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Slugger LaPorta on fast track to Majors07/07/2008 3:29 PM ET
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
Now that it's official, we can take a closer look at the fantasy fallout from the C.C. Sabathia trade.
I'll leave the big league stuff -- how Sabathia will fare in the Brewers rotation -- to others. My job, as usual, is to take a look at the prospects involved.
The biggest, of course, is Matt LaPorta. He might have as much pure power as anyone in the Minor Leagues and he's not far from being big league ready. There are mixed feelings about his defense, though that only impacts fantasy owners in terms of how quickly he might get to the big leagues. I had one scout tell me LaPorta will be fine in a corner-outfield spot, and that could pave the way for a quick trip to Cleveland. If he's limited to first base, there are some obvious roadblocks he'll have to overcome.
LaPorta has hit 32 homers and slugged well over .600 in 114 pro games, so you know his bat is legit. He also draws walks (.393 OBP), which helps offset his high strikeout totals. Some have suggested he's a three-true-outcome hitter, but I think he'll hit for better average than the usual walk-strikeout-homer type. LaPorta's .293 career average in the Minors might be a touch higher than his mark he'll produce in the bigs, but given his plate discipline, it might not be far off.
What about opportunity? Assuming LaPorta stays in a corner-outfield spot, there's not much standing in his way in Cleveland. Franklin Gutierrez is hitting .218. Ben Francisco has been more productive, but he doesn't possess the potential impact ability of LaPorta. Besides, he can play the other corner, or maybe split time with Shin-Soo Choo.
There's little for LaPorta fans to worry about at the Triple-A level with Todd Linden and Jason Cooper manning the corners for Buffalo on most days. Neither is having a standout season, and both are too old to be considered legitimate prospects. Trevor Crowe and Stephen Head have been peforming well for Double-A Akron, but that's not going to be an issue, either.
Basically, the Indians will bring LaPorta up when they decide he's ready. The question is whether or not that will be this year, and the answer may be revealed with the team's decision to let him try out for the U.S. Olympic team. LaPorta is on the U.S. roster for the Futures Game, which means he's among the candidates to be considered for an Olympic spot. If he's pulled from that list, then perhaps the Indians intend to bring him up in the near future. Of course, even if he goes to China, a September callup is still possible.
If I'm in an AL-only keeper league, I'd throw plenty of free-agent auction dollars his way. Non-keeper owners will probably want to wait to find out what happens with the Olympic team, but if you can't wait that long, then bid a few FAAB bucks for him and hope you get lucky.
What about the other Minor Leaguers in the deal? I'm glad you asked. Zach Jackson was a highly regarded prospect once upon a time, but he's had trouble getting over the hump to stick in the bigs. That said, he's only 25 and is a big, strong lefty with good stuff. If he can harness his command and get his emotions in check, he might not be a bad big leaguer, and that could even happen this year. From a fantasy standpoint, though, there's no need to worry about him unless he gets called up and you're desperate for pitching in an AL-only league. Even then, I'd look elsewhere until Jackson shows he's ready to turn his big league caliber stuff into performance at that level.
Robert Bryson is an interesting prospect who could be a real fantasy find one day. It's not going to be for a while, however, so you can store this info and revisit it a couple of years for now. Bryson's got a plus fastball that runs up to 95 mph, along with a good power slider. He's spent time as a starter and a reliever, and his long-term role is still up in the air. For now, simply keep in mind that he's 20, possesses tons of arm strength and still has a long way to go.
Bryson has enjoyed some success as a closer, and that may be his best role given that he's displayed better command in short stints. Either way, anytime a guy racks up 143 Ks in his first 109 pro innings, you take notice. I think we're talking a 2011 time of arrival at the earliest, but keep an eye on his performance, particularly next year, to see if he jumps on the fast track as a closer of the future.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.