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Fantasy Baseball 2011: Lonnie Chisenhall or Brett Lawrie?

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ANAHEIM CA - JULY 11:  U.S. Futures All-Star Lonnie Chisenhall #8 of the Cleveland Indians at bat during the 2010 XM All-Star Futures Game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 11 2010 in Anaheim California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM CA - JULY 11: U.S. Futures All-Star Lonnie Chisenhall #8 of the Cleveland Indians at bat during the 2010 XM All-Star Futures Game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 11 2010 in Anaheim California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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When ranking fantasy prospects before spring training begins, one can base the rankings on prior years performance and projections for the current season. Throw in some assumptions about when he will be called up to the big league club, and the rankings fall into place. But, every year at least one prospect makes his case for pushing his ETA and turning some heads in spring training. Indians third base prospect Lonnie Chisenhall and Blue Jays third base prospect Brett Lawrie are turning heads this spring so much so that their timetable for making the big leagues has been expedited.

Back on December 28th, I published my Top Fantasy Third Base Prospects for 2011 here, and in that article, I ranked Indians third base prospect Lonnie Chisenhall as my 5th best third base prospect in 2011. I ranked him at #5 assuming he wouldn't be called up till August or later. But, based on how he has performed this spring, that timetable has changed. Here is what I wrote about Chisenhall:

5. Lonnie Chisenhall, CLE-Chisenhall now has over 600 plate appearances at AA Akron, so he should start the season in AAA, with a chance for a call-up at some point in 2011. Chisenhall hit .278-.351-.450 with 17 HRs and 84 RBIs last year, with a solid 77-46 K/BB rate in 460 ABs at AA. The Indians are in the midst of a rebuild, so Chisenhall is the future at third base for the Indians. Chisenhall is only draftable in keeper leagues at this point, but I have a feeling that will change come 2012 drafts.

More on Chisenhall and Brett Lawrie after the jump:

Chisenhall was recently moved to minor league camp and will start the season in AAA. This after hitting .500-.567-.885 with 2 HRs, 5 RBIs, 23 total bases, and a 7-3 K/BB rate. Here are some quotes from Indians GM Chris Antonetti in a recent Paul Hoynes article over at the Cleveland Plains Dealer:

Antonetti said Chisenhall, 22, needs to hit better against left-handers and continue to learn the nuances of third base. Most of all, he needs experience. He spent all last season at Class AA Akron. Now the Indians want to see if he can handle Class AAA pitching.

One has to wonder if Antonetti fears that Chisenhall may falter if called up too soon and struggle like Matt Laporta has the past two years. In any case, Chisenhall just has to stay healthy, continue to hit well, and he will be called up in June, at the earliest.

Back on December 14th, I wrote my Top Fantasy Second Base Prospects for 2011 article here, and in that article, I ranked Blue Jay second baseman Brett Lawrie as my #2 second base prospect, but that was before the Blue Jays moved him to third base before spring training. I would rank Lawrie as my #2 third base prospect for 2011, behind only Royals third base prospect Mike Moustakas. Here is what I wrote about Lawrie:

2. Brett Lawrie, TOR-Lawrie was recently traded to the Blue Jays for starting pitcher Shaun Marcum. Lawrie may have worn out his welcome with the Milwaukee front office after declining to play in the Arizona Fall League this fall. Nevertheless, Lawrie is still a very solid prospect with a good bat. He hit .285-.346-.451 with 8 HRs, 63 RBIs, 30 SBs, 36 2B, 16 3B and a 118-47 K/BB rate. Many have stated that he will probably move to the OF, but has yet to play in the OF yet. I wonder if he was asked to play the OF in the AFL, leading to him declining the request. He should be owned in all keeper leagues.

Since the trade, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous has decided to move Lawrie to third base. ESPN'S Buster Olney published this piece on Lawrie back on March 13th, and here is an excerpt:

It was a good first sign that Lawrie, a native of British Columbia and a former catcher who turned 21 years old in January, was evolving through his baseball experience, and he has continued that evolution since coming to camp, while learning the new position. "Right now, he's doing everything defensively on his physical ability," Anthopoulos said. "He's got some adjustments to make, but we think that'll come with playing time ... Our scouts think he could be an above-average third baseman defensively, over time."

Lawrie as an above average defensive third baseman?

Here's more from Toronto assistant GM and VP of baseball operations Tony Lacava, from Mike Rutsey's article today at the Toronto Sun

The ease in which Lawrie has settled into third has been one of the more pleasant developments of the spring for the Jays

How so?

“He’s doing some things at third base that some guys never ever do,” LaCava said. “Some times when he’s deep and gets an in-between hop, he knows to play through it instead of laying back and getting eaten up. He’s aggressive by nature and at times that’s how you have to play third base. It’s a reactive position and I think he has the skill sets to do it.”

That remains to be seen, as Lawrie still needs work at third base, but his bat is above average, and he has hit well this spring, all while learning a new position. He is hitting .324-.361-.559 with 2 HRs, 6 RBIs, 3 SBs, and a 6-2 K/BB rate in 34 at bats this spring.

Like Chisenhall, Lawrie just has to continue to work on his defense at third base, and continue to hit like has has in the past, and he could get a call-up in June. Unlike Chisenhall, Lawrie also has to stay out of trouble and keep his head on straight.

Last year, the crop of prospects to make a splash in the majors included the likes of Buster Posey, Carlos Santana, Jason Heyward, and Mike Stanton, among others. This year, Chisenhall, Lawrie and Royals prospect Mike Moustakas could duplicate the performances of those four, or at least come close.