Fantasy Prospects: Top 50 Position Players (Top 25)

Andrew McCutchen - Pirates CF

This is a continuation of the Top 50 Position Player Prospects. The following 25 players have potential to become Fantasy Baseball superstars. These rankings do not include evaluation of Defense, only the tools needed to be a great fantasy asset. To see the Top 50 List without the write-ups, click here.
Now the Top 25…

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25. Jordan Schafer – Atlanta Braves CF (9/4/86, 21 Years Old)
Much of Schafer’s prospect appeal is due to his defense, but he’s no offensive slouch by any means. If last year is any indication of Schafer’s growth path, then we may be looking at a 20-20 threat within a few years. Schafer raised his ISOP up to .264 in his 145 A-Ball PA, and kept it at a solid .183 in 484 A+ Plate Appearances. What impresses me is Schafer’s K% dropping every month last year, this shows me that Schafer is a quick learner, and was constantly maturing as a hitter as the season went on. Mark Kotsay is currently filling the huge void out in the center of the field for Atlanta, but Kotsay is coming off of back surgery and is 32 years old, Schafer should get a chance next year at the latest.
2009 Projection: .271/.331/.426 — 63 R 15 HR 67 RBI 20 SB

24. Eric Patterson – Cubs 2B (4/8/83, 24 Years Old)
At the age of 24, Patterson (brother of ex-Cub Corey) would already be an upgrade over Mark DeRosa, and he will only continue to improve. In 2007 Eric stroked 14 four-baggers, swiped 24 white bags, all while hitting .297/.362/.455 at AAA Iowa. Don’t forget this is a second base prospect we’re talking about with 20 HR-30 SB potential. Patterson may have to wait another year if Brian Roberts ends up in Chicago. Best case scenario would be for Eric to be included in a package for Brian Roberts; joining his brother in Baltimore… it all makes sense.
2008 Projection: .269/.338/.413 — 73 R 11 HR 61 RBI 26 SB

23. Mike Moustakas – Royals SS (9/11/88, 19 Years Old)
Moustakas was taken #2 overall in last June’s draft, and his agent Scott Boras has been quoted saying that Moustakas is the best power hitting middle infielder since A-Rod. However, “Moose” doesn’t exactly look like a Gold-Glove Shortstop, consider Moustakas’s position still up in the air. Ultimately it won’t matter what position he plays, he’s going to be a special hitter.
MLB Projection: — ETA 2009/2010 —

22. Brandon Jones – Braves LF (12/10/83, 24 Years Old)
Jones does not have as high of a ceiling as fellow Braves prospects Heyward and Schafer, but Jones is MLB-ready, now. The aging Kotsay, returning from knee surgery is not the long-term answer in Atlanta. The Braves have a plethora of Outfielders on their farm, ready to prove their worthiness. Brandon Jones is one of these Outfielders, and he’ll be given a shot at the big show in Spring Training. At the latest, Jones should be up by the All-Star Game. The Braves are great at developing Jones (i.e. Chipper and Andruw), Will Brandon Jones be the next great Jones for the Braves? We’ll find out this year.
2008 Projection: .267/.338/.436 — 68 R 15 HR 60 RBI 9 SB

21. Chris Marrero – Nationals LF (7/2/88, 19 Years Old)
Marrero was drafted 15th overall in the 2006 Draft by the Washington Nationals. He hit .309/.367/.420 in his Rookie league debut (91 PA) as an 18 year-old. He continued to prove himself this year, starting off in the Sally league, and sported a .545 SLG% in 222 At-Bats leading to a June call up to A+. An August slump led to some sub-par numbers, but that’s likely due to fatigue, still adjusting to the professional baseball lifestyle. This 6’3″ 210-pounder can really stroke it, and it’ll be hard for Washington to hold him back for too long. The Nats called Zimmerman up late in the season as a 20 year old, we may see the same thing this year for Marrero. Next year should we should see a full year of impact for Eli Marrero’s nephew. If you’re in a dynasty or keeper league, grab Marrero if/while he’s still available.
MLB Projection: — ETA: Sept. ’08 call up, 2009 full-time —

