Top 100 Fantasy Rookies for 2013: 60-41 by Jason Catania March 22, 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 third batch, from Grant Green to Anthony Rendon. Nos. 100-81 Nos 80-61 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. 60: Grant Green, A’s INF Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 8/10 Age: 25 2012 Highest Level: Triple-A Category Strengths: BA, XBH Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only MI This former first-rounder has proved to be an overdraft, but Green’s versatility — he’s played all over the infield and even in the outfield — and solid stick should make him a useful utility player at least. With Oakland’s mixing-and-matching at second, short and third, Green should get his chances this year. 59: Steve Johnson, Orioles SP/RP Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 9/10 Age: 25 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: K/9 Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only SP streamer or RP 4 The right-hander burst onto the scene last year with a 2.11 ERA and 1.07 WHIP over 38.1 innings, including four starts. Don’t think those numbers are repeatable, but Johnson is certainly ready, willing and able to contribute to the O’s — and to a lesser extent, fantasy owners — as a swing man who could pitch primarily out of the pen but also snag some spot starts. In AL leagues with a low requirement to qualify as a starter, Johnson could be useful as an RP disguised as an SP. 58: Jake Odorizzi, Rays SP Talent: 7/10 Opportunity: 7/10 Age: 23 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: WHIP, K/9, K/BB Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only SP streamer The crazy upside the right-handed Odorizzi flashed in the low minors has settled, and he’s now seen as a mid-rotation arm at best, but one that should be durable and consistent. Problem is, he’s behind so many Rays pitchers that it’ll be tough for him to get more than 10 starts in 2013. 57: Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox SS Talent: 9/10 Opportunity: 6/10 Age: 20 2012 Highest Level: Double-A Category Strengths: BA, HR, SLG, OPS, XBH Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: Mixed league MI Just 20, Bogaerts is as precocious as it gets. Between High- and Double-A, the righty slugger smacked 60 extra-base hits (20 HRs) and brings real power to shortstop, a position many now think he may handle long-term (instead of switching to third). In all likelihood, he’s little more than a September call-up, but given that frailty (Stephen Drew) and lack of pop (Jose Iglesias) are the two defining traits of current Red Sox shortstops, don’t bet against Bogaerts arriving sooner. If he does, he’s a top waiver claim. 56: Gary Brown, Giants OF Talent: 7/10 Opportunity: 8/10 Age: 24 2012 Highest Level: Double-A Category Strengths: BA, R, SB Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: Mixed league OF 5 Brown’s 2012 was seen as a big comedown following his ridiculous Cal League-inflated 2011. Still, his game should translate pretty well for fantasy purposes, primarily in the stolen base department, and if the Giants don’t solve their left field sitch, Brown could be worth a look by mid-year as long as he’s performing in his first taste of Triple-A. 55: Brad Peacock, Astros SP Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 8/10 Age: 25 2012 Highest Level: Triple-A Category Strengths: K, K/9 Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only SP streamer Speaking of disappointing 2012s, Peacock went from hot-shot prospect riser in 2011 (he actually made his MLB debut with the Nats) to abused arm in the hitter-haven PCL (6.01 ERA, 1.58 WHIP). The right, though, did maintain a solid 9.3 K/9, so if the Astros decide to give him a shot in their makeshift rotation, Peacock could at least notch some Ks as a streaming option. Your ERA and WHIP, though, might hate you for ever starting him. 54: Josh Fields, Astros RP Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 9/10 Age: 27 2012 Highest Level: Triple-A Category Strengths: SV, K/9, HLD Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only RP 3 Selected first overall in the Rule 5 Draft, Fields is a hard-throwing righty reliever who’s battled a serious case of the “your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine”s when the ball leaves his hand (5.1 BB/9). He finally calmed that down enough in 2012 (2.8 BB/9) to flash his potential as a late-inning option, which is where he’ll get the chance to pitch with the Astros (provided he earns a spot out of camp). Unless Jose Veras somehow grabs and retains the closer’s job for an entire season, it’s not out of the question that Fields could back his way into some saves. It might be ugly, though, so unless you’re a real saves scavenger, let Fields prove it first. 53: A.J. Ramos, Marlins RP Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 9/10 Age: 26 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: ERA, WHIP, SV, K/9, K/BB, HLD Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only RP 3 A short (5-foot-10) right-hander, Ramos doesn’t get much in the way of prospect pub. Anyone who sports a career ERA of 2.26, WHIP of 1.05 and K/9 of 12.3, though, needs to at least be mentioned, particularly when a guy with 20-plus saves each of the past three years doesn’t have a no-doubt closer ahead of him. So consider Ramos mentioned. 52: Heath Hembree, Giants RP Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 8/10 Age: 24 2012 Highest Level: Triple-A Category Strengths: WHIP, SV, K/9, HLD Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only RP 3 A strained elbow cost Hembree the chance to take over as the Giants closer last season after incumbent Brian Wilson succumbed to his second Tommy John surgery. The injury also was partly responsible for a slightly disappointing year, as Hembree followed up a dynamite 2011 with a so-so 2012 (4.74 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 15 SV) in his initial exposure to the minors’ highest level. With Sergio Romo now in the ninth-inning role but unlikely to pitch many consecutive days, Hembree could work his way into some save opps if everything falls in his favor. Saves-chasers should keep him on the Watch List. 51: Robbie Grossman, Astros OF Talent: 7/10 Opportunity: 8/10 Age: 23 2012 Highest Level: Double-A Category Strengths: R, OBP, XBH Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only OF reserve Grossman’s more of a second-division guy, one who’ll do some of the dirty work needed to see action and while it won’t be pretty, the stats will count all the same. He’ll begin the year at Triple-A, but this walk-machine (.379 career OBP) could be in Houston by midseason — have you seen that outfield? — and would be a sneaky pick-up in OBP formats. 