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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.

  1. Big Magoo says:
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    I’d probably swap Cespedes and Montero, move Reed up to the 6-8 range (he looks like this year’s Santos/Motte), and move Miller up into the high teens. But that’s all nit-picking. Nice article.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      @Big Magoo, Thanks for reading. All fair adjustments. Low rank for Miller is purely me being skeptical that he’ll even have a chance to pitch this year. He’d rank top ten if I truly believed the Cards would use him.

      • beardcrabs says:
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        @Scott Evans, i agree… when Jesus is not catching he will be the primary DH thus boosting his value past Cespedes… lets keep our fingers crossed he gets eligibility fairly quickly in yahoo…

  2. chata says:
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    nice article .

    #5 ironic that dusty has no qualms about burning out his pitchers ,
    but insists on platooning his catchers .

    #17 jacobs “dead arm” has turned into right shoulder tendinitis .

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      @chata, Thanks. Love the Dusty observation… so true.

  3. Chris says:
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    Nice article, I enjoyed it.

    I assume Viciedo wasn’t listed because he exceeded the 150 AB mark over the last 2 seasons combined? Because if not, I’d rank him right behind Montero and Cespedes. I think he’ll just about match Cespedes’ projected line, but with a slightly higher AVG and little to no steals.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      @Chris, Thanks, and yes, Viciedo graduated from prospect status. Had he been beneath the minimums, he surely woulda ranked highly here, as you suggest.

  4. anarchy burger says:
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    i’m really developing a man crush on bauer. i have my main keeper league draft saturday and am afraid i might reach to high for him. last year i took pineda round 15 to give some context of where guys go. does he have a chance to break camp with the big club?? is round 14 to early??

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      @anarchy burger, I feel the same regarding Bauer. Perhaps the most intriguing pitching prospect, in my eyes. Love guys who break the mold… He does have a chance to break camp with the D’Backs (Collmenter is dealing with a forearm issue), but the 14th round is probably reaching. I’d think he’d still be around a few rounds later. Tremendous upside, though.

  5. joe from point pleasant says:
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    Why no love for Tommy Milone? The guys done nothing but dominate at every level, and he registered a near 10 to 1 K/BB ratio last year. That’s unheard of!!

    I’m reading he’s a lock for the 3 or 4 spot in the rotation too.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      @joe from point pleasant, Milone is an interesting case. His ratios are great, but they aren’t reflective of a guy who throws in the 80’s. Advanced command should allow him to be reasonably effective, but I’m not sold. Not as established as Iwakuma. Not as much upside as Hultzen, Skaggs, not even Lynn… To be fair, though, he’s not far off – probably belongs in the next five or so.

  6. marti says:
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    what r your thoughts on starling marte?

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      @marti, Exciting athlete starting to put it together at the plate. Power potential keeps climbing. Probably doesn’t arrive ’til September, at the earliest, so tough to include on this list.

  7. beardcrabs says:
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    how about Nolan Arenado… does he get any MLB ab’s this season?

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      @beardcrabs, I think he earns a late season promotion. He’d really have to tear apart Texas League pitching to be up before then.

      • Random Collmenter says:
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        @Scott Evans, really? everything i’ve read says arenado will be up by mid-summer, esp. winning arizona fall league mvp honors.

        you really think casey blake will hold onto the job?

        was thinking about drafting arenado on the early side (early 20’s) just to make sure i snagged him…

        • Scott Evans

          Scott Evans says:
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          @Random Collmenter, No reason to think he’ll struggle, but Colorado won’t call him up on the off chance he does… Tough for me to endorse a mid-season arrival for a guy who hasn’t played Double-A yet. That said, the Rox aren’t shy about being aggressive with prospects & Arenado is certainly an exciting player. Lotta variables involved here. If you have the flexibility to stash him for a few months, I can’t criticize. Too much risk for me to take that leap in standard formats, though.

          • Random Collmenter says:
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            @Scott Evans, it’s a keeper league, so i was thinking about snatching arenado/rendon/bauer toward the end of my draft and stashing them (as opposed to the reserve round where all those guys will probably be taken).

            who do you like better – arenado or rendon? does rendon have any shot at seeing PT this year? if so, where will the nats put him in the field?

            thanks!

            • Scott Evans

              Scott Evans says:
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              @Random Collmenter, I like Arenado better for this year, Rendon better long term – but it’s close. Doubt Rendon sees anything more than a September call up this season – if that. Both ranked top-10 in my 2013 & Beyond post, which runs today.

  8. JoeyButtafuoco says:
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    RE: Bauer “He hasn’t blown anybody away this spring”

    7ip 5h 2er 1bb 7k

    Your standards are clearly too high.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      @JoeyButtafuoco, EXPECT NO FEWER THAN 15 Ks IN 7 IP.

      • Scott Evans

        Scott Evans says:
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        @Scott Evans, No, I wrote Bauer’s blurb before he pitched today… His previous outing: 3 IP, 4H, 2ER. Much more encouraging effort today.

        • JoeyButtafuoco says:
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          @Scott Evans

          …but the previous outing was 2ip 0h 0bb 2k…

          Keith Law saw him pitch in that outing, here’s a quote…

          “If Bauer’s two innings are a harbinger of what he’ll do across 180 innings this year, then he’d be the Diamondbacks’ best starter this year”

          …and lest we forget, Kennedy finished 4th in Cy Young balloting.

          Two can play this game ;-)

          Seriously though, as a Diamondback fan, and someone who owns him for dirt cheap in a dynasty league, I couldn’t be happier with his spring results so far. Just giving you a hard time :-p

          • Scott Evans

            Scott Evans says:
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            @JoeyButtafuoco, Don’t get me wrong, Joey. I really like Bauer – if he makes the rotation he’s a must-own. Upside is very high.

  9. Daniel says:
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    No love for Mike Moustakas?

    • JoeyButtafuoco says:
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      @Daniel, he’s not a prospect. 130 AB / 50 IP in the ML’s is the threshold.

      • Scott Evans

        Scott Evans says:
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        @JoeyButtafuoco, Yeah, Moose graduated in ’11.

  10. Tim Lincecum 2.0?

    is that because he might be as good as Tim or a Joke for Bauer

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      @Mr Baseball, No joke. I think Bauer profiles similarly to Lincecum. He’s a little bigger, but same smallish frame & like Lincecum, he relies heavily on biomechanics. Bauer’s delivery is funky, but it allows him to generate torque that you wouldn’t think was possible from a dude his size. DAMN! All this Bauer talk has me wishing I’d ranked him top five.

  11. Yeah, I Remember When says:
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    I’m pretty sure that Sano is the Twins’ best hitting prospect, followed by Rosario and Arcia. But, hairs are being split.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      @Yeah, I Remember When, I concede to you on this one. Poorly worded on my part, but you get the idea: “top hitting prospect [anywhere near the majors]“

  12. PublicEnemy#1 says:
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    What type of numbers could we see from Bauer over 170 IP or so?

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      @PublicEnemy#1, Not so sure he’ll get that many IP, but something like this: 8-6/4.00/1.35/170

  13. Dirty Jersey says:
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    <3 & xoxo for the dynasty league love here…. cant wait for the "extended look" post

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      @Dirty Jersey, Glad to help out!

  14. Ilan says:
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    So, about that whole Trout prediction…

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