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At the Dish
Fantasy Baseball Player Prospecting: Drew Hutchison, Anthony Rizzo, Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong

Fri Apr 20, 2012 1:01am
By Chris Hadorn

Your fantasy baseball rankings look a little stale. KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Player Prospecting series highlights the exploits of minor league baseball players, including top MLB prospects. Find out who'll make an impact, whether it's in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball game next week or in your fantasy baseball keeper league two years from now.

In selecting their fifth starter, the Toronto Blue Jays are thinking outside the box by handing the ball to Drew Hutchison, a Double-A hurler with only six games pitched above the Single-A level and no appearances logged in Triple-A.

Chicago Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo
Rizzo looms

Hutchison is a control artist who has gone 18-9, with a 2.49 ERA a 246:57 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and has allowed six homers in 234 2/3 career innings since entering the minors in 2010.

In three starts at Double-A New Hampshire this year, Hutchison was 2-1, with a 2.16 ERA and a 12:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 16 2/3 stanzas.

Looking at the numbers, there's not much to nitpick about.

The 21-year-old is getting this opportunity because he has shown admirable pitching aptitude for his age. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound righty draws acclaim for his ability to pinpoint his fastball. In addition, he also throws a quality changeup and a slider that could become a third plus pitch.

The one real knock on Hutchison is that his fastball lacks the velocity (88 to 93 mph) of an arm at the top half of a rotation.

There's a lot to like here about Hutchison's long-term prospects because he has shown advanced feel for the craft. He projects as a No. 3 starter.

Based on the lack of upper-minors experience though, Hutchison is a risky play in the short term, even in AL-only formats. There are times when Hutchison is going to get too much of the plate with his strike-throwing habits, and he simply doesn't have the giddy-up on his fastball to compensate.

Bottom line, it's a big jump for Hutchison, and some early growing pains should be expected.

For keeper leaguers in deep formats, though, Hutchison is a promising second-tier pitching prospect and is worthy of an aggressive bid.

***

The Chicago Cubs faithful are getting restless after a 3-10 start and are already clamoring for the club to call up 1B Anthony Rizzo. Last night in Triple-A Iowa's 4-3 loss to Albuquerque, Rizzo enjoyed his third two-homer game of the season. In 56 at-bats, Rizzo is batting a robust .393 with seven home runs, 16 RBIs, 13 runs scored and a 1.219 OPS.

Despite the torrid start, Cubs general manager Theo Epstein said yesterday that neither Rizzo nor CF prospect Brett Jackson (.871 OPS at Iowa) are close to a promotion.

***

The St. Louis Cardinals are loaded with prospects with promising fantasy futures. Two of their finest ones, outfielder Oscar Taveras and second baseman Kolten Wong, were assigned to Double-A Springfield this spring, an aggressive promotion for both of them.

Taveras, 19, jumped high Single-A after leading the Midwest League last year with a gaudy .386 batting average. Taveras has an uncanny ability to make consistent contact with the barrel of the bat. Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, a former Cardinals executive, once referred to Taveras as a guy 'who will sell tickets in the future.'

Despite skipping an entire level, Taveras' bat hasn't slowed down as he is currently batting .340 with two home runs, 12 RBIs, five runs scored and a .974 OPS in 53 at-bats with Springfield. Not a walk machine, Taveras has only drawn one free pass thus far, but he's a Vladimir Guerrero type who is never going to be much of a patient hitter. But who can complain with a .323 career batting average and a .504 slugging percentage?

Selected with the 22nd overall pick of the 2011 draft out of Hawaii, Wong jumped the high Single-A level, too, after he hit .335 with five homers, 15 doubles, 39 runs scored and nine steals in 194 at-bats with low Single-A Quad Cities in 2011.

The 21-year-old has made a seamless transition to Double-A as he holds a .356 batting average, a .442 on-base percentage and a .600 slugging percentage through 45 at-bats. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound keystoner is an above-average athlete who has two steals and three triples. He shows an advanced grasp of the strike zone with more walks (6) than strikeouts (5).

Wong is a multi-faceted contributor who has a chance to be a four-category stalwart in fantasy baseball with home run power being his weakest trait, but he still has the makings of developing into a 10- to 15-homer guy.

So far, Wong has shown that he can develop into a perennial All-Star at the second base position.

Wong and Taveras could reach the majors by September this year, but expect the Redbirds to hold off on starting their time clocks until April 2013 at the earliest.