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2009 AL Youth Watch

Last updated: March 12

Welcome to the seventh installment of the Youth Watch in the MLB Preview. Every year, we look for players 26 or younger that could make an impact on their respective clubs in the upcoming season.

Some players on the list have already established themselves with regular roles with their teams, while other players will likely make their mark later on in the year.

For the first time ever, we've added a fantasy twist to the youth watch to suggest if and where these players should be considered.

Click here for the National League Youth Watch | Click here to return to the 2009 MLB Preview

AL East

Matt Wieters: Catcher - Baltimore Orioles

Matt Wieters The 2007 first round pick dominated in Single and Double-A last season.
What to expect: The Orioles opened up a spot for Wieters in the off-season when they parted with Ramon Hernandez. With that said though, there's a strong belief that the Orioles' will send Wieters down for the first few months, with the understanding that he comes up in June and becomes their franchise catcher for years.
Fantasy Value: Wieters is a must have in any dynasty/keeper league. He has the potential to be a Perennial all-star. He should hit at least .285 with 15-20 home runs this season, if he gets four months of time.
Bowie (AA) 61 208 12 51 1 .365 .460 .625
Frederick (A) 69 229 15 40 1 .345 .448 .576
Past Picks: 2008 - Nick Markakis, 2007 - Adam Loewen, 2006 - Chris Ray, 2005 - Daniel Cabrera, 2004 - Matt Riley, 2003 - Jorge Julio

Justin Masterson: Relief Pitcher - Boston Red Sox

Justin Masterson The 23-year old started nine games earlier in the season, but really found his spot as a member of the bullpen.
What to expect: While he's still young enough to be a starter, and started in the minors, the Red Sox seemingly have Masterson penciled in for a bullpen role in 2009, as shown by the signings of John Smoltz and Brad Penny.
Fantasy Value: Unless the Red Sox are beset by injuries to their starters, Masterson will be in the bullpen this season, and because he won't close, he'll only have limited value.
Boston (MLB) 36 9 6 5 88.1 68 40 3.16 1.22
Pawtucket (AAA) 4 1 1 0 9.1 8 1 2.89 0.75
Portland (AA) 8 8 1 3 38.1 37 16 4.23 1.38
Past Picks: 2008 - Manny Delcarmen, 2007 - Daisuke Matsuzaka, 2006 - Jon Papelbon, 2005 - Hanley Ramirez, 2004 - Kevin Youkilis, 2003 - Casey Fossum

Phil Coke: Relief Pitcher - New York Yankees

Phil Coke Coke climbed two levels in the minors and thrived in limited work out of the bullpen in 2008.
What to expect: The 26-year looks to have found his home as one of Mariano Rivera's set-up men, and that should be a good roll for him, as he might not have had the stamina to stay a starting pitcher.
Fantasy Value: Strikeouts. Coke averaged a strikeout an inning everywhere he went last season, and he should keep that up this season. He'll also get holds - if your league counts them.
NY Yankees (MLB) 12 0 1 0 14.2 14 2 0.61 0.68
Scranton/WB (AAA) 14 1 2 2 17.1 22 5 4.67 1.38
Trenton (AA) 23 20 9 4 118.1 115 39 2.51 1.21
Past Picks: 2008 - Joba Chamberlain, 2007 - Philip Hughes, 2006 - Chien-Ming Wang, 2005 - Robinson Cano, 2004 - Jorge De Paula, 2003 - Juan Rivera

David Price: Starting Pitcher - Tampa Bay Rays

David Price Price really made a name for himself in the ALCS coming out of the bullpen to stymie the Red Sox.
What to expect: The left-hander was expected to be the Rays' fifth starter entering the season, but now there's talk that the club will leave him in the minors for a month or two, to keep his innings down. Either way, he'll post around 10 wins with an ERA in the 3.00 range.
Fantasy Value: In keeper leagues, Price is a must have. In one-year leagues, the news that he might start the season in Triple-A should lower his value by a round or two, but he'd be a very good upside selection.
Tampa Bay (MLB) 5 1 0 0 14 12 4 1.93 0.93
Durham (AAA) 4 4 1 1 18 17 9 4.50 1.72
Montgomery (AA) 9 9 7 0 57 55 16 1.89 1.04
Vero Beach (A) 6 6 4 0 34.2 37 7 1.82 1.01
Past Picks: 2008 - James Shields, 2007 - Jeff Niemann, 2006 - Rocco Baldelli, 2005 - Delmon Young, 2004 - B.J. Upton, 2003 - Dewon Brazelton

