Have you ever seen the video of the squirrel/chipmunk water-skiing? If not, it is pretty self-explanatory. Why is it so much more entertaining than watching a person jet-ski? Because sometimes it just more fun to see the non-pros do it. Same thing for Dancing with the Stars. No one wants to see the pros, they want to see the guys they know doing something out of the ordinary. We are no different at OTC. Sometimes he like to hand the keys to the Ferrari over to the kid with the learning permit or turn a baseball article over to our NBA guru. Ross Geiger was on his Spring Training Cactus League grind this week and, like any fan, saw some things out of guys that impressed him. Without further ado we hand the keys to the MLB Ferrari over to NBA guru Ross Geiger:
1. Aroldis Chapman- Cincinnati Reds- Pitcher
From all the hype to the gold chain that hangs around his neck, Chapman has it all to justify a top 5 worthy selection without even throwing a pitch (or in the Reds’ case, signing a $30.25 million dollar contract offer). But after getting a chance to see the kid pitch on Wednesday, he indeed has the special stuff. High velocity fastball, nice movement on his slider, and an effective change-up to mix up the pace; with a little polishing and exposure Chapman has what it takes to become a top pitcher in the MLB.
2. Mat Latos- San Diego Padres- Pitcher
Sky is the limit for Latos, continue to make solid strides in pitch count and location and there’s no reason he couldn’t be the Padres top pitcher in 2011. Luckily for Latos, he’ll be given plenty of opportunities in San Diego under caution of pitch count and many of his mistakes can be covered up in Petco Park. Latos has a lethal demeanor on the mound and has the upmost confidence in his abilities, he’s definitely on the right track.
3. Buster Posey- San Francisco Giants- Catcher
Solid, solid, solid. Only way to describe the young man behind the plate, Posey has great plate discipline, has that “pop” in his swing, and is solid defensively. As the Bengie Molina era wraps up, Buster Posey begins to settle in and takes over where Molina’s prime years left off. All-Star caliber player in Posey.
4. Alcides Escobar- Milwaukee Brewers- Shortstop
While the hitting isn’t quite there, the defensive abilities are so good and so important to his team’s success, Escobar is worthy of this slot. Escobar has abilities that are hard to find, not to mention teach. But it’s important to stress defense at this point of his career, the Brewers are filled with a starting pitching staff that don’t account for many strikeouts, Escobar’s defensive abilities are that much more valuable.
5. Chris Dickerson- Cincinnati Reds- Outfielder
While some may see him becoming the odd man out on Opening Day, I’d like to argue otherwise. Over the past week, Dickerson has made a strong case for the starting job in right field. Dickerson’s speed, strength, and stick have impressed me over the past few games I’ve seen him play and see him complimenting the other hitters around him in the Reds’ lineup.
6. Carlos Santana- Cleveland Indians- Catcher
Just as smooth as the legendary guitarist, Santana will slowly but surely make his way into the major leagues this year for the tribe. He’s solid behind the plate and displayed his quick throw down to second, making base runners victims. His bat is what really will help him receive an early call up, Santana has a nice, smooth swing that very consistent and most importantly effective.
7. Kyle Blanks- San Diego Padres- Outfielder
Size, stature, and power are among the most common words associated with protection, San Diego say no more as Blanks provides that essential protection for the Padres’ Adrian Gonzalez. Frustration defines the past few years for the Padres superstar as he’d routinely earn a walk and rarely ever step across home plate. Blanks has the talent that make him very capable of not only protecting Gonzalez, allowing him to cross home plate more often, but could help keep Gonzalez playing at home in San Diego.
8. Matt LaPorta- Cleveland Indians- Outfielder/First Basemen
The highly regarded top prospect sent over in the Brewers’ C.C. Sabathia deal continues to make steady progress and could blossom as early as this season as a member of the Tribe. LaPorta displayed exceptional plate discipline which is special for such a young talent with high expectations. While LaPorta tends to be labeled an outfielder, he will see more time at 1st base this season.
9. Elvis Andrus- Texas Rangers- Shortstop
Speed is a dangerous thing, this Rangers’ shortstop has every little bit of speed required to be a nuisance on the base paths. While the young speedster continues to improve his consistency at the plate, once on base he’s a sight to see. Andrus will be a key role player in crossing the plate when on base with the many powerful bats around him in the lineup. Fantasy owners take note of his runs scored and steals this season.
