In this week's edition, we'll take a look at three Class A leagues that have already played an All-Star Game, pointing out the top fantasy prospects each league has to offer. And don't worry, I'll throw in an extra note here and there for important "non-All-Stars."
South Atlantic League
Jason Heyward, OF, Rome Braves: Not only did the Braves' 2007 first-round pick go 2-for-3 with a home run in the game held in Greensboro on June 16, he's fifth in the SAL with a .332 average, showing some power (.490 SLG, 16 2B, 7 HR) and plenty of speed (10 of 11 in SB attempts). He's a five-tooler, and the tools are showing up a little faster than many expected. That said, even if he jumps up a level this season, it's likely he won't arrive in Atlanta until 2011.
Michael Burgess, OF, Hagerstown Suns: The Nationals' supplemental first-round pick from a year ago, Burgess won the home run derby at the All-Star Game. He's shown plenty of pop in games as well, ranking second in the league with 15 homers. He's also 10th with 48 RBIs and sixth with a .520 SLG. Yes, he's striking out a lot, but like Heyward, he's just a year removed from high school. I'd put him on the same trajectory as Heyward, though his Braves counterpart seems a little more advanced in terms of plate discipline right now.
Michael Taylor, OF, Lakewood BlueClaws: Watching Taylor in the SAL All-Star Game, you had to think he didn't belong in the league. The Stanford product leads the circuit with a .361 average and a .995 OPS and compiled 10 homers, 50 RBIs and 10 steals. He went 2-for-5 in the All-Star Game and now finds himself up a level in the Phillies organization, with Clearwater in the Florida State League. Taylor is off to a 2-for-11 start there, but give him some time. There was some concern about whether he would make consistent enough contact to succeed as a pro, and this should be the first good test of that ability.
Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Augusta GreenJackets: The word on Bumgarner coming out of last year's Draft was that he had an electric left arm but really threw only one pitch. Granted, that one pitch was a plus fastball from the left side, but the thought was he'd need time to adjust to the pro game and work on his secondary pitches. Well, so far, so good. The Giants' first first-rounder from last year is third in the SAL with his 1.77 ERA and fourth with 84 Ks, and he's posted a sub-1.00 WHIP. He sandwiched a scoreless inning of All-Star work between his last two starts, both double-digit-strikeout efforts.
Ben Revere, OF, Beloit Snappers: He went 0-for-2 in the All-Star Game, but the Twins' 2007 first-round pick is hitting .413. He's a contact hitter, a guy who slaps the ball and lets his speed do the work, an approach that's resulted in 13 doubles and six triples. He's also collected 22 stolen bases in 44 games, though he's been caught stealing 11 times. Of course, we all know speed is hard to find, and once Revere learns the nuances of the art, he could be the type who carries your squad in that category.
Brandon Waring, 3B, Dayton Dragons: When a guy hits 20 homers in 68 games in his pro debut as the Reds' seventh-round pick did last year, you take notice, but you want to see more. This time, Waring has knocked 13 long balls in the first half of his first full season, so now the power is a little more intriguing. He'll need to cut down the Ks (91 in 69 games), but he's worth putting on your radar to see if the pop continues as he progresses.
Craig Italiano, RHP, Kane County Cougars: When Italiano was taken in the second round of the 2005 Draft, he was a one-pitch guy who could light up radar guns. A series of injuries slowed him down, but he's now showing what he's capable of when healthy. An All-Star starter this year, Italiano leads the Midwest League with a 1.16 ERA and ranks fifth with 79 Ks in 70 innings. The 35 walks are a few too many, but Italiano has allowed opponents to bat just .177, helping him to a 1.11 WHIP. A promotion could be in the works, though Oakland has a ton of talent a level ahead of him. He's only 21, so there's plenty of time.
Neftali Feliz, RHP, Clinton LumberKings: There's a lot to like about this right-hander. He leads the league with 93 Ks in 74 1/3 innings. He's allowed just 47 hits for a .184 average against and walked just 26 en route to a 0.98 WHIP. His 2.06 ERA is fourth lowest in the league. In his last two starts, he's allowed just one earned run on four hits, walked five and struck out 21 in 11 1/3 innings. Did I mention he's only 20? You may need to be a little patient, but it's looking like Feliz will be worth the wait.
Florida State League
Rick Porcello, RHP, Lakeland Flying Tigers: Porcello was taken in the first round out of high school, given a huge "target-on-the-back" bonus and assigned to the Class A Advanced FSL. All he's done in response is post a 2.96 ERA, good for fifth in the league, and earn a starting nod in the the All-Star Game (he got credit for the win, though he gave up a run). The K rate is a little lower than some might have thought, but that shouldn't concern you at this point.
Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Vero Beach Devil Rays: Though he didn't pitch in the ASG because of a blister, he definitely has left a print on the FSL. Hellickson is at least tied for league lead in the big three pitching categories; he's rung up seven wins, a 2.00 ERA and 83 Ks in 76 2/3 innings while allowing just five walks on his way to a 0.90 WHIP. His last start, a seven-inning, one-hit gem, earned him a promotion to Double-A. He was joined by David Price (the non-All-Star note) in that climb. Price, the 2007 No. 1 overall pick, got bumped up after six fairly dominant starts with Vero.
Jeff Manship, RHP, Ft. Myers Miracle: Manship, a 14th-round Draft pick by the Twins in 2006, ranked fourth in the FSL with a 2.86 ERA and 10th with 63 Ks at the break. Of course, the Notre Dame product won't be on the leaderboard for long, as he was bumped up to Double-A after the All-Star Game. We're not talking fantasy superstar here, but he's moving up the ladder and the Twins do love to promote from within.
Drew Stubbs, OF, Sarasota Reds: I felt I needed to take one hitter here, though it might be easier to go with another arm. Stubbs definitely has the tools. His 22 steals rank him third in the league, and he draws a ton of walks to make the most of his wheels. Stubbs still strikes out a lot, though, and he hasn't shown as much power as some might have hoped. He's been a bit streaky, and right now he's hot, so keep an eye on him. If he can develop some consistency, he's got the untapped potential of a guy who can help in just about every fantasy category.
Next week: The California/Carolina League and Texas League All-Star Games.