Every year Baseball America, who is known for their famous top prospect list, puts out a very accurate ranking. Players who have been ranked #1 in the previous years include Jason Heyward, Matt Wieters, Jay Bruce, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Delmon Young, Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, Josh Beckett, Josh Hamilton, Rick Ankiel, Andruw Jones, Alex Rodriguez, Cliff Floyd, and Chipper Jones. Other prospects who were ranked in the top 5 have been Stephen Strasburg, Mike Stanton, Brian Matusz, David Price, Colby Rasmus, Tommy Hanson, Evan Longoria, Clay Buchholz, Phil Hughes, Homer Bailey, Stephen Drew, Felix Hernandez, BJ Upton, Rickie Weeks, Jose Reyes, Carlos Pena, Ben Sheets, Pat Burrell, Vernon Wells, Eric Chavez, Paul Konerko, Adrian Beltre, Aramis Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero, Derek Jeter, Carlos Delgado, and of course Ben McDonald. Just last year the top 10 included Heyward, Strasburg, Stanton, Matusz, Posey, and Feliz. So as you can see this is a very prestigious list and usually determines who the superstars of the future really are. With that being said let’s take a look at this years 2011 Baseball America Top Prospect list and what their fantasy impacts will be both this season and for a keeper league. Get ready to see a lot of Kansas City Royals.
- Bryce Harper (OF, WAS)- Ridiculous. I’ve had several chances to meet him and see him play live this season, so believe me when i say to believe the hype. There is a good chance you won’t see him in the majors this season. There is a small chance that the Nationals will decide to make him a September call-up just so he gets the experience of the big leagues. The Nationals are known for promoting prospects quickly (Ryan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler, Drew Storen) so the possibility of this isn’t out of the question. IF he were to be called up this September I would imagine he would start his very first day to capitalize on the hype and sell tickets. After that he probably wouldn’t play much the last month and would start the 2012 season at AA or AAA. He’s a good one to own in a keeper league because he has the chance to come up before he is 20 like Jay Bruce did, and be a great hitter for a long time.
- Mike Trout (OF, LAA)- A five tool 19 year old. He will hit for an elite average, will develop decent power, and is very quick. Through 3 seasons in the minors he has already hit .338 and stole 56 bases last year. Power is the last tool to develop so that will come. Harper has all the hype, but this kid may have more skill. Just like Harper there is a good chance he doesn’t come up this season. If he does come up in September I expect him to get regular at bats. If the Angels are still in the playoff hunt it actually makes sense to promote him and see if he can help them through the playoffs much like Boston and Tampa Bay have done recently with Jacoby Ellsbury, and Desmond Jennings. If they fall out of contention then they certainly need to bring him up.
- Jesus Montero (C, NYY)- 21 years old and ready. Not only will he come up this year, but it could and should be by the end of May. He should put up decent numbers this season that will immediately benefit your fantasy team. Long term he is projected to be a .300 hitter with 30-35 HR per season. Scouts have a scale between 20-80 where they rate power, and Montero has been ranked a 80. With that supporting cast and in that park I expect him to be serviceable in 2011.
- Domonic Brown (OF, PHI)- 23 years old. He was expected to make the club out of spring this year until he got injured. He is currently in the minors and will be called up this summer. He is a 5 tool guy and projects to hit .300 with 20-25 HR and 15-20 SB. I don’t expect him to start putting up good fantasy numbers until 2012. Long term he is okay to have for a keeper, but I think it will take him a few years to really get going. Andrew McCutchen has been serviceable, but really isn’t elite yet. I expect the same from Brown.
- Julio Teheran (SP, ATL)- 20 years old. We’ve talked about him a whole lot the last few weeks, and he makes his second start of the season tonight. I expect him to immediately be worth a roster spot on your fantasy team. Pitchers usually seem to develop quicker than hitters. He is a must add and a must keep in any keeper league format that keeps more than 3-5 players. He is the future #1 for Atlanta and a candidate to one day win a cy young.
- Jeremy Hellickson (SP, TB)- I praised him at the end of last year, in the offseason, in the spring, at the beginning of the season, and I’m still praising him now as he dominates the big leagues. You should have drafted him and you should keep him in a keeper.
- Aroldis Chapman (RP, CIN)- We all know who he is. The problem here is that he doesn’t have a role. Relief pitchers have no value on a fantasy team unless your league has a holds category. Hopefully he goes back to being a starter in the near future. If that happens he has tons of value. He should gain better command with experience.
- Eric Hosmer (1B, KC)- Real deal. He is producing decently right now. As I said earlier this week I see him having his growing pains, but getting back up there to hit for average this season. On the 20-80 power scale he is rated a 70. He has been compared to Chipper Jones and Joey Votto. Obviously both of those guys are and were elite average guys with very good power. Sort of like Mark Teixeira in his prime. Scott Boras has already predicted that Hosmer will break salary records when he is a free agent in 6 years. A must have in a keeper format.