20. Jeff Clement – Mariners C (8/21/83, 24 Years Old)
Clement is from the great state of Iowa, where he set the NATIONAL high school home run record at Marshalltown High School (75 career Home Runs). He then attended USC, where he got nearly every award imaginable that has the word freshman or catcher in it. The Seattle Mariners then made it a priority to draft him #5 overall in 2005, and ever since then he’s been on almost every catcher prospect list made. With Johjima blocking him at catcher, it’s possible to see a Catcher/DH platoon while also spelling Sexson at first occasionally. Players that have 20+ Home Run power and are catcher eligible don’t come around all that often, this should make Clement an asset worth owning, as long as he keeps wearing the catcher’s gear.
2008 Projection: .281/.350/.485 — 64 R 21 HR 70 RBI 2 SB

19. Reid Brignac – Rays SS (1/16/86, 22 Years Old)
6’3″ Shortstops don’t grow on trees, next year Brignac will join the likes of some other great 6’3″ or near 6’3″ shortstops: Derek Jeter, Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy and Troy Tulowitzki . One thing all four of those Shortstops have in common is they’ve all had at least one season of 20+ Home Runs. It’s very likely that Brignac will see action in Tampa Bay sometime in 2009, and it won’t be long before Brignac joins the list of 20+ HR, 6’3″ short stops.
2009 Prediction: .259/.334/.439 — 71 R 14 HR 54 RBI 7 SB

18. Carlos Gonzalez – Athletics RF (10/17/85, 22 Years Old)
Gonzalez is recently acquired from the Diamondback, in the Dan Haren trade. Gonzalez is not going to be handed a free Major League job, he’s going to have to EARN it in Spring Training. Many people have compared Gonzalez to Carlos Beltran and Bobby Abreu, but I think Jacque Jones or Raul Ibanez might be closer to what Gonzalez actually becomes.
2008 Projection: .250/.292/.419 — 60 R 16 HR 70 RBI 15 SB

17. Angel Villalona – Giants 3B (8/13/90, 17 Years Old)
Can you remember what you were doing at age 14? Unless you were playing baseball against Adult baseball leagues vs. pitchers throwing in the 90s you have nothing in common with Angel Villalona. According to John Shea of the SF Chronicle, Villalona’s agent paid corporate-sponsored teams to allow Villalona to play. The players on these teams were in their 20s, and throwing 90+ mph. At the age of 16, Villalona was already built like a tree trunk (6’2″, 210 lbs) and is said by his agent to have 40 HR-40 SB seasons in his future. I give the Giants Scouting Department an A+ for being the only team to call Villalona on his 16th birthday. The Giants want to “take it slow” with Angel, but that will not be easy if Villalona’s stats catch up to his Agents big promises. Best case for Villalona is becoming the next Vladimir Guerrero. Worst case scenario is the next Pedro Feliz. Giants fans should be counting down the days until the Villalona era begins.
MLB Projection: — ETA: 2009 —

16. Fernando Martinez – Mets CF (10/10/88, 19 Years Old)
If you look at Martinez’s numbers last year, they certainly won’t be eye popping and if you’ve never heard anything about Martinez you would think this #10 rankings is absurd. Looking more in-depth, Martinez was plagued by a hand injury for most of games he played in last season, and sat out the remainder of the season. Now considering he was playing through an injury, his stat line of .271/.336/.377 in AA Binghamton at the age of 18 doesn’t look too shabby. If Fernando bounces back from his hand injury strong, don’t be surprised to see him in New York at the young age of 20. Also don’t be shocked if Fernando becomes a 100-30-100 threat for years to come.
2009 Prediction: .282/.355/.480 — 64 R 19 HR 57 RBI 7 SB

