A quick primer to begin: This is not a list of my top overall prospects — Shelby Miller would not lead that list. No, this list exists only to serve those of us in fantasyland. The names that follow are, at this moment, the prospects who have the best chance at offering positive contributions for fantasy owners in 2013. My method here was quite simple: each player was assigned a grade for both potential fantasy impact, and for current opportunity. Those variables were weighed equally, and totals were then tallied. I sorted out the ties and adjusted here and there as I saw fit. Opportunity grades are always tough. At this point in the year, circumstances can shift overnight and a prospect’s ETA can change dramatically (see Miller). My plan is to revisit this list before opening day, and also to keep a running Top Ten Fantasy Prospects throughout the year in order to keep us posted at any given moment as to which fantasy-relevant prospects are next to arrive in the bigs. For those of us drafting early, though, this list should suffice.
1. Shelby Miller, RHP | STL: With the news breaking yesterday that Chirs Carpenter is set to retire from baseball, a spot has opened in the St. Louis rotation. In all likelihood, Miller will step into that role. The 22-year-old should be able to handle a workload upwards of 180 IP. Tremendous stuff will allow for loads of strikeouts, and a solid team around him will help him tally up the W’s. Here’s Grey’s Shelby Miller fantasy.
2. Oscar Taveras, OF | STL: Taveras will likely start at Triple-A Memphis, but he shouldn’t last too much longer in the minors. The Cardinals are flush with fragile players, and more importantly, Taveras gives them a better chance to win than Jon Jay does. As soon as ineptitude is apparent, or injury takes place, Taveras will be up, and he’ll be mashing at the big league level immediately. Here’s Grey’s Oscar Taveras fantasy.
3. Wil Myers, OF | TB: Like Taveras, Myers should start the year at Triple-A, but expect to see him in Tampa before long. He’s as advanced as any hitter in the minors, and the 22-year-old slugger shouldn’t have too much trouble adjusting to big league pitching once he’s arrived. Here’s (one of) Grey’s Wil Myers fantasy.
4. Tyler Skaggs, LHP | ARI: Grey ranked Skaggs as the 89th best SP for fantasy in a recent post (he ranked a few SP’s on this list in the 80-100 range, so that link will be useful). He’s in great position to begin the year in the D’Backs’ rotation. The 21-year-old features outstanding command and an elite 12-6 breaker, which will miss plenty of bats. He’ll be ready to go for 180+ IP, provided he stays healthy and effective.
5. Julio Teheran, RHP | ATL: I ranked Teheran #1 in the Atlanta system in my recent Minor League Preview for the Braves. Scouts blame some mechanical tweaks for his loss of stuff in 2012, but the Braves are confident he’ll return to form in 2013. The #5 slot in their rotation is Teheran’s if he performs well this spring.
6. Bruce Rondon, RHP | DET: Rondon came in as Detroit’s #3 prospect on my Tigers Minor League Preview. I called him “Jason Motte-ish” in that post, and I think that descriptor holds. He’ll be closing games for Detroit this year, and amassing plenty of K’s in the process.
7. Trevor Bauer, RHP | CLE: #86 on Grey’s SP list, Bauer is a perplexing case. His fastball has lost some of its heat since his days at UCLA, and Arizona was eager to ship him out of town. But Bauer is still just 22 years old, and he features a deep, impressive repertoire for a dude that young. A fresh start in Cleveland might be just what he needs to get back on track, and an impressive spring could earn him a spot in the rotation to begin the year. Grey also has a Trevor Bauer fantasy.
8. Wily Peralta, RHP | MIL: Grey ranks Peralta at #83 on his SP list (just click on of the other links), and Sky went over his sleeper status in a post last week. Sky draws some useful comparisons in his analysis, so do read that post for more on the Brewers’ 23-year-old starter.
9. Hyun-Jin Ryu, RHP | LAD: Grey likes Ryu much more than I do. He ranked him #31 on his SP list, projecting nice ratios and so-so strikeout figures. My expectations are tad lower, but the 25-year-old Korean is safely entrenched in the Dodgers’ rotation, and he should have enough stuff and pitchability to be effective in stateside baseball.
10. Travis D’Arnaud, C | NYM: The learning curve for catchers is always a bit longer because of dual responsibilities. It’s tough to anticipate a seamless transition for D’Arnaud as he adjusts to responsibilities both at and behind the plate… not to mention he’s coming off of injury, too. His long-term potential is much greater than his immediate outlook, but If there’s any catching prospect capable of surprising me, it’s D’Arnaud. Grey’s D’arnaud fantasy is there.
