division. Let's look at some of the sleepers and prospects from the NL West from a fantasy perspective.
Prospect: Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL
Arenado will turn just 21 shortly after the season starts, but his performance at High-A (.298/.349/.487 with 20 home runs) and in the Arizona Fall League has kept the Rockies from trading for a veteran third baseman.
He led the AFL in hits, had six home runs and had a crazy .388/.423/.636 slash line in route to being named the league's most valuable player.
Arenado is MLB.com's 22nd-ranked prospect heading into 2012 and has received an A- prospect grade from Minorleagueball.com's John Sickels.
Prospect/Sleeper: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARI
Goldschmidt tore up minor league pitching last year, hitting 30 home runs in just 366 at bats with a .306 average at Double-A.
For his efforts he was awarded a late-season cup of coffee with the Diamondbacks where he will also start 2012. The 24-year-old struck out 53 times in 156 at-bats for the big club but he also popped 8 home runs and had 26 RBIs.
Goldschmidt is the first baseman of the future in Arizona but be may be platooning with Lyle Overbay for at least the start of 2012.
Sleeper: Dee Gordon, SS, LAD
Gordon, son of Tom "Flash" Gordon, did well for the Dodgers after being called up in June last year. Overall, he hit .304 with 24 stolen bases for the big club, but he hit .345 in his final 142 at-bats. Gordon stole a total of 56 bases between High-A, Triple-A and the majors in 2011.
As the unquestioned starting shortstop for the Dodgers in 2012, Gordon should be able to steal around 50 bases, score a ton of runs and hit over .300.
He is currently the 10th shortstop off the board according to Mock Draft Central, going just in front of Erick Aybar. Gordon is a good pick at a talent-scarce position.
Prospect: Tyler Skaggs, SP, ARI
Skaggs, a 6'4" lefty, had a K/9 of 11.3 with a 2.96 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP between High-A and Double-A last year. His ERA and WHIP actually improved to 2.50 and 1.04, respectively, upon being promoted to Double-A.
Back in August, the Arizona Republic reported that Skaggs' performance had earned him a chance to compete for a spot in the big-league rotation in 2012.
With the Diamondbacks' trade for Trevor Cahill and their re-signing of Joe Saunders, it doesn't appear that there will be an opening for the 20-year-old right out of spring training but he will be up at some point this season.
Prospect/Sleeper: Yonder Alonso, 1B, SD
Alonso was the big piece heading back to San Diego in the Mat Latos trade.
The move to Petco Park definitely hurts his power potential, but at least he is no longer blocked by Joey Votto. He should start the year as the Padres' starting first baseman.
Alonso slashed .330/.398/.545 and hit five home runs in 88 big league at-bats in 2011. He is not a lock to hit more than 15 home runs, but Alonso will give you a good average and should have a good amount of RBI opportunities hitting near the middle of the Padres' order.
Sleeper: Brandon Belt, 1B/OF, SF
In the fantasy community, big things were expected from Belt when he made the Giants' opening day roster last year. In 2010, his first year of professional baseball, Belt hit .352 with 23 home runs and 22 stolen bases across the three highest minor league levels.
His first year in the major leagues was pretty forgettable, however. Belt only hit .225 with nine home runs in 187 at-bats. He missed time with a wrist injury and bounced around between High-A, Triple-A and San Francisco.
He finished 2011 strong, hitting seven home runs in his final 109 at-bats and he hit .300 in 28 winter league games. Belt has a high ceiling and is worth a late-round selection in mixed leagues.
Prospect: Drew Pomeranz, SP, COL
Pomeranz was the big piece coming back to Colorado in the trade that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians.
The 6'5" lefty features a low-to-mid 90's fastball, a plus curveball and an improving changeup. This arsenal allowed Pomeranz to strike out 10.6 hitters per nine innings and hold left-handed batters to a .120 average. He also had a tidy 2.57 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP between High-A and Double-A last year.
Pomeranz was a September call-up for the Rockies. He did OK, but he had lost some velocity because of a late-season appendectomy.
Pomeranz could very well break camp with a rotation spot, so keep an eye on this youngster.
Sleeper: Dexter Fowler, OF, COL
Fowler did poorly enough to start the 2011 season that he was sent to Triple-A in June. He didn't do much better there, hitting just .237 with two home runs and just two stolen bases in 97 at-bats.
After being recalled by the Rockies, Fowler turned it around down the stretch. He hit .297 with all five of his home runs and nine stolen bases in his final 64 games.
If Fowler can carry this momentum into next season, the soon-to-be 26-year-old could give you 100 runs, 10 homers and 15 to 20 stolen bases. You could certainly do worse with one of your last picks.
Prospect: Trevor Bauer, SP, ARI
Bauer, 21, has more upside than fellow Arizona farmhand Tyler Skaggs, but is also probably farther away from contributing at the Major League level.
He was drafted third overall by the Diamondbacks in this past year's amateur draft out of UCLA. Since he pitched a college, Bauer obviously won't need as much time to develop in the minors as kids drafted right out of high school.
Cincinnati Reds' pitcher Mike Leake was drafted out of college in 2009 and started 2010 in the majors without any minor league experience, so Bauer may not be as far away as you think.
Bauer is MLB.com's ninth-ranked prospect heading into 2012 and the aforementioned John Sickels gives him a rare A grade.
Sleeper: Rafael Betancourt, RP, COL
Filling in for an injured Huston Street, Betancourt did great as a closer for the Rockies late last year. He converted eight of his nine save chances.
Betancourt finished the season with a 2.89 ERA, a 0.87 WHIP and 73 strikeouts in 62.1 innings. More impressive is that he only walked eight batters all year and only one after the All-Star break.
Street is now in San Diego and Betancourt heads into spring training as the Rockies' closer. He is currently the 24th reliever taken and 200th overall according to Mock Draft Central, so you can wait for saves and target Betancourt late.
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