Thursday, April 4, 2013

RotoBaller - Top Fantasy Prospects

This article originally appeared on www.RotoBaller.com: RotoBaller Impact Prospects Revisited.

We wanted to take a quick moment to revisit my preseason prospect rankings, which looked at the top fifteen prospects who I expect to make an impact during the 2013 season. Based on spring performance and some delightfully unexpected roster moves (I'm looking at you, Miami), I found it necessary to adjust the rankings a bit, so what follows is my updated list of the top fantasy prospects for 2013. 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 updates!


#15: Trevor Bauer (SP, CLE) Highest Level in 2012: MAJ Age: 22 Trevor Bauer seemed ready to take the majors by storm last summer. In a season split between AA and AAA, he posted a 12-2 record, 2.42 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 157 K in only 130 IP. The D-Backs’ only choice was to move him up to the major league level in late June. But over his four starts in the bigs, Bauer was just not the same pitcher. lacking command and falling behind hitters over and over again. The stuff was there-- mid-90s fastball, nasty slider and solid changeup, but he just couldn’t put it together with any consistency. Bauer also didn't mesh very well in the clubhouse, which led his trade to the Indians this offseason. His unorthodox delivery makes him very tough on hitters, and he could break camp as the Indians #5 starter. If he gets himself together again, he’s certainly capable of winning 12-14 games with a high strikeout total over a full season of starts.
  • PREVIOUS RANK #7: After allowing 11 runs in 16 spring innings, Bauer was optioned to the minors and will not start the year in the Indians rotation. It will take a string of strong outings to regain his elite prospect status. 

#14: Darin Ruf (OF/1B, PHI) Highest Level in 2012: MAJ Age: 26 Darin Ruf will probably not show up on many top prospect lists. He's already 26 years old, and he doesn't really have a place to play with Ryan Howard blocking him at 1B. What can't be overlooked is the awesome power he possesses. In 483 AB in AAA last year, Darin hit 38 HR to lead all minor leaguers. Then in a September call-up with the big club, he smacked 3 more in just 33 at bats. In those 502 combined AB, he struck out 114 times, which is far from terrible in this day and age. He also walked 67 times and hit nearly .320 in the process. Ruf has moved to the OF and he could end up in a platoon situation with Delmon Young. A half-season worth of ABs could easily lead to 20 HR.
  • PREVIOUS RANK #4: After a tough spring, Ruf will begin the year in AAA. I still like him to get called up before the break and have some decent impact in the HR category. 

#13: Travis D’Arnaud (C, NYM) Highest Level in 2012: AAA Age: 24 When the Mets began talking to Toronto about trading Cy-Young winner R.A. Dickey, they expressed that there was no deal unless D’Arnaud was in it. That says a lot about what they think of the young catcher’s chances of helping the major league club in the near future. After a fine 2011 at AA New Hampshire that saw D’Arnaud hit .311 with 21 HR, Travis was poised to do even more damage at AAA. Unfortunately, a PCL tear in late June of 2012 cut his season short. He still managed 16 HR and 52 RBI in just 67 games. D’Arnaud is healthy again and only veteran John Buck stands between him and majors. Look for Travis to be called upon around the All-Star break as the mediocre Mets begin to fall out of the race. He should bring a decent BA and good power for the catcher position.  
  • PREVIOUS RANK #10: No significant change. D'Arnaud starts the year in the minors as expected. 

#12: Jurickson Profar (SS, TEX) Highest Level in 2012: MAJ Age: 20 The switch-hitting, slick-fielding Profar is regarded by many scouts as the number one prospect in all of baseball. While he has yet to fully fill out his frame, Profar has shown an increase in power numbers for the last two seasons at A and AA, while maintaining a low strikeout rate and consistent speed metrics. The Rangers love his athleticism and compact swing, and even though their roster is tight, the word is that they will find a spot at the major league level for the young shortstop at some point during 2013. With regular playing time, he could grow into a 20/20 fantasy star.  
  • PREVIOUS RANK #9: No significant change in status. Profar will start the year playing every day for AAA Round Rock. 

 #11: Mike Zunino (C, SEA) Highest Level in 2012: AA Age: 21 Mike Zunino has only 151 professional ABs in his career, but they've been very impressive, enough so that the Mariners moved Jesus Montero into the DH role to clear the way for Zunino. He is a fine defensive catcher who shows great power and bat speed. Although he is a bit of a free swinger, he's been able to keep his BA above .300 at all levels thus far. Like many youngsters, he'll likeley struggle with the breaking stuff early on, but if Zunino does in fact leave Spring Training as the Mariners' starting catcher, he projects to hit in the area of .265 with 22 HR and 80 RBI. Zunino could be a cheap #2 fantasy catcher with some serious upside.
  •  PREVIOUS RANK #8: No significant change. Zunino hit .227 this spring and was assigned to the minors. 

#10 Gerrit Cole (SP, PIT) Highest Level in 2012: AAA Age: 22 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.  
  • PREVIOUS RANK #13: Cole was very impressive this spring. It will be interesting to see if the Pirates call on him or Jameson Taillon when an extra arm is needed. 

#9 Billy Hamilton (OF/SS, CIN) Highest Level in 2012: AA Age: 22 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.
  • PREVIOUS RANK #11: Nothing new to report here. Hamilton impressed in Spring Training, but he'll need more time in the minors to work on his defense. 

