With almost a full month of the 2011 MLB marathon in the books, many young phenoms are well on their way to establishing solid returns and others are knocking on the big league door. Many of the same names appear in the rankings this week, but I've reserved the bottom half of the list for some players that are making noise down in the minors and doing their best to force a promotion. I had to say goodbye to a few guys who had disappointing weeks, but when one door closes another opens (or so they say). The newest additions to the rankings are familiar names for sure, but don't sleep on them for even one minute because they are about to blow up in a big way. Be sure to scoop these guys up as they are sure to provide immediate dividends in your fantasy baseball league.
1) Michael Pineda – Tor (LW:2)
Michael Pineda has finally proved himself worthy of the top spot in these rankings after yet another impressive start earlier this week. If you are willing to look past the fact that he is headed down the Felix Hernandez "no run support" path and discount his win/loss record, this kid is about to flash some greatness. His 2.33 ERA and WHIP that consistently hovers around 1.00 are clear indicators that this young fireballer is here to stay. With another start this Friday against a weak hitting Oakland squad, those peripherals could sink even lower.
2) Zach Britton – Bal (LW:3)
Britton is another young hurler who forces me to consistently waver in my opinion of his prospects, pun intended. A sinkerball pitcher who's value lies buried within his ability to keep the ball on the ground and out of the air, Britton leaves himself little room for error. He's been able to successfully navigate his first couple major league starts and looks to have the type of arsenal that lends itself to sustained production. His ERA and strikeout to walk splits are not going to scare up comparisons to Cliff Lee anytime soon, but if Britton can show increased polish and command he can carve out a nice niche for himself in the league.
3) Kyle Drabek – Tor (LW:1)
Kyle Drabek sustains a small drop in the rankings this week after a couple shaky starts, albeit against some great competition. His sterling ERA finally undertook that correction most thought it was due for and his ratios are starting to trend in the wrong direction as well. He has still found a way to be effective enough to keep the Blue Jays in games, but he is going to need to show that he can make the proper adjustments or some tough outings are on the horizon. He remains a viable option in fantasy baseball games, but should be monitored closely.
4) Alexi Ogando – Tex (LW:7)
Alexi Ogando is a name that may cause confusion amongst fantasy baseball owners since no one is quite clear on his future role with the team. He was tentatively scheduled to open the season as the closer in the event Neftali Feliz was moved to the rotation, but that never manifested itself and Ogando was instead inserted into the rotation himself. His last start against the Yankees wasn't all that impressive as he surrendered five runs in 6+ innings, but the Rangers maintain great faith in the youngster so his leash is rather long. A potential innings cap looms large in the future, but for now you can ride him until he falters.
5) Brandon Beachy – Atl (LW:8)
Finally we reach the young man who this weeks rankings were built around. Fresh off a dominating performance on Tuesday night against the Dodgers, Brandon Beachy is aiming to prove that his upside is most reliable of the bunch. He twirled six shutout innings in Dodger Stadium with seven strikeouts and only two walks. He scattered two hits and was never in any real danger throughout. With an advance offering of pitches and a refined knowledge of how to attack major league hitters, Beachy looks poised to do some big things this season.
6) Jeremy Hellickson – TB (LW:5)
After coming out of the gates with as much buzz and press as anyone on this list, Hellickson has really taken a step back in his development. Considering the fact that he logged almost 40 innings last season, most people had assumed he would step right in and continue where he previously left off. He hasn't exactly set the world on fire in the early going and his struggles are starting to worry many fantasy owners out there who invested heavily in him during the preseason. He simply has too much talent to be struggling for long, so show some patience and give him time and he's bound to come around.
7) Craig Kimbrel – Atl (LW:4)
Craig Kimbrel also suffers a slight dip in the rankings this week as well, but he still remains in early contention for rookie of the year honors. He blew his first save of the season on Thursday against the Dodgers, but still managed to recover and sit down four of the eight batters he faced by way of the strikeout. His talent is undeniable and his ability to post high strikeout numbers with great consistency will serve him well in the 9th inning for the immediate future and beyond.
8) Desmond Jennings – TB (LW:NR)
Here is a name that we haven't heard from in quite some time. After many were ready to anoint him the heir-apparent to Carl Crawford during spring training, Jennings promptly went out and hit .154 with no extra base hits in 26 at-bats. He was sent back down to AAA for some additional seasoning and it appears to have done him some good. He posted a .435 OBP in his first 14 games back in Durham and can rack up steals in a hurry. With the Rays outfield in flux, its only a matter of time before this talented prospect is back with the big club and contributing to fantasy baseball teams everywhere.
9) Eric Hosmer – KC (LW:NR)
Consider Eric Hosmer a name to file away for later as he doesn't figure to make his 2011 debut for another month or so, but keep tabs on him because he is for real. So long as Kila Ka'aihue continues to look like garbage at the plate, the rumblings for Hosmer will continue to mount. He is presently hitting a cool .415 down in AAA and has drawn as many walks as he has struck out. His refreshing approach at the plate has many in the Royals organization thinking he could be ready for the show sooner rather than later. Service time issues will prove to be his only obstacle at this juncture and a potential promotion looms large.
10) Mike Moustakas – KC (LW:NR)
A teammate of Hosmer's down in Omaha, Mike Moustakas has fans up in Kansas City salivating at the thought of having the corner infield positions shored up for years to come. Much like with Eric Hosmer, service time constraints stand in the way of a promotion for this young phenom, but you can expect him to make his big league debut in the not too distant future. He has already crushed two homeruns and nine RBI down on the farm and has shown great plate discipline as well. He is going to be a star.
Dropped Out: J.P Arencibia (Tor), Brent Morel (CWS), Lonnie Chisenhall (Cle)