Matthew St-Germain

Prospects

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2008 NL Central Prospects

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Prospect Contributions for 2008

Taking chances at the end of your draft is what makes or breaks a season. Every team will draft a bevy of stars at the top and usually only injury derails these picks. The successful teams not only get the top picks they want, they also excel at drafting well at the very end of their drafts. And while they're not always picking prospects here, understanding and noting what these type of players will do for the upcoming season is of the utmost importance when putting together your own cheat sheets.

Second and third year players are the ones who usually show the most growth and value (see James Shields' 2007 campaign), and are your best late round fliers, but we're taking a closer look at the prospects for this coming season, as this is the list where most late-round draft mistakes are made, and these overvaluations prevent owners from obtaining more productive players. And unfortunately, because the pedigree is so high with some of these guys, it becomes difficult to cut bait with a future superstar in the midst of a horrible struggle (see Alex Gordon's 2007 campaign).

Please note that the order of these lists assumes a non-keeper 12-team mixed league, and not long term keeper value. We're focusing on the most common league that the majority of people play, and that is the redraft league. This is a seven-part series, breaking down each individual division, and finally presenting individual combined lists for mixed redraft, AL-only redraft and NL-only redraft, as well as a mixed league keeper list to see where all these guys stand for the future.

* Kosuke Fukudome is not listed here because Japanese or any other experienced foreign players coming over aren't necessarily 'prospects' per se, rather, they're more like 'special free agents.' If he was included here, he'd easily be #1, and he'd also be #1 for this season on the final list, if that helps at all. Other foreign 'special free agents' will be handled separately as well.


NL Central

Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
Joey Votto was thought to be the safer bet (due to an open job) of the Reds position players coming into this season, until Cincinnati picked up their option on Scott Hatteberg. Votto will now compete for the first base job come spring training, and considering Hatteberg's poor defense (as evidenced by a .675 RZR rating and only twelve out-of-zone plays) might not be such a bad risk as one might assume considering Votto's so-so glove work.

Votto has above-average bat speed and strong wrists which allows him to hit for power to all fields. While he doesn't project as a .300 hitter, he also won't become Adam Dunn II, most likely hovering around .280 with extended at bats. He's much more patient at the plate than fellow teammate Jay Bruce, striking out 18.8% of the time while walking 12.8% (compared to Bruce's 23.5% and 7.8%) while also posting a slightly better contact rate (78% versus 74%), which also had been rising at every level. He's not much of an athlete, and while he did do a serviceable job when given time in left field last year, he still projects as somewhat of a defensive liability, meaning his bat has to produce for him to stick. Comparative bat-wise to Hatteberg, however, he's a huge upgrade despite whatever slumps may come.

While the likelihood of Votto starting the season in Louisville remains high because of the Hatteberg resigning, Wayne Krivsky knows he needs more impact bats in the Cincinnati's line-up if they are to compete. A platoon isn't likely as both players struggle against left-handers, meaning the writing is on the wall for Hatteberg. His bat is essentially empty outside of his high on base percentage, and his negligible speed negates much of that value, while Votto actually possesses solid enough base path instincts to have stolen 17 bags at Louisville last year.

Long term, Jay Bruce is the much better bet between the two prospects (and is number one in all of the minors in terms of keeper leagues), but for this season the likelihood that Votto eventually wins the first base job outright and gets 100-200 more at bats than Bruce, combined with his more advanced plate coverage and contact rate gains, makes him the top choice. He's a perfect candidate for a late-round flier when you also consider the park he'll call home.

465 AB, .280 BA, 20 HR, 64 R, 71 RBI, 12 SB


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