#8: Dan Straily (SP, OAK) Highest Level in 2012: MAJ Age: 24 Straily is a name that gets overlooked quite often on top prospect lists. This is strange considering the quality of his stuff and the success he has had at every level. In 152 IP between AA and AAA last year, Straily posted a 2.78 ERA and struck out 190 batters while only allowing 110 hits. He was rewarded with a September call-up, and he delivered by going 2-1 with a 3.89 ERA, striking out 32 in 36 innings. He features a low-to-mid-90s fastball and very good breaking stuff. With Bartolo Colon serving a suspension for PED use, Straily should break spring training as Oakland’s number-five starter; look for him to deliver some fantasy impact in W and K from day one.  
  • REVIOUS RANK #5: Straily has won a job in the A's rotation, but he has been terrible this spring, and will have to pitch very well to remain there after the return of Colon. 

#7: Wil Myers (OF, TB) Highest Level in 2012: MAJ Age: 22 When MLB scouts are asked "Who could be this year's Mike Trout or Bryce Harper?" their answer is usually Wil Myers. The centerpiece of the James Shields trade should get every opportunity to put up a huge year in Tampa. In just over 520 AB between AA and AAA last year, Myers hit over .300, smacked 37 HR and drove in 109 RBI. His approach at the plate is solid and draws comparisons to Ryan Braun. I like Myers to crack Tampa's weak-hitting outfield relatively soon, if not right out of Spring Training. He'll hit-- and hit with power-- wherever he plays.
  • PREVIOUS RANK #2: Myers was reassigned to the minors this spring and has suffered a wrist injury since that time. The Rays will no doubt be very cautious with their top prospect and this will definitely postpone his majors debut. 


#6 Oscar Taveras (OF, STL) Highest Level in 2012: AA Age: 20 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.
  • PREVIOUS RANK #12: No significant change in status, but Tavares did dazzle this spring, hitting .289 with 11 RBI. 

#5: Jedd Gyorko (2B, SD) Highest Level In 2012: AAA Age: 24 Jedd Gyorko is a flat-out professional hitter. He has never hit under .284 at any level in the minors. Last year, Gyorko hit .311 with 30 HR and 100 RBI between AA and AAA. The problem is that Jedd just isn't great with the glove. That said, with Logan Forsythe looking more like a utility option for the Pads, Gyorko could hit his way into the major-league lineup to start the season. As long as he doesn’t make too many game-destroying errors, his offense should be enough to keep him around. Chase Headley is also a free agent at the end of this year, and if the Padres struggle, they could move Headley by the trading deadline, opening up 3B for Forsythe and clearing the way for Gyorko on the right side of the infield.
  • PREVIOUS RANK #6: Gyorko is a confirmed starter in the infield as of Opening Day. He will split time at both 2B and 3B, giving fantasy owners some nice flexibility. I expect him to hit and stick around for a long time. 

#4: Jose Fernandez (SP, MIA) Highest Level in 2012: High A Age: 20 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.
  • PREVIOUS RANK #15: The Marlins shocked the baseball world by purchasing Fernandez's contract on March 30 to fill in for two injured starting pitchers. I'm not totally convinced he will be hanging around all season, but the possibility of a Lincecum- or Strasburg-esque explosion onto the scene is not out of the question either. 

#3 Shelby Miller (SP, STL) Highest Level in 2012: MAJ Age: 22 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.  
  • PREVIOUS RANK #14: Miller makes a big jump up the list after being named to the Cardinals starting rotation in the last week of Spring Training. I like him to stick around and deliver 12-14 W with a solid WHP and fair amount of strikeouts. 


#2: Zack Wheeler (SP, NYM) Highest Level in 2012: AAA Age: 22 The Mets thought enough of Zach Wheeler’s ability to make him the centerpiece of a trade for Carlos Beltran. Wheeler hasn’t disappointed, delivering 12 W and a 148 K in 149 IP between AA and AAA. He only surrendered 115 H and 59 BB over that period, which equates to a stellar 1.168 WHIP. His electric stuff has been compared to Stephen Strasburg’s, but the Mets are trying to take it slowly with the 22-year-old phenom. Developmentally, they consider him a year behind Matt Harvey, meaning Wheeler will make his debut late this season and join the rotation full-time in 2014. Wheeler is high on my list of impact rookies for 2013 because I believe that with the Mets relying on oft-injured starters like Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum, we could see Wheeler much sooner. If that happens, he has the potential to be the fantasy steal of 2013.  
  • PREVIOUS RANK #3: I'm not one of those people that hates to say "I told you so." Johan Santana is undergoing season ending shoulder surgery and it is only a matter of time until until the Mets call on Wheeler to take a place in their rotation. My best guess at a Wheeler arrival date is June 1, giving him almost a full season of stats in his rookie campaign. 

 #1: Wily Peralta (SP, MIL) Highest Level in 2012: MAJ Age: 23 Peralta established himself as the top Milwaukee pitching prospect by the beginning of the 2012 season, but finished 7-11 with a 4.66 ERA at AAA Nashville, causing him to be passed on the organizational depth chart by Tyler Thornburg. This didn't stop him from getting a September call-up though, where he impressed with a 2-1 record over 5 starts, allowing 24 H over 29 IP and striking out 24. Peralta has dominant stuff including a high-90s fastball, and he's an imposing presence on the mound. He has averaged close to 1 K/IP for his entire professional career, and you should not forget about him on draft day. He projects to win a rotation spot with the Brewers coming out of Spring Training. If that's the case, he should be a cheap source for Ks.
  • PREVIOUS RANK #1: Peralta has in fact won a spot in the Brewers rotation, solidifying his top ranking. Unlike Fernandez, he has already pitched in a full professional season and should be able to deliver close to 200 IP without restriction.  

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