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Minor League Monitor: 2011 Draftees Who Could Help You In 2012

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After receiving the idea from our suggestion thread, here's a look at some of the players from the 2011 draft who could help your fantasy team potentially in 2012.

Gerrit Cole - #1 overall - Pittsburgh Pirates

Cole was drafted out of UCLA, but did not make his debut until the Arizona Fall League. Thus far, he has made 3 starts, and notched 9 strikeouts along with 3 walks. Cole will also be starting the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game on 11/5.

Right after the draft, Charlie Wilmoth over at SBNation's Pirates blog, Bucs Dugout, had this to say about Cole as a part of his updated top 30 Pirates prospects:

Reasonable people can disagree about whether (Jameson) Taillon or Cole should go first, and in fact I think most people would put Cole first, but I'll wait to see how Cole does against pro competition before putting him in the top spot. Cole had mechanical issues that needed to be resolved, which led to his less-than-stunning performance this year at UCLA. Those struggles weren't, in themselves, a great reason to draft someone like Danny Hultzen instead – ultimately, the draft is about what a player can eventually become, not what he currently is.

The thing that seems to stand out to me about Cole is that he has the potential to be a top-flight starting pitcher, but has the potential to have a much lower floor than some of the other players in this year's draft. Baseball America recently gave out their draft report card, and they ranked Cole's fastball as the best in the draft, and having the 4th best secondary pitch.

He definitely should be drafted in all keeper league formats, particularly if there is no penalty to hold them for the next couple of years. For fantasy owners, he looks like he has the potential to be a high strikeout pitcher when he reaches the Majors, but could potentially have some WHIP risk when he is first called up.

Cole is mentioned here because he was the top pick in the draft, but I don't believe that he will be in the Majors at any point in 2012. Despite Baseball America noting that they believe Cole is one of the closest to being ready to the Majors, he seems unlikely to be up simply because the team isn't likely to benefit from promoting him during the 2012 season.

EXPECTED ETA: 2013 potentially

Trevor Bauer - #3 overall - Arizona Diamondbacks

Bauer was rumored to be called up during the Diamondbacks' stretch run, but in the end the team decided to call up Jarrod Parker instead. John Sickels over at Minor League Ball had this to say about him as a part of his "Prospect of the Day" column back in August:

If you follow college baseball at all, you should be familiar with him. Bauer isn't a big guy at 6-1, 175, but he's been incredibly durable. An advocate of long-toss training, Bauer is a big fan of San Francisco Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum and uses similar mechanics. His fastball varies between 91 and 96 MPH, with movement. He mixes in an excellent curveball, strong changeup, and will add a slider and splitter, which are also solid offerings.

He experiments with different pitches, and attacks hitters without hesitation. He loves strikeouts, making him a fascist in Bull Durham terms ("strikeouts are boring, besides that, they're fascist"), but it works for him. So far Bauer has had few problems in pro baseball and is on the fast track.

If you are looking for a player who is likely to make an impact on your fantasy team in 2012, Bauer may be the best example. He seems likely to get a shot to make the rotation out of Spring Training, and I think he could very well earn that spot. Service time is unlikely to be a consideration for whether or not he would make the team, as he is already on the 40-man roster from his initial contract. He looks like he has the potential long-term to be a #1-type starter, although he probably won't do that his first couple of seasons.

Expected ETA: 2012, probably by midseason

Danny Hultzen - #2 overall - Seattle Mariners

Hultzen appears likely to need little time in the minors. He did not sign in time to make his debut in any of the full season leagues, but has been pitching in the Arizona Fall League. Thus far, he has made 5 starts, throwing 16 2/3 innings, striking out 12 and walking 4. He will also be starting opposite Cole in the AFL Rising Stars game on the 5th. 

Lincoln Hamilton over at Project Prospect had this to say about Hultzen as a part of his pre-draft scouting report:

Hultzen should need very little time in the minors. Really, I think any time he spends there is a wasted. He's good enough right now to battle in the big leagues. Hultzen's best trait as a prospect is that he has such a high floor. He could easily be the first pitcher from the 2011 MLB draft to pitch in the big leagues.

Hultzen seems like he could start the 2012 season at other AA or even potentially AAA, with an outside chance at making the Major League rotation out of Spring Training. He was also added to the 40-man roster as a part of his initial contract, so service time shouldn't have an impact for him as well.

Expected ETA: 2012, at some point during the season.

Anthony Rendon - #6 overall - Washington Nationals

Coming into the season, Rendon had been pretty widely expected to be either the #1 or #2 pick in the draft, and injury concerns appeared to cause him to fall all the way to #6 and the Nationals. Rendon was the first infielder off the board, and the 2nd position player drafted behind Bubba Starling. 

Rendon is expected to change positions to 2B, and that could be something that keeps his ascent to the Majors a bit slower. But his bat could be ready extremely soon, and may force the issue. Here's what Steve Carter over at Scouting the Sally had to say about Rendon in September:

At the plate, Rendon combines a plus hit tool, plus power, plus bat speed, plus discipline, a plus sequential swing pattern; you get the idea. In short, his bat is a buffet of bacon. 

While I don't think he is a guarantee to make his debut in 2012, he very well could hit his way there. He is expected to play at the Arizona Fall League, and I could see him starting at AA next year. At either 2B or 3B, he could very well be a top-10 hitter for fantasy purposes within a year of debuting.

Expected ETA: Late 2012 or Early 2013

Sonny Gray - #18 overall - Oakland Athletics

Gray had been near the top of a lot of draft prospect lists prior to the start of the college season, but Gray fell all the way to #18 to the Athletics. He further surprised people by signing early, and ended up making 5 starts for AA Midland. In those starts, he threw 20 innings, struck out 20 and walked 6. 

John Sickels wrote about him as a "Prospect of the Day" back in August as well, and had this to say about him:

Gray doesn't have much height for a right-hander at 5-11, listed at 200 pounds, but is a fine overall athlete with plenty of arm strength, hitting 92-97 MPH. His hard curveball is overpowering, and the potent one-two combination makes him an attractive closer candidate for many scouts. He throws consistently harder when used in the bullpen, and his command isn't always that sharp, making short outings in relief seem like a good option.

On the other hand, he's durable, and it is also tempting to see him in the future starting rotation as a possible Roy Oswalt type. He'll need to refine his changeup for that to happen. There is mixed opinion about the changeup; some observers already rate it as a solid pitch (although he needs to throw it more), but others say it is below average and needs substantial work. Even if the pessimists are correct, he certainly has the aptitude to refine it, given enough time in the minors to work on it. His personality and makeup are considered big positives, which of course would help him in any role.

I would have to imagine that the A's will continue to develop him as a starter, and only convert him to a reliever if they absolutely have to. He ended his season at AA, and I could see him starting 2012 either there or even at AAA potentially. If that happens, he could be in Oakland before year's end. He seems to me like he could be a solid starting pitcher when he does get called up to the Majors, and pitching half his games in Oakland wouldn't hurt his value either. Gray is the only player mentioned here who is not currently on the 40-man roster, so that could very well slow his ascent to the Majors as well.

Expected ETA: A cup of coffee in 2012, more likely in 2013.