- Mike Moustakas (3B, KC)- 22 years old. He almost made the club out of spring training so he will certainly be called up this season. A 70 on the 20-80 scale he is projected to be a 30-35 HR a season guy. He is also projected to hit for a decent average between .280 and .300. This gives him numbers close to Ryan Zimmerman. I think he will play decently when he comes up this season and is a good option long term. 3B is a pretty scarce position so he’s a good keeper.
- Wil Myers (OF, KC)- 20 years old. You shouldn’t see him in the majors this season. He still has a long way to develop. Eventually he projects to hit for average with 20-25 HR and 10-15 SB. This puts him in Hunter Pence territory. If he were to come up this season I wouldn’t pick him up, and I also wouldn’t keep him in a keeper format. Regardless, Kansas City is stacked with prospects.
- Jameson Taillon (SP, PIT)- 19 years old. The #2 overall pick in last year’s draft. He actually just made his professional debut 2 weeks ago in Hagerstown against Harper. He is only at the Low A level and has a few years to go before he comes up. If he isn’t traded by the Pirates he will easily be their best pitcher. He is compared to Josh Beckett and is expected to be as good as he was in his prime. Grab him in a few years.
- Dustin Ackley (2B/OF, SEA)- Another guy who almost made the club out of spring training. We should be seeing Ackley shortly in the majors. He is an excellent hitter and is projected to be a guy who can win batting titles. To go along with his elite average he is projected to hit between 15-25 HR in his prime. He will be a great #3 hitter and is projected to put up Robinson Cano type numbers. Long term he’s good to own. When he comes up he is a good add because of how scarce 2B is, but don’t let your expectations get high. I do not think he will hit over .300 this season and his power will certainly not be developed yet at the big league level. I only expect a handful of HR from him this season, and for him to not hit for average. But he will be worth the chance.
- Shelby Miller (SP, STL)- 20 years old. Hasn’t pitched above the A+ level, so he doesn’t come up this season. Long term he is a good #2 power pitcher with high K’s. Definitely a 15 win guy with a low 3 ERA and over a K/IP. Worth owning in late 2012.
- Manny Machado (SS, BAL)- 18 years old. I had the privilege of meeting him last week and he is a great kid. Scouts have compared his build and look to A-Rod, who by the way took him under his wing this offseason, and trained with him. He was the #3 overall pick in last year’s draft. He is a few years away, but he projects to be a .300 hitter with 20-25 HR. How many SS can you name who does that?
- Matt Moore (SP, TB)- 21 years old. Another good Rays pitching prospect? Who woulda thought? On the 20-80 scale both his fastball and curveball rate a 70. He is projected to be a good #2 starter with high strikeouts. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him this season possibly out of the bullpen. He may follow the Jeremy Hellickson route. He will be worth owning once he has a spot in the rotation.
- Michael Pineda (SP, SEA)- When he made the rotation I told you all to pick him up in what was only my second blog on this website. Because of that I gained instant credibility and people learned that I know what I’m talking about. Thank you Mr. Pineda. I wish you the best of luck for us all. Keep him in a keeper.
- Freddie Freeman (1B, ATL)- There are a lot of growing pains as a young hitter. They all experience it (except Pujols and Braun). Freeman will continue to get better and better both this season and throughout his career. He is a legit power hitter worth using in a utility spot this year, and worth owning long term.
- John Lamb (SP, KC)- 20 years old. We could possibly see him this season. If we do I don’t think he is a must add, but could be serviceable. He strikes out a lot of hitters, doesn’t give up many HR’s, and should carry a pretty good ERA. He’s a good middle of your fantasy rotation guy in a few years.
- Mike Montgomery- (SP, KC)- 21 years old. He should get called up this season. He’s going to be a decent #2-#3 starter with a respectable ERA. He’s big and throws downhill at an angle, which I like, but he doesn’t strike out a ton of guys. His K’s won’t be low, but they won’t reach 1 per inning. I can see him struggling early since he’s not a dominating pitcher. He will be a decent add once he comes up, but don’t expect him to do a whole lot.
- Chris Sale (P, CWS)- He’s struggled a good bit this year out of the bullpen and has a 5 ERA. He has good stuff and should eventually move back into a starting role. He has no fantasy value until that happens. I don’t see him getting a shot at being the closer this year.
- Jacob Turner- (SP, DET)- 20 years old for 3 more days. Then 21. Projected to be a #1 or #2 pitcher, but its going to take a few years. He probably won’t come up this season, but if he does he will probably struggle. He won’t reach a K per inning and should always carry a low 3 ERA. Long term the Tigers look great with Verlander/Scherzer/Porcello/Turner though.
- Desmond Jennings (OF, TB)- He was ranked #6 last year, so failure at the big league level and a strong 2010 draft pushed him back. The Carl Crawford replacement will be up this summer and starting everyday for the Rays. He will only be worth a pickup for those who will need SB this season. Long term he is a good leadoff hitter who hits for average, with a high SB total, and decent power. So he really is Carl Crawford. He will be on the 2012 sleeper list.
