Top 100 Fantasy Prospects for 2012: 80-61 by Jason Catania February 23, 2012 From Dave Sappelt to Liam Hendriks. After spending the past few weeks at a secure, undisclosed location (Code Name: Parent’s Basement), I’ve emerged with a list of 100 prospects who, I’m fairly confident, will make an impact on the 2012 fantasy baseball season. Just how much impact? In some cases, it could be a lot; but in others, it could be minimal — or even none. That’s the inherent risk in predicting and projecting not only prospects’ development curves but also how these players could possibly fit into their big-league team’s plans during the upcoming season. That’s why, much like I do with my Mining the Minors columns, I’ve done my best to incorporate both talent and opportunity. Sometimes, a player’s talent is so elite that it’s worth bumping him up the rankings even if his path to playing time isn’t all that clear (think: Mike Trout). But there are also plenty of players in the rankings who will skew more toward the opportunity side of the spectrum, as in: talent aside, they’re (nearly) ready from Day One. Trying to weigh and balance these two aspects — talent and opportunity — is what makes a list like this so challenging. And so fluid. Which is to say, my mind could change on any of the players on the list between today and tomorrow. Or even today and later today. What I hope this ranking provides for you readers is some semblance of an idea of which prospects will be making an impression on the 2012 fantasy baseball landscape. If you happen to think that the guy ranked No. 18 should be No. 93 … or that there’s no way the dude at No. 47 should be outside the Top 10 … well I can’t say you’re wrong. I can only say this is my guess based on my knowledge of these players and their teams — and where everything stands at the moment. So over the coming weeks, I’ll be unveiling my rankings 20 players at a time, starting from No. 100 and working all the way to the top of the list. Remember, to be eligible for this, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (or 30 appearances) in his career. Also to be clear: This is strictly for 2012. While some of these players are already owned, about to be drafted or could make for nice in-season acquisitions in keeper leagues, the goal here is to help fantasy owners in 2-0-1-2. Previous Installments Nos. 100-81 80: Dave Sappelt, Cubs OF Talent: 5 Opportunity: 7 2011 Highest Level: Majors Sappelt, 25, isn’t a first-division starter. He probably isn’t a regular for a second-division squad, either. But he’s athletic, quick and has enough of a hit tool to profile as a legitimate fourth outfielder. The problem? Chicago has about nine other guys who fit the same mold. 79: Jedd Gyorko, Padres 3B Talent: 8 Opportunity: 5 2011 Highest Level: Double-A A 2009 second-rounder, Gyorko, 23, broke out in a big, big way last year, slashing .333/.400/.552 to go with his 25 HRs and 114 RBIs. The majority of the damage was done in the hitter-friendly Cal League, but when a guy leads the minors in hits (192), you tend to notice. He should start out back in Double-A, but there’s only trade bait Chase Headley ahead of him. 78: Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox 3B Talent: 8 Opportunity: 5 2011 Highest Level: Triple-A It would be a bit of a surprise to see Middlebrooks, 23, get any real time in Boston this year, but his bat and glove both fit extremely well at the hot corner — although that lowly 8% BB rate could use some work — and Kevin Youkilis hasn’t exactly been the healthiest cat the past few seasons. 77: Anthony Gose, Blue Jays OF Talent: 8 Opportunity: 5 2011 Highest Level: Double-A One of the toolsiest ‘spects around, the 21-year-old Gose will be a plus defender in centerfield from Day One in the bigs, thanks to his crazy speed (70 SBs in 2011) and a rocket arm. But he’s yet to play at Triple-A, and he whiffs. Like, a lot (26% K). If Travis Snider and Eric Thames falter over the first half, we could see Gose in July or August. 76: Michael Fiers, Brewers SP/RP Talent: 6 Opportunity: 7 2011 Highest Level: Majors Who? Well, yeah, that’s kinda the point of some of these picks. Fiers ain’t no youngin’ at 26, but he’s put up some sick stats despite being drafted in the 22nd round in 2009 and not owning the best “stuff”: 2.50 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, 9.9 K/9. The type of guy who could break camp with Milwaukee in a relief role and work his way into some spot starts. 75: Chen Lee, Indians RP Talent: 6 Opportunity: 7 2011 Highest Level: Triple-A A 25-year-old Taiwanese righty, Lee is on the cusp of the bigs after posting a 2.40 ERA and 1.07 WHIP — with 12.5 K/9 — last year. Even in the deep Indians pen, he’s got the arm to be a useable fourth or fifth reliever in deep AL-onlies. 74: Chris Carpenter, Red Sox RP Talent: 5 Opportunity: 8 2011 Highest Level: Majors Just traded from the Cubs to the Red Sox as part of the compensation for Theo Epstein, alas Carpenter isn’t really much of a get for Boston. But the 26-year-old’s mid-90s fastball should get him a look in relief, especially if Daniel Bard really does stick in the rotation. 73: Kevin Mattison, Marlins OF Talent: 5 Opportunity: 8 2011 Highest Level: Double-A Probably another guy many of you have never heard of. Mattison, 26, is really only a fringe major leaguer with the upside to be a decent fourth outfielder. But his speed (43 SBs per year since 2009) could make him a sneaky add if he debuts this season. And he’s “blocked” in centerfield by Emilio Bonifacio and Chris Coghlan. 