This time around, we're getting fringier with the $1 options, profiling a pair of flame throwing pitchers who may or may not get an early call up in 2011, and a recently traded center fielder.
Let's start with that latter character.
Cameron Maybin: The Padres recently acquired Maybin for a pair of nice relievers, Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb. As Dave Cameron pointed out in response to the trade, the former Top 10 prospect's game has one serious hole, a career Major League strike out rate of 31.4%. For a gap power center fielder, that kind of strike out rate caps his potential at league average while limiting his fantasy potential to waiver wire spot starter. Dave Cameron also pointed out the reason why we're thinking about spending our last dollar on him—strike out rates below 20 percent in 490 AAA plate appearances over the past two seasons.
Even with an improved strike out rate, Maybin doesn't figure to be terribly valuable in a 12-team fantasy setting. He should be assisted by playing about 99 games in Petco, Coors Field and Chavez Ravine. Spacious settings like those can be kind to players with Maybin's gap-power skill set. In leagues with a center field slot, Maybin is a useful back up option. Leagues without the center fielder designation will find less use for Maybin, but he can provide decent value if you play the match-ups. Average, home runs and RBI will be problem categories—but so long as he's only spot starting. He'll make up for his shortcomings by scoring runs and stealing bases.
Jarrod Parker: The Diamondbacks' top prospect spent the majority of 2010 on the shelf, recovering from Tommy John surgery. What little time he did spend on the mound came in the instructional league, where scouts were impressed with his recovery and work ethic. Reports indicate that his stuff is close to pre-surgery form, making a call up in 2011 likely. The Diamondbacks are short on depth in the starting rotation behind Daniel Hudson, Ian Kennedy, and Joe Saunders making Parker's recovery from injury the only barrier to earning a regular turn.
Scouting reports indicate that Parker has the potential to provide an ace-quality presence in Diamondbacks' rotation. He features a fastball that has reached as high as 98, a sharp slider and a developing change-up. As a fantasy asset, Parker could provide the full package. He has the ability to get plenty of strikeouts thanks to stuff that can overpower opposing hitters. He should also make fair contributions in ERA, WHIP and wins. He might prove prone to the occasional stinker. As Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein recently said, "Parker throws strikes, but at times too many, as he'll often groove pitches down the middle instead of working both sides of the plate." The other risk with Parker concerns the timing of his call-up. As long as he remains healthy and effective, an early June nod seems likely, though it's also quite possible Parker's debut gets pushed back to 2012. Even as a $1 investment, he could prove to be a bit of a reach in non-keeper formats. He's probably most useful in a roto league with a tight innings cap. The chance that he could break into the league and provide impact-level statistics makes him a more attractive investment than most other $1 pitchers.
Michael Pineda: Seattle's top prospect is in line for plenty of Major League action in 2011. Like Parker, Pineda has spent his fair share of time on the trainer's table, although an entirely healthy 2010 leaves hope that the injury bug is in the rear-view mirror. Pineda flashed brilliant stuff last season in AA and AAA, striking out 154 over 139.1 innings while walking only 42. His fastball is his best pitch, occasionally reaching triple digits, while he also has a good slider and a developing change-up. He will compete for a rotation spot in spring training. Seattle lacks the depth to block Pineda, but they may find an excuse to start him in AAA—if only to push back his service clock. He should find his way onto the roster by mid-April.
From a fantasy perspective, Pineda could wind up as a huge late-round selection. He's a guy who can rack up tons of strikeouts while limiting walks—and by extension—ERA and WHIP. Safeco and Seattle's focus on defense should prove helpful, too. Considering that Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez only managed 13 wins last season and the Seattle offense isn't expected to improve, there's a good chance Pineda won't be helpful in the win column.
Right now Pineda is looking like a $1-5 investment. A few factors could change between now and draft day. First, it would not be surprising if Pineda starts catching some serious hype from prospect analysts and fantasy mavens. Thus far, the obscurity of Seattle and an injury shortened 2009 have conspired to keep him out of the limelight, but a dominant spring training outing or two could change that. The other factor is that low walk rate. Sometimes pitching prospects of Pineda's ilk spend too much time over the plate. This type of issue typically takes a few turns to adjust, so it's not a major concern—it's just something to keep in mind when setting your lineup in April.
Brad Johnson likes it when people comment on his stuff. If you have any general questions, you can reach him at pitchin432 AT yahoo.com. He's also happy to answer any fantasy related questions. You can also follow him on twitter @baseballATeam
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