- Brandon Belt (1B, SF)- We already know how I feel about him. The last time I talked about him I said he would go back down to the minors, tear it up, come back up, and fight for rookie of the year. Guess what? Since he’s gone down he has hit .384 and should be called back up any day now. Pick him back up when he comes up. I think he’s going to have a good second half.
- Martin Perez (SP, TEX)- 20 years old. A little guy. Good K’s. Nice ERA. I like him, but I don’t think he’s great. I don’t expect to see him this year either. He should be pretty good in a few years.
- Lonnie Chisenhall (3B, CLE)- 22 years old. Already at the AAA level so we will see him this season. He is not one to jump on when he comes up. I don’t think he’s really one to jump on long term either. He is projected to be a 20-25 HR guy, but his average isn’t impressive. His .273 career minor league average so convert to a .260 major league average. He will only have value for his power.
- Dee Gordon (SS, CHC)- 23 years old. So much to say about this guy. First of all, we should see him at the end of this season in the majors and he will be a must add for stolen bases at a thin position. He is pretty much the second coming of Jose Reyes once he matures. He will be a great leadoff hitter, will hit a lot of doubles, 10-15 HR, and between .280-.300. He is an amazing base stealer capable of 60+. On the 20-80 scouting scale his speed is an 80. He gets caught too many times though so its all about maturing for him. Once he comes up I expect him to really struggle at the plate for awhile. He will probably hit about .240 with 15 SB in one or two months worth of games this year. Next year he’s worth owning because of his speed.
- Chris Archer (SP, TB)- Here we go with another Rays arm. This one is 22 years old. He has really struggled this year at AA so I don’t think he’s going to come up this season. When he does come up he should be a mediocre rookie worth owning while on hot streaks and on two start weeks. In a few years he should help your team.
- Zach Britton (SP, BAL)- Can you say rookie of the year candidate? Although i do thin he’s overachieving and will come down a little eventually. Especially when it gets hot. I’m an Orioles fan so of course I love him, but I do not like him better than Hellickson or Pineda to win that rookie of the year award.
- Kyle Drabek (SP, Tor)- He overachieved and peaked early and now he’s come back down some. He is serviceable though and a decent end of the rotation guy on a fantasy team. I don’t expect him to improve much this season, but next year he could be targetable. There are better options for you to keep in a keeper league.
- Gary Sanchez (C, NYY)- Gary, not Gaby. So he’s the other Sanchez. And he’s not Montero so he’s also the Yankees other catching prospect. He is 18 years old. He is a 60 on the 20-80 power scale. He will hit for average and power. Obviously he won’t be called up for years seeing how it seems like Montero won’t be called up for years. The chances of him being a Yankee are also very slim. He will be traded somewhere else eventually. Maybe at the deadline this year in a deal for a starter.
Other prospects to watch this season:
37. Mike Minor (SP, ATL)- Almost made the opening day club. The Braves have so many arms that its hard to see him in the rotation this season without injury, but he should come up to at least be in the bullpen. He’s a high K’s guy so if he ever starts he’s worth watching.
40. Brett Lawrie (2B, TOR)- .325 8 HR at AAA. Shouldn’t take him long to come up. Will probably help out your average, and get a nice number of hits.
42. Jordan Lyles (SP, HOU)- Also almost made the club out of spring. I like this kid. He may have some growing pains, but is probably worth taking a chance on when he comes up. He’s already at AAA so it should be this summer.
47. Alex White (SP, CLE)- He’s up right now and has done well so far. Watch him.
52. Jose Iglesis (SS, BOS)- He’s on the roster right now but won’t stay up long. Boston’s SS of the future.
55. Zach Wheeler (SP, SF)- He won’t come up this year. But he’s great to follow on Twitter. Thats the only reason why I put him on here.
66. Danny Espinosa (2B, WAS)- He’s had highs, and plenty of lows. He should get close to 20 HR this year but the average is a killer.
68. Danny Duffy (SP, KC)- Being recalled for a spot start tonight.
71. Jake McGee (RP, TB)- Farnsworth has done well, but if he starts to get hit hard McGee is the closer.
73. Yonder Alonso (1B/OF, Cin)- I wonder why he’s been converted to OF? Might have something to do with CIN already having an MVP at 1B. I really like this guy. He keeps falling back on the prospect list because Votto is blocking him. He will hit for a nice average, and has very good power. He’s actually worth taking a chance on when he comes up this summer.
76. Tyler Chatwood (SP, LAA)- He’s done well this year. He’s going to have his hiccups (like last night when he got rocked). But he’s worth owning on two start weeks this season.
83. Chris Dwyer (SP, KC)- I just wanted to acknowledge that KC has yet another prospect on this list.
86. Craig Kimbrel (RP, ATL)- Tisk Tisk Baseball America. #86? This guy might win NL rookie of the year. He has ridiculous stuff.