If the saying “pitching wins championships” holds true, then many teams are on the right track to a successful future.
All 30 teams have a variety of top pitching prospects that are ready to contribute within the next few seasons, and many of them are willing to give their young phenoms a spot on the starting rotation right away.
This is not to take away from the rising position players in the minors, as there are many young players that are ready to contribute to their respective major league clubs.
This season will prove to be very interesting. With many teams going young, many prospects will get the opportunity to strut their stuff at the major league level.
This slideshow focuses the top prospects on each baseball team that are ready to contribute at some point during the 2011 season. That could be straight out of the gate or a couple months into the future.
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Expected to start in AAA to open the season, Belt’s play in spring training may force the Giants organization to give him a starting job on Opening Day. Everyone knew that his above-average glove at first base was ready for the majors, but big question was whether or not his bat was ready to contribute.
His .269 AVG may not jump off the page but his maturity and understanding of the strike zone have shown the Giants that his bat is ready to contribute from day one. His unique sense of the strike zone will guarantee a high OBP, and the speed and power that he showcased in his first season in the minors prove he can help your team in a majority of ways.
Listed as baseball’s 26th ranked prospect, Belt can be a clear contender for rookie of the year and seems ready to contribute in the heart of the Giants lineup for years to come.
The Dodgers have had success over the past few seasons with the likes of James Loney, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp making their way up through the system. Gordon seems to be the next big prospect to make an impact at the major league level and the eventual replacement to current shortstop Rafael Furcal.
Gordon has all of the tools to be successful in this league. He stole 73 bases in the minor leagues two seasons ago and creates havoc on the basepaths every time he gets on. Chances are he won’t make it to the majors this season, but in keeper leagues, he is definitely worth owning. Keep tabs on his production in AA this season; he is someone you will be hearing about a few years down the road.
With an opening in the Padres staff, Luebke has a legitimate shot to claim the fifth spot in the starting rotation. The Padres have given him a long look this spring training as he has pitched the most innings behind Wade LeBlanc thus far.
Luebke has had an ERA hovering around 5.00 this spring but his impressive 17:4 K/BB ratio may be enough to put him on the major league squad.
During limited appearances with the Padres organization last season, he struck out batters at a rate of one per inning and has shown great command of all of his pitches. With the Padres clearly in rebuilding mode, look for the southpaw to get his fair share of starts as the season progresses making an impact at the major league level soon rather than later.
Just like the Dodgers, the Rockies have a core nucleus with Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to contribute for years to come. Rosario may be the next big prospect to come up as a member of the Colorado Rockies.
Rosario was having a monster year in the minors until he tore his ACL in August last season. He was hitting .285 with 19 HR in limited plate appearances and showed a cannon for an arm on the defensive side. He is expected to hit for high average and power as a centerpiece in the Rockies lineup as soon as 2011. If it hadn’t been for the injury, Rosario very well might have been a candidate to be the Opening Day catcher for the Rockies this season.
Wilin may not reach the majors in 2011, but if Iannetta begins to struggle as the full-time catcher and Rosario keeps hitting like he did in 2010, the Rockies may have no choice but to give him a shot as the starter.
Few pitching prospects in the minor leagues have the upside that Jarrod Parker has. Despite not pitching during the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery, Parker is still the top prospect for the D-Backs and has Arizona fans excited for the future.
Parker’s professional return during spring training have not gone to plan. He has posted an ERA of 5.68 in a limited amount of innings, but many still see Parker reaching the big league club sometime this season.
With an above average fastball reaching the upper 90s and an already impressive changeup and slider, it is hard not to get excited about Parker reaching the big leagues. It is only a matter of time before Parker makes an impact for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Dominguez is another top prospect that the Marlins have brought up through their farm system. His glove is considered to be major league ready, but his bat doesn’t seem quite ready for the big leagues.
With that said, Dominguez has been given every last opportunity to claim the starting role right out of the gate and he still has an opportunity to get the opening day nod. Dominguez is currently hitting .175 in spring training and is in the midst of a 1-23 slump over the past week. If Dominguez picks up his act, he will find himself as the opening day starter.