Travis Snider: Outfield - Toronto Blue Jays

Travis Snider The 21-year old was a September call-up and he despite his age, he looked within his element against big leaguers.
What to expect: With the Blue Jays making so few moves in the off-season, it looks like the team is ready to hand Snider the everyday left-field job. Snider will hit for power and a 20 home run season is a possibility. He won't hit for a high average because he strikes out once every three at-bats.
Fantasy Value: A good long term keeper who could provide decent numbers this season. Don't over-rate him in non-keepers though - he projects to be a solid middle of the order bat - but he might not reach that level in 2009.
Toronto (MLB) 24 73 2 13 0 .301 .338 .466
Syracuse (AAA) 18 64 2 17 1 .334 .386 .516
New Hampshire (AA) 98 362 17 67 1 .262 .357 .461
Dunedin (A) 17 61 4 7 1 .279 .333 .557
Past Picks: 2008 - Dustin McGowan, 2007 - Alex Rios, 2006 - Aaron Hill, 2005 - Guillermo Quiroz, 2004 - Kevin Cash, 2003 - Josh Phelps

AL Central

Carlos Quentin: Outfield - Chicago White Sox

Carlos Quentin Missed the first 13 games of the season with shoulder injury, but returned to post a great, and unexpected season. He then missed the last 26 games with a forearm injury.
What to expect: This season should be litmus test for Quentin, who was a .230 hitter for his career with Arizona, before he was dealt to the White Sox. His jump in average is largely due to his increase walks and his cutting down on strikeouts. A .285 batting average and 25+ home runs should be attainable.
Fantasy Value: Quentin is a solid pick after the first three rounds. He'll provide power and an batting average that won't damage the category the way that other home run hitters do.
Chicago White Sox (MLB) 130 480 36 100 7 .288 .394 .571
Past Picks: 2008 - John Danks, 2007 - Josh Fields, 2006 - Brian Anderson, 2005 - Felix Diaz, 2004 - Jon Rauch, 2003 - Joe Crede

Jensen Lewis: Relief Pitcher - Cleveland Indians

Jensen Lewis Got called up for the third and last time in July and managed to save 13 games in 13 chances with the Tribe in 2008.
What to expect: Lewis has shown an ability to close the game, and will likely be the primary setup man for Kerry Wood in a very deep Indians bullpen. If he could cut down his walks, Lewis could eventually become an elite reliever.
Fantasy Value: Lewis won't have much fantasy value to start the season, but he could be a cheap buy/bench pick in drafts as Kerry Wood insurance. Even if Wood stays healthy, Lewis should accumulate his fair share of holds.
Cleveland (MLB) 51 0 4 13 66 52 27 3.82 1.44
Buffalo (AAA) 11 1 2 1 20 18 8 3.60 1.20
Past Picks: 2008 - Fausto Carmona, 2007 - Jeremy Sowers, 2006 - Fernando Cabrera, 2005 - Jhonny Peralta, 2004 - Victor Martinez, 2003 - Brandon Phillips

Jeff Larish: Third Base - Detroit Tigers

Jeff Larish The 26-year old first baseman was switched over to third base after the Tigers moved Miguel Cabrera to first.
What to expect: Larish is an interesting player when looking ahead. Two seasons ago, he hit 28 home runs in Double-A, but last season, his home run total and on-base percent dropped when he jumped to Triple-A, as did his strikeouts. He'll likely start the season in Triple-A, and unless their's an injury to Brandon Inge regular playing time doesn't seem likely.
Fantasy Value: There's little question that Larish can hit for power, but he's never really hit for a high average, so even if he gets a regular change, his upside will be tied to his power output.
Detroit (MLB) 42 104 2 16 2 .260 .306 .375
Toledo (AAA) 103 384 21 64 0 .250 .341 .477

Past Picks: 2008 - Rick Porcello, 2007 - Joel Zumaya, 2006 - Justin Verlander, 2005 - Wil Ledezma, 2004 - Jeremy Bonderman, 2003 - Carlos Pena

Joakim Soria: Relief Pitcher - Kansas City Royals

Joakim Soria The 24-year old closer posted one of the best seasons for his position in the majors last season.
What to expect: After taking charge and the finisher's role in 2007, Soria posted an almost identical season in 2008 and there's no reason why a 2009 season that includes 40-45 saves with an ERA around 2.00 and 65 strikeouts isn't possible.
Fantasy Value: Soria should be considered an elite closer - especially in keeper leagues, where his youth and strikeout an inning stuff makes him Fantasy gold. He won't go as high as Papelbon, Rivera and Nathan, but he could match their production - even playing in Kansas City.
Kansas City (MLB) 63 2 3 42 67.1 66 19 1.60 0.86
Past Picks: 2008 - Luke Hochevar, 2007 - Alex Gordon, 2006 - John Buck, 2005 - Mark Teahen, 2004 - David DeJesus, 2003 - Jeremy Affeldt

