Monday, May 02, 2011

Minor League Survey - National League West Version

Up and coming players from the minor leagues can be the key to success in both start-over and keeper leagues.  Whether as a key contributor this year, a potential dump chimp to a team rebuilding for next year, or a keeper for your own rebuilding plan, these players coming up during the course of the season can change the landscape in your league this year and for years to come.

Over the next couple of weeks, we'll move from division to division, touching on some top prospects that may or may not help you this year, as well as some non-prospects that might come up and populate your free agent list.   Keep in mind that several of these players are likely already kept in your deep National League-only leagues with reserve lists and minor league systems.

Today, we start our tour of the minor leagues with the National League West, including a couple of friends from the Pacific Coast League…the land of inflated OPS, crazy power, and poor MLEs.

San Diego Padres:
Rizzo does not turn 22 until August 8, 2011, but someone forgot to tell him that 20 year old players do not put up these kind of numbers, even in the PCL.  Rizzo is sporting a 1.260 OPS a month into the season, and the calls are already sounding loudly for a call-up.  Most encouraging sign so far: a 14/11 K/BB.  He is only 2-10 against left-handed pitchers in the minors, so we will see how he handles left-handed pitching once he gets to the majors.  Rizzo is certainly improving upon his very nice season in the Eastern League last year, and appears major league ready.

San Francisco Giants:
Belt did not make the same transition to the majors that Buster Posey did last year.  Of course, Posey had the luxury of starting the season in AAA, whereas Belt made the team straight out of camp.  Since returning to AAA, Belt is putting up a 1.579 OPS.  Yes, you read that right.  He will be back to the majors soon enough, and is still the best major league ready hitter in the Giants system.

Los Angeles Dodgers:
Robinson is a solid prospect with tools galore.  He improved his plate discipline last year, though he still struck out over 100 times.  Given that he projects as a lead-off hitter, the strikeouts and the steal percentage (71%) are of concern.  He is off to a pretty quick start in AAA this year, though his MLE OPS equivalent is only .765 right now.  I expect Robinson will spend most, if not all, of the season in AAA, particularly now that Jerry Sands is already up.

Arizona Diamonbacks:
Spring training saw much hand-wringing over the combination of Allen, Juan Miranda and Russell Branyan.  Of course, we all predicted that Branyan would be the best of the three so far this season.  Allen, apparently, did not appreciate the demotion, as he is sporting a mediocre .768 OPS in the PCL.  His plate discipline is good, but he is not hitting for power.  I suspect that Allen will be up again later in the year, but his PCL performance is beginning to make me nervous about his long-term success.

Colorado Rockies:
Blackmon is only a C+ prospect, but he is off to a very nice start this season: 6HR, 21RBI, 5SB, 1.065 OPS.  This translates to an .872 MLE in Colorado, nothing to sneeze at if and when Blackmon hits your free agent wire.  We could see Blackmon at some point later in the season if the Rockies need a boost off the bench or if there is an injury.  Ryan Spilborghs has not really been lighting things up off the bench.

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