Although it is clear that Dominguez will not be an elite option at the third base position in 2011, it doesn’t hurt to take a late, late-round flier on the corner infielder. You may find great late-round production on the highly-touted prospect.
Just like Heyward was last season, Freeman is an early favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award in 2011. He is already penciled in at first base and is ready to bring his minor league success to the major league level.
Freeman is projected to hit for a high average with a descent amount of power. Although he may not have the home run upside of say Prince Fielder or Ryan Howard, he still will be a dominate force hitting along left-hander Jason Heyward for years to come.
Freeman is one of the few rookies who are guaranteed a starting job beginning from day one. Don’t be afraid to grab Freeman in this year’s draft if you happen to miss out on the elite options at the first-base position.
At the beginning of spring training, Brown was the favorite to win the starting job in right field to replace All-Star Jason Werth. However, due to poor play and injury woes, Brown was been sidelined for four to six weeks and is expected to be ready several weeks after opening day.
It is a shame that it had to come down to this because Brown has shown the potential to be a premier right fielder for years to come. His rare combination of speed and power has made fans in Philadelphia excited, and Brown is still expected to make a splash sometime this season.
Brown’s recent injury will hurt his draft stock but don’t let this injury deter you from drafting the fourth ranked prospect by Baseball America. At the end of the year, Brown can be a force in the potent Philadelphia lineup and on your fantasy team.
When talking about National’s prospects, it is impossible not to mention phenom Bryce Harper. Regardless of whether or not Harper makes the team this season, he will be a name that every fantasy owner should circle year in and year out.
Before getting sent down by the Nationals to receive most consistent at bats during spring training, Harper hit the cover off the ball putting up a .389 AVG paired with a .450 OBP. That is just the beginning as his upside cannot be compared to any prospect that has ever played the game. Be sure to closely monitor his play as the season progresses as a midseason call-up is very likely if he continues to produce like he is now.
Even if Harper doesn’t make it to the big leagues this season, he should be targeted in all keeper leagues. Potential like Harper doesn’t come around too often; just make sure he is on your team and not your opponents on draft day.
The Mets aren’t in the greatest position because they don’t have a sure-fire prospect that is projected to be with the team anytime soon. However, Martinez has turned some heads this spring training batting .364 thus far.
With Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay both not living up to expectations and battling injuries, Martinez can eventually earn himself a full-time role somewhere in the outfield. With consistent playing time, Martinez can make a splash if he too finds a way to stay healthy.
Martinez is expected to make the big leagues largely because he can inject some much needed energy in an aging roster. Maybe he can provide some of the same magic for your fantasy team this summer.
Many of the young prospects for the Pirates will not be ready for the next few seasons. Rudy Owens, on the other hand, may receive a midseason call up if he continues to pitch like he has for the past two years.
The winner of the past two "Minor League Pitcher of the Year" awards as a member of the Pirates, Owens has become a part of the Pirates long-term plans with his great command and quickly improving secondary pitches. Owens saw a bump in his velocity and now sits anywhere from 90-93 MPH, and his changeup has become the best in the Pirates farm system.
With no All-Star caliber pitchers on the current five-man rotation, Rudy Owens can start sooner rather than later. If Owens keeps on overpowering his minor league opponents, the Pirates would have no choice but to bring him up sometime during the year.
With the season-ending injury to All-Star Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn has been given the opportunity to pitch himself into the fifth spot of the starting rotation.
The former first-round pick led the Pacific Coast League with 141 strikeouts last season, Lynn has four solid pitches that can get opposing batters out in a variety of ways. Although he is not considered to be a future ace of the Cardinal’s staff, he can be a workhorse that can anchor the rotation for years to come.
As of now, it looks like Lynn will begin the season in AAA, but he is expected to join get his first call-up at some point in the near future. With Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in the middle of the Cardinals lineup, Lynn can get plenty of wins in a division that was sub-par last year.
Chapman has been one of the most popular names in baseball along with Stephen Strasburg over the past few seasons. Ever since he defected from Cuba several years ago, he has done nothing but impress scouts with his blazing fastball.
