My point is to demonstrate that top minor league talent is often available in the middle of the season, when many of your competitors have already forgotten about the Baseball America reports they studied in March and April. This season you can bet that people will be spending big on David Price and Matt Wieters, and justifiably so, as those rookies look to start the season in impact roles in the major leagues. However, a lot of inexpensive talent will begin the year in AA or AAA. We now have the luxury of keeping track of young players easily through sites like Baseball-Reference.com and minorleaguebaseball.com. Do yourself a favor. Pick a dozen or so promising prospects this spring who play for teams who are likely to be auditioning young talent by the All-Star break and check in on them every week or so. Believe me, if you do so, you will be able to tell when they are on the verge of getting their ticket to the show and will be able to pick them up a weeks before they are on most owners radars.
Here are a few of the players who are going on my list that were strangely absent from the Baseball American Top 100:
Cedric Hunter - CF - San Diego Padres
Hunter spent the whole of 2008 in advanced A-ball, but he led the minor leagues in hits (186). He's not yet 21 and this is already his fourth year of professional ball; he might be ready to move very quickly through the system. Hunter doesn't possess a ton of power, but he had a respectable 47 extra-base hits (including 11 HR) last season, suggesting some power will come as he matures. He already has great plate discipline, walking as much as he strikes out. Most importantly, perhaps, there is likely to be plenty of opportunities in San Diego, whose best outfield options behind Brian Giles are Chase Headley, Scott Hairston, and Jody Gerut. Hunter could play left or center in the spacious PETCO Park and his gap-hitting style is perfectly suited for the space as well. He will start the season a ways down on the depth chart, but could leap-frog several mediocre older prospects with a fast start.
Kila Ka'aihue - 1B/DH - Kansas City Royals
Fantasy pundits have been a little down on this 25-year-old Hawaiian sensation who had eye-popping power numbers at AA because he seems blocked behind Billy Butler, Mike Jacobs, Ryan Shealy, and Ross Gload. Let's face it, though, none of those guys look like the second-coming of Albert Pujols. Ka'aihue does (kind of). If Ka'aihue brings his 1000+ OPS and better than 1/1 BB/K ration again this season, the Royals would be crazy not to find a spot for him.
Kevin Pucetas - SP - San Francisco Giants
The Giant rotation of Lincecum, Cain, Johnson, Zito, and Sanchez looks on paper like one of the best in either league, but we're all aware of that Johnson's age makes him injury-prone and San Francisco might not be willing to endure another dreadful start from Zito. Sanchez is also unproven. If any of these pitchers don't work out, Pucetas is likely to get the first shot. He's 24 and has consistently posted an excellent K/BB ratio in the minor leagues. Great control and an ability to limit the long ball bodes well for his ability to succeed right away.