As more trades, free agent signings and roster moves happen, I’ll continue to look at the resulting impact on prospects for the 2012 season. In this edition…
Why the Cubs’ acquisition of David DeJesus is a good thing, whether Jonathan Papelbon killed the fantasy value of a Phillies’ relief prospect and how owners are going to wind up hating Chien-Ming Wang.
1) Brett Jackson, Cubs OF
Jackson is one of the more high-end prospects on the cusp of the major leagues. Playing most of last season at 22, Jackson slashed .274/.379/.490 with 20 HRs and 21 SBs while splitting time fairly evenly between Double- and Triple-A. Ranked as Baseball America’s No. 38 prospect entering 2011, the 2009 first-rounder is not without flaws (24% career K), but he also continued to show he knows how to work the count (14% BB), and his all-around skill set — he’s considered average to slightly above-average across the board — started some whispers that the Cubs were going to call him up in September to get his feet wet.
Alas, they did not, and so now the question becomes: When in 2012 will Jackson make his debut? Entering the offseason, there was a good possibility that he could have been on the Opening Day roster, given the organization’s lack of outfield depth. But now that David DeJesus was brought in to play right field, the more likely scenario has Jackson getting another 250-or-so at-bats at Triple-A before forcing the Cubs’ hand to bring him up. Jackson will be the team’s centerfielder of the future, but without DeJesus, it would have been much easier for the team to shift incumbent CF Marlon Byrd to right, opening a spot for Jackson. Still, there’s not much in Jackson’s way, as Chicago has already jettisoned Tyler Colvin and Byrd is a likely trade candidate entering the final year of his contract. DeJesus himself isn’t exactly the kind of player who will stand in a top prospect’s path, but his presence should ultimately be good for Jackson, who could use a bit more developmental time in the minors, before he’s brought up to play everyday for good.
2012 ETA: Late May into early June seems like the perfect time.
2012 IMPACT: A must-add in NL leagues for a boost in HRs and SBs, but the BA might suffer as Jackson adapts to big league pitching.
2) Phillippe Aumont
A converted starter acquired from Seattle in the Cliff Lee trade, Aumont was the No. 11 overall pick in 2007. He’s a big, strong righty (listed: 6’7″, 255) with a hard, heavy fastball that sits in the mid-90s. Upon obtaining him, the Phils wanted to see what he could do as a starter, but after less-than-stellar results, they let him pitch out of the pen exclusively in 2011, and the Canadian-born Aumont responded with his best pro season. The 22-year-old posted a 2.68 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 13.1 K/9 — his best ever — while reaching Triple-A. In short, he looked like a future big league setup man at least, with a good shot to become a closer.
Then Philadelphia gave Jonathan Papelbon a four-year, $50 million deal that probably cuts out any chance Aumont had of earning saves on a regular basis in the near future. That doesn’t entirely wipe out his 2012 fantasy value, the possibility of Aumont becoming an in-season closer no longer exists — and same goes for his future in that role. Still, with few legitimate right-handed relievers in Philly — outside of Papelbon and perhaps Jose Contreras, if he can stay healthy — there’s a good chance that Aumont could work his way into the late-inning picture. Whether or not Aumont and fellow hard-throwing righty relief prospect Justin De Fratus (2.99 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 11.8 K/9 in 51 games at Double- and Triple-A) make the Phillies’ Opening Day roster probably depends on their spring performances, but both will pitch in the bigs next year — quite a bit, in all likelihood — just not in the ninth inning.
2012 ETA: April.
2012 IMPACT: No longer an option for saves, Aumont should still become a nice staff filler as a high-K reliever with some holds in NL leagues.
3) Brad Peacock
As I’ve written before, perhaps no prospect’s performance in 2011 was more meaningful to his long-term projection than Peacock’s. Prior to last year, the 23-year-old righty was considered a fringe back-end starter who would likely wind up in the bullpen. But after making a few minor mechanical changes, Peacock picked up a few ticks on his fastball and took off. He won 15 games to go with a 2.39 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 10.9 K/9 between Double- and Triple-A. For his efforts, he earned a pair of starts with Washington and pitched well.
Even though he’s only started nine games at Triple-A, Peacock would probably hold his own in the bigs from Day 1 next year, especially as the Nationals’ fifth starter, if used correctly (i.e., extra rest, avoiding tough matchups). In fact, even accounting for Peacock’s ups and downs, he’d very possibly pitch better than Chien-Ming Wang, who the team brought back on a one-year deal. That move indicates Peacock may begin 2012 in Syracuse rather than Washington, as the rotation currently shapes up with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and John Lannan as the top three, and Wang as the No. 4, leaving but one spot for Peacock to battle against fellow prospect Tom Milone — a finesse lefty who sported a 3.22 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 9.4 K/9 at Triple-A before making five mostly-solid starts for the Nats — and Ross Detwiler. Of course, Washington could still make good on its attempts to land a veteran free agent (Edwin Jackson?). While Peacock has the most upside of those three, that could actually work against him, as the team could choose to give him more time to develop while making use of Milone and Detwiler first. Peacock will start for the Nats at some point next year, but his fantasy value could take a hit if he gets squeezed out until mid-year.
2012 ETA: Depending on the health and success of the other Nationals pitchers, this could be anywhere from April to July.
2012 IMPACT: A spot-starting option in most NL-only leagues who could improve as the season progresses.
Jason Catania is an MLB Lead Writer for Bleacher Report who also contributes to ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Insider and MLB Rumor Central, focusing on baseball and fantasy content. When he was first introduced to fantasy baseball, Derek Jeter had 195 career hits, Jamie Moyer had 72 wins and Matt Stairs was on team No. 3. You can follow him on Twitter: @JayCat11