Constantly hitting triple digits in his first tenure with the Reds, Chapman has silenced any critics that claimed he doesn’t have the secondary pitches to be successful in the league. Forecasted to start the season in the middle relief role, Chapman may eventually be groomed to be a starting pitcher.
Chapman’s fantasy value for 2011 highly depends on whether or not he will be the closer for the Reds. As of now, he is the setup man to Cordero. Unless you are in a league that values holds, Chapman does not have any value for this up-and-coming season.
The Cubs really depleted their farm system by trading for Tampa Bay star, Matt Garza. Many of their current prospects are a few years away and don’t seem ready to contribute to the big league level. Current minor league pitcher, Jay Jackson, however, could be the first prospect to get called up after the start of the year.
Jackson may not have top-of-the-rotation stuff, but he is projected to be a No. 3 or No. 4 starter as a member of the Cubs. He hasn’t done particularly well in spring training, posting a 5.19 ERA in five games thus far. As a result, expect Jackson to start the season in AAA and to be called up to join the rotation or bullpen.
As the season progresses, be sure to keep tabs on Jackson. He could be a nice option on a Cubs offense that looks to rebound from last season’s poor showing.
Like the Chicago Cubs, the Brewers have decided to ship off their minor league prospects to acquire All-Star Zach Grienke and Shaun Marcum this past offseason. Although the Brewers did not have a single prospect ranked within the top 50 according to the MLB, they still have a solid pitching prospect in Mark Rodgers who can make an impact in 2011.
Rodgers is a former first-round draft pick whose career has been derailed by injuries. He has made a full recovery and put up respectable numbers in 2010 at the AA/AAA level. After a late season call-up, Rodgers shut down the opposition posting a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings pitched.
With Grienke out with a fractured rib, Rodgers may get to begin the season in the Brewers' starting rotation. With All-Stars scattered throughout the Brewers' Opening Day lineup, Rodgers has the potential to rack up the wins and be a reliable pitcher on your fantasy team.
At the age of 20, Lyles is already ready to join the Astro’s in the fifth spot of their Opening Day rotation. The Astros management holds him in high regard, and they all expect him to be a force in their rotation for many years to tome.
Lyles will not blow you away with his velocity, but he has developed a reputation for having excellent command. Last season, he posted a 115:35 K/BB ratio with a 3.12 ERA at the AA level. Lyles is an exciting prospect and can be the next big ace on the staff with Oswalt now with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Even if Lyles does not make the team out of spring training, it is only a matter of time before he gets a starting role at the major league level. He may not get enough wins to be worth owning in fantasy formats but keep an eye on the young pitcher as he has star potential written all over him.
Although the Athletics have developed a reputation for developing top of the rotation starters from within their minor league system, they have some budding hitting prospects that will join the Athletics within the next few years. Leading the list is home run hitter Chris Carter who has as much power as any player in the minors.
Don’t let the 0-33 start to his major league career deter you, Carter has tremendous upside and figures to be an intimidating presence in the Athletics lineup for years to come. He has a good of eye as anyone which will allow him to keep a high OBP. However, he has struck out a ton throughout his minor league career. With tons of power paired with a high walk and strikeout total, many have compared him to fellow first basemen Adam Dunn.
Unfortunately for Chris Carter, there isn’t a position for him in the Oakland lineup. He still figures to be with the big league club at some point in the 2011 season where one could only hope that it’s where he’ll stay for good.
The Mariners have several young prospects that are ready to contribute as early as Opening Day in Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda. Ackley has shown that he should be in the long-term plans of the Mariners, but Pineda has pitched himself into a starting role of the rotation.
Over the course of his young career, he has struck out 8.8 batters and has walked only 2.2 per nine innings. This is mighty impressive for a pitcher who is only 22 years of age. He has a fastball that reaches the mid-90s and has an excellent changeup, slider combination that will help him tally up the strikeouts this season.
Pineda has the ability to be an immediate force in the AL West right behind Felix Hernandez for years to come. With the reemergence of Erik Bedard, the Mariners could quietly boast one of the top rotations in all of baseball. Don’t forget about the young Michael Pineda on draft day.
