Top 100 Fantasy Rookies for 2013: 100-81 by Jason Catania March 15, 2013 It’s time for the second annual Top 100 Fantasy Rookies, a list of 100 prospects who should make an impact on the 2013 fantasy baseball season. Just how much impact? In some cases, a lot; but in others, it may be minimal — or even negligible. That’s the inherent risk in predicting and projecting not only prospects’ development curves but also how these players possibly fit into their big league teams’ plans during the upcoming season. That’s why, much like with my Mining the Minors columns, I’ve incorporated both talent and opportunity into each prospect’s ranking. 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 last year). But there are also plenty of players in these rankings who skew toward the opportunity side of the spectrum, because they’re (nearly) ready to be in the majors on Opening Day (read: David Phelps, 2012). 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. Here’s the first batch, from Christian Yelich to Justin De Fratus. What I hope these rankings provide for readers is some semblance of an idea of which prospects will be making an impression on the 2013 fantasy baseball landscape. If you happen to think that the guy ranked No. 12 should be No. 41 … or that there’s no way the player at No. 77 should be outside the Top 25 … well, I can’t say you’re wrong. I can only say this is my opinion based on my knowledge of these players and their teams — and where everything stands at the moment. This year, to make be even more fantasy-friendly, I’ve added two new aspects: 1) Category Strengths to indicate the primary scoring categories in which each player might best contribute. Categories considered: BA, R, HR, RBI, SB, OBP, SLG, OPS, XBH for hitters; W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV, IP, K/9, K/BB, HLD for pitchers 2) Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak, which presents the best-case but realistic fantasy role for each player, specifically in 2013. Starting lineup considered: 14 hitters (C 1/2, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, MI, CI, OF 1/2/3/4/5, UT); 9 pitchers (SP 1/2/3/4/5, RP 1/2/3/4) These rankings will be unveiled 20 players at a time, starting from No. 100. To be eligible, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats for hitters, or 50 innings pitched or 30 appearances for pitchers to this point in his career. All ages are as of April 1. Also to be clear: This is strictly for 2013. In keeper or dynasty leagues, many of these players are already owned, are about to be drafted or may become in-season acquisitions, but the primary goal here is to help fantasy owners in 2-0-1-3. 100: Christian Yelich, Marlins OF Talent: 9/10 Opportunity: 6/10 Age: 21 2012 Highest Level: High-A Category Strengths: BA, SB, OBP Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only OF 3 Folks, this is a long shot. The Marlins don’t have any reason to push Yelich, so the sweet-swinging lefty, who will play all season at age 21, may not even sniff the majors this year. But! Is there a chance Yelich, currently crushing in spring training, continues his assault in the high minors, while Miami’s outfield sitch remains Giancarlo Stanton and a whole lotta nothin’? Yes. If everything plays out just right, Yelich could make a late-season cameo. 99: Nick Maronde, Angels SP/RP Talent: 7/10 Opportunity: 7/10 Age: 23 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: WHIP, K/BB Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only SP streamer or RP 4 The southpaw has just seven games above Double-A in the minors, so this may be a stretch. Maronde’s a starter long-term, and while he could get a look if something were to fall apart with L.A.’s rotation, the Angels also could call on him midseason to be bullpen depth, similar to his September 2012 debut. 98: Alex Castellanos, Dodgers OF/INF Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 7/10 Age: 26 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: SB, SLG, XBH Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only OF/MI/CI reserve Don’t mistake him for Nick! This Castellanos isn’t a prospect so much as he’s a 4-A player who’s taken advantage of cozy environs in his pro career. Amid a season in which he hit .328 with 17 homers and 16 steals in 344 at-bats for Triple-A Albuquerque, he was on the verge of getting called up when injury cut him down. If he’s going to have any fantasy value, it’s mostly going to come from his versatility — he can play infield and outfield — and a decent mix of pop and speed. Castellanos could get a look if, say, Luis Cruz flames out or Carl Crawford’s recovery stalls. 97: Didi Gregorius, D-backs SS Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 8/10 Age: 23 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: BA Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only MI reserve Gregorius was the primary booty in the Trevor Bauer deal, but he’s nowhere close to Bauer on this list, as the shortstop’s strengths — his defense and arm — don’t exactly translate well to fantasy. A spring injury put him behind the eight ball to break camp with the D-backs, which might be better anyway, since Gregorius needs more time at Triple-A to prove he’s ready to hit in the bigs. About the only things that make him relevant are the shallow shortstop spot and the potential for a semi-useful, but hollow, .250-.270 average. 