If you play in an NL-only baseball league or a deep mixed league, you definitely should know by now who Ryan Shealy is. A first base prospect blocked by Todd Helton, Shealy has simply destroyed minor league pitching in recent years. In his first taste of Triple-A, he hit .328 (.393 OBP, .601 SLG) with 26 home runs and 88 RBI over 411 at-bats for Triple-A Colorado Springs, leading to a short big-league promotion in which he hit .330 (.413 OBP, .473 SLG) with two home runs and 16 RBI over 91 at-bats with the Rockies.
Since Helton obviously isn't going anywhere, Shealy knew that the only way he'd get a chance to play this year would be to learn a new position. Many considered that improbable -- he's a bulky 6-foot-5 -- but he's done his part by dropping 15-17 pounds and showing up to camp weighing 235 pounds.
Shealy knows that he lacks experience, but he's put in a lot of work with the coaching staff to prepare him for a corner outfield spot in Coors Field. From the Denver Post:
"I haven't been out there in a game yet, ever, in my life," said Shealy, dripping with sweat after chasing down flyballs during batting practice. "But with the stuff that Davy and I have worked on, it doesn't seem to be that big of a transition. Any way I can make this team or help this team, I'm all for it."
At 24, Jeff Baker is two years younger than Shealy and is more likely to put in another year at Triple-A. He doesn't have quite as much power as Shealy, but remains a fine hitter in his own right.
While Shealy as a high-upside fantasy reserve is a good idea, it's important to realize that he's only going to get a chance to play if one of the guys in front of him either gets hurt or fails to hit. The team also has high hopes for Brad Hawpe, who started off hot before tailing off in his first full season. From the Denver Post:
Pegged for platoon duty last season, Hawpe took over for an injured Dustan Mohr and performed well, hitting .295 with eight home runs and 39 RBIs at the all-star break. Then, the wheels, or wheel, fell off.
A severely pulled hamstring sabotaged his season. He managed just one home run, with eight RBIs, in his final 26 games.
"No excuses," Hawpe said. "It's not like I had a great year and I can rest on that. I have things to prove to myself, to the league. I want to show that I am a winning player and part of a winning team."
The best course of action would probably be to target Hawpe as a starter and Shealy as a reserve, provided you can get Hawpe in the right spot and not pay a draft-day premium for snagging a young Coors Field hitter.
Notes: Slimmer Shealy feeling confident [MLB.com]
Slimmer Shealy tests the outfield [Denver Post]
Hawpe's expectations soar with home runs [Denver Post]