We break down the top five prospects for each organization for 2010, taking into consideration: games, at-bats, innings and major-league service time. We expect these players to have rookie status remaining heading into next year.
According to MLB rules: "A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the major leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a major league club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list)."
Note: Statistics are those at each stop in the minors this season and age represents how old they will be on opening day 2010.
Here is the land of opportunity and a slew of high-end draft picks with loads of expectations. Washington has been picking at the top of drafts for years but surprisingly has produced little in the way of elite talent, save for third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. That should stop, at least temporarily, this year. The prospect to end all prospects is signed, sealed and ready to deliver.
1. Stephen Strasburg, SP, 21
The most-hyped amateur pitching prospect in baseball history throws 100 mph and could arrive in the major league rotation out of spring training never having thrown a pitch in the minor leagues. It will be a challenge for the right-handed future Cy Young award winner, especially since he will be breaking in with the lowly Nationals. But that is about the only negative we can see with Strasburg, who burst on the Fantasy prospect scene when he was chosen over A's pitching phenoms Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill to start the most crucial game of the 2008 Olympic Games for Team USA -- as an amateur. We tentatively project 10 victories, a 3.60 ERA, 125 strikeouts and 59 walks. Clearly, he has far more potential than anyone else that will be picked after the top 50 starting pitchers on Draft Day, but the uncertainty weighs down his present-day value. Long term, Baseball America says it best: "He projects as a true No. 1 starter and a Cy Young Award winner, and anything less will be a disappointment." Wow.
2. Derek Norris, C, 21
The Nationals like their current catcher in Jesus Flores, but they have a future star perhaps in Norris. He hit .286 with 23 homers, 84 RBI, 78 runs, 6 steals, a .414 on-base percentage and a .513 slugging percentage in 437 at-bats in low Class A. The level of competition was clearly below him, but you have to like a switch-hitting catcher with that much power who led the league in walks (90). In Fantasy leagues, catchers who can hit are golden -- especially prospect ones. Consider Norris a must-stash in keeper leagues and a potential impact starting Fantasy catcher in 2011.
3. Drew Storen, RP, 22
Usually we hate giving lofty billing to first-round picks who are closers. This is not your usual first-rounder and the Nationals are a team willing to hand the closer's job over to a young talent. Storen was the Nationals' second first-round pick in the first 10 picks, compensation for failing to sign Aaron Crow in 2008. He asserted himself nicely as a pro, posting a 1.95 ERA and 11 saves in 37 innings from low Class A to Double-A. He struck out 49 and walked just eight, allowing a paltry .162 batting-average against. He could make the bullpen out of spring training and if he proves as dominant as he can be, it won't be long before he is closing games in Washington.
4. Chris Marrero, OF, 21
Marrero hasn't quite lived up to lofty expectations yet, but he has shown signs of turning the corner and remains a must-stash Fantasy prospect. Marrero combined to go .284-17-76-67-2 (.358-.452) in 489 at-bats between high Class A and Double-A and then hit .338-3-18-11-0 (.398-.541) in 74 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League. It hasn't been decided whether he is a left fielder or first baseman, but either spot will make it difficult for Marrero to be a Fantasy gem right away. We figure he could arrive in 2010, but it likely would be in a limited late-season role at this point.
5. Ian Desmond, SS, 24
The Nationals like Desmond's skills so much, they have already announced a move of Cristian Guzman to second base for next season. The slow-developing prospect enjoyed a breakthrough in 2009, combining to go .330-7-32-54-21 (.401-.477) in 348 at-bats between Double- and Triple-A. He then went a surprisingly potent .280-4-12-9-1 (.318-.561) in 82 at-bats in his September call-up. Desmond is not guaranteed a starting job, but he has enough steals potential to be a nice late-round sleeper in NL-only Rotisserie formats on Draft Day. He is also a big man (6-feet-2, 210 pounds), so he could develop in a double-digit homer shortstop, too. Let's call him a poor man's Elvis Andrus for now.
Best of the rest: Michael Burgess, OF; Justin Maxwell, OF; Destin Hood, OF; Danny Espinosa, SS; Jeff Kobernus, 2B; Josh Smoker, SP; Jack McGeary, SP; Adrian Nieto, C; J.P. Ramirez, OF; Graham Hicks, SP; Trevor Holder, SP; A.J. Morris, SP; Eury Perez, OF; Leonard Davis, OF; Bill Rhinehart, 1B; Stephen King, 3B; Jorge Padilla, OF; Brad Meyers, SP; Luis Garcia, RP; Roger Bernadina, OF; Marco Estrada, RP; Will Atwood, SP; Colton Willems, SP; Cory Van Allen, SP; and Victor M. Garate, RP.
Last year's top five here: Zimmermann, SP; Marrero, 1B; Burgess, OF; Detwiler, SP; and Martis, SP.
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