We all know the argument between Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez, battling it out for the No. 1 and 2 spots in fantasy drafts around the world this year. Can you really lose with either of those guys, though?
But every fantasy baseball draft is also surrounded by some hype about who is going to be the new kid on the block. You never want to be behind the curve, but you also never want to overpay for a player when there’s value left on the table.
When you need to dig a little bit deeper in your fantasy baseball pockets, here are a few prospects that could supplement your fantasy roster once all the Albert Pujolses of the world are gone. Draft positions would be based on a 10 team, five by five roto league.
Jeremy Hellickson, SP/RP, TB
Draft in Rounds: 13 to 16
How do you justify trading a pitcher who started 32 games, won 15 of them, and threw over 200 innings? When you have Jeremy Hellickson waiting in the wings, it makes it a lot easier to trade Matt Garza. The Rays netted top pitching prospect Chris Archer and the toolsy Hak-Ju Lee among the five players in return. And they also paved the way for Hellboy, who has outstanding command with his fastball, changeup and curve.
One trend to keep a close eye on is whether or not he can keep the ball down. Last year his 9.3 percent HR/FB ratio was significantly higher than the league average 7.3 percent. However, if he can continue to pound the ball down in the zone and work on increasing those ground balls instead of line drives or fly balls, his ceiling will far exceed his No. 5 slot in the rotation.
And, just because, here’s a Jeremy Hellickson fun fact for you: of the seven runners Hellickson left on base after he left his major league starts in 2010, zero of those runners scored.
Desmond Jennings, OF, TB
Draft in Rounds: 17 to 20
While Jennings isn’t technically guaranteed anything yet, he will probably spend a portion of 2011 trying to replace Carl Crawford and his gaudy fantasy numbers. But it looks like the signings of Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon look to cut into his immediate fantasy value. It’s hard to gauge Jennings’s potential as a wrist injury plagued him throughout last season.
Most of Jennings’s value will come in the form of stolen bases, as he’s swiped 52 bags between 595 Triple-A plate appearances. I think if you temper your expectations and look for a 5 HR, 30 SB season, you’ll be getting appropriate value for your pick.
Craig Kimbrel, RP, ATL
Draft in Rounds: 20 to 22
Atlanta seems to like Kimbrel for the first crack at their closer role this season, and after giving 44 of them to the now retired Billy Wagner in 2010, that spells fantasy upside. Kimbrel struck out 40 batters in 20.2 innings pitched in 2010 for a ridiculous 17.4 K/9 rate. While the strikeout potential is there, the knock on Kimbrel is his control.
Between 76.1 innings last season in Triple-A and Atlanta, Kimbrel issued 51 walks. Keep a close eye on how new skipper Fredi Gonzalez manages the Kimbrel-Venters closer situation this spring before you invest heavily, but he’s definitely worth a late round flyer.
Domonic Brown, OF, PHI
Draft in Rounds: 22 to 24
Brown is another outfielder who isn’t guaranteed the starting gig in Philadelphia. However, the Phils have to figure out a way to replace the void in their offense left by Jayson Werth’s departure. And judging by their lineup, apparently they don’t care how many left handed hitters it takes.
Anytime you hear an analyst or scout mention the name “Domonic Brown,” you’ll also hear them say “raw.” However, between Double-A and Triple-A last year, Brown hit .327/.391/.589 (AVG/OBP/SLG). If Brown can figure out his swing in the bigs like he did in the minors, watch out fantasy owners.
Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL
Draft in Rounds: 23 to 25
A little unnerving, that the 21-year-old phenom Freeman (Phreenom?) had to leave the Arizona Fall League with a thumb injury. Freeman slugged a respectable line of .319/.378/.521 with 18 homers as a 20-year-old in Triple-A Gwinnett last season. If you pick up Freeman on a late-round flyer, you could end up with this season’s Logan Morrison. Think around a .300 and 15 HR type hitter.
Which prospect ranks highest on your fantasy radar for the 2011 season?
Chris Sale, RP, CHW
Draft in Rounds: 23 to 25
It was a quick ascension for Sales last year in his first major league season. After 11 minor league appearances, he was promoted to the majors where he announced his presence with authority by striking out 32 batters in 23.1 innings. A healthy Jake Peavy could work wonders for the late round value of Sales.
If the Sox choose to stick him in the bullpen this season, he could wind up saving games for the South Siders right off the bat. If Chicago chooses to the path of starter, the consensus is he may end up battling for a spot in the rotation, but if that doesn’t work out, there may be a trip back to the minors to stretch out his arm.