Fantasy Future: AL West

Martin Perez after he was traded from the Rangers to the World for a day.


In the just released BA Midseason top 50 (plus Jim Callis' additions here) you'll see some Rangers, you'll see some Mariners, you'll see 1 just called up Angel, and 0 A's.

In the AL West, you can see the biggest youth movement over the last two years coming in Seattle, with the core of the future of the lineup nearly all in the big leagues now and an influx of pitching talent coming through the pipeline.  However, the Rangers can't and won't be overlooked. 

Texas features 4 of the top 34 prospects and with Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz each already having 3 years of major league experience under their belts at under-25-years-old, they could be good for a very long time. 

The M's will try to combat that with pitching and defense and hopefully enough hitting one day.  The Angels will try with a few big drafts and deep pockets.  The A's, of course, will try with "Moneyball" and trades in a constant youth movement.

I think the M's and A's can hang up their cleats for the rest of the season, neither being able to score enough runs for their respectively excellent pitching staffs.  However, because of the A's savvy, and the Mariners featuring 2 Cy Young candidates, I still believe this is the most wide open division in baseball every year.  That has a lot to do with their youth, their prospects, and their future.  Let's get on with it...

Texas Rangers

Top Player to Debut in 2010: Alexi Ogando, SP

A lot has been written about Ogando this year, and the All-Star has turned into the ace of a pitchin staff that needs an ace since Cliff Lee's departure.  The major concern will come down to how well he holds up during the stretch run.  He logged a career high 72.1 innings last year and is already at 104.2 innings this season. 

Save for his starts against the New York teams, Ogando has been fantastic.  His overall numbers now look like this at the break: 2.92 ERA, 78:32 K:BB, 1.01 WHIP, 9-3 record, 3.51 FIP, 3.70 xFIP.

There's no reason to believe he won't continue to have a good career or a bright future, other than the usual concerns with pitching, but fantasy owners may want to walk on egg shells as the year wears on and the innings add up.

The Next Ace?: Martin Perez, LHP

Perez came in 6th for Jim Callis and 10th for Keith Law in the midseason lists.  The 20-year-old lefty is now in his third season at AA Frisco, having made 44 starts there.  This year he is 4-2, 3.16 ERA, 83:36 K:BB ratio in 88.1 innings.  He was super young for AA two years ago, and he's still very young for the league.  Still, a trip to AAA seems appropriate now that he's learned AA and a September bullpen callup doesn't seem out of the question. 

He currently own a plus fastball that sits in the low-90s but can reach 96, a plus curveball, and a potentially plus change-up.  He could be more of a worm-burner than a strikeout king at the major league level, and at just 20 he could still be a few years away from truly reaching that potential. 

Best SS Prospect in the Game?: Jurickson Profar, SS

The current top SS prospects are Hak-Ju Lee, Manny Machado, and Profar.  How you order those 3 is up to your discretion.  I believe Machado to be the best, but how long he sticks at short is the question.  As for Profar, the question is how the Rangers will deal with a problem every team would love to have: 2 amazing young shortstops. 

Profar ranked 74th by BA going into the year, but the 18 year old shot up to #12 for Jim Callis at mid-season.  This article at Rotohardball declares him the best SS prospect in the minors. 

Profar is hitting ..268/.379/.493 in the Sally league with 9 HR and 11 SB.  He walks 12.8% of the time and strikes out just 11.5% of the time.  It would be interesting to see if the Rangers would be willing to flip Profar in a deal for a starting pitcher, not unlike what they did with Justin Smoak and Cliff Lee last season.  It's tough to let go of someone who could be so, so good, but the Red Sox probably don't regret trading away Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett.  Risk is part of the game. 

Fast Riser: Leonys Martin, CF

Martin is a Cuban defector just signed this year.  After receiving a $5 million bonus, he would need to prove a worthy investment for the Rangers.  Its still early in his career, but he hit .348/.435/.571 in AA and is 4 for his first 9 in AAA.  I'd say the transition is going pretty smoothly.  He stole 10 bases in 29 games, but was caught 8 times. 

Martin is 23 years old already and could see the majors as early as September and probably at least get a taste of the bigs next season before the Rangers have to make a decision about Julio Borbon and his career OPS+ of 81. 

A Future Stud Rotation?

Below are a few more names you need to keep an eye on, as Martin Perez isn't alone as a top pitching prospect for the Rangers.  Yes, I just said that: Top pitching prospects for the Rangers

Barret Loux, RHP

Loux was so injured in 2010 that the Diamondbacks said "Psh... we don't want you!" after drafting him 6th overall in the draft.  Loux didn't cry about it, he went out and auditioned for other teams and the Rangers were the ones that happily signed him.  They're even happier now and the D'Backs should be the ones cryin'. 

