Ranking prospects for fantasy purposes is a tricky exercise. Back in February, I rolled out my Top 50 Fantasy Prospects for 2013 (part 1, part 2), and those are already garbage. The variables involved are constantly in flux — talent emerges, talent regresses… opportunity comes, opportunity goes… clubs get cold feet because of service time, clubs don’t give a shizz about service time. So, given the fluid nature of this prospect business, I thought it might be helpful to keep a running ranking throughout the season. This post will run every other Wednesday, providing a biweekly glimpse of the soon-to-arrive impact talent. Let’s get started.
1. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals: Taveras is the most MLB-ready bat in the minors. Elite bat speed and off-the-charts hand-eye give him a Vlad Guerrero-like ability to barrel any pitch thrown his way. He’ll help in HR, R, RBI, and AVG, and he might net you a few stolen bases along the way. He’s just getting started at Triple-A Memphis, and opportunity is always tough to gauge, but the outfield in St. Louis is fragile, and Taveras could step into any position if needed.
2. Wil Myers, OF, Rays: After shaking off a minor wrist ailment, Myers is off to a nice start at Triple-A Durham. The Rays figure to keep him in the minors ’til June for service time reasons, but Myers has MLB-ready power, and he’s basically a guarantee to arrive before July. He’s an easy stash if you have room.
3. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pirates: Cole, too, is likely to remain at Triple-A Indianapolis until June, but the Wandy Rodriguez hamstring tightness could speed up that timetable. The Pirates insist that Rodriguez will only miss one turn in the rotation, but Cole is a reasonable stash in mixed leagues, regardless of Wandy’s health. If you were excited about Jose Fernandez, you should be equally jazzed for Gerrit Cole.
4. Tony Cingrani, LHP, Reds: Cingrani’s first start at Triple-A Louisville consisted of 6 innings, 1 walk, zero hits, and 14 K’s. That sort of dominance will bring him to Cincy in a hurry. I wouldn’t suggest stashing Cingrani outside of NL-only or keepers, but be ready to pounce in case of injury, or a few poor outings from Mike Leake.
5. Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers: Profar is the #1 overall prospect in baseball and he’s already surfaced at the big league level, but he’s buried behind two All Star-caliber middle infielders on the Rangers depth chart. It’s also important to note that Profar’s impressive profile is better suited for long-term results than for immediate impact. Still, you gotta try to own this guy if he get’s the call. The upside is enormous.
6. Mike Zunino, C, Mariners: Since he was drafted third overall last June, Zunino has been relentlessly dominant. After a 1.137 OPS at two levels in 2012, the 22-year-old out of University of Florida is off to a blazing start in 2013, tallying 16 RBI and 4 HR through his first five games. Zunino will not be held down for long if this sort of mashing keeps up. He offers big fantasy upside at a premium position.
7. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies: I already told you why I’m excited about Arenado. The opportunity is there for him at third, and his gap power will benefit from the thin air at Coors. Expect to see Arenado in the bigs before July.
8. Zack Wheeler, RHP, Mets: Wheeler is a front-of-the-rotation prospect with enormous potential, but he finds himself in a lousy situation, pitching in the launching pad that is Triple-A Las Vegas. He’s part of the 2013 plan in New York, so don’t let poor Pacific Coast League outings and low pitch counts steer you off course. Wheeler will bring big fantasy upside when he arrives, and he’s likely only a couple months away.
9. Dan Straily, RHP, Athletics: Straily was superb at the Triple-A level in 2012, striking out 11+ per-nine with a 2.02 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP. It wasn’t too surprising, then, that he picked apart the Astros lineup in a spot start last week. The A’s won’t hesitate to call him back to the majors if there’s a need. Straily brings good fantasy potential and he’ll be pitching in a friendly ballpark.
10. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Mariners: Hultzen appeared unhittable at Double-A in 2012, but he was quite bad after promotion to Triple-A. The thought is that he simply hit a wall last year, which was his first full-season of pro baseball. Off to a good start at Triple-A in 2013, expect Hultzen to work his way into Seattle’s rotation at some point this summer. The 23-year-old can be dominant when his command is working.