Sunday, December 9, 2007

Johnny Cueto – Fantasy Baseball Minor League Sleepers, Part 1 of 5

This is the first installment covering 5 minor league baseball players that I think have a great chance to have an impact this year in fantasy baseball. I’m not sure if any of them will start the season in the bigs but eventually I think they’ll all make it. As such they’re probably only draftable in the deepest of fantasy leagues and guys to monitor in shallow leagues.

Homer Bailey and Jay Bruce have all of the limelight as far as Cincinnati Reds prospects are concerned but I think Cueto may actually have the best value this year. He struck out 170 in 161 innings last year which is better than the 9K/9 that I like and was 6th most in the minors – remember, K rates do translate well to the big leagues. His 3.07 ERA and 1.11 WHIP were also excellent.

His last stop was AAA where he struck out 77 in 61 innings with only 11 walks which was the best for both ratios in three separate stops in 2007. In other words, Cueto not only adjusted to the competition, he actually outperformed it. This sort of suggests that he may have been bored and under challenged at the lower levels.

It’s his 34 walks in 161 that most impresses me and suggests Cueto’s ready to shutdown major league bats. Some guys rack up big Ks with high 90s stuff which masks a lack of command and high walk rate – see Homer Bailey. It can sometimes take a little longer for these guys to develop. Cueto’s low walk rate suggests he knows how to pitch and not just throw – and for the record he does hit the mid-90s. He also gave up a fair number of hits which I actually view as a positive – it shows he knows how to pitch to contact. Plus numerous studies (go read Moneyball) show that pitchers have little control over their hit rate (and therefore ERA and WHIP), the addition of a major league infield could really benefit him. has him ranked as the 47th best prospect in the minors but I like him to outperform that real soon. Johnny Cueto is someone to watch closely in spring training as I think he has a shot to win a job with the Reds. In deeper fantasy baseball leagues and keeper leagues you need to find a spot for Cueto sooner rather than later.

Wladimir Balentien – Fantasy Baseball Minor League Sleepers, Part 2 of 5
Gio Gonzalez – Fantasy Baseball Minor League Sleepers, Part 3 of 5
Eric Patterson – Fantasy Baseball Minor League Sleepers, Part 4 of 5
Wade Davis – Fantasy Baseball Minor League Sleepers, Part 5 of 5

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