Matthew St-Germain

Prospects

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2008 NL West Prospects

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Prospect Contributions for 2008
NL West

  • Click here for a look at the NL Central.
  • Click here for a look at the NL East.

    In terms of 2008 production, the NL West falls squarely in between the prospect-rich NL Central, and the prospect-barren NL East, with six players who potentially could give you nice late round value, including one who could be a mid-round steal. While Andy LaRoche, our top player for the NL West, would be in a near tie with the top player in the NL East, Cameron Maybin, he has drastically less negative anchors attached to him, and would be the superior pick despite Maybin's extra benefits of stolen bases and runs. Compared to NL Central talent, LaRoche would likely rank third or fourth this season.

    And while I thought that I had made clear what the purpose of these articles were, my mail bag tells me I wasn't so good at explaining this. These are not, repeat, are NOT long-term keeper lists. If they were, Clayton Kershaw would be the far and away top choice in the NL West. However, because he doesn't figure to play in the majors this season, he would have zero impact for your team. Thus, he doesn't rate a top contributing prospect in 2008 despite his amazing long term potential, and was omitted from this article. Likewise, if you don't see someone whom you thought would be up, it's because I either don't think he will be, or that he doesn't rate as a prospect, rather he's an organizational solider, and not likely to project as a big league regular.

    While the last few years have seen an explosion in keeper and other specialty leagues, single-season leagues are still the majority. Leagues with a minor league roster, though also becoming more commonplace, are still far and away from being used by a majority. The fact of the matter is that there are plenty of lists out there documenting top 10 prospects for each team in the league and a Google search will come up with many of them. What really isn't out there is a list documenting which of these players will actually help your teams out for the upcoming season, stripped of all the upside and ceiling hype, broken down to the nitty-gritty numbers of what they'll likely produce in their rookie campaigns.

    Why is this important? Well, let me use Alex Gordon again as an example. I'm a big believer in Alex Gordon. But Gordon illustrates an important point about overvaluing hype in the short term. Gordon will likely be a great player, but it takes time for these guys to get there, most likely two to three seasons (BJ Upton is a great example of this). A season like Ryan Braun's comes around once maybe every four or five years, and even that is a very liberal estimation. More often, what occurred with Gordon is the norm, and it's important to take that into consideration come draft day, especially when you are new to the game and aren't in a keeper league. Getting caught up in the hype and drafting a prospect way too early can ruin an entire season, and more importantly hasten the creation of the universally reviled 'dead-team syndrome', which is the single biggest problem with public leagues, and why many of us have left them behind.

    So again, please understand that you are not going to see all of the top prospects in these lists, simply because many are not going to play in the majors in 2008. That does not mean I've devalued them long-term. It just means that they aren't worth drafting comparative to a player who will actually get 100 plate appearances or 40 innings and produce semi-positive results. And for those in keeper leagues, most are not advisable for you to bring up to your major league squad. It also means that when you see someone of Max Scherzer's caliber (the best player now in the Diamondbacks system) all the way down at the bottom of the last list, it's because his projected value for this season is so low/poor that drafting him would have consequences for your team, not because he's a terrible player. He will be an above-average regular in future seasons given playing time, but this year will be one of those awful ones with many growing pains, and why he should be chosen only after a laundry list of others has been exhausted.

    Andy LaRoche, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers

    The news out of Los Angeles is that Nomar Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche are going to compete for the third base job this spring training. Don't let that bit of information fool you. LaRoche is currently Los Angeles' third baseman of the future (barring a trade, of course), and even if he loses out on the job, general manager Ned Colletti has said he'd be playing on the team in some fashion. Whatever the case may be, LaRoche is going to have the best campaign amongst all NL West players if he stays in the division for the whole season. However, the prospect that he will be moved remains on the higher end of the scale if LA enters the Johan Santana fray.

    LaRoche has plus power, the ability to hit the ball to all parts of the park, and great pitch recognition. His bat speed is also superior, indicating he'll hit for both power and a high batting average. His batting eye in Las Vegas was an awesome .929 and his contact rate was an above average 84%. While that contact rate dropped significantly upon his promotion to Los Angeles(as it tends to do for most players called up from the minors), he was able to maintain an above average .833 batting eye, suggesting that he will be able to raise his contact rate significantly with more experience. He also had a staggering .280 isolated power percentage at Las Vegas, which also plummeted upon call-up, but rest assured, he'll hit more towards that Las Vegas number than the .086 isop in LA. And though he tends to get pull-happy at times, he has the ability to be a middle of the order impact bat in short-order given he gets steady major league at bats.

    What's keeping him from getting this experience is his average glove work at third base and his below-average speed. His range is poor, and while he's got soft hands and has worked hard to improve at the corner, his inability to project long term there is a major reason why Los Angeles has been looking to move him. He has been somewhat successful at playing left field at Las Vegas, and if he can improve his fielding skills, he's a lock to get plenty of at bats this year.

    448 AB, .284 BA, 15 HR, 67 R, 66 RBI, 2 SB

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