15. Matt Wieters – Orioles C (5/21/86, 21 Years Old)
Wieters was drafted 5th in the 2007 MLB Draft, after playing three years at Georgia Tech. Wieters does not have the typical catcher’s build, he stands a massive 6’5″ and weighs in at 230 pounds (very similar to Joe Mauer’s 6’5″ 220 lb frame). The Orioles are currently shopping Ramon Hernandez around the league, but nobody is biting at this time. I get the feeling that Wieters will get the mid-season call up if/when Hernandez is traded. Wieters projects out to eventually have 20+ HR power, but he’s still a doubles hitter at this point. Looking long term, there aren’t many better fantasy catching prospects, you’re going to have to give him a couple years to develop though.
2008 Projection: .254/.323/.436 — 38 R 7 HR 40 RBI 2 SB ~300 PA
2009 Projection: .265/.333/.465 — 60 R 16 HR 75 RBI 3 SB

14. Brent Lillibridge – Braves SS (9/18/83, 24 Years Old)
Lillibridge has shown surprising power for a little guy (5’11” 185 lbs), and his value will rely heavily on whether he wins playing time for the Braves. The Braves said goodbye to Renteria this off-season, so the SS job is between Yunel Escobar and Lillibridge. Yunel may hit for a better average, but Lillibridge is a slightly better Short Stop and brings the speed element to the table. Keep an eye on this position battle, because Lillibridge can make an immediate impact on fantasy teams if he’s given some At-Bats.
2008 Projection: .268/.333/.388 — 70 R 9 HR 54 RBI 30 SB

13. Geovany Soto – Cubs C (1/20/83, 25 Years Old)
If you looked at the Iowa Cubs media guide last year, then searches the field for a 230 pound catcher, you may have had problems finding Geovany Sota. Soto lost 30 pounds last off-season, and then exploded last season at AAA-Iowa, hitting an unreal .349/.418/.648, while collecting 75 R 26 HR 108 RBI!!! If Soto stays away from the Twinkies then there’s no reason not to expect a solid rookie year out of “Vany.”
2008 Projection: .275/.348/.460 — 55 R 17 HR 67 RBI 1 SB

12. Desmond Jennings – Rays CF (10/30/86, 21 Years Old)
A Knee injury cut Jennings season short last season in August, but before that, Jennings was flat out RAKING. The important thing to look at with Desmond is his ability to improve in every aspect of the game from his 2006 Rookie league stint to 2007 at Columbus. He raised his ISOP from .113 to .151, lowered his K% from 15.9% to 11.7%, raised his BB% from 8.9% to 10.3%, and raised his LD% from 10% to 16%, not to mention his AVG, OBP, and SLG all increased from 2006 to 2007. Jennings has a Hanley Ramirez-like Power/Speed combo which will make him a fantasy star as soon as he puts a MLB uniform on. With the young trio of Upton, Crawford, and Baldelli roaming the Rays outfield, it’s highly unlikely Jennings gets a call-up this year, but they will have to take a real hard look at him in 2009, especially if he comes anywhere close to repeating his 2007 stat line of .315/.400/.466
2009 Projection: .285/.345/.445 — 87 R 16 HR 55 RBI 46 SB

11. Brandon Wood – Angels 3B (3/2/85, 22 Years Old)
If pretty safe to say Brandon Wood is not going to be hitting anywhere near his .321 Batting Average of his 2005 season, but with a career .528 SLG%, 40+ HRs might not be out of the question at some point in his career. Wood’s major weakness is his plate discipline, if he can tweak his approach just a tad, he has 2007 Ryan Braun breakout potential. The second obstacle in Wood’s way is playing time. Wood made the switch a few years back to 3rd Base from Short Stop, with Orlando Cabrera out of the picture in LA, will the Angels decide to put B-Wood back in the middle? Move Chone from 3rd base? DH Wood? Use Wood as a pinch hitter? Trade him? Or none of the above? Only time will tell.
2008 Projection: .258/.336/.499 — 64 R 22 HR 74 RBI 9 SB

