The final rounds aren't always the most enjoyable part of a draft, especially in AL-only and NL-only leagues. The glamour players are gone, the potential breakthrough players are gone, and even the reliably mediocre players are gone. What's left are players on the fringes of an open competition, the perpetually injured, no-hit, all glove guys, and the maybe-they'll-help-you-someday prospects.
Before you get discouraged and just take the player who comes from your home state or has the coolest name, think about the value of taking a player or two from the prospect category. Want to draft another catcher? You could choose from the usual endgame options like Jason Varitek or Miguel Olivo. Whomever you choose, you could just as easily pick up a similar player via trade or waivers. Why not take a risk on someone who might not play regularly right away, but could be a big producer later in the season? Someone like Toronto's J.P. Arencibia could wind up being more productive than either Varitek or Olivo. And he has a cool name.
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There are plenty of high-ceiling prospects at every position, but most of them have little draft value except in keeper leagues. Some prospects have the luck of playing for a team that happens to be weak at their position. The six players featured here are not the best prospects, and none are well-positioned to leave Florida or Arizona with a major league job. These are just very good prospects who have good opportunities to win a job with an American League team sometime later this season.
Brett Anderson, SP, Oakland: Oakland's "ace" is hampered by elbow issues and may be shelved for opening day. The No. 2 guy is coming off a rookie season where he needed GPS to find home plate. Justin Duchscherer and Sean Gallagher could wind up being just fine in '09, but overall, things are looking not so good for the Oakland rotation. Still, there are enough arms around to give Anderson the time he needs in Triple-A. If he treats hitters there with the same utter disregard that he did in Class A and Double-A, Anderson could get a chance to ply his wares in the AL later this year.
Trevor Cahill, SP, Oakland: Cahill experienced more struggles with control than Anderson did during a brief stint in Double-A last year, as evidenced by his 4.6 BB/9 rate. Despite the walks, Cahill posted lower ERAs than Anderson at both Class A and Double-A, due to an extremely high GB/FB ratio. Sinkerball pitchers, such as Brandon Webb and Derek Lowe, rely on sharp control as well as grounders to succeed, so Cahill will have a way to go to develop into one of the game's better sinkerballers. However, Cahill could still be a useful Fantasy hurler this season, outperforming typical late-round options like Brian Bannister or Matt Harrison.
Brett Cecil, SP, Toronto: Another groundball pitcher, Cecil actually had much more success throwing strikes in Double A than Cahill did. Given the slew of injury risk pitchers competing for the Jays' fifth rotation spot, Cecil may get his chance sooner than Anderson or Cahill. When he does arrive, WHIP could be an issue, as it often is for groundball pitchers, but he should help enough with strikeouts and ERA to make rostering him worth your while.
|2008||New Hampshire (Double-A)||2.7||10.1||0.5|
J.P. Arencibia, C, Toronto: Last season, the Blue Jays' phenom established himself as a power-hitting catcher with decent contact skills across two minor league levels. Not only that, but according to an interview he did for the Jays' official website, he makes a mean omelet. Talk about skills. He could stand to take a walk every once in a while, but that won't kill his Fantasy value. All that stands in Arencibia's way is Rod Barajas, his .241 career batting average, and his expiring contract.
|Year||Team||Walk Rate||Whiff Rate||Iso Power||BABIP|
|2008||New Hampshire (Double-A)||3%||21%||0.214||0.311|
Julio Borbon, OF, Texas: The Rangers have not one, but two, major question marks in their outfield. If Andruw Jones makes a comeback and Nelson Cruz breaks the Quadruple-A barrier, then there will be little room for Borbon on this year's Rangers roster. If Texas' gambles in left and center field don't work out, Borbon should get a shot at some point in '09. The Rangers could do much worse than giving at-bats to the rich man's Denard Span. Borbon could be very useful in the batting average and stolen base categories. For now, a spot near the top of the order -- and the run-scoring opportunities that role would present -- would be a stretch, unless Borbon quickly learns to take more walks.
|Year||Team||Walk Rate||Whiff Rate||Iso Power||BABIP|
Carlos Rosa, SP, Kansas City: Is there a better situation for a major-league ready pitching prospect than to play in the Royals organization? After Zack Greinke and Gil Meche, the rest of the rotation could be up for grabs by midseason. Rosa's good command and groundball tendencies make him a good candidate for a 4.00ish ERA, though he could struggle to keep his WHIP below league average. This is still better than what you and the Royals would get from alternatives like Kyle Davies, Brian Bannister, Horacio Ramirez, Luke Hochevar and Brandon Duckworth.
|2008||NW Arkansas (Double-A)||1.4||8.4||0.4|
| Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC/27) -- An estimate of how many runs a lineup would produce per 27 outs if a particular player occupied each spot in the order; ex. the RC/27 for Miguel Cabrera would predict the productivity of a lineup where Cabrera (or his statistical equal) batted in all nine spots; created by Bill James |
Component ERA (ERC) -- An estimate of a what a pitcher's ERA would be if it were based solely on actual pitching performance; created by Bill James
Base Hits per Balls in Play (BABIP) -- The percentage of balls in play (at bats minus strikeouts and home runs) that are base hits; research by Voros McCracken and others has established that this rate is largely random and has a norm of approximately 30%
Isolated Power -- The difference between slugging percentage and batting average; created by Branch Rickey and Allan Roth
Walk Rate -- Walks / (at bats + walks)
Whiff Rate -- Strikeouts / at bats
Al Melchior was recently a Fantasy columnist and data analyst for Baseball HQ and will be providing advice columns for CBSSports.com. Click here to send him a question. Please put "Melchior" in the subject field.