Alexi Casilla: Second Base - Minnesota Twins

Alexi Casilla Casilla became the Twins second basemen during the season and performed at a decent level.
What to expect: While he's still young at 24-years old, what you see with him is what you might get. He's only hit seven home runs in his minor-league career, so a power spike might not be coming. He does have a decent walk to strikeout ratio, so maintaining .280 average isn't out of the question.
Fantasy Value: The X-factor for Casilla will be his ability to steal bases. He had an injured thumb in 2008 that may have contributed to the SB drop from 35 in AAA + MLB in 2007 to 11 combined. If he gets his steals back, he should have value. If not, he's at best an injury replacement.
Minnesota (MLB) 98 385 7 50 7 .281 .333 .374
Rochester (AAA) 32 96 0 2 4 .219 .350 .250
Beloit (A) 2 7 0 1 0 .571 .667 .571
Past Picks: 2008 - Kevin Slowey, 2007 - Matt Garza, 2006 - Francisco Liriano, 2005 - Justin Morneau, 2004 - Joe Mauer, 2003 - Michael Cuddyer

AL West

Jose Arredondo: Relief Pitcher - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Jose Arredondo Was called up on May 13 and took over a key role in one of the best bullpen's in baseball.
What to expect: Before the Angels signed free agent Brian Fuentes, there was talk that the 24-year old Arredondo was going to take over the closer's role. Now though he along with Scot Shields will serve as setup men. He should have nearly a strikeout an inning and an ERA around 2.50.
Fantasy Value: With most relievers, saves becomes the most important stat in fantasy, and because of Fuentes unreliability in the past, there's still a chance that Arredondo takes the job. Take him late or be ready to sign him if that should occur.
Anaheim (MLB) 52 10 2 0 61 55 22 1.62 1.05
Salt Lake (AAA) 15 1 1 10 17 15 4 2.12 0.94
Past Picks: 2008 - Brandon Wood, 2007 - Howie Kendrick, 2006 - Jeff Mathis, 2005 - Dallas McPherson, 2004 - Bobby Jenks, 2003 - Francisco Rodriguez

Gio Gonzalez: Starting Pitcher - Oakland Athletics

Gio Gonzalez The highly touted Gonzalez got thumped with the A's last season, but he has the ability and stuff to turn it around.
What to expect: Gonzalez will be making a bid for Oakland's starting rotation, and if the young left-hander earns a spot he could be a pleasant surprise. He's averaged at least a strikeout an inning at every stop of his major league career and if he could cut down on the nine home runs in 34 innings from last season, he could be a very serviceable member at the back of the rotation, with a mid-4.00 ERA.
Fantasy Value: A few years ago in keeper leagues, Gonzalez was a must own player, now that he has been shelled in the Bigs, some of the luster might be off, meaning he could be had on the cheap. Take a late round, $1 flyer on him.
Oakland (MLB) 10 7 1 4 34 34 25 7.68 1.68
Sacramento (AAA) 23 22 8 7 123 128 61 4.24 1.36
Past Picks: 2008 - Dana Eveland, 2007 - Rich Harden, 2006 - Joe Blanton, 2005 - Nick Swisher, 2004 - Bobby Crosby, 2003 - Mark Ellis

Wladimir Balentien: Outfield - Seattle Mariners

Wladimir Balentien The free-swinging outfielder struggled in both of his stints with the Mariners in 2008.
What to expect: The 24-year should open the season in a corner outfield spot and the club hopes that he can continue to grow in the majors and cut down on his 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Balentien will hit power, but his value is greatly reduced if he can't hit more than .200. If he plays the full season, he should hit 20 home runs with an average at or around .250.
Fantasy Value: Balentien is another interesting late round selection and boarder line keeper selection. He's always hit for power in the minors, and will be an everyday player to start the season, which means that he could have value as a fourth/fifth outfielder.
Seattle (MLB) 71 243 7 24 0 .202 .250 .342
Tacoma (AAA) 62 233 18 55 3 .266 .354 .584
Past Picks: 2008 - Brandon Morrow, 2007 - Adam Jones, 2006 - Felix Hernandez, 2005 - Jeremy Reed, 2004 - Clint Nageotte, 2003 - Chris Snelling

Elvis Andrus: Shortstop - Texas Rangers

Elvis Andrus After tearing up Double-A in 2008, Elvis looks to be entering the building in Texas.
What to expect: The Rangers top hitting prospect, whom they got from the Braves in the Mark Teixeira deal in 2007, had a monster season in Double-A that saw him steal 53 bases and hit .295. Andrus like most young hitters struggles with strikeouts and doesn't display much power yet, but the Rangers have moved Michael Young to third. Andrus could hit in the .270's with 35 steals.
Fantasy Value: Andrus would be a player to target in long term leagues because of his potential. In one-year leagues, he'll likely go higher than he should based on production that won't likely come this year. If you need steals, he should help you there this year, but he won't really help anywhere else.
Frisco (AA) 118 482 4 65 53 .295 .350 .367
Past Picks: 2008 - Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 2007 - Freddy Guzman, 2006 - Ian Kinsler, 2005 - Chris Young, 2004 - Juan Dominguez, 2003 - Hank Blalock

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