50: Jarred Cosart, Astros SP/RP Talent: 7/10 Opportunity: 8/10 Age: 22 2012 Highest Level: Triple-A Category Strengths: SV, K/9, HLD Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only SP streamer or RP 4 What to make of Cosart, really? He’s a power arm who doesn’t get many whiffs (7.5 career K/9). He’s been a starter all the way to this point, but his delivery has always screamed reliever, a role in which his stuff would play up. There was talk over the winter of Houston using him as a closer, which probably would be his best chance at being a rosterable fantasy arm this year. Keep watch on what the org decides to do with him. Assuming, that is, they have the slightest. 49: Adeiny Hechavarria, Marlins SS Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 10/10 Age: 23 2012 Highest Level: Category Strengths: SB, XBH Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only MI Hechavarria seems like this year’s version of Tyler Pastornicky, eh? A good-field, no-hit shortstop who enters the season with a starting job. The difference? Hechavarria doesn’t have an Andrelton Simmons on the come, nor really any other competition. If he gets 400-500 at-bats, he’ll rack up a few counting stats — and probably hit .230-.250. 48: Avisail Garcia, Tigers OF Talent: 7/10 Opportunity: 8/10 Age: 21 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: BA Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only OF 5 Garcia was rushed to the bigs last year because Detroit’s outfield was a mess. He performed admirably considering, and the Tigers still don’t have a definitive answer in left field: Andy Dirks is a platoon/backup type and Brennan Boesch, last year’s failure, was released. Everyone wants to focus on Nick Castellanos, but given Garcia’s experience, he could get the first look if it all goes to hell again. 47: Darin Ruf, Phillies OF/1B Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 8/10 Age: 26 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: HR, SLG, OPS Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only OF 5 or CI After leading the minors with 38 bombs, including a baseball record-tying 20 in August alone, Ruf has become a divisive entity. When a then-25-year-old terrorizes Double-A pitchers, evaluators tend to scoff, yet there’s definitely intriguing power here. Is he a big league regular? Probably not. Could the natural first baseman fall on his face trying to play a corner outfield spot in Philly? Sure. Whether he starts out in Triple-A or the bigs, though, if Ruf can earn 300-plus at-bats, the righty slugger could hit double-digit homers. 46: Brad Boxberger, Padres RP Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 9/10 Age: 24 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: ERA, SV, K/9, HLD Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only RP 3 It’s time Boxberger earned his stripes in the Padres pen. He’s probably not the ninth-inning answer whenever Huston Street gets hurt or is traded this year, but he should be a useable staff-filler who could sneak in a handful of saves. 45: Stephen Pryor, Mariners RP Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 9/10 Age: 23 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: ERA, K/9, HLD Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only RP 3 Pryor’s upper-90s heat rivals that of fellow righty relief prospect and teammate Carter Capps (who’s a bit higher on this list). In his 2012 debut, Pryor was very solid, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be again. The ninth belongs to Tom Wilhelmsen for now, but Pryor and Capps could be fighting over the future before the season’s over. 44: Cody Allen, Indians RP Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 9/10 Age: 24 2012 Highest Level: Category Strengths: ERA, K/9, HLD Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only RP 3 Allen made a mad dash to the bigs, getting to Cleveland a year and a month after being selected in 2011’s 23rd round. The right-handed Allen’s already been well worth that pick for the Indians, and with news that he’s breaking camp in the pen, Allen should see some late-inning duty, especially early on if closer Chris Perez isn’t at full health. 43: J.J. Hoover, Reds RP Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 9/10 Age: 25 2012 Highest Level: Majors Category Strengths: ERA, WHIP, K/9, K/BB, HLD Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only RP 3 The reliever run continues. Hoover was pretty underratedly terrific in his first shot in the majors in 2012: 2.05 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 9.1 K/9 in 30.2 IPs. The expected announcement that Aroldis Chapman will remain closer pushes the righty back an inning, but Hoover will still be a factor for his strong peripherals. 42: Kyle McPherson, Pirates SP Talent: 6/10 Opportunity: 9/10 Age: 25 2012 Highest Level: Category Strengths: WHIP, K/BB Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only SP 5 Of all the fringy arms fighting to make the back-end of the Pirates five-man, McPherson is the best and most major league-ready. At 6-foot-4, 215, he’s a well-built right-hander with elite control (1.5 career BB/9) and enough stuff to miss some bats. He looked good in his late-2012 cameo, so expect McPherson to work his way into a starting role sooner rather than later, especially since the window isn’t all that big with Gerrit Cole (you’ll see his name up ahead) bearing down on the bigs. The Pirates should find out what they’ve got in McPherson first. 41: Anthony Rendon, Nationals 3B Talent: 9/10 Opportunity: 6/10 Age: 22 2012 Highest Level: Double-A Category Strengths: BA, OBP, XBH Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: Mixed league CI Where to rank Rendon? Each time it seemed like he should be ranked lower because he’s blocked everywhere imaginable in D.C., the 2011 No. 6 overall pick kept pushing his way back up the rankings by bashing the ball this spring (.375 BA, 4 HRs, 11 RBIs). Rendon needs to stay healthy first and foremost — he played just 43 games last year while battling another injury — and there’s legitimately nowhere to play him on the Nats right now. But some how, some way (another long Ryan Zimmerman DL stint? Danny Espinosa’s continued injury/performance issues?), Rendon just seems like he’ll factor in this year. And if he gets an opening, look out.