By Jim Higgins
There are less than two weeks until we reach opening day so it is time to go through another division to find potential keepers for 2011. You know the drill, so here are some guys to keep an eye or two on.
Atlanta – Kris Medlen – P
Most of the pitching focus the last two years has been on teammate Tommy Hanson, but Medlen came along far enough last year that he could be a surprise in the Atlanta rotation this year. He should begin the season in the pen but could be the first guy called upon to start. If he can bring the skills he showed out of then pen last year to the spot starts he receives, he could play himself into the rotation.
Florida – Chris Volstad – P
Volstad is another young arm with a bright future who mainly needs to cut down on the walks in order to take the next step. Volstad was also victimized by a 1.6 HR/9 rate which lead to a 5.00+ ERA. Florida always seems to have loads of young talented players ready to break out at any point in time and Volstad should be the next in line.
New York – Ike Davis – 1B
I originally had P Kelvim Escobar pegged for this spot but given his continued injury problems I decided to change to Davis given his youth and the gaping hole the Mets have at 1B. New York really perplexes me if I’m being brutally honest but Davis could be a guy that if he wasn’t picked up in your minor league draft, could probably be nabbed off the waiver wire. It is my guess we will see Davis manning 1B before the end of the season so nab this rising prospect before his bat puts him on the radar of other owners.
Philadelphia – Carlos Ruiz – C
Anytime you can find an undervalued C, you have to pick him up and Ruiz is just that. Looking at C’s that have gone in my leagues, his name is nowhere to be found despite the fact he posted a .355 OBP and .780 OPS in 322 AB in 09. He still has a lot of growing to do but I would rather take a chance on having Ruiz develop while on my bench then having to roster a Molina brother because all of the other C’s in my league have been grabbed.
Washington – Justin Maxwell – OF
The Nationals are a team loaded with potential keeper talent but it seems like a lot of the players have decent followings already so they are hardly flying under the radar. Enter Maxwell, who probably begins the season as the 4th or 5th OF, but has the skills to earn more PT as the season goes on, especially now that Elijah Dukes has been released. In 89 AB last season Maxwell had 4 HR and 6 SB, and I don’t care who you ask, all fantasy owners are always looking for the power-speed combo guys and Maxwell could be one.