Of course everyone has Mike Trout as the number one prospect in the Angel’s organization. However, first baseman Mark Trumbo is ready to make an immediate impact on the big league club.
With Kendrys Morales more than likely beginning the season on the disabled list, Trumbo has been penciled in to start the season as the Opening Day starter. Trumbo has immense power potential as demonstrated by leading the minors last season with 36 homers. Trumbo isn’t expect to hit for a high average, but you can expect great power numbers as he plays until Morales returns to action.
Trumbo is guaranteed a spot in the Opening Day lineup, but it is unsure how much playing time he will receive over the course of the season. If he blasts out of the gate, the Angels will have no choice but to place him in either a corner outfield spot or at DH.
Anytime a young pitcher is compared to Johan Santana, you know that he is going to be something special. As the 23rd ranked prospect by the MLB, the Rangers organization should have plenty to be excited about.
Perez boasts a plus changeup and has been a strikeout artist in his tenure in the minors. He has averaged over a strikeout an inning, and many feel that he is only tapping into his potential. With the departure of Cliff Lee, the Rangers can only hope that Perez will eventually fill the big shoes that he has left behind.
Perez is not expected to make the big league club right away but keep an eye on his production in AAA to start the season. With no elite starting pitching options, Perez is on the fast track to the majors and is ready to make an impact right away.
It’s hard to call Tsuyoshi a "prospect" because he has played professional ball in Japan for the past few seasons. However, by definition, he is a rookie, and that makes him as one of the top prospects for the Twins this year.
Nishioka put up great numbers in his last season with the Chiba Lotte Marines. He hit .346 while slugging 11 HR with 22 SB. Although one particular stat won’t jump off the stat sheet, he can help your fantasy team in a variety of ways. With the Twins boasting one of the better lineups in the American League, 100 runs at the top of the lineup is not out of the question with a shot at winning the AL Rookie of the Year.
After all of the elite second-base prospects are off the board, you can draft Nishioka knowing that you are getting a solid option at the thin second base. Don’t let his rookie stats fool you, as he is an established veteran to the game of baseball.
Chris Sale may be the top prospect in the White Sox organization, but due to his unspectacular play thus far in spring training, he will more than likely pitch out of the bullpen to setup the newly named closer, Matt Thornton. With that said, Brent Morel has been named the starting third basemen for the White Sox and could be a great option moving forward at the thin third base position.
Morel’s glove is already well established at the hot corner, and his steady bat has won him the starting job as the Opening Day third basemen. He hasn’t performed particularly well so far in spring training, but his .305 career batting average in the minors says he can be a hitter in this league.
Morel isn’t projected to be a power hitter at third base right away, but you can expect a steady dose of extra bases as he has been a gap-to-gap hitter throughout his career. With third base one of the harder positions to draft for, Morel could be a steady option at the later portions of the draft.
Of all the prospects in the Royals organization, Moustakas is the one phenom that is ready to contribute from the start of 2011. Although he will not be with the club straight out of the gate, he will eventually join the club as one of the premier third basemen in the game.
Tied with the major league lead in home runs last season, Moustakas has shown incredible bat speed and plus-plus power. All scouts believe that Moustakas can make a seamless transition to the majors and be a middle-of-the-lineup force for years to come. The only thing standing is his way is his defensive ability at the corner infield spot. If he can’t handle the position, expect a move to first base.
Mike Moustakas can make the same impact that Evan Longoria did a few seasons ago with the Tampa Bay Rays. In a few short years, you will be hearing Moustaka’s name paired with the other elite options at third base.
If you know the Tigers organization, you know that they like to speed their pitching prospects through the minor leagues, as demonstrated by Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello. Turner’s situation seems to be no different as he pitched through two levels during the 2010 season.
Turner definitely turned heads in his two starts during spring training before his demotion, he allowed only one run in six innings pitched while allow a total of five base runners. The future looks to be bright for the No. 15 prospect in the league.
