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This is the first in a three-part series counting down the top fifteen prospects who will make a fantasy impact in the 2013 season. Keep in mind that this list is specifically focused on fantasy impact players - those guys who you can expect to contribute significantly to their teams and yours in the coming campaign. With that in mind, let’s get into the first group!
#15: Jose Fernandez (SP, MIA)
Highest Level in 2012: High A
Jose Fernandez pitched at two levels of A-ball in 2012, and no one touched him at either one. He threw a total of 134 IP and gave up– get this– 89 hits. He walked 35 batters, good for a .925 WHIP, while striking out 158. The most amazing thing about Fernandez is that he has done it with only one major-league ready pitch, an exploding high-90s fastball with great movement. Jose will start the season at AA, but if he tightens up his changeup and continues to make minor league hitters look helpless, I see him with the Marlins this September. He has one of the highest ceilings on this list; it’s just a question of how quickly he gets his chance.
#14 Shelby Miller (SP, STL)
Highest Level in 2012: MAJ
After a terrible start in 2012 at AAA, Miller bounced back with a dominating August that earned him a September call-up with the big-league club. Miller is the most polished pitcher on this list, featuring a high-90s fastball, a plus curveball and an above-average changeup. He is also known to be a fiery competitor and a heady pitcher. He dazzled in his 13 IP with the Cardinals, but it was really too small of a sample size to project what a full season in the majors would look like. At age 22, there was no reason for the Cards to rush Miller, but with Chris Carpenter now likely lost for the season, 2013 may just be Miller Time. He projects down the road as a number-one starter, so keep an eye on his Spring performance.
#13 Gerrit Cole (SP, PIT)
Highest Level in 2012: AAA
The 2011 overall number-one pick exploded through all three levels of the minors in 2012. His combined numbers included a 2.80 ERA over 132 IP during which he gave up 113 hits and struck out 136 batters. Cole’s fastball sits at a consistent 98 mph, but it has topped out at 101. He also features a 90-mph slider that has devastating bite. His only issue is command. A 3 BB / 9 IP ratio in 2012 indicates that he will have to improve his control in order to reach his full potential. With a Pirates staff that includes names like Jeff Karstens and the oft-injured Francisco Liriano, I expect Cole to be called upon sooner than later; when that happens, he’ll have an immediate impact in the strikeout category.
#12 Oscar Taveras (OF, STL)
Highest Level in 2012: AA
If it is possible to raise your stock when you are already the top prospect in an organization,
Tavares did it in 2012. In 2011 at the A level, Tavares hit .386 with 8 HR, 62 RBI and 1 SB, thrilling Cardinals executives. He answered at AA in 2012 by hitting .321 with 23 HR, 94 RBI and 10 SB. Even though he saw 169 more AB in 2012, and faced better competition, he struck out only 4 more times than he had in all of 2011. Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday are certainly not getting any younger, so I can envision Tavares making his MLB debut by the 2013 All-Star break. He should supply a decent BA with intriguing power/speed upside at that time.
#11 Billy Hamilton (OF/SS, CIN)
Highest Level in 2012: AA
Billy Hamilton is fast. How fast? In 2012 between AA and AAA he stole 155 bases, setting a professional record in the process. The problem is that he is blocked at shortstop by Zack Cozart, who held his own at the major league level in 2012. The result is that Billy Hamilton has moved to CF. It doesn’t seem likely that he will arrive in the majors this year, playing a new position, and with newly acquired Shin-Soo Choo in CF. That said, Billy Hamilton is so fast and so prolific on the basepaths that he easily could turn a September call-up with pinch-running duties into 15-20 SB.
Part II can be found here.
Part III can be found here.
And if you’ve missed them, be sure to also check out @RotoBaller other pre-season 2013 fantasy baseball positional rankings for more in-depth analysis.