Thursday, February 8, 2007

Story Of The Day Part I: Top Young Hitters for 2007

This is our story of the day top young preformers to step up big in 2007 from Fox Sports.

1. Delmon Young, OF, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Delmon Young's talent is simply too much to overlook, despite his well documented off-field issues. (Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)

The thing most will recall with the utterance of Young's name is his unfortunate incident involving a bat and an umpire. The fact that he sits near the top of most pundit's top prospects sheet is somewhat lost in the translation. Young appeared in 30 games for Tampa Bay last season and hit a strong .317, in spite of a high strikeout rate (24 in 126 at-bats) and his unwillingness to take a walk (he recorded one). His attitude and past transgressions are cause for concern, but he has the potential to produce in all five standard categories over time.

2. Alex Gordon, 3B, Kansas City Royals
Young has the negative story associated with him, and Gordon's name gives us the warm and fuzzy feeling of youth based on the whole Topps trading card issue from last winter. Hit up Google and read about this interesting licensing tale. Anyway, Gordon's a hitting machine just waiting for his turn to take the reins in Kansas City. It's only fitting their hottest prospect in many years plays the same position as the last K.C. great, George Brett. Gordon raked at a tremendous .325 clip with 29 home runs and 101 RBI at Class-AA Wichita last season, and if the Royals are serious about competing in 2007, he has to be in the lineup somewhere. Let him take his cuts at the big league level and learn on the job.

3. Chris Young, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
The White Sox might be wondering why they parted with Young given some of the concerns in the outfield right now. They might wonder even more if he produces to expectations for the Diamondbacks this season. Comparisons between he and veteran outfielder Mike Cameron abound, because of his potential to contribute in both the power categories and on the basepaths. What he also potentially offers is the batting average help that never developed from Cameron. Young hit .243 in 70 at-bats with the Diamondbacks last year, contributing two home runs, 10 RBI and two stolen bases. He'll open in center field this season.

4. Carlos Quentin, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

Carlos Quentin is one of several up-and-coming Diamondbacks ready to make the big jump to the big leagues. (Ron Vesely / Getty Images)

Another component of the youthful Arizona outfield, Quentin has outfield sleeper written all over him for draft day. I was a year too soon on my projection for him, as I held out hope he'd crack the roster last season. In any event, he was impressive in his 166 at-bats last season for the Diamondbacks, during which he recorded 25 extra-base hits with nine home runs and 32 RBI. His batting average will improve with more experience, making him a potent four-category slugger.

5. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox
Pedroia looked ready to assume the mantle ahead of the 2006 season, but was held back for more seasoning. He'll open spring training penciled in as the starting second baseman this year after playing in 33 games last season. He struggled to a .191 batting average in his 89 at-bats, but did put the ball in play (seven strikeouts). That bodes well for his future in Boston, helping to set the table for the big sluggers in the middle of the order. He has good gap power and some speed on the basepaths, and he'll offer three categories to start with some occasional pop (two home runs for the Red Sox last season).

6. Chris Iannetta, C, Colorado Rockies
He's a popular sleeper pick heading into spring training given his quick growth with the Rockies last season and the ever-popular home field advantage. Iannetta showed advanced plate discipline as well, with 13 walks in 90 plate appearances. He also struck out 17 times in those 90 at-bats, so that's certainly an area in need of improvement. But fantasy owners only need concern themselves with his productivity in the other 81 percent of his plate appearances.

7. Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, San Diego Padres
Kouzmanoff will challenge veteran utility player Geoff Blum for the starting slot in San Diego upon his arrival from the Indians over the off-season. The Padres believe Kouzmanoff will be able to hit at the major league level, but that his defense is a tad disconcerting given the nature of their starting rotation. Simply put, Greg Maddux and David Wells let the ball be put into play. That could keep him at the minor league level for a spell. However, his strong Double-A splits won't keep him there for long. He hit 16 home runs with a .314 average in 344 at-bats, then drove in 11 runs in 56 at-bats for the Tribe last season.

8. Joe Koshansky, Colorado Rockies
The breakdown of the Todd Helton deal keeps the sweet-swinging slugger in the minor leagues for a spell, but it's just a matter of time before he takes dead aim on Coors Field. Koshansky slammed 69 home runs over the past two seasons with back-to-back 100 RBI campaigns and has become a solid fielder in the Texas League. The big knock on his game is that he still swings like a power hitter of old, meaning that he's racked up 271 strikeouts in the past two seasons. Fantasy owners can deal with the strikeouts so long as the power numbers are there. They won't be disappointed.

9. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Corey Koskie remains ahead of him on the depth chart, but that won't be the case for long if Braun translates his phenomenal 2006 season into a strong showing in spring training. Braun hit 22 home runs with 77 RBI while splitting time between Single and Double-A. The Brewers would like to see an improvement in his defense. However, that wouldn't be the factor to keep him from supplanting Koskie. He's a solid reserve option to open in deeper NL-only and keeper leagues.

10. Andy LaRoche, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Although LaRoche underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum during the off-season, the team remains hopeful he'll be ready for duty in 2007. After all, he's generated impressive power numbers during his minor league career and appears capable of making a big splash in Los Angeles. He hit 14 home runs in 431 at-bats in Double-A in 2006 after slamming 30 home runs the year before. Stash him on your bench later in the draft. He'll be a stud out of the gates once he's ready.

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