The Cardinals system is in a relatively fallow period, but one underestimates their development system at his own peril. We talk to pitchers Sandy Alcantara and Junior Fernandez.
Background: The St. Louis farm system is not what it once was. After several years rated as one of the best systems in the game, featuring impact talent at the top, supplemented by seemingly endless depth, most experts see the Cards’ system as having few in the way of potential stars and thin in the way of depth. Back in 2011, when the Cardinals’ A-ball affiliate was in Quad Cities, it won the Midwest League title with a roster that included Kolten Wong, Greg Garcia, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist, Trevor Rosenthal, and the late Oscar Taveras.
The Padres outfielder has seen his once-electric tools diminish, but is he still a significant fantasy asset?
Matt Kemp, out of Midwest City High School, was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth round of the 2003 MLB draft. Upon debuting in 2006 (his age-22 season), Kemp hit the ground running as an impact fantasy baseball player. He proved to be a speed and power threat from the start, hitting seven home runs and stealing six bases in 166 plate appearances in 2006. An early season shoulder injury and a subsequent 39 game stint in Triple-A limited Kemp to 98 games played in 2007, but his potential as an impact five-category player was on full display as he roto-slashed .342/10/47/42/10 (AVG/HR/R/RBI/SB).
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A mediocre second half might have fantasy players down on the Rays righty, but there's plenty of upside for him to tap into.
Player Background Jake Odorizzi was selected by the Brewers in the supplemental round with a pick that was gained from the loss of Francisco Cordero. Taken out of high school, the then-18-year-old was described in his first Annual comment as “extremely athletic and projectable.” He made enough of a name for himself over the next couple of seasons to be included as part of the package that sent Zack Greinke to Milwaukee. Odorizzi continued his progress in the Royals’ system, finding himself on BP’s Top 101 prospect list in each of the four years after the trade, with one year in the top 50. Of course, he would eventually find his way out of the Royals’ system after yet another trade for an All-Star pitcher, this time being sent to Tampa Bay as part of the much-maligned James Shields swap. Fast-forward to present-day, and he’s no longer than young, projectable pitcher. He has two full seasons as a Ray under his belt, and enters this season being selected as the 43rd starting pitcher in NFBC drafts.
Mookie Betts has received ample attention from the baseball blogosphere in recent years, as he’s the embodiment of many sabermetric fantasies. He displays patience at the plate. He doesn’t strike out much. He hits for average. He hits for power at a premium defensive position. He is above average defensively. He’s also dangerous on the basepaths. All of that resulted in a five-win season as a 22-year-old.
The White Sox outfielder could be an underrated fantasy asset, particularly if his power gains are real.
Eaton was selected in the 19th round (571st overall) of the 2010 draft by the Diamondbacks out of Miami (OH) University. His ascent through the minors was rapid, as he hit .348/.448/.499 in 1,576 plate appearances, reaching the majors in 2012 and appearing in 22 games. In 2013, he suffered a left elbow strain in spring training that kept him out of action until July and limited him to 26 minor-league games and 66 major-league games. In his age-24 season, Eaton hit .252/.314/.360 with three home runs and five stolen bases in 277 plate appearances at the major-league level. The Diamondbacks apparently had seen enough of Eaton’s act, as they shipped him to the White Sox in December of 2013 as a part of the three-way deal that also included Tyler Skaggs being sent from Arizona (to the Angels) in exchange for Mark Trumbo. Eaton suffered a variety of leg ailments in 2014 that sent him to the disabled list in May and held him to 123 games of action. He was productive while healthy, hitting for a .300 AVG, getting on base at a .362 clip, and adding 15 stolen bases. Eaton’s .281 TAv equaled Yoenis Cespedes’ (among others) and placed him in a tie for 107th among hitters.
The Reds infielder's multi-position eligibility, including shortstop, could make him an underrated fantasy asset.
Suarez was signed out of his native Venezuela by the Tigers in 2008, and spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons as a part of Detroit’s Venezuelan Summer League squads. He posted a .311/.389/.396 line in 261 plate appearances in 2010 before coming stateside to the Gulf Coast League to start the 2011 season, where he was moved up to the New York-Penn League after just 12 games. Playing his age-19 season in the NYPL, Suarez hit for a .749 OPS with five home runs and nine steals in 229 plate appearances, before being moved up to the Midwest League for the entirety of the 2012 season, where he put himself on the prospect map by hitting for a .288 AVG and showing strong on-base skills (.380 OBP), walking in just under 11 percent of his 603 plate appearances while adding six home runs and stealing 21 bases (in 30 attempts). His breakout campaign placed him at no. 9, in Jason Parks’ eyes, among a relatively barren Tigers system at the time. His 2013 season began in the Florida State League, but he only stuck around for 25 games, hitting for a .311 AVG before his promotion to Double-A Erie, where he spent the remainder of the year and the start of the 2014 season. In 153 games at the Double-A level, Suarez hit for a .261/.336/.417 line with 15 home runs and 16 stolen bases (in 29 attempts), while walking nine percent of the time. After his strong start at Erie in 2014, he moved up to Triple-A Toledo for 12 games and was promoted to Detroit after Jose Iglesias’ season-ending injury.
Can the Redbirds third baseman put it all together to become an elite fantasy asset?
For the better part of three years, Matt Carpenter was saddled with the unfortunate label of being “more valuable in real life than in fantasy baseball.” This is one of many articles that utilized the phrase. He proved to be one of the premier hitters in Major League Baseball—in terms of plate discipline, approach, and batting average—but that didn’t necessarily translate to standard fantasy leagues because it didn’t come with average power production.