Digging out these prospects may provide surprise value

ON FANTASY SPORTS

July 20, 2006|By CHILDS WALKER

It's time to check on the young bucks again.

With the trade deadline approaching and teams re-imagining their rosters, hot prospects are flooding the big leagues. Mike Pelfrey and Stephen Drew have starred in previous prospect checkups, and now Pelfrey is starting for the New York Mets and Drew is playing shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Here are more players who have impressed so far this season. A few may hit the majors by September while others may not get their shots until 2007 or 2008. But they should all be on the radar for serious fantasy players.

Humberto Sanchez, Detroit Tigers -- This 6-foot-6 right-hander could be next in line to join Detroit's arsenal of power arms. He impressed as much as anyone at the Futures Game and is 5-2 with a 3.19 ERA at Triple-A Toledo after dominating at Double-A. Sanchez could join the Tigers in September and help immediately.

Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds -- Scouts say Bailey is one of the few pitchers in the minors who projects as a potential ace. He was solid at Single-A Sarasota, but has really thrived since he was promoted to Double-A Chattanooga, going 4-0 with an 0.75 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 24 innings. He probably won't reach Cincinnati until late next season, but he's one to stash away in drafts next year.

Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox -- Baseball Prospectus' projection system says Pedroia could be an above-average second baseman now. He's hitting .307 with a .384 on-base percentage for Triple-A Pawtucket, but his lack of power and speed means he'll have to maintain a high batting average to have fantasy value.

Chris Iannetta, Colorado Rockies -- This catcher may have surpassed Ian Stewart and Troy Tulowitzki to become Colorado's best hitting prospect. That doesn't carry quite the same meaning it used to with the humidors reducing runs at Coors Field. But Iannetta has a .590 on-base percentage and .739 slugging percentage in 46 at-bats since being promoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs. That's mighty tantalizing for someone who would join a weak National League catching pool.

Josh Fields, Chicago White Sox -- Fields is a third baseman, but the White Sox may have to try him elsewhere to get his bat in the lineup. He's the best hitting prospect for the defending world champions and is batting .331 with a .561 slugging percentage and 17 steals for Triple-A Charlotte. He'd have instant fantasy value at third.

James Loney, Los Angeles Dodgers -- After three disappointing seasons, Loney is fulfilling his potential with a .391 average for Triple-A Las Vegas. That's a great hitting environment, but .391 is good anywhere, and Loney is still only 22. He may not have the power to be an elite fantasy first baseman, but he could be a quick help in NL-only leagues.

Nick Adenhart, Los Angeles Angels --So he's probably two to three years from the big leagues. I have to serve notice on a Maryland boy who opened the season 10-2 with a 1.95 ERA as a 19-year-old. Adenhart has cooled slightly since being promoted to high Single-A Rancho Cucamongo, but he's 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 14 innings. So he's on track to be a fantasy somebody in 2008.

Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers -- This 20-year-old is another pitcher who's dominated the lower minors. Try 128 strikeouts against only 32 walks in 102 2/3 innings at two levels. Double-A hasn't slowed him a bit (0.73 ERA) and he has the feel of a player who may force his way to the majors next year. I know I'll be trying to squirrel him away in March.

Delmon Young, Tampa Bay Devil Rays -- So maybe he's a bit volatile. He's also a 20-year-old who's hitting .329 at Triple-A and has shined since returning from his 50-game suspension. It will be fascinating to see how the Devil Rays handle his ascent. I have no qualms about investing in Young the player.

Chris Young, Diamondbacks -- This center fielder started the season on the disabled list, but he has 14 homers in 69 games and could be an instant power-speed contributor in the majors. The excellent Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus compared him to Mike Cameron in a recent column. That may mean he's no superstar, but Cameron was plenty useful as a fantasy player.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

3 up, 3 down

Up

Adrian Gonzalez, first baseman, Padres -- He has been the best fantasy player out there during the past week, and he is probably available in many leagues. Gonzalez is 10-for-19 (.526) with three homers, eight RBIs and six runs scored in his past five games.

Brian McCann, catcher, Braves -- This 22-year-old is one of several reasons why Atlanta is on a tear offensively. Entering last night, McCann is 14-for-33 (.424) with four homers and 15 RBIs in his past seven games. He is batting .351, which would be good enough for second in the National League if he had enough at-bats.

Vicente Padilla, starter, Rangers -- He has won four straight starts and lost once in his past eight. Padilla is 10-5 with a 4.15 ERA. He has allowed three earned runs or less in seven of his past eight outings.

Down

Jonny Gomes, designated hitter, Devil Rays -- A shoulder injury could be hampering him as Gomes has gone 0-for-17 since the All-Star break. He showed great power at the beginning of the season with 11 homers in April, but has hit only seven since.

Hank Blalock, third baseman, Rangers -- He is 3-for-21 in his first five games since the All-Star break and has homered once in his past 18 games. However, Blalock's batting average is up from a year ago and he is striking out every 7.7 at-bats compared with once every 4.9 at-bats in 2005.

Jason Schmidt, starter, Giants -- The subject of trade rumors, San Francisco's ace is 0-4 in his past seven starts. In his last start against the Brewers, Schmidt allowed 10 hits and six earned runs in six innings.

Sheil Kapadia

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