I spend most of my time here focusing on prospects who’re nearing their big league debuts. Today, though, I’m gonna be discussing some guys a little further out. In these rankings, talent trumps all – although, I broke that rule a few times based on lack of experience (see Bundy, Sano, Starling). Among all of these names, though, one fact is constant: each has an enormous ceiling. All of these guys have the potential to develop into tremendous fantasy assets. Unless you’re drafting in a dynasty league, however, these are not players you want to be considering on draft day. For the top 25 fantasy baseball prospects for right now, click that link.
1. Jurickson Profar | SS, Rangers: Profar has already put up some exciting numbers, and scouts are drooling over his physical development this offseason. The upside here is preposterously high. More on Profar in my Rangers post. ETA: 2013.
2. Manny Machado | SS, Orioles: The slugging shortstop has drawn comparisons to a young A-Rod. The arrival of Machado and Profar will certainly aid the shortstop scarcity currently plaguing fantasy baseball. ETA: 2013.
3. Gerrit Cole | SP, Pirates: Cole was the #1 overall pick last June and made his pro debut in the Arizona Fall League, where he was clocked as high as 102 MPH. He’ll start at High-A this year, but should move quickly. ETA: 2013.
4. Jameson Taillon | SP, Pirates: Although he’s a year ahead of Cole in terms of experience, Taillon is behind his teammate developmentally. Legitimate ace potential here. The future is bright for the Pittsburgh rotation. ETA: 2014.
5. Travis D’Arnaud | C, Blue Jays: Projects better than Arencibia both offensively and defensively, so it’s only a matter of time ’til D’Arnaud takes over as Toronto’s regular behind the plate. He should be up late this season and ready for full-time in 2013. ETA: Late 2012.
6. Anthony Rendon | 3B, Nationals: Rendon is a polished hitter and he could be ready for the bigs by late-season. With Ryan Zimmerman at third for the foreseeable future, Rendon might have to arrive as a 2B. More on Rendon in my Nationals post. ETA: 2013.
7. Nolan Arenado | 3B, Rockies: Arenado doesn’t impress scouts quite so much as Rendon, but he’s an impressive all-around talent and the Rockies have no one blocking him at third. He’ll start 2012 at Double-A and try to push his way through to the big club this year. More on Arenado, here. ETA: Late 2012.
8. Dylan Bundy | SP, Orioles: An ace in the making, Bundy is looking forward to his first taste of pro ball in 2012. He should move quickly. Could rank higher if he backs up the hype with on-field production. ETA: 2014.
9. Taijuan Walker | SP, Mariners: Ace potential is even more attractive when you factor the Safeco effect. ETA: 2014.
10. Mike Montgomery | SP, Royals: Montgomery has a chance to gain some big league time this year if the Royals’ staff is injured and/or terrible. More likely, Kansas City remains patient with their prized prospect and he makes his impact in 2013. ETA: Late 2012.
11. Miguel Sano | SS, Twins: Sano will get his first taste of full-season baseball in the Midwest League this year. That means he’ll make a few visits to Kane County, which isn’t too far from me. Can’t wait to watch him live. ETA: 2015.
12. Bubba Starling | OF, Royals: The fifth overall selection last June, Starling is oozing with talent. He could be playing full-time at Kane County this year. OH HELL YEAH – when can I pre-order Beloit at Kane County tix? ETA: 2015.
13. Carlos Martinez | SP, Cardinals: Command seems to be the only thing holding Martinez back at this point. He’ll return to the Florida State League to begin 2012 in order to refine that aspect of his game. Once he can work that out, he’ll push through quickly. ETA: 2013.
14. Archie Bradley | SP, Diamondbacks: Bradley joins Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs as three potential aces in the D’Backs system. He’ll need quite a bit more time than the other two, however. ETA: 2015.
15. Wil Myers | OF, Royals: In terms of pure talent, Myers falls a bit short of Starling. At this point, though, he’s far closer to the bigs. Long shot to arrive late this year. ETA: 2013.
16. Manny Banuelos | SP, Yankees: Banuelos is probably ready now, but the Yankees have nowhere for him. Based on readiness, he’s a good candidate for a late-seasn arrival. More on Banuelos, in my Yankees prospect review. ETA: Late 2012.
17. Jonathan Singleton | 1B/OF, Astros: Singleton joined the Houston system by way of Philadelphia in the Hunter Pence swap. He put up some outstanding post-trade figures in the California League. A beacon of hope for Astros fans. More on him, here. ETA: 2013.
18. Christian Yelich | OF, Marlins: Yelich projects above average in hitting, power and speed. Defensively, he’s just average, though. Good thing we don’t care about defense. ETA: 2013.
19. Mike Olt | 3B, Rangers: He could very well be ready by the second half of 2012, but the opportunity in Texas won’t exist while Beltre is entrenched at third. Could be trade-bait. More on Olt, here. ETA: 2013.
20. Martin Perez | SP, Rangers: Three plus offerings has Perez looking like a frontline starter if he can get his command in order. Read more on him in my Rangers post. ETA: 2013.
21. Zack Wheeler | SP, Mets: Wheeler profiles best as a #2 starter, but he could develop into an ace if he can transform his curveball into a plus offering – his fastball and changeup are already there. Wheeler could reach Triple-A this year. ETA: 2013.
22. Francisco Lindor | SS, Indians: Yet another huge upside talent who’ll be playing in the Midwest League this year. The Cleveland system is horrendous, but Lindor provides some reason for hope. ETA: 2015.
23. Gary Brown | OF, Giants: Brown will begin 2012 trying to prove he can put up big numbers outside the hitter-friendly California League. But his speed and defense will play in the bigs, regardless. Read more on Brown in my Giants post. ETA: 2013.
24. Anthony Gose | OF, Blue Jays: Extremely toolsy centerfielder swiped 70 bags at Double-A. Gose will work on refining his approach at the plate in Triple-A this year. He could push Colby Rasmus out of center in 2013. ETA: 2013.
25. Hak-Ju Lee | SS, Rays: Lee, for now, is a defensive-minded shortstop, but he has all of the tools to develop into an exciting offensive player. Shortstop is a weakness at the top of the Rays’ organization, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Lee up at some point next year. ETA: 2013.
Ten more, in alphabetical order: Xander Bogaerts (SS, Red Sox); Nick Castellanos (3B, Tigers); Jarred Cosart (SP, Astros); Yasmani Grandal (C, Padres); Billy Hamilton (SS, Reds); Zach Lee (SP, Dodgers); Rymer Liriano (OF, Padres); Wily Peralta (SP, Brewers); Oscar Taveras (OF, Cardinals); Kolten Wong (2B, Cardinals)