If Turner performs well in AA to start the year, do not be surprised if Turner makes it to Detroit to finish the final few months. Turner can join Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer to form one of the best pitching trio’s in the AL Central.
Few players have performed in spring training like Chisenhall has in 2011. In 26 at bats, he has hit .500 and has shown scouts that he is one of the best hitters in this year’s class.
Despite getting sent down to the minor league camp, everyone expects him to return to the Indians at some point in the near future. With elite third base options coming at a premium, Chisenhall will be worth owning once he hits the bigs.
If the Indians fall out of contention early, the Indians may be pressured to take off the training wheels and give Chisenhall a shot to claim the third base job. That is only good news for potential fantasy owners who claim Chisenhall on the waiver wire sometime this summer.
Montero seemed ready to play every day for the Yankee’s until they signed backstop Russell Martin to a contract during the offseason. This may prevent Montero from joining the team on Opening Day, but it shouldn’t keep him in the minor leagues for very long, if at all.
Jesus is one of the top hitting prospects in the minor leagues and has shown he can hit for a high average and power. Last season, he hit .289 with 21 home runs after crawling out of the gate in April.
If it weren’t for the Yankee’s never-ending allegiance to their veterans (Jorge Posada), Montero would be penciled in at the DH position. However, even the gun-shy Yankees can’t keep Montero on the bench or minors for too long. Look for Montero to make an immediate impact once he claims a starting role on the already stacked Yankees lineup.
With essentially every position on the field and in the rotation set for the foreseeable future, the only way a prospect could make his mark in 2011 would be in the pen. Doubront happens to fit that category, a starting pitcher who can contribute in the long-relief role or through spot starts if an injury in the starting rotation would take place.
Doubront has yet to allow a run in seven innings pitched but has been slowed down due to some nagging injuries.
Doubront’s fantasy value is directly tied to his role with the Boston Red Sox. If he gets called to join the starting rotation, he would have tremendous value as the Red Sox are projected to produce runs with the best of them. However, if Doubront’s role would be to pitch long relief, he would provide little to no value on your fantasy team.
The Rays were so willing to give up top pitcher Matt Garza because of the promising young right hander, Hellickson. As the No. 2 ranked prospect in all of the minor leagues, he has been given the opportunity to be a full time starter in the AL East.
Jeremy experienced a slight setback when he suffered a strained right hamstring in the early stages of spring training. But he appears to have put his woes behind him in his latest return against the New York Yankees. In four innings pitched, he allowed a total of four baserunners for zero runs. If this is any indication of the future, he will be a star in this league for years to come.
Although Hellickson will be a hot commodity on draft day, don’t be afraid to grab him in the later rounds. He has shown the maturity of a veteran and has some of the best control in the minor leagues. Ten to 15 wins is not out of the question with the potent Rays lineup giving him consistent run support day in and day out.
Arencibia was supposed to join the starting lineup last season for the Blue Jays but ended up taking a back seat due to the career year of John Buck. With Buck now out of the season, Arencibia appears ready to take the starting job and make a run at the AL Rookie of the Year.
Arencibia hasn’t performed all too well this spring training, hitting only .140 so far. It appears that his poor production will not affect his Opening Day status as the Blue Jays are ready to ride the peaks and troughs of a rookie catcher. Sandwiched between some of the best power hitters in the game, Arencibia could potentially rack up the runs and RBI as the season progresses.
Arencibia is a deep sleeper that can make in impact as early as this year. With his tremendous power potential, Arencibia will be worth owning in all leagues as a late-round sleeper with the potential to give you the production of a top 10 catcher.
Britton is another promising young pitcher that will make the jump to the major leagues sometime in 2011. He is considered to be one of the top sinkerball pitchers in the minors and has the ability to get ground balls at will.
Britton has really turned heads this spring. In 14 innings pitched, in both the major and minor league camps, Zach as allowed a grand total of zero runs. The talk of the town is that he is the best arm in the entire Orioles rotation—including young star Brian Matusz.
With that said, Britton may be with the team as early as Opening Day. If not, don’t expect him to be in the minors for very long, he is simply too talented to be held back.