It's the time of year when fantasy owners are building and piecing together their rosters, whether it is through drafts, trades, or free agency. In deep dynasty leagues, the household names will be off the board quickly, and as drafts conclude, the owners who have knowledge of the lesser-known prospects will have a huge advantage. Many of the players listed here go undrafted, and are unowned even in very deep leagues. The value of these prospects may be much lower than it will by this time next season. I see them as great sleepers. Here's 2009’s first wave of deep dynasty fishing fliers:
Randall Delgado, RHP - 2/9/1990, Rookie, Atlanta Braves:
Signed out of Panama in 2006, Delgado has a projectable, young arm with plenty of talent, although he is quite a bit away from the big show. Delgado spent the 2007 season in the Dominican Summer League where he was exceptional over 45.0 innings (2.74 FIP). The DSL, however, is known for its pitching and many young pitchers put up stellar numbers there only to collapse against more advanced competition. This was not the case for Delgado, who was great in the Appalachian league in 2008. In 69.0 innings, Delgado walked 10.3%, and struck-out 27.7%. Delgado will likely start 2009 at Low-A Rome – he could return to Danville in order to sharpen his command. If his command does improve next year, Delgado is the type of pitcher who could be a fast riser among prospect lists.
Hector Gomez, SS - 3/5/1988, High-A, Colorado Rockies:
Gomez was a highly touted shortstop out of the Dominican Republic when he signed with the Rockies in 2004. He sparkled in his pro debut (.379 wOBA in rookie ball), and followed that up in 2007 with a solid year as a 19-year-old at Low-A Asheville. Last season, Gomez suffered a stress factor in his left shin, and had Tommy John surgery while rehabbing causing him to miss the majority of the season. Before his injury, Gomez was a youngster with speed and emerging power, but also plate discipline issues. If he can make adjustments in 2009, he could put up big numbers in the hitter-friendly California league. Keep an eye on Gomez early in the season, because if he is healthy, he should continue from where he left off.
Deryk Hooker, SP - 6/21/1989, Low-A, St. Louis Cardinals:
A 2007 7th rounder, Hooker spent 2008 between the Appalachian and Midwest leagues and was very impressive at both stops. Following his 2007 debut where he shredded the Gulf Coast League (8.4 BB%, 35.9 K%, 1.92 FIP in 31.0 IP), Hooker was similarly dominant in the Appalachian League in 2008 (7.9 BB%, 31.1 K%, 2.65 FIP in 42.2 IP). Upon his arrival to full-season ball, Hooker's rates took a hit (6.5 BB%, 19.4 K%, 3.80 FIP in 22.1 IP), but he was solid nonetheless. Standing 6-foot-4, Hooker has many of the qualities you look for in a young pitching prospect, including improved command, and the ability to strike batters out at an above-average rate. All things considered, Hooker looks like a strong bet to be a solid pitching prospect going forward.
Jason Motte, RHP - 6/22/1982, MLB, St. Louis Cardinals:
Jason Motte was selected in the 13th round of the 2003 draft as a catcher. After being converted into a pitcher in 2005, Motte took a some time to get adjusted but has since dominated at every stop. In 2008, Motte started at Triple-A Memphis, where he struck out 110 batters (37.9%) over 66.2 innings. Following his promotion to the majors, Motte continued where he left off (7.5 BB%, 40.0 K%, 1.02 FIP) albeit in a limited 11.0 innings pitched. Heading into 2009, Motte has a chance to battle for the unclaimed closer role in St. Louis. With his blazing fastball that averaged 96.6 MPH in the majors (40 TBF, data source: fangraphs.com), expect Motte to at least be an electric setup man next year.
Wilin Rosario, C - 2/23/1989, SS, Colorado Rockies:
The Rockies have done a great job signing Latin pitchers, and with Wilin Rosario they may have found the guy to handle all of these arms. Signed out of the Dominican Republic, Rosario has improved tremendously from 2007. During that debut season, Rosario put up an unspectacular .209/.283/.206 line in 127 plate apperances in the Pioneer league. Repeating the league in 2008, Rosario achieved dramatically better results, posting a .316/.371/.532 line in 287 plate appearances for the Casper Ghosts. By cutting his strikeout rate by 10.4% and improving his isolated power by .129 in 2008, Rosario took a turn toward becoming a very intriguing catching prospect. He's certainly someone to keep a close eye on as we head into the 2009 season.
Gaby Sanchez, 1B - 9/2/1983, AA, Florida Marlins:
A 4th rounder from the 2005 draft, Sanchez had always been a consistent minor league performer. In 2008 he was as good as ever. Over 556 plate appearances in Double-A Carolina, he had a .411 wOBA and struck out only 12.4% of the time, while walking at the exact same rate. The Marlins rewarded Sanchez' fine campaign with a late-season callup. The first base situation in Florida has not yet played itself out, and Sanchez has a chance to receive a good amount of playing time. Should he continue to impress, Sanchez could find himself as an everyday player and become a pleasant surprise to the fantasy owners who took a shot on him. Just note that he doesn't hit for as much power as most first basemen.
William Smith, LHP - 7/10/1989, SS, Los Angeles Angels:
The Angels made Will Smith their 7th round pick in the 2008 draft. Smith has saved the world from alien attacks on several occasions, but had yet to have a sufficient track record as a pitching prospect. Err, wrong guy, my bad. This Will Smith had one of the best debuts of any 2008 draft pick. Over 73.0 innings in the rookie Pioneer league, he posted an incredible 12.7 K/BB ratio (2.0 BB%, 25.5 K%). Obviously command is his major strength, and relying solely on command does not always bid well for the future. It is important to note that this 6-foot-5 left-hander is only 19 years old. With his ability to throw strikes at will, Smith could be a fast-riser in the Angels system.
Casper Wells, OF, 11/23/1984, AA, Detroit Tigers:
Casper Wells was selected in the 14th round of the 2005 draft by the Tigers. Generally, not much is expected from players taken that late, and Wells’ debut season (.280 wOBA) was typical from a late-round draft pick. He repeated the New York-Penn league in 2007 and made improvements (.359 wOBA), but his age-related-to-level led many to consider him nothing more than organization depth. Wells started 2008 in the Midwest League, where he held his own (.352 wOBA), but he broke out after his promotion to Double-A (.404 wOBA in 313 PA). The Tigers recently added Wells to their 40-man roster, and there may be an opening for him to scoop up some MLB playing time in the near future.
Brett Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.