11. Adam Eaton, OF | ARI: With Justin Upton out of town, Eaton is primed to leadoff and start in center for Arizona. Grey has him slotted at #63 in his Top 80 Outfielders post, writing that his “nether-loins are jazzed” about Eaton’s fantasy potential. My nether-loins are likewise jazzed.
12. Dan Straily, RHP | OAK: #3 on my A’s Minor League Preview, Straily is in good position to begin the season in the Oakland rotation. If he can start fooling big league hitters the same way he toyed with minor leaguers last year, he could be the most immediately valuable fantasy asset here.
13. Leonys Martin, RHP | TEX: Grey ranked Martin right behind Eaton on his OF ranks, projecting a nice line for the Rangers’ starting CF: 75/7/45/.270/25. The opportunity is there for the athletic Cuban who posted a 1.033 OPS in Triple-A last year.
14. Mike Olt, 3B/1B | TEX: Texas has Mitch Moreland penciled in at 1B for now, but it might not be long before Mike Olt takes over full-time at first. Olt is oozing with power, and brings very real 30+ HR potential to Texas. The Mike Olt fantasy is there.
15. Jurickson Profar, TEX | SS: He’s my #1 overall prospect, but frankly, I just don’t see a lot of time on the field for him this year. Of course, I said the same thing about Mike Trout in these rankings a year ago, so take that as you will. The Profar fantasy is, you guessed it, there.
16. Zack Wheeler, RHP | NYM: The addition of Shaun Marcum fills out the Mets’ rotation for now, so Wheeler will have to wait at Triple-A for an opportunity. Unfortunately, he’ll be passing that time in Las Vegas, home of one of MiLB’s most prolific launching pads.
17. Dylan Bundy, RHP | BAL: Bundy will likely return to Double-A to begin the year, and there’s a distinct possibility that he won’t even see the bigs this season. Still, he’s the best starting pitching prospect in the minors, and if there’s a need, he’s absolutely ready to help in Baltimore. The Dylan Bundy fantasy is there.
18. Martin Perez, RHP | TEX: Perez is a frontrunner to earn the #5 spot in the Rangers’ rotation, but he’ll need to return to his Double-A form if he’s to be a viable fantasy option. Folks around baseball believe he can.
19. Rob Brantly, C | MIA: I covered Brantly in my Marlins preview a few months back. It looks like he’ll begin the season as part of a platoon in Miami, but a solid hit tool and decent pop could make him the full-time guy before long, and a potential bargain-buy catcher. There was also a Rob Brantly sleeper post.
20. Trevor Rosenthal, RHP | STL: We watched Rosenthal blow hitters away with 100+ MPH heat out of the Cardinals’ ‘pen last October. But with Carpenter out of the picture and Jaime Garcia’s health in question, Rosenthal might have the opportunity to start games for St. Louis this year. There’s plenty of competition for a starter’s gig in the Cards’ organization, what with Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, and Carlos Martinez, but Rosenthal might be the best option next to Miller at this juncture. His fantasy potential as a starter would be quite good.
21. Jedd Gyorko, 2B | SD: Here’s Grey’s Jedd Gyorko fantasy. He wrote it while blasting Bob Seger and drinking Bud Light Platinums with Karl Welzein… or something. In any case, Gyorko will compete with Logan Forsythe for the second base job in San Diego. He’ll bring good power, AVG, and on-base skills as a MI if he wins the job.
22. Gerrit Cole, RHP | PIT: The Pirates are content to begin Cole at Triple-A, but the 22-year-old should make his way to Pittsburgh sometime before July. Legitimate ace potential will make Cole a coveted asset in all formats.
23. Hunter Morris, 1B | MIL: The #5 prospect on my Brewers preview, Morris is coming off of a .303/.357/.563, 28 HR year at Double-A. He’ll be ready to take over 1B duties in Milwaukee if Mat Gamel proves ineffective.
24. Oswaldo Arcia, OF | MIN: Arcia has little left to prove in the minors, and Minnesota’s iffy outfield allows for some opportunity. The 21-year-old Venezuelan posted a .955 OPS at Double-A last year.
25. Jake Marisnick, OF | MIA: Marisnick could use some more seasoning in the high minors, but Miami fans will be clamoring for something to root for outside of Giancarlo Stanton, and Marisnick could serve as a useful pacifier. He’ll offer value in AVG, HR, and SB once up.