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Future stars

Matt Wieters was the name everyone was talking about in spring training.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If you are in a keeper baseball league, this column is for you. Today we look at future major league stars, still biding their time in the minors, who could be called up at any point.

Once they reach the majors, they'll be a mad scramble for ownership, but if you look ahead, maybe you can beat the rush and quietly stash them on your roster.

The first three names are well known to fantasy owners and likely already on rosters as they performed well in spring training. You may know the other two players, if you are a fantasy league fanatic, but typical owners are not yet aware of them.

Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore - Wieters was the name everyone was talking about in spring training and was a top-10 catcher on many preseason rankings including the Sports Network's list. Despite a solid spring, the Orioles sent him down, but he won't be there for long even after suffering a hamstring injury. The bad news is that he's already owned in 50-60% of all leagues and likely a higher percentage in keeper leagues.

David Price, P, Tampa Bay - Like Wieters, Price is a "can't-miss" star waiting for his opportunity. He was stellar when called up in late September of 2008 (14 innings, 1.93 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 12 Ks) and will be a star when he returns this season. He too is owned in a majority of the leagues, but it's worth checking into just in case he was dropped by mistake or because of multiple injuries to an owner's lineup.

Matt LaPorta, OF, Cleveland - LaPorta, the key ingredient in the C.C. Sabathia deal, is pounding the ball at AAA Columbus. He's batting .352 with 5 HR, 14 RBI and an OPS of 1.103 in his first 20 games and has as many walks as strikeouts. LaPorta is owned in less than 20% of all leagues and given the injury to Travis Hafner and David Dellucci, could be called up at any time.

Jake Fox, OF, Chicago - Fox is 27-years-old and has had a cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2007, but is hitting the cover off the ball down at Iowa. The right-hand hitter is batting .429 with 12 HR and 31 RBI in just 77 at-bats. His slugging percentage is 1.026 and his OPS is an astronomical 1.526. Jake set career marks last year in games played (134), hits (145), doubles (39), home runs (31) and RBIs (105) between AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa. His problem is that he is a corner outfielder and the Cubs have Alfonso Soriano (.284, 7 HR, 14 RBI), Milton Bradley (.118, 2 HR, 2 RBI) and Kosuke Fukudome (.338, 4 HR, 15 RBI) in the outfield. Should one of them falter (as Fukudome did last season) or continue to be injured like Bradley is, Fox could get his chance.

Tommy Hanson, P, Atlanta - The 6'6" righthander is just 1-3 for the Gwinett Braves, but his ERA is a solid 1.69 and he has 38 Ks in just 26.2 innings. He was 8-4 at AA Mississippi last year and has averaged more than a strikeout-per- inning every year in the minors. Was rated the fourth-best prospect by Baseball America. He's owned by less than 1% of all fantasy owners. Given the Braves pitching staff, he should be up sooner rather than later.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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