8-4, 3.29 ERA, 108:25 K:BB ratio in 90.1 innings, 82 hits and 3 HR allowed.

Robbie Erlin, LHP

The 20-year old Erlin has joined Martin Perez in AA as a barely legal.  The southpaw destroyed Myrtle Beach, in 54.2 innings he allowed 25(!) hits, struck out 62 and walked just 5.  AA has been slightly more challenging (3.70 ERA, 48:6 K:BB ratio in 48.2 innings) but still excellent. 

Neil Ramirez, RHP

Ramirez was the 44th overall selection in 2008.  He's broken out this year in AAA Round Rock to the tune of 82:32 K:BB in 71.2 innings, 63 hits allowed.  He could be in the rotation full-time sooner than any of the other pitchers.

Robbie Ross, LHP

Ross gets overshadowed by the rest of the group, but he's still a fine prospect.  At 22 and in high-A, he'll need to re-produce his success at higher levels, but as a left-handed starter, he's still very valuable.  In 321.2 career innings he's posted an ERA of 2.99 and a BB/9 of 2.2. 

Cody Buckel, RHP

Jeremy just recently mentioned him in the Minor League Monitor.  A 2nd round pick last season and just barely 19 years of age, Buckels season numbers are outstanding: 57.2 innings, 45 hits, 72 Ks, 16 bb's, 2.03 ERA.  Just another one to watch. 

The Rangers collection of arms in 2011 easily challenges the Royals collection in 2010.  I didn't even mention former top picks like Tanner Scheppers and Kasey Kiker who have disappointed so far.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Top Prospect to Debut in 2011: Mike Trout, OF

It has happened.  Trout has reached the majors, even if its just for a cup of java.  I, for one, do not welcome our new fishy overlord.  Mariners sad-face :(

Okay, seriously, this guy is really good.  He's got more potential to display all 5 tools than any prospect in the minors or any young player in the majors. 

At 19 years old he is owning AA, hitting .324/.415/.534, 12 2B, 11 3B, 9 HR, 28 SB.  His ceiling is that of a top 5 fantasy player, someone who can rack up total bases, stolen bases, hits, runs, average, and anything else you like.  Carl Crawford might be a poor mans version of Mike Trout.  There, anymore praise you want you stinkin' Angels fans?

Top Pitcher to Debut in 2011: Tyler Chatwood, SP

Chatwood has spent pretty much all season with the Angels. The results are very Kyle Drabek-esque: 17 starts, 52:52 K:BB ratio in 99.1 innings, but Chatwood has lucked into a 3.62 ERA.  He has a 4.39 FIP and a 4.82 xFIP.  He's only 21 years old, and could develop into a good #3 starter, which for the Angels has always meant 20 wins, a top 5 Cy Young finish and a really, really lucky ERA. 

Top Infield Prospect: Jean Segura, 2B

Segura got his name on the map with an outstanding 2010 season and BA named him the #57 prospect going into the year.  He stole 50 bases in 130 games with 46 XBH.  Moved up to high-A Inland Empire this year, the 21 year old hasn't quite repeated that performance, hitting .276/.343/.428 with 3 HR and 18 SB in 37 games.  Speed is still good but the average and power have taken a hit.  Segura is still a very good prospect, even if he didn't take the huge leap forward everyone was hoping for.

2010 First Round Pick: Kaleb Cowart, 3B

The Angels had 5 picks in the 2010 first and supplemental rounds, with Cowart being the top pick out for the Angels in that draft.  Because of it still being way too early to evaluate last years draft, and because the Angels have graduated many of their top prospects this year, the system is sort of in a state of flux.  We don't really know how good, or how bad the system is, when you subtract Mike Trout.  Cowart has a chance to become the top prospect left in the farm though once Trout officially graduate.

Its only 22 games in, but the 19 year old is hitting .404/.44/.551 in the rookie league with 2 HR and 4 SB.  Because of the shallowness of the system, and if he can keep his hot start going, Cowart will be one to watch over the next couple of years.

2010 Supplemental Pick: Taylor Lindsey, 2B

The Angels went very young with their picks last year.  While not every player is having success out of those 5 (Chevez Clarke is currently hitting .119) Lindsey joins Cowart as an early success in the Pioneer league.  He's hitting .379/.407/.598 with 3 HR and 5 SB in 19 games.

Seattle Mariners

Top Player to Debut in 2011, Part One: Dustin Ackley, 2B

I love, love, LOVE me some Michael Pineda, but we'll get to him later.  I wrote a lot about Dustin Ackley back in May, and between May and June, Ackley start to put everything together and go from "People are underrating the value of a decent-hitting second baseman" to "This guy is going to be a star." 

