Fantasy Baseball: 10 MLB Prospects Who Will Be Huge 2013 Draft Sleepers

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2012

Fantasy Baseball: 10 MLB Prospects Who Will Be Huge 2013 Draft Sleepers

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    Looking for next year’s Mike Trout? Well, don’t count on another rookie to outperform every other MLB player, but these prospects could help out fantasy baseball owners in 2013.

    Even after Trout, this year’s rookie class consisted of several impact players, including Bryce Harper, Yu Darvish, Wade Miley, Yoenis Cespedes, Todd Frazier and Tom Wilhelmsen. Some names secured a prime spot at the top of prospect rankings, but others emerged from under the radar to steal the spotlight from the 5-star youngsters.

    Perhaps blue-chip prospect Wil Myers performs above and beyond the hype in 2013. After Myers, the other prospects won’t require a high pick on draft day, but a relative no-name like Robbie Erlin could steal Rookie of the Year honors and become a top fantasy sleeper.

    Here are ten prospects fantasy owners should target next season.

Wil Myers

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    After waiting all summer for the Kansas City Royals to promote Wil Myers, fantasy owners won’t witness his debut for at least another six months.

    Despite obliterating the minors with a .314/.387/.600 slashing line and 37 home runs, Myers did not receive the heavily hyped call-up to the big leagues. Count on the young stud to debut early in 2013.

    With a full offseason to contemplate Jeff Franceour’s futility, Myers should earn a spot on Kansas City’s Opening Day lineup. This will make him a hot name in drafts, maybe one whose stock soars too high due to lofty expectations.

    Then again, Myers possesses all the potential to meet and exceed all preseason buzz. He’s not really a sleeper since everyone will know about him, but he’s a player that could scare owners away by rising up draft boards, only to excel and finish the year as a major bargain.

Zack Wheeler

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    Do New York Mets fans finally have a reason for optimism?

    In a bleak season that saw the squad fall apart after a promising start, Matt Harvey has supplied a glimmer of hope with a noteworthy debut. The second half of what could be a potent pitching duo should join Harvey in the rotation next year.

    Zack Wheeler shined through his Double-A stint, posting a 3.26 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 8.9 K/9 ratio. The 22-year-old earned a spot in Triple-A, where he grossed nearly identical numbers (3.27 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 8.5 K/9 ratio) in six starts.

    His lowered walk rate this season is an encouraging sign that creates promise for Wheeler as a future ace. After posting a 5.8 BB/9 ratio in 2010 and a 4.1 BB/9 rate last year, Wheeler slashed the mark to 3.6 against tougher competition.

    Like Harvey, Wheeler could rack up strikeouts immediately in the big leagues if New York gives him a shot. A good spring should secure a spot in the rotation for Wheeler, who will merit a late round gamble in all leagues.

Travis D'Arnaud

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    If a torn PCL didn't cut his season short, Travis D'Arnaud would have arrived in the majors months ago. And we'd all know his name well by now.

    The catcher hit .333/.380/.595 with 16 homers in 67 games at Triple-A before the injury ended his season. The 23-year-old would have been scooped up in all formats had things shook differently and D'Arnaud stayed healthy.

    J.P. Arenciba might possess one of the better power bats from behind the plate, but he's also sporting a .277 on-base percentage, so he's replaceable. 

    D'Arnaud should return next year and resume his chase for Arenciba's job. If you're waiting on a catcher or participate in a league that starts two, gamble on D'Arnaud to make a monster impact in 2013.

Casey Kelly

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    With 24.1 innings under his belt and only a week remaining, Casey Kelly will fall short of the 50-inning mark that keeps him rookie eligible in 2013.

    There’s not much owners can glean from such a small sample size with the San Diego Padres, but his 5.55 ERA and 1.68 WHIP is no reason to shy away from the 22-year-old.

    The converted shortstop is still honing his craft as a pitcher, but he fanned 20 batters during his brief MLB stint. Kelly missed most of the season due to elbow issues, but he tallied 39 strikeouts to only three walks in 37.2 minor-league innings.

    Tossing the young talent in Petco Park makes him a worthwhile name to track in 2013 drafts. Take a late-round flier on Kelly and hopes he learns on the job in a favorable ballpark. 

Gary Brown

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    Now that Melky Cabrera’s future with the San Francisco Giants is in doubt, the franchise could reach into their farm system and give Gary Brown a shot to shine.

