Sleeper Prospects for 2010:
Everyone knows about the top rookies and prospects for 2010: Jason Heyward, Buster Posey, Desmond Jennings, Neftali Feliz, Stephen Strasburg, etc. But every year some players come up from the minors and perform unexpectedly well at the major league level, with Andrew Bailey and Chris Coghlan excellent examples from last year. Today I want to point some light at some of the lesser-known rookies who could experience success in the majors in '10.
Scott Cousins, OF, Marlins
The 25-year old Cousins has some speed, some power, a good glove, and hits right-handers well, making him a candidate to sneak in some at-bats as a platoon player should the Marlins need an additional outfield option.
Allen Craig, OF-INF and David Freese, 3B, Cardinals
Now blocked by Matt Holliday in left field, Craig is working out at third base and will challenge Freese for playing time at the hot corner. Both Craig and Freese have strong bats; Freese has received more notice and is a year older than Craig at 27, but neither of them have anything left to prove in the minors.
Sam Deduno, RHP, Rockies
A candidate for a mid-season promotion, Deduno is a 26 year old with a 95 MPH sinking fastball and a good slider. The Tommy John survivor needs some Triple-A polish, but his stuff is first class and if his command sharpens he can surprise.
Michael Dunn, LHP, Braves
Acquired from the Yankees in the Vasquez trade, the 24-year old Dunn has a 90-95 MPH heater and dominates lefties. His control needs work, but if he throws sufficient strikes he could help in the Atlanta pen quickly.
Sam Gervacio, RHP, Astros
What Gervacio did in August and September (2.14 ERA, 25:8 K:BB in 21 innings wasn't a fluke: he has good stuff and a deceptive delivery. The 25-year old could get a chance to close games if circumstances allow.
Cole Gillespie, OF Diamondbacks
A solid all-around player, Gillespie turns 26 in June and doesn't have much left to prove in the minors. He has some power, some speed, and a polished approach at the plate that should make a transition less difficult than for many other players.
Josh Judy, RHP, Indians
A well-kept secret, the 24-year old Judy fanned 63 in just 49 innings in Double-A last year due to a 90-95 MPH fastball and a hard slider. He looked great in the Arizona Fall League, and could be a surprise bullpen reinforcement for the Tribe this summer.
Brad Kilby, LHP, Athletics
Like Sam Gervacio in Houston, Kilby looked great during a major league trial last year (0.53 ERA, 20/4 K/BB in 17 innings) and it wasn't a fluke. The 27-year old has average stuff but a very deceptive style. He could be a fine source of filler innings and positive WHIP.
Matt Maloney, LHP, Reds
The 26-year old Maloney has two good seasons of Triple-A under his belt and nothing left to prove there. Positives include a terrific K/BB ratio and durability. Negatives include a high home run rate and a small margin of error. With some luck he could be a league-average starter.
Tommy Manzella, SS, Astros
Turning 27 in April, Manzella could earn a starting job as the Houston shortstop this spring. His glove is very good and he has some speed, but his power is marginal and he won't be a huge offensive force. Still, if he holds down a regular job he'll have value, at least in simulation contexts.
Daniel McCutchen, RHP, Pirates
Another 27-year old, McCutchen showed excellent command in Triple-A and held his own in six major league starts. He projects as a league-average inning-eater, similar to Maloney but a right-hander. He has a great feel for pitching and could be a surprise.
Bradley Meyers, RHP, Nationals
While all eyes will be on Strasburg this spring, a rookie like Bradley Meyers could sneak in unexpectedly. The 24-year old has average velocity on his sinker, but throws strikes and changes speeds well. He needs some Triple-A experience but could contribute sooner than expected.
Edgar Osuna, LHP, Royals
A 22-year old from Mexico, Osuna was picked up by the Royals in the Rule 5 draft out of the Braves system. His velocity is average, but he throws effective breaking stuff, knows how to pitch, and could contribute some useful innings as a fifth starter or long reliever.
Fernando Perez,OF, Rays
Perez turns 27 in April. He missed almost all of '09 with a wrist injury, but his blazing speed and willingness to draw walks could make him an attractive reserve if he has a hot spring. He won't hold Desmond Jennings back long-term, but he's worth a flier in the back end of a fantasy draft.
Chris Pettit, OF, Angels
This 25-year old outfielder had a solid campaign in Triple-A last year and will be looking for a spot on the Angels bench. He swiped 18 bases in 20 attempts in Triple-A, and has some sparks of power in his bat as well. He hustles like crazy and is a favorite of coaches.
Josh Roenicke, RHP, Blue Jays
Although Roenicke is already 27, he has more upside than most pitchers trying to get established at his age, due to a heater clocked as high as 96 MPH. He also has a good cutter and slider, and even a marginal improvement in his command would make him a relief force.
Rusty Ryal, INF, Diamondbacks
Ryal is expected to earn a spot as a utility infielder this spring and has more power than most similar players. At age 27 he's entering the prime window for a performance spike. If enough playing time comes his way, he could surprise.
Ben Snyder, LHP, Rangers
Selected from the Giants in the Rule 5 draft, Snyder is a 24-year old lefty who threw much harder when used in relief last year compared to his previous seasons as a starter. He'll get a fair shot to make the Rangers bullpen as a short relief option.
Mitch Talbot, RHP, Indians
Talbot was blocked in Tampa Bay, but the Indians traded Kelly Shoppach for him in December and the path is clearer in Cleveland. The 26-year old has done well at every level of the minors, throwing strikes with slightly above average stuff. He has a chance to pull a Randy Wells-like surprise.
Donald Veal, LHP, Pirates
Now 25 years old, Veal was horrible as a Rule 5 pick last year, but rebuilt his mechanics and looked excellent in the Arizona Fall League, regaining the 90-95 MPH fastball and strong breaking stuff he showed in the Cubs system. If he throws strikes this spring, he could be a major surprise.
Casper Wells, OF, Tigers
Although the 25-year old Wells doesn't have the same prospect pedigree as newly-acquired Austin Jackson, Casper has talents of his own including good power, solid average tools, and a strong work ethic. A strong spring could get him to the Show sooner than anticipated.
Lance Zawadzki, INF, Padres
A sleeper prospect, the 24-year old Zawadzki draws walks, steals bases, and has underrated power in his bat. He looked good in the Arizona Fall League, and should the Padres need a middle infielder, he's a good candidate to sneak into some playing time.
Article first appeared 2/16/10