It didn't take long for Ackley to assume the #3 hitter role in Seattle, and whether that's just a condemnation of the Mariners awful lineup, or admiration for how good Ackley is, it was just clear that at this time Dustin is the best hitter Seattle has.  He easily looks like he could hit .300/.400/.490 during his peak, with potential for a few years where he just does a bit more.  Stolen base totals should stay between 15 and 30 depending on the manager and how much Ackley decides to run.  I think HR totals will be in a similar range.  I think early indications that Ackley would hit "10 HR" simply because of his small stature, look a little silly right now.  It's not that Ackley hits home runs in bunches or anything, but he's hit some of the hardest and furthest home runs the M's have seen all season.  The ball flies off of his bat.  I think he's well on his way to a top 5 fantasy 2B.  (I'm trying to be as unbiased as possible, I promise.  If it helps, he's still no Mike Trout.) 

Top Player to Debut in 2011, Part Two: Michael Pineda, SP

It would have been nice to see Pineda get a few days off, but hey he's a rookie All-Star so that's pretty cool.  The half-season leader for AL ROY, Pineda has flat out dominated at times with his plus-plus fastball.  It's not just velocity, which still sits in the mid-to-upper 90s, but Pineda's fastball even appears to come faster than that, which has allowed him to dominate both righties and lefties, something that many experts didn't believe he'd be able to do this early. 

Batters are hitting .198/.269/.315 against Pineda this year and he doesn't really show any significant splits in that regard.  Though deeper in the numbers, there's some evidence that lefties are doing better than righties against lefties, the 22 year old is still doing amazingly in his first big league trial.

Pineda will probably pitch another ~70 innings and then call it a season.  Plan for that.

Top Player to Debut in 2010: Justin Smoak, 1B

Smoak debuted for the Rangers first, then debuted for the Mariners after the Lee trade, then debuted for the Tacoma Rainiers after those debuts didn't go so well.  He looked like he was putting it all together this season, but has been in a horrendous slump. 

Smoak had a .933 OPS on May 16th, and it looked like the M's finally had a middle-of-the-order hitter who was at the start of his career.  However in his last 51 games he's hitting .194/.275/.344, and is dropping down the M's batting order.  To be dropped down in THAT lineup, is about as bad as it gets. 

Far too early to give up on Smoak, as he has already displayed that he can show major league plate discipline and power, but this is just an ugly time in his career.  Give the switch-hitter time, he could be a good buy-low candidate next year.  It's an ugly time for all Mariners hitters except for Ackley.

Fastest Riser: Taijuan Walker, RHP

Walker has jumped on BA's list from NA to #38 after an impressive start to the season.  The M's were without a first round pick in 2010, but used their supplemental selection at 43 to take the raw high school product.  Most people weren't sure what to think of Walker, and many described it as a "reach" though others felt he had enough upside to justify the selection.  It certainly looks justified now as Walker is working with a plus fastball, a potential plus curve, and a developing change-up.  Already way ahead of his years at 18. 

Walker has thrown 71 innings in single-A Clinton, 90:28 K:BB ratio, 47 hits allowed, 2.66 ERA. 

Over his last 5 starts he has struck out 45 and walked 14 in 33 innings.  He may get a promotion later in the year, but there's no rush and the M's may choose to have Walker skip high-A High Desert. 

Other Fast Rising Pitcher: James Paxton

A first round pick by the Blue Jays in 2009, Paxton did not sign and that allowed the M's to grab him in the 4th round last year.  I personally did not know what to expect, other than hearing other people say he was very good.  But he was coming out of the independent leagues after being ineligible at Kentucky, so I wanted to wait for results.  Okay, thanks, love the results.

At Clinton Paxton threw 56 innings, struck out 80, walked 30, and posted a 2.73 ERA, 2.38 FIP.  He did skip High Desert and is now in AA Jackson where he's made 2 starts.  Last night he struck out 11, walked 1, and gave up 3 hits. 

I expect Paxton to begin next year in AAA Tacoma if all goes well and Walker to take his spot in Jackson.  Paxton could see time with the M's next year and Walker probably following in 2013.  None of this takes into account 2011 #2 pick Danny Hultzen if he signs, in what could form a devastating rotation if all goes right.  Of course, all rarely goes right and I think Seattle fans will be excited if just 1 of these 3 prospects develops into what we want. 

