We’re a few weeks from Opening Day, and the outlook on prospects for 2012 is taking shape. As usual, it’s important to take a prudent approach with these guys. Prospect-happy drafting is not wise. Most of these names won’t make major impacts for another year or two – if ever. Even so, it’s a good idea to get to know ‘em. I tried to limit this list to guys I thought would contribute this year. Rankings are weighted heavily in terms of realistic 2012 playing time, but I’m factoring each player’s projectable ceiling as well. I’ll be following this post with my Top 25 Fantasy Prospects for 2013 & Beyond. That one will run on Sunday. For now, this:
1. Matt Moore | SP, Rays: Immediate fantasy ace potential. Read Grey’s Matt Moore outlook here.
2. Yu Darvish | SP, Rangers: An argument could be made for Darvish to lead this list. He’s a safer option than Moore to pitch a full season, but I believe Yu’s upside falls a bit short. Check out my Rangers Minor League Review for more on Darvish.
3. Yoenis Cespedes | OF, Athletics: He’s already impressing folks in the Cactus League. Grey projects him at 65/20/80/.250/12.
4. Jesus Montero | C, Mariners: Miguel Olivo is still in the picture, but Montero should take over full-time duties before long. Grey has him as a top-10 catcher option. I definitely agree.
5. Devin Mesoraco | C, Reds: Like the Montero-Olivo situation, Mesoraco still needs to beat out Ryan Hanigan for the regular role behind the plate. Nice upside here.
6. Bryce Harper | OF, Nationals: Baseball’s best prospect likely arrives this season. Grey already went over Harper’s sleeper status: he might be worth most as trade bait.
7. Zack Cozart | SS, Reds: Cozart has the starting shortstop role effectively locked down in Cincy. For more on both him and Mesoraco, check out my Reds post from last week.
8. Yonder Alonso | 1B, Padres: Yes, the move to Petco hurts his value significantly. Even so, he should be starting at first all year, making him useful in deep leagues or NL-Only. More on Alonso in my San Diego post, here.
9. Trevor Bauer | SP, Diamondbacks: Tim Lincecum 2.0? He hasn’t blown anybody away this spring, but I’m excited about Bauer’s potential and I was tempted to rank him higher. Read more on Bauer in my D-Backs post from earlier this offseason.
10. Julio Teheran | SP, Braves: Teheran was pummeled in his spring debut, but bounced back nicely. He has outstanding stuff and the Braves haven’t ruled him out of the opening day rotation just yet.
11. Addison Reed | RP, White Sox: The White Sox have uncertainty surrounding the closer role and Reed could be the guy to step into that position this year. R.J. wrote earlier this week that he expects Matt Thornton to be used in high-leverage setup situations. That would seemingly leave Reed to collect the save opps.
12. Mike Trout | OF, Angels: If he truly had a shot at playing this year he’d rank top five. He doesn’t. Still, he deserves to be mentioned here because he’s absolutely ready if there is a need.
13. Anthony Rizzo | 1B, Cubs: The new Cubs front office has been adamant about letting Rizzo marinate for another year in Triple-A. If that’s indeed the plan, then I should probably be saving Rizzo for my Top 25 Fantasy Prospects for 2013 & Beyond post. Clearly that’s not what I’ve done. I doubt Bryan LaHair can cut it in the bigs – not even on the Cubs. I expect to see Rizzo manning first base at Wrigley for the second half of 2012.
14. Brad Peacock | SP, Athletics: Big upside guy with a good shot at making the A’s rotation. Grey & Rudy took him in the 22nd round of the inaugural LABR Mixed league draft.
15. Jarrod Parker | SP, Athletics: Grey wrote about Parker after he was traded to the A’s in December. He should be stronger than ever now, a season-and-a-half removed from Tommy John. He and Peacock could be an exciting backend to the Oakland rotation.
16. Drew Pomeranz | SP, Rockies: Pomeranz left yesterday’s spring start with tightness in his hip. This isn’t good. Two days ago he seemed like a lock to earn a role in the Colorado rotation. Now, not so much. The injury might be minor – certainly a situation to monitor. See my Rockies post for more on Promeranz.
17. Jacob Turner | SP, Tigers: Turner has struggled with control thus far in camp. Looks like he’ll be opening the season in Triple-A, but it shouldn’t be long ’til he’s making an impact with Detroit. Read more on Turner in my Tigers post.
18. Leonys Martin | OF, Rangers: The toolsy outfielder is battling for a starting role in camp, and he’s been impressive so far. He might have an edge on the competition thanks to his defense, but his offense is still a work in progress. Read more on Martin in my Rangers post.
19. Shelby Miller | SP, Cardinals: With Chris Carpenter’s health in question, the Cardinals are holding auditions for the fifth spot in their rotation. After two poor outings this spring, though, it seems Miller won’t make the cut. Should the Cards’ injury problems persist, however, Miller could be up and he could be extremely effective this year. More likely, though, he makes his impact in 2013. More about Miller, here.
20. Danny Hultzen | SP, Mariners: The M’s have optioned Hultzen to Triple-A, but he’s still a good bet to crack their rotation at some point this year. The #2 overall pick last June should be added in all formats upon arrival. Grey & Rudy recently drafted him, so you know he’s good.
21. Tyler Skaggs | SP, Diamondbacks: Skaggs is dealing with a sore shoulder issue in camp, but he made his last appearance without issue. The 20-year-old likely begins 2012 in Triple-A, but he’s certainly a candidate for a mid-season call up. See my D’backs post for more on Skaggs.
22. Hisashi Iwakuma | SP, Mariners: At 30 years old, he’s hardly a prospect in the typical sense. Iwakuma is pretty well locked into a starting role, however, and that’s certainly valuable considering the Safeco-effect.
23. Brett Jackson | OF, Cubs: Jackson is off to a exciting start in the Cactus League. If he can keep it up, he’ll have a shot at arriving in the bigs sooner than I anticipated.
24. Joe Benson | OF, Twins: The Twins’ best hitting prospect still has a chance to leave camp with the big club. Check out my Twins post for more on Benson.
25. Lance Lynn | SP, Cardinals: Lynn looks like the favorite to be take the fifth spot in the St. Louis rotation. He was fantastic in relief down the stretch last season. We’ll see if he can carry that momentum into this year as a starter. More on Lynn in my Cardinals post.