72: James Darnell, Padres 3B/OF Talent: 6 Opportunity: 7 2011 Highest Level: Majors He got a 45-AB taste of the bigs in 2011, and his strongest skill — on-base ability — was evident with 5 BBs against 7 Ks. The 25-year-old is being transitioned to the outfield from third base (the guy at No. 80 has something to do with that), so Darnell will need to show his uptick in pop in the minors last year (23 HRs in 422 ABs) is for real. 71: Matt Hague, Pirates 1B Talent: 5 Opportunity: 8 2011 Highest Level: Triple-A At 26, Hague is ancient by prospect standards, and he doesn’t have the stick of a true first baseman (12 HRs in 2011 after 2010’s career-best 15), but he puts bat on ball (just 12% K) and Pittsburgh’s only other first base options? Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee. 70: Chris Marrero, Nationals 1B Talent: 5 Opportunity: 8 2011 Highest Level: Majors The 23-year-old got a decent look with 31 games with the Nats last year — but didn’t look all that decent (.567 OPS). Still, he survived an offseason of Prince Fielder speculation, and there’s a chance he makes the Opening Day roster as a backup to the lineup stalwart known as Adam LaRoche. [Editor’s Note: Marrero suffered a torn hamstring playing winter ball, so his status for 2012 is up in the air. It’s unlikely he will be able to play until after the All-Star Break, so his ranking here could be bumped lower.] 69: Russ Canzler, Indians INF/OF Talent: 5 Opportunity: 8 2011 Highest Level: Majors He probably would’ve been better off had the Rays not traded him to Cleveland this offseason, because his versatility — he’s passable at third, first and the outfield corners — might’ve made him a Joe Maddon fave. Then again the 25-year-old, who’s put up OPSes of .938 and .930 in 2010 and 2011, could make himself useful nto platoons at first and third with lefty-swingers Casey Kotchman and Lonnie Chisenhall. 68: Tsuyoshi Wada, Orioles SP Talent: 5 Opportunity: 9 2011 Highest Level: Nippon Professional Baseball Wada had a fine year for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the NPB in 2011: 16-5 W-L, 1.51 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 8.2 K/9. He might crack the Baltimore rotation at some point, but he’s already nearly 32 and more of the soft-tossing lefty type. Plus, he’s on the Orioles. 67: Matt Dominguez, Marlins 3B Talent: 7 Opportunity: 6 2011 Highest Level: Majors Dominguez’s stock took a huge hit when the Marlins signed Jose Reyes and moved Hanley Ramirez from shortstop to third base. The 22-year-old was very possibly in line to be the starter at the hot corner, but instead, the defensive whiz might be forced to spend most of 2012 back in Triple-A, where he hit a respectable .258-12-55 in just 325 ABs. 66: David Cooper, Blue Jays 1B/DH Talent: 5 Opportunity: 8 2011 Highest Level: Majors A former first-rounder, Cooper isn’t quite as good as his 2011 PCL-inflated stats (..364/.439/.535) might make you think. For one thing, he’s 25. For another, he lacks the pop to play (only one season with an ISO north of .171. But he does have gap power (51 doubles in 2011), and his plate discipline (11% BB vs. 13% K) should get him a shot to DH some when Edwin Encarnacion goes through his inevitable slump. 65: Yamaico Navarro, Pirates INF Talent: 5 Opportunity: 8 2011 Highest Level: Majors Traded from the Royals in December, Navarro is behind just Clint Barmes and Chase d’Arnaud on the Pirates pecking order at short. The 24-year-old has enough stick (.778 career OPS in minors) to be a useful fill-in at short, second and third for Pittsburgh, and his multi-position eligibility will help NL-only owners struggling to find reserve infield options. 64: Alex Liddi, Mariners 3B Talent: 5 Opportunity: 8 2011 Highest Level: Majors The Italian-born Liddi has always shown he can hit for power — 68 HRs the past three seasons, including a career-high 30 last year — but the 23-year-old also swings and misses too much (25%) to survive as a regular in the majors. But when the likes of Chone Figgins and Kyle Seager are the only other options, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get a shot. 63: Heath Hembree, Giants RP Talent: 6 Opportunity: 7 2011 Highest Level: Double-A Hembree, 23, impressed in his first year of full-season ball, compiling a tidy 1.86 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and a feisty 13.2 K/9 across High- and Double-A — all while leading the minors with 38 saves. He’s likely to be a very quick mover who has the ability to break into the San Fran pen before the two-year anniversary of being selected in 2010’s fifth round. Think of him as the Beard’s eventual successor. 62: Wade Miley, D-backs SP Talent: 6 Opportunity: 7 2011 Highest Level: Majors Arizona’s decision to bring back Joe Saunders — after letting him walk earlier in the offseason — really hurt Miley’s 2012 fantasy value. The 25-year-old left-hander, who was serviceable in his first 40 IPs in Arizona (4-2 W-L, 4.50 ERA), would have had a small window in which to make an impact this year before 2011 first-rounder Trevor Bauer and/or fellow lefty Tyler Skaggs makes their way to the majors. For now, Miley is the number six starter who could get the job done if there’s an injury or Josh Collmenter turns back into a pumpkin. 61: Liam Hendriks, Twins SP Talent: 6 Opportunity: 8 2011 Highest Level: Majors Hendriks is the very definition of a typical Twins-developed starter: low-90s fastball, solid breaking pitches, always around the plate (1.4 BB/9 career). Which is to say, the 23-year-old is probably a number four or five and little more. But he’s also nearly ready after making four starts in 2011, his home ballpark is pitcher-friendly and there aren’t many arms ahead of him.