Top Hitting Prospect: Nick Franklin, SS

Franklin came into the year as BA's #53 prospect as he hit 23 HR and stole 25 bases as a switch-hitting 19 year old shortstop in the Midwest League.  Overshadowed by Mike Trout (rightfully) and Wil Myers (less rightfully) Franklin was superb, but we wanted to see if he could improve on his splits, take it to the next level, stick at shortstop, and continue to hit for power. 

Those concerns weren't exactly alleviated at High Desert, a place he would have been expected to explode with offense.  He hit .275/.356/.411 in 64 games, 5 HR, 10 2B, 5 3B, 13 SB.  Not bad, but still disappointing.  Still, he was promoted to AA Jackson, perhaps to get him out of a skewed hitting environment anyway, and he looked great through 4 games (9 for 15, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 SB) but a freak accident by an errant bat in batting practice has knocked him out for the past 3 weeks. 

Franklin has the potential to be a top fantasy shortstop, but he's still in the developmental stages.  I don't think there are questions as to whether or not he sticks at short. Ackley is solid at 2B and not moving anytime soon, and Franklin won't be moving to third base as far as anything I have ever heard.  He possesses an above-average bat at the position and is a great long-term keeper in dynasty leagues.

Oakland A's

Top Prospect to Debut in 2011: Jemile Weeks, SS

If the A's built the model or started the trend of "Moneyball" and placing emphasis on things like defense, OBP, and pitching, then they're starting to fall behind teams like the Rays that can actually do it successfully these days.  While the Rays have a bevy of top prospects and talented major league players with less than a few years of experience that will cost them cents on the dollar, the A's farm system is weak overall and they have had a hard time covering their losses with injuries at the major league level.  That's what makes players like Jemile Weeks so important. 

Not much has went well for the A's prospects or young players lately; Brett Anderson and Michael Ynoa undergoing the knife, your top SS becoming your top CF, some epic failures from the top prospects in your organization.  So you can only hope that Weeks, a good but not yet great prospect coming into the year, really has developed into an above-average second baseman. 

Weeks, brother of Rickie, is hitting .319/.354/.420 in 35 games with 10 SB, 0 HR, 8 2B, 3 3B.  His 115 OPS+ is the highest on the team, which is good for Jemile, but more of a condemnation of the offense as a whole. 

That SS Turned to CF: Grant Green, OF

Green was the 13th overall selection in 2009, with the potential to become a nice hitting shortstop.  Something we all know is rare to find.  He hit .318/.363/.520 with 39 2B and 20 HR last season, but it was in the Cal League and he was an experienced college hitter.  He came into the season ranked "just" 63rd by BA and scouts wanted to see him get better as he advanced.  Unfortunately for A's fans he is hitting .284/.347/.393 with 4 HR in 82 games and was just recently moved off of SS and into CF. 

If he could hit decently at SS, that would be great for fantasy owners.  If he hits the same line as an outfielder, that crushes his value immensely. 

One Bright Spot: Michael Choice, OF

Choice was the 10th overall selection in 2010 and displayed good power in his debut, hitting 7 HR and slugging 587 in 30 games.  However, he struck out 35.5% of the time which caused scouts to have pause before declaring him a top prospect. 

This recent article on BA speaks about how the A's were able to get Choice to change his swing this season and the results have been nothing short of incredible.  After striking out 30.2% of the time in April, that number dropped to 27.8% in May, then 19.5% in June, all the while his power remained steady: he hit 13 HR in May and June combined with an ISO near .250.  However, his July has been amazing: 9 HR in 68 AB's, .456 ISO and a 21.9% K-rate.  If Choice can keep a strikeout rate in the low 20's while displaying this kind of power, he will become a top prospect worthy of the 10th overall selection.  He is playing in the Cal League though and a promotion to a less hitter-friendly environment will be the true test.

Top Pitching Prospect?: Ian Krol, LHP

With Ynoa undergoing Tommy John, and Tyson Ross graduating to the majors, Krol could be the top pitching prospect left in a system known for amazing pitching prospects in the past.  Until Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill are traded away for more pitching prospects (only half-kidding) Krol might be the best one left.

Something that won't be ignored is what recently put him in the news: an anti-gay slur tweet that got him suspended by the A's.  This isn't the first time that Krol has gotten himself into trouble either; he was suspended his senior year of high school for violating team policy and he's had several questionable tweets. 

As far as pitching goes, the results last year were great: 138.1 innings, 116 hits, 111 K's, 28 BB's, 2.80 ERA across two levels including the Cal League as a 19 year old.  John Sickels pre-season described Krol as "a future fourth starter" who would make up for velocity with polish.  He had already missed most of this season with an elbow injury before he was suspended.  This will most likely be a lost season for the young lefty.  Something not uncommon to Oakland prospects if you couldn't tell.

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