For those of you who don’t remember, here’s the gist (and we’ll keep this blurb here all season so as not to confuse any newcomers): Ranking prospects for fantasy purposes is a tricky exercise. Back in February, I rolled out my Top 50 Fantasy Prospects for 2014 (part 1, part 2), and those are already garbage. The variables involved are constantly in flux — talent emerges, talent regresses… opportunity comes, opportunity goes… clubs get cold feet because of service time, clubs don’t give a shizz about service time. So, given the fluid nature of this prospect business, we’re going to keep a running ranking throughout the season. This post will run every Wednesday, providing a weekly glimpse of the soon-to-arrive impact talent.
It’s our first PPR list of the year (don’t get confused, football meatheads), and I’m too excited to chat, so let’s get right to it:
1. Javier Baez, SS, Cubs: I told you on Sunday that I don’t think Baez will be long for the minors. When he surfaces at Wrigley, he’ll bring immediate and significant impact potential in HR and SB. If you miss out on this one, you’ll be crying yourself to sleep all summer.
2. George Springer, OF, Astros: Think of Springer as 2014’s version of Wil Myers — Wil Myers with 40 SB potential, that is. He’s a virtual lock to arrive in Houston this June, offering a HR and SB boost to your squad as soon as he steps into a big league ballpark. There’s some swing-and-miss in Springer’s game, which could lead to a slow start, but make no mistake, this is the sort of power-speed combo that doesn’t come around often.
3. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals: Both Baez and Springer have more direct paths to big league playing time, and they might even bring higher respective ceilings too, but no one in the minors is better equipped than Oscar Taveras for immediate success at the ML level. Oscar’s plus-plus hit tool is ready to be tested in the bigs, but first things first: He needs to prove that he’s healthy. After a banged up 2013 that’s bled into the 2014 season, it is of great importance that Taveras’s name appears in the Memphis box score everyday this April.
4. Archie Bradley, RHP, D’Backs: Bradley is the top pitching prospect in the game, and he’s close to being able to put his impressive skill set to work in the bigs, but his command could use some refinement, and a little bit of time spent at the Triple-A level might serve him well. The D’Backs view themselves as contenders this season, and they won’t hesitate to call-up Bradley as soon as he’s ready. Early/mid-June seems like a plausible ETA.
5. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Orioles: Early on this spring, Gausman looked to have a grasp on a gig in the O’s rotation, but then the Ubaldo Jimenez signing happened, and that acquisition ultimately pushed Gausman to Triple-A. The 23-year-old offers advanced stuff and plenty of polish, and it’s only a matter of time before he steps into a permanent SP role in Baltimore.
6. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pirates: Polanco brings an exciting skill set to the fantasy game, and his long-term upside is the same class as the hitters ahead of him on this list. Developmentally, however, he isn’t quite as well-cooked as Baez/Springer/Taveras. It might take a season or two before he’s able to achieve the 30/30 potential I’ve pinned on him, but even so, Pittsburgh figures to have a need for him this season, and you don’t want to get caught sleeping on a talent of this caliber.
7. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets: I’m thinking Rafael Montero (see Next Five) gets the first look when an opportunity presents itself in New York, but I’m slotting Syndergaard higher on this list based on his enormous upside. The 21-year-old brings a true ace profile, projecting to be a durable four category contributor as soon as he surfaces.
8. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pirates: I expect Jameson Taillon’s path to Pittsburgh to resemble that of his teammate, Gerrit Cole’s. Like Cole a year ago, Taillon could use some more time in the upper levels to work on his command, and the Pirates figure to allow him a couple months at Indianapolis before adding him to their big league rotation sometime in June.
9. Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Astros: Time is the only thing standing between Singleton and full-time 1B duties in Houston. He’s probably ready for a look now, but the Astros are pinching pennies, and they’ll be sensitive to service time in order to keep their top prospects cost-controlled for as long as possible. Singleton offers serious power potential, and he should be doing damage in fantasy leagues before the calendar rolls into July.
10. Marcus Stroman/Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Blue Jays: From my Blue Jays MiLB preview: “Those of you who read my posts throughout the regular season know that I’m intrigued by Stroman — he brings a fastball/slider combo that’s as good as any in the minors, and that skill set makes for some exciting performances (he whiffed 11+ batters in four of his 20 starts). Stroman was probably ready for a big league look this past September, but the Jays opted to send him to the Arizona Fall League instead. Big time whiff potential will make him a coveted piece in the fantasy game as soon as he surfaces.” Stroman was actually #2 in that Blue Jays T10, behind SP Aaron Sanchez, who put himself in the stash-able conversation after a phenomenal spring. At this point, it’s tough to say who gets the first look in Toronto once an opportunity arises, but that situation should gain clarity as we work our way into the regular season.