10. Ian Stewart – Rockies 3B (4/5/85, 22 Years Old)
The days of Ian Stewart being considered a “can’t-miss” prospect are over. Given the Coors field advantage, and the fact that he’s major league ready, Stewart will likely be worth owning and platooning when he plays at home. Last year splits for AAA Colorado Springs:
==> Home: .357/.431/.580 — 17 2B 9 HR in 207 AB
==> Away: .255/.325/.375 — 5 2B 6 HR in 208 AB
It wouldn’t be foolish to expect similar things for Stewart in 2008. Stewart should be a top 100 hitter in 2008, and a top 175 player overall, meaning he’s worth a hard look in many leagues.
2008 Projection: .278/.345/.456 — 69 R 16 HR 70 RBI 8 SB

9. Andy Laroche – Dodgers 3B (9/13/83, 24 Years Old)
Andy Laroche has nothing left to prove in the minors. In 5 seasons, Laroche has posted a combined .295/.376/.525 AVG-OBP-SLG stat line for the Dodgers organization. They gave him a shot last year, and while he only hit .226, he got on base 36.5% of the time thanks to 20 walks and 1 HBP in 114 PA. The Dodgers have said Nomar and Andy are at an even keel to start spring training while they compete for the third base job. However, Laroche will stay in the big league regardless of whether he’s the starting third basemen or not. You can expect 450 at-bats minimum this year for Laroche, which you can’t say the same for a lot of the prospects on this list. Look for the competition to raise the playing level of both of these players, and exceed expectations slightly. I wouldn’t recommend drafting Laroche until his job is secure, but he’s someone to keep an eye on if he remains on your league’s Waiver Wire.
2008 Projection: .283/.358/.451 — 64 R 17 HR 67 RBI 5 SB

8. Travis Snider – Blue Jays RF (2/2/88, 20 Years Old)
Snider is still very raw, as he should be since he’s two years removed from high school. His power is undeniable, and it’s easy to see when you realize 40% of his hits were extra-base hits. There’s nearly no chance Snider starts 2008 in the majors, but he is going to be something special. His XBH%, BB% and K% are looking very similar to the likes of other left-handed mashers: Big Papi, Hafner, and Ryan Howard… That is a good group of players to be comparable to. Snider has a chance to prove himself as an elite prospect this year, which means we could be seeing Snider in the top 5 prospects next year, or he could fall out of the top 25 prospects if he stumbles at AA.
2009 Projection: .267/.332/.445 — 75 R 24 HR 79 RBI 2 SB

7. Andrew McCutchen – Pirates CF (10/10/86, 21 Years Old)
McCutchen will get the chance to make the Pirates MLB squad in Spring Training, but they already have a plethora of outfield options, so they may not want to start the arbitration ticker quite yet. I think it would be in there best interest to start him in the majors, because he would quickly become a fan favorite in Pittsburgh and put some fans in the seats. McCutchen is a five tool fantasy player, maybe four tools if he can’t get his average up a little. Worst case scenario is the next Milton Bradley, with his ceiling being similar to Fantasy Stud Carlos Beltran. Don’t miss out on this guy if he earns a roster spot out of spring training.
2008 Projection: .277/.333/.439 — 84 Runs 18 HRs 57 RBIs 21 SBs

6. Joey Votto – Reds 1B (9/10/83, 24 Years Old)
Joey Votto barely fit my MLB Plate Appearances requirement to still be a “prospect”, but prospect is exactly what he still is. Being overshadowed by Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey as elite prospects was great for Votto’s development, because it really took a lot of pressure off him to develop. The nation got a glimpse of what Votto can do last season when he got called up for 90 Plate Appearances. In that small sample size, he hit .321/.360/.548 with 11 Runs, 4 Home Runs and 17 RBIs. I wouldn’t expect his Batting Average to stay that high, but everything else was no surprise to people who have watched him develop in the minors. The thing you need to watch is his playing time situation, the Reds re-signed Hatteberg, and it’s no secret that newly acquired Dusty Baker has a crush on veteran players. If Votto earns the full-time job then the below predictions could be exceeded.
2008 Projection: .275/.336/.470 — 69 R 20 HR 76 RBI 8 SB

