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April 15, 2010 11:58 AM

Fantasy Baseball Week 3 Minor Leaguers to Watch

Stephen-Strasburg.JPGBy Cameron Britt, columnist at Fantasy Baseball Maniaxs

Two of the hottest commodities in minor league baseball are phenom starters Aroldis Chapman and Stephen Strasburg of the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals. 

But what makes them so valuable (besides the wealthy paychecks they'll be receiving from their employers for the next five-to-six years)?

Well, each possess 100+ mph stuff, plus change-ups (with a differential from their fastball of 15-20 mph), and advanced sliders/curveballs for their age (Strasburg is 21, Chapman is 22).

 

Additionally, both the right-handed Strasburg and left-handed Chapman have great poise on the mound, which is handy since "stuff" alone won't get you to the bigs, as seen by their great numbers in Spring Training--during which, both of these guys were arguably the top performers on their clubs.

 

Over his five starts, Strasburg went nine innings, allowed two home runs (accounting for the two ER he surrendered), gave up eight hits, and struck out (get this) twelve batters to only one walk.

 

Chapman, in only one start out of his five total appearances, pitched 10.2 innings with eight hits allowed (one of which was a homer) and (once again, get this) 15 strikeouts to seven BBs.

 

Not bad for guys who have only faced college-level (Strasburg at San Diego State) and not-quite-big-league-material international talent (Chapman on the Cuban National Team).

 

But how does that translate further down the line?

 

Well, that's hard to say.

 

After all, despite those impressive numbers against big league material this spring, these two only have 9.2 innings of AAA pitching under their belt (Strasburg 5, Chapman 4.2).

 

Granted, Chapman hit 101 mph on the gun thrice with the Louisville Bats and Strasburg reached triple-digits once with the Harrisburg Senators (with the former racking up nine Ks to the latter's eight)...but as I said, "stuff" is not everything.

 

You have to consider their restraints, mental make-up and the needs of their respective clubs.

 

For this, consider the case of young Braves phenom Tommy Hanson.

 

Before the season, it was hype, hype, hype (as it has been for Chapman and Strasburg).


Then, the Braves waited until June (after Big Red, as Atlantans affectionately call him, 66 innings of 1.49 ERA, 90 strikeout ball at AAA) to call up their right-hander, who went on to post 127.2 innings of 2.89 ERA, 116 K baseball.

 

Think about those numbers, amazing for any pitcher, to temper your expectations a bit for the two we've been discussing.

 

That was 189.2 innings for the 2009 season for Hanson--at age 22.

 

The big wigs in Washington have already set Strasburg's inning limit at 100 for 2010, and with no real hopes for contention this season in the Nation's Capital, what's the rush?

 

He was the best pitcher in Nat's camp, yes, but they don't seem to be in a great hurry to introduce their first-overall pick to their fans (all seven of them!)...and what's going to make them?

 

I suspect he'll be on the big league roster come June, but, at that point, the innings ceiling the Nats have already set will be dwindling down, leaving Fantasy owners, maybe, 60-70 innings available for production.

 

Even if he does post Hanson-like numbers right now, you have to ask yourself a couple of questions...

 

Am I willing to sacrifice a roster spot for a 21-year old with limited innings (provided the Nationals keep their word)?

 

Am I willing to be patient from start to start and take the lumps with my rookie starter?

 

If you answered yes to both of these, then you might want to pick up Strasburg before one of your other owners.

 

And the same goes for Chapman.

 

His "limit" on his innings has yet to be officially announced, so you may get a little more flexibility in the innings department provided that the Reds, who possess a better-rounded team and may be more inclined to call up their stud-in-the-making to compete in the NL Central.

 

But, once again, Hanson-like numbers are not to be expected.

 

Yes, he's a big dude (height-wise--he's 6'4"), and yes, he is a lefty with that sick arsenal, but he's still incredibly young and wasn't necessarily spotless in international competition.

 

Last season with Cuba, even with great K numbers similar to the numbers he has posted in this small bit of professional experience, he threw 14 wild pitches and posted a plus-4.00 ERA.

 

It's a high-risk, high-reward type deal here...and with both of them, really, for this season.

 

Down the line (I'm talking 2011, 2012 and beyond), these guys have the makeup to be the next Tim Lincecums and CC Sabathias.

 

But if you're looking at this year, get your salt shaker out and get some grains--because that's what you have to take either of these guys with.

 

If you're short on pitching and are looking for a high-ceiling pick-up for your stretch run in the later part of your fantasy season, be wary of the innings and temper your expectations.

 

There's a good chance of hitting some rocks along the way, but there is also a more than solid chance of landing a low-cost pot of gold with either Strasburg or Chapman--especially in keeper leagues.

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