96: Jonathan Villar, Astros SS Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 7/10 Age: 21 2012 Highest Level: Double-A Category Strengths: SB Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only MI reserve Villar is still extremely raw, and he’s not yet ready for the majors. Of course, beggars (i.e., the Astros) can’t be choosers, so while the likes of Tyler Greene and Marwin Gonzalez are tasked with “holding down the fort” after the Jed Lowrie trade, it’s at least plausible that Villar gets a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency call-up. Given that he has reached double-digits in homers and swiped 30-plus bags each of the past two seasons, there’s some intrigue. 95: Matt Davidson, D-backs 3B Talent: 7/10 Opportunity: 7/10 Age: 22 2012 Highest Level: Double-A Category Strengths: HR, OBP, OPS Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only CI reserve Davidson’s future as Arizona’s third baseman of the future has been clouded by the arrival of Martin Prado, so he’ll work on closing holes in his swing (24% K) at Triple-A. Still, his right-handed power (career-high 23 homers in 2012) should translate to the bigs, and he’s shown some advancement in the plate discipline department (career-best 12% BB last year), so if injury opens the door, Davidson could bash his way through. 94: Mark Montgomery, Yankees RP Talent: 7/10 Opportunity: 7/10 Age: 22 2012 Highest Level: Double-A Category Strengths: ERA, WHIP, K/9, K/BB, HLD Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only RP 4 Drafted in 2011, @SnapDragonMonty and his ridiculous slider have compiled a (gasp) 14.6 K/9 rate and already risen to Double-A. Even after losing Rafael Soriano, the Yanks bullpen should be plenty deep, especially with Mariano Rivera and Joba Chamberlain healthy, but Montgomery should continue to move quickly and get to the Bronx this season. 93: Carlos Sanchez, White Sox INF Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 8/10 Age: 20 2012 Highest Level: Triple-A Category Strengths: BA, SB Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only MI reserve Sanchez leaped from High-A to Triple-A over the course of last season, hitting an impressive .323 with 26 steals along the way. There’s no power here, but he makes contact and is an elite defender at both short and second who could break camp with the Sox in a utility gig and be a few more brutal Gordon Beckham months from a bigger role. 92: Ryan Wheeler, Rockies 3B/1B Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 8/10 Age: 24 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: BA Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only CI reserve With Jordan Pacheco, Chris Nelson and fellow prospect Nolan Arenado all in the mix at the hot corner, Wheeler has his work cut out for him. But Wheeler, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks after a PCL-inflated 2012 (.351 BA, .960 OPS), profiles as a backup anyway, so his contact-oriented lefty bat at Coors (and possible multi-position eligibility) is only going to help in fantasy insofar as it won’t hurt. 91: Zack Cox, Marlins 3B Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 8/10 Age: 23 2012 Highest Level: Triple-A Category Strengths: R, RBI Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only CI reserve Cox, the Cardinals’ 2010 first-rounder, was traded to the Marlins last year after it became apparent that he’s unlikely to become anything more than a fringe second-division regular. The lefty-hitter, though, has very, very little in front of him on Miami’s depth chart, and if the Fish want to see what they’ve got at some point this year, Cox could get the PT to maybe accrue some runs and maybe help out in RBIs. Maybe. 90: L.J. Hoes, Orioles OF Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 8/10 Age: 23 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: SB, OBP Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only OF reserve A converted second baseman, Hoes spent all of 2012 in the outfield. He’s got a little punch and decent speed, so he could fit in as a backup outfielder with the O’s, especially if Nick Markakis’ herniated disk lingers or acts up and/or Nolan Reimold remembers he’s supposed to spend at least half the season on the DL. 89: Carlos Martinez, Cardinals SP/RP Talent: 8/10 Opportunity: 6/10 Age: 21 2012 Highest Level: Double-A Category Strengths: ERA, K/9, HLD Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only SP streamer or RP 4 Martinez’s profile and situation are both similar to Yordano Ventura (who just missed this list): small right-hander with huge heat, developing secondary offerings — and a full rotation ahead of him. That doesn’t mean C-Mart won’t open for business in St. Louis this year, just that he might break in as a killer reliever in the second half. 88: Jose Fernandez, Marlins SP Talent: 9/10 Opportunity: 6/10 Age: 20 2012 Highest Level: High-A Category Strengths: ERA, WHIP, K/9, K/BB Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: Mixed league SP streamer Fernandez, who’s only 20 and has all of 55 innings at High-A, is on here in the event that he continues to obliterate the minors (1.75 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 10.6 K/9 in 2012) to the point where the Marlins, who have a shaky five-man to begin with, just cannot ignore him anymore. Don’t expect to hear hints about him even possibly being promoted until the second half, but if Fernandez gets a handful of starts, mixed leaguers will want in. 87: Jonathan Singleton, Astros 1B Talent: 8/10 Opportunity: 6/10 Age: 21 2012 Highest Level: Double-A Category Strengths: HR, OBP, OPS Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only CI Singleton would have ranked a good amount higher had he not been caught with the smokey smokey. His lefty bat is for real (career-high 21 HRs in 2012) and he’s patient (14% career BB), but between the 50-game suspension and the Astros’ acquisition of Chris Carter, it’s possible we won’t see Singleton until August or September at the earliest. If he gets the call, though, he’s one to add in the fantasy playoffs. 86: Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays SP/RP Talent: 7/10 Opportunity: 7/10 Age: 21 2012 Highest Level: Double-A Category Strengths: SV, K/9, HLD Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only SP streamer or RP 4 Stroman needs to serve the majority of his 50-game suspension from last August for a banned substance, which will keep him out of action until sometime in May. That puts him behind as far as 2013 impact, but the hoping-to-contend Jays could fast-track Stroman in a relief role with the goal of using him as a second-half bullpen reinforcement. Given Toronto’s full five-man, that path might be best for both Stroman and the club this year, and if the ninth inning isn’t solidified, Stroman could be a factor. 85: Justin Wilson, Pirates SP/RP Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 8/10 Age: 25 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: K/9, HLD Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only SP streamer or RP 4 A southpaw with above-average velocity is always intriguing, so Wilson should factor into the Pirates’ plans in some form this year. He’s been a starter in the minors, but control has been a problem (4.5 career BB/9), and he broke into the bigs last August in a relief role, so that may be his path, at least in the short-term. 84: Arodys Vizcaino, Cubs SP/RP Talent: 7/10 Opportunity: 7/10 Age: 22 2012 Highest Level: Missed season with injury Category Strengths: K/9, HLD Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only SP 5 or RP 3 After spending all of 2012 on the shelf following TJ surgery last March, Vizcaino should be able to pitch in 2013. The questions, though, are: When? And in what role? Given how important he is to the rebuilding Cubs, the likeliest scenario is for Vizcaino to be eased back in via a relief role in the minors, and if all goes well, he could make a midseason appearance in Chicago, primarily as a reliever, and possibly get a few spot starts once he’s fully healthy. 83: Tyler Thornburg, Brewers SP/RP Talent: 7/10 Opportunity: 8/10 Age: 24 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: K/9 Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only SP streamer or RP 4 With Thornburg, the stats are better than the stuff. He’s shown he can miss bats (10.3 K/9 and 6.7 H/9) in the minors, but his small frame (6’0”), straight fastball and so-so command proved to be a tough combination to overcome in his first shot at the majors, where he gave up eight homers in just 22 innings. The Brewers have end-of-the-rotation options but nothing solidified, so Thornburg will get another chance at some point, although fantasy owners should make him prove he won’t destroy their ERA first. May be better off as a reliever in the end. 82: Phillippe Aumont, Phillies RP Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 9/10 Age: 24 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: K/9, HLD Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only RP 4 The 6’7” Aumont throws hard-and-heavy fastballs, leading to strikeouts (9.9 career K/9) and grounders (49% GB in 2011 and 2012), a highly-coveted profile for pitchers. Where Aumont gets into trouble, though, is his command and control (5.0 career BB/9), which explains why he hasn’t been more successful. The Mike Adams signing pushes Aumont down a peg in the Phillies pen, but he should still be able to collect some holds as a seventh-inning option. 81: Justin De Fratus, Phillies RP Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 9/10 Age: 25 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: K/9, HLD Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only RP 4 An elbow injury cost De Fratus the first half of last season, otherwise he would have spent a good chunk of the year in Philly’s pen. He has better control (2.0 BB/9) than fellow Phillies relief prospect Phillippe Aumont (No. 82) and gets nearly as many whiffs (9.0 K/9), so the two could continue to team up in a big league bullpen after doing so throughout their climb.