Finding Ryan Braun
Remember in 2007 when Ryan Braun won almost every fantasy league in America for the
asshole owner who added him? Man, that sucked. He hit .324 with 34 homers and 97 RBI. O ya, he also scored 91 runs and stole 15 bases. In 113 games. He was a beast. Watching the minor leagues and looking out for players tearing it up with an opportunity at the big club is imperative to winning fantasy leagues. If you can find the next Ryan Braun, you’re almost guarenteed to take home your league title. There’s a few guys with the potential to be Braun this year, given their tearing up the minors and open spots at the show, they should be up sooner rather then later.
There’s way more than just 5 of these guys with talent and the potential to dominate leagues, but it’s important to narrow them down. You don’t want to be that owner who picks up a Single-A guy and keeps him in lieu of using that roster spot on an otherwise valuable player. (Note: I’m omitting Steven Strasberg and Aroldis Chapman, because they’re probably already owned in a lot of leagues.) Here’s my top 5:
5) Justin Smoak (1B) – Oklahoma City (Texas Rangers)
Fool me once Chris Davis, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. So shame on me, I guess. Davis sucks again to the tune of a batting average settling at the Mendoza line, 0 homers, and an RBI. The Walker Texas Rangers are not set on keeping Davis in the order, considering he’s shown absolutely no promise in his short time in the major leagues. Smoak, meanwhile, is burning up the Pacific Coast League and should see some MLB time soon. He’s hitting .326 with 2 homers and 5 RBI early in the season, and has walked an impressive 16 times in 64 plate appearances (25% of all his PA’s). Texas has been higher than Ron Washington on Smoak, so expect them to jump at the chance to promote him following Davis’s perpetual suckiness. He doesn’t have the upside that makes teenage girls and Jay Bilas swoon, but he could definitely help a fantasy team when he arrives.
4) Jesus Montero (C) – Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (New York Yankees)
The heir to Jorge Posada’s throne has been hitting pretty well so far this year, but really showed his skills in Double-A last year. In 44 games at Trenton he hit .317 with 9 homers, and played some solid defense as well. So far this year, he’s been good as well, hitting .295 with 2 homers with Scartonicity. This dude can hit the cover off the ball, with Baseball America calling his best attribute “Power.” The homers are pretty impressive considering how few games he’s played (11 so far with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) and the average is above par. If Posada gets hurt, he’s guarenteed to see some time, even with Francisco Cervelli playing well. Defense hurts him, but eventually the Yankees aren’t going to be able to ignore that bat. Grab him if your in a keeper league, but if you’re not just make sure to pay extra attention to him. He could hit 15 homers in half a season, especially in that Yankees lineup.
3) Buster Posey (C) – Fresno (San Francisco Giants)
Buster is already hitting the ball at a major league level; unfortunately, his defense ranks around 4th grade. He hit so well in the Spring that the Giants were discussing just finding places for him in the order. Bengie Molina is having a great year (maybe justifying an 8th round pick in my draft) so they’re going to need to look elsewhere to find a spot for Posey. Hello, 1st base. Luckily, Aubrey Huff is hitting .268 with 1 homer and Travis Ishikawa isn’t a good baseball player. Posey will get AB’s at first soon, while getting games at catcher to give Molina’s elderly knees days off every now and then (they need time to catch the early bird special at Country Kitchen Buffet). If your league makes a player eligible at a position after 1 start, he’s even more valuable. It’ll probably take a little while for him to get catcher eligibility in some other formats. Regardless, he can hit. He’s hit .328 in 2 seasons at Triple-A. Keep an eye out.
2) Desmond Jennings (OF) – Durham (Tampa Bay Rays)
This guy is the reason the Rays front office (they could not be reached for this column, but a source from inside their ivory tower told me to “get off of [his] lawn”) are fine with letting Carl Crawford walk after this year. They may even trade him. Crawford stole 60 bases last year, that should show how much they love Jennings. In 32 games with the Durham Bulls last year he hit .325 with 15 steals, and is hitting .286 so far this year with 3 steals. He’s getting on base more then 40% of the time, so we know he can let a bad pitch go. He seems ready to play and should be in Tampa sooner rather than later. The second anyone in that outfield gets so much as a hang nail, he’ll be brought up. Expect about 20 or so steals with an average around .290 assuming he gets to the majors by early June.
1) Carlos Santana (C) – Columbus (Cleveland Indians)
Sure, he teamed with Rob Thomas for a music revolution, but Santana can also rake. Not only is he a catcher in a system that lacks a good big league backstop, but he can hit the silly Woodstock mustache off the ball. At Double-A Akron last year, he hit .290 with 23 homers and 97 RBI. So far with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers (former Yankee greats), Carlos has hit .364 with 4 homers and has been solid defensively. Combine that with Lou Marson hitting .080, or as it’s more commonly known, less then half the Mendoza line, and it’s obvious that we should expect to see Santana soon. He may be the first one of this group in the majors. If he isn’t owned and you need catcher help (which, thanks to Miguel Montero and Mike Napoli, is a slightly higher number than usual), pick him up.
Note the abundance of catchers. In a few years that position is going to be stacked. If you watch these 5 guys this year and make sure to pounce on them as soon as the moment is right, you’ll be in luck. They’ll at least be slight difference makers, and one of them may be a game-changer and win you your league. Then you can be that
asshole owner with the so-called lucky pickup raking and dominating opponents.
‘Til next time, keep the bat on your shoulders.