10. George Kottaras- Milwaukee Brewers- Catcher
This past offseason the Brewers and catcher Jason Kendall cut ties as Kendall signed an contract offer from the Kansas City Royals. Thus leaving Milwaukee without a true starting catcher. While folks let me be the first to say that Kottaras is their opening day starter behind the plate. The young prospect will get plenty of opportunity to show he’s worthy of the honor and should get the majority of the time over long time veteran Gregg Zaun. Keep Kottaras on your radar this season for a “fantasy call-up”.
11. Neftali Feliz- Texas Rangers- Pitcher
With virtually two pitches, Feliz makes on looking hitters swing foolishly at his stuff. With a fastball reaching the triple-digit mark consistently to go along with a very effective breaking ball, Feliz will be very successful on the hill if he can consistently hit his spots. Midway through spring training, Feliz and C.J. Wilson are still in battle for that 5th slot in the starting rotation. While Feliz seems like a much more attractable prospect as a reliever, he may end up earning that 5th spot. Either way the young man has some nasty stuff to keep an eye out for.
12. Gio Gonzalez- Oakland Athletics- Pitcher
A variety of pitches and consistency helped pave Gio’s 12th slot in the rankings after watching him pitch a great four innings of baseball against the San Francisco Giants. Gonzalez could be anywhere from the A’s top starter to their 3rd starter in the rotation. If he continually keep his pitch count down early on into games, he easily could become a pitcher that can give you a handful of quality starts this year.
13. Drew Stubbs- Cincinnati Reds- Outfielder
While my vision on Stubbs could still be blurry, I can almost guarantee a 20/20 from Stubbs. It’s not out of the question to say that this young prospect could hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases for the Reds this season. At the end of last year Stubbs was typically the leadoff hitter, if given that slot again, I don’t see why 20/20 couldn’t happen for the youngster.
14. Wil Venable- San Diego Padres- Outfielder
Wil’s got skills and it’s only a matter of time until those skills unfold into everyday activity. Venable is slowly starting to find that balanced approach at the plate and already has shown off the leather shagging down balls in right field. He’ll continue to make strides this season, definitely a notable prospect that will be given opportunities to develop in the majors.
15. Justin Smoak- Texas Rangers- Outfielder
After watching the ball leave his bat as it sailed over the right field fence, this no question Smoak was going to be given some love in the Top 20. Already a prospect with power, Smoak should find a few situational spots as a pinch hitter later on into the year.
16. Darren Ford- San Francisco Giants- Outfielder
He may stand well below six foot, but Ford’s speed is almost unmatched. The young centerfielder already shows the ability to put the ball in play making him a threat and a little improvement in his swing could be his major league call up. Ford has a bright future in the major leagues as he continues to develop his skills around his speed.
17. Nick Weglarz- Cleveland Indians- Outfielder
There aren’t many teams that offer are a better fit for Weglarz. He’ll be provided plenty of opportunities at the plate and in the field. Though the prospect has a long ways to go in becoming solid, he definitely shows us glimpses of what could be….
18. Wilken Castillo- Cincinnati Reds- Catcher/Infielder/Outfielder
Watching the Cincinnati Reds play three spring training games, I noticed something pretty special, Wilken Castillo can do it all. I saw Castillo play behind, in the infield, and the outfield. He’s young, he’s quick, and he’s versatile, what’s not to like about this type of prospect.
19. Lorenzo Cain- Milwaukee Brewers- Outfielder
Cain has the physique and speed that noteworthy in Spring Training action. While he struggled at the plate, he displayed some solid defensive plays out in center. It’s too early to tell much but Cain showed enough to grab my attention.
20. Luis Durango- San Diego Padres- Outfielder
I’m going let my colleague Patrick McWeeny take this one…
I do not know if Luis Durango drives a Dodge Durango, but the police had better get that license plate number because if he ever starts to hit-and-run he could cause havoc for opposing pitchers. However, for now it looks like the speedy Durango will only be getting the occasional speeding violation as he currently could not hit a pee-wee pitcher out of the infield. Durango is a thrift artist for now, but if he ever gets around to hitting anything, there could be a warrant out for “Breakout Player”.