We’re two weeks away from Major League Baseball’s First-Year Players Draft, during which droves of high school and college baseball players will be chosen by MLB organizations to fill their farm systems. Most all the draftees will never make it further than the low minors. A handful of the college guys, however, are already too advanced for short-season or instructional ball. Mind you, this group is merely a tiny fraction of the overall draft class — there aren’t many guys worth noting for fantasy baseball purposes just yet. But there are some. And for the next couple weeks I’m going to highlight a few of my favorites in this weekly feature, which is typically reserved for already-pros. Anyway. We start with a Dukie:
Marcus Stroman | RHP, Duke
Gifted pitchers tend to arrive in the majors a bit more quickly than the hitters. 2011 first-rounders like Trevor Bauer and Danny Hultzen are already on the cusp of breaking through in the bigs, and they’ll be making impacts in fantasy ball this year. Marcus Stroman, a starting pitcher out of Duke, could find himself in a similar position a year from now. At 5-9, 180, Stroman isn’t your prototype pitching prospect, but he’s strong and athletic and can bring it at 98 with his fastball. He counters with a plus changeup and a filthy slider, giving him a three-pitch repertoire that’s not far from big league-ready. His ceiling as a starter is that of a #2, but many think he’d make an outstanding high-leverage reliever. Either way, Stroman will go in the first round and he’s well suited to climb the ladder quickly.
Richie Shaffer | 3B, Clemson
It’s extremely rare that a college hitter would be ready for for MLB action within a year of being drafted, so you need a more patient outlook when considering the position players. Richie Shaffer is likely no exception, but he’s advanced enough to put on your fantasy radar. Out of Clemson, Shaffer is a slugging 3B and he’s put up some impressive figures this year in collegiate play: .344/.470/.590. At 6-4, 195, Shaffer figures to fill out nicely and many project him as a 1B in the bigs. There is serious power potential here. Shaffer could put up 30+ homers annually in the majors, but he’ll need a couple years of seasoning in the minors first. Look for for him to go mid-late first round.
Kyle Zimmer | RHP, San Fransico
Standing 6-4, 220, Zimmer is a more typical power pitching prospect than Stroman, but in terms of development, he’s not likely to move as quickly. With a mid-90′s fastball that touches 99 to go along with a steeply breaking curve, Zimmer features a couple of outstanding offerings. But his third pitch, a change, is more of a work-in-progress. Scouts see that pitch developing into a plus weapon, but it’s clear that the repertoire as a whole is in need some refining before it’s ready to face MLB hitters. As a fantasy-minded fan, I’d love to see Zimmer sign early and get some pro experience this year. I suppose I’d love to see all the highly touted prospects sign early and start playing, but Zimmer in particular. Should he get some time at A-ball under his belt in 2012, he’d be on pace to reach Double-A in 2013, and for arrival early 2014.