A lot of highly touted prospects begin the year in the minor leagues, but make an impact by the end of the season. If you know where to look and you are willing to be patient, you can take advantage of prospects.
For example, Jay Bruce was very highly touted coming in to 2008, but the Reds didn’t call him up until late May (probably to prevent him from becoming a Super Two player down the road). However, when he did come up, he made a big impact, smacking 21 homers. Those of you who were patient with Bruce received an infusion of power starting in late May – almost as if you acquired a power hitter for free.
Francisco Liriano is another (rather extreme) example of when patience pays off. Back in 2006, Liriano began the season in the bullpen, and many fantasy players gave up on him, despite his solid performance out of the pen. Those who were patient were rewarded with 16 phenomenal starts down the stretch. Of course, most youngsters aren’t able to perform at the level that Liriano did, but many of them can make a positive impact on your team.
The key to prospecting is figuring out what players are likely to be called up, and what players are not. For example, Jason Heyward is one of the best prospects in the game, but is very unlikely to make it to the majors this year. Meanwhile, Matt LaPorta is on the brink of a call-up, and could provide immediate value once he makes it to the show.
Furthermore, unless you play in a particularly deep league, you should understand that very few prospects may a huge impact in fantasy leagues right away. Often times even highly touted prospects fail in their first stint in the majors (remember Cameron Maybin in 2007 with Detroit?), and just aren’t worth stashing away. You have to find guys who are both on the cusp of major league action, as well as likely to have some impact when they do make it. Players like this for 2009 include LaPorta, Jordan Schafer, Tommy Hanson, Colby Rasmus, Michael Bowden, Andrew McCutchen and Dexter Fowler.
Prospects can add a lot of value to your team, but don’t get caught up in overvaluing what could be rather than what actually is.