    Brown’s minor-league stats resemble those of future teammate Angel Pagan. Brown hit .279 in Double-A with seven homers, 33 steals and 73 runs in 134 games. The 23-year-old might not be ready to dominate the majors, but his speed will keep him relevant as he develops into a competent big-league hitter.

    A .279 hitter in Double-A could struggle in his first crack at the majors, but he’ll cost next to nothing on draft-day as a potential source of 20 steals. As a late option in deeper leagues that start five outfielders, owners searching for a late value pick could do a lot worse.

Robbie Erlin

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    Bear with me here; I know I have sung Robbie Erlin’s praises before.

    I jumped the gun by touting Erlin as a possible September call-up, but Erlin can make major impact in 2013 if given the green light.

    He plays for the San Diego Padres, and anybody pitching approximately half their games at Petco Park is worth a lot.

    He’s not just some average hurler to use as a spot-starter, though. In 60.2 innings, Erlin posted a 2.82 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 80 strikeouts.

    Before this season, Erlin displayed Cliff Lee-like control, walking 34 batters through 266 innings. After missing most of this season to elbow tendinitis, Erlin might need time next year before joining the Padres.

    Pending a good start that proves his full health, Erlin should join the rotation next year and quietly help out savvy fantasy owners.

Haj-Ju Lee

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    He plays a scarce position in an organization that desperately needs production at that spot, so give shortstop Hak-Ju Lee a look in 2013.

    His .261/.336/.360 line in Double-A leaves plenty to be desired, but the 37 stolen bases offer some hope. Since the 21-year-old has hit 12 homers in 1,957 plate appearances, Lee is likely at best, another Elvis Andrus. It’ll even take some time to reach that level.

    Despite all that negative stuff, he’s a shortstop, he can run, and the Tampa Bay Rays can at least use his defensive prowess in the middle infield.

    Don’t expect anything too phenomenal, but maybe you can get a .250 hitting, 20-plus steal middle infielder for dirt cheap. In a deep league, that’s not too shabby.

Tony Cingrani

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    Yeah, this dude can pitch.

    Beginning the season in Single-A, Tony Cingrani decimated the competition with a 1.11 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 5.46 K/BB ratio in 56.2 innings. The lefty received a promotion to Double-A, where he continued to toy with batters. In 89.1 innings, Cingrani fanned 101 batters and accumulated a 2.12 ERA.

    Bestowed with playing time with the Cincinnati Reds this September, Cingrani has allowed two hits while striking out eight batters in 4.1 innings. Although he flourished this season as a starter, the 23-year-old could crack the 2013 roster in a bullpen role.

    Unless the Reds move Aroldis Chapman to the rotation (which could open the door for Cingrani to handle the ninth inning), Cingrani would then settle for middle relief duty. Still, his propensity to cause whiffs could serve owners well as a viable middle reliever.

    If he sneaks his way into the Reds' rotation, rank him high and hope nobody else in your league has heard of him.

Adam Eaton

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    Don’t worry, I swear I’m not talking about the retired pitcher. Although I got to say, nobody would see that pick coming.

    You’re probably better off selecting the Arizona Diamondbacks’ outfielder, who hit .375 with seven homers and 44 steals. His rousing success led to a September call-up in which Eaton has notched two blasts, two stolen bags and a .359 on-base percentage.

    Arizona has jettisoned Chris Young to the bench due to inconsistent play. Eaton’s ascension might present the Diamondbacks with an excuse to shop Young, a career .239 hitter who strikes out an inordinate rate, during the offseason.

    Eaton can offer sneaky value with a little power and plenty of speed to fantasy owners searching for an outfielder to fill out their roster. If he gets regular playing time in a talented Arizona offense, Eaton should handsomely reward those who draft him next season.

Cody Buckel

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    This young pitcher is a long shot to arrive and make a significant impact next year, but isn’t that the point of sleepers?

    The 20-year-old established himself as a legitimate prospect by recording a 2.49 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and a 9.9 K/9 ratio in 144.2 innings split between Single-A and Double-A. Formerly ignored due to his small frame and inability to hit the mid-high 90’s on the radar gun, Buckel now looks primed to break into an MLB rotation.

    Pitching at the Ballpark in Arlington is unfortunate, but just ask Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish what playing for the Texas Rangers does for your win total. A winning franchise likely won’t hand out an Opening Day rotation spot to an unproven commodity, but injuries and a strong showing in the higher minor league levels could earn Buckel a rotation slot before the season ends.

    Owners in deep dynasty leagues should especially keep tabs on Buckel, and any keeper or dynasty league owners partaking in a prospect draft should target Texas’ young righty.