5. Cameron Maybin – Marlins CF (4/4/87, 20 Years Old)
Last season Maybin got called up for the Tigers and came to the plate 52 times, sadly he only got on base 11 times while striking out 20 times! This didn’t surprise a lot of prospectors because his career 25% K rate was always a concern in many eyes. He still has as many tools as a small hardware store, he’s no Home Depot though. The Power is lacking and the Plate Discipline is no where near ready. Maybin still has the potential of the BJ Upton’s, Sizemore’s, and Granderson’s of the world, but if he can’t cut down on his strikeouts then he could be the next Nook Logan, Corey Patterson or Bill Hall. When you’re as hyped as Maybin is, another disappointing season could be devastating to his development. I think a rebound is in store, he is still only 20 years old after all.
2008 Projection: .269/.346/.434 — 83 R 12 HR 55 RBI 19 SB

4. Kosuke Fukudome – Cubs RF (4/26/77, 30 Years Old)
If you haven’t done your homework on the latest Japanese transfer, in 8 seasons Fukudome posted a 162 game average of .301/.392/.536 106 R 28 HR 94 RBI 10 SB. Fukudome can get on base like a poor man’s Ichiro, and he’s got a power like a poor mans Hideki Matsui. I think a good name for Kosuke would be “Hidekiro Matzuki.” I think we’re going to see the best Rookie season from any Japanese player since Ichiro in 2001. Best Case Scenario: Fukudome could be ranked in the top 50 at the end of the 2008 season.
2008 Projection: .292/.390/.490 — 81 R 17 HR 60 RBI 9 SB

3. Colby Rasmus – Cardinals CF (8/11/86, 21 Years Old)
Jim Edmonds being traded to the Padres means it’s Colby-Time in the STL. Rasmus will be given every opportunity to win the Center Field job in Spring Training, which will give the Cards a Duncan-Rasmus-Ankiel outfield, which would definitely be one of the youngest in the majors. This lefty has Carlos Beltran potential written all over him, a true 5-tool prospect. Rasmus was also clocked at 94 mph from the outfield coming out of high school, Cardinal fans will be saying “Jim Edmonds who?” by mid-season.
2008 Projection: .261/.334/.447 — 85 R 20 HR 78 RBI 21 SB

2. Evan Longoria – Rays 3B (10/7/85, 22 Years Old)
Longoria has eventual superstar written all over him, but his 22.7 K% during his 128 AAA PA is a little scary. At the same time, Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun’s K% was 22.7 last year, and I think he ended up doing alright. The Rays have shifted Iwamura across the diamond, and Longoria will gladly take over the third base duties. Longoria will have plenty of 30+HR 100+ RBI season’s before his career is over, but you’d be foolish to expect that his rookie year. The smarter thing to do would be expecting him to be in the Rookie of the Year race talks all year long, while also helping the Rays close the gap on the Yankees/Red Sox AL East dominance.
2008 Projection: .275/.335/.467 — 77 R 24 HR 80 RBI 4 SB

1. Jay Bruce – Reds CF (4/3/87, 20 years old)
Jay Bruce has won his fair share of awards in his young baseball career, which includes: 2nd Team High School All-American, 2007 Futures Game selection, and 2007 Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year. All those will be miniscule achievements if Bruce can live up to his potential and win Rookie of the Year in 2008. The Reds organization are ready for Bruce-time, and they proved it by trading Center Fielder Josh Hamilton to the Rangers this off-season. Bruce may not be done filling out his body yet, so Right Field might be his eventual position, but in the world of Fantasy, that’s a non-factor in most leagues.
2008 Projection: .290/.365/.515 — 89 R 28 HR 97 RBI 12 SB

photo courtesy of mlb.com, under the Creative Commons License

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