Take caution with prospects for 2011

I’ve learned this the hard way **cough, Wieters, cough**

Prospect rankings are fun, if nothing else. They always create discussion, agreements and disagreements. However, in terms of fantasy baseball, one has to consider a lot more than just the rankings. Why is player A rated where they are? Does defense play a significant role (Jose Iglesias)?

Here is a list of top prospects that could end up being much more valuable in real life, but could end up a bust in fantasy baseball for 2011.

Domonic Brown – OF – PHI
While he’ll return from his wrist injury early in the season, Brown may find success hard to come by in 2011.

Before the injury, Brown was struggling to find his swing in early spring games. His overall game is quite raw to begin with — this is one of the reasons he plays right field instead of center, despite his athleticism. Personally, I’ve never been crazy about his swing and the wrist injury will almost certainly hurt his power potential for a while.

Dustin Ackley – 2B/OF – SEA
Ackley may be a pure hitter, but there is some question as to his ceiling in terms of power. The Mariners are trying him out at second base, but reports indicate that he has a lot of work to do there in order to turn himself into an average defender.

The biggest question will be his power game. Can he hit 20-plus homers in a season? He has yet to show it since switching to wooden bats. Ultimately, the lack of power could limit Ackley’s fantasy value in standard leagues, giving him the ceiling of a mid-round pick. However, if your league counts OBP his value should be much higher, regardless of the power numbers.

Freddie Freeman – 1B – ATL
I’m a big fan of Freeman in the long-term. He has the size and skills to develop 30 home run pop at some point, but I’m not expecting him to reach that number this season.

We have to remember that Freeman is only 21 years old and to expect a breakout season from such a young player is asking a lot. There’s nothing wrong with taking a late-round flier on Freeman, but outside of NL-only leagues there is a lot of risk in slotting him into a starting spot from day one.

Michael Pineda – SP – SEA
Pineda has opened eyes this spring — if they weren’t opened already by the numbers he put up in the minors last season. However, he has also shown what may be his biggest weakness: the lack of an above average third pitch. While his mid-to-upper 90’s fastball and slider are big-league ready, his changeup needs more work. If Pineda were to break camp with the Mariners this season, he may struggle against teams with good left-handed lineups due to his below average changeup. Again, there’s nothing wrong with taking a late round flier on his upside, but it would be a good idea to temper expectations for 2011.