Fantasy Baseball: Top 10 Rookie Candidates to Be the Mike Trout of 2013
There is no "next Mike Trout." Let that be clear. There is no prospect this season who has that kind of immediate potential. But the question can still be asked if any of the current group can have a similar impact in fantasy baseball.
Every team handles their minor leaguers differently, and the call-up dates can have as much influence on a player's fantasy impact as his ability. So for the sake of this article, let us assume every relevant prospect was called up on May 1 and is placed in the starting lineup from then on.
The question to be answered is not, "Whose stat line will look most like Trout?" but, "Who is most likely to finish anywhere near the top in fantasy, despite missing a month of the season?"
Mike Olt, Texas Rangers
Mike Olt has nowhere to play in Texas at the moment. Adrian Beltre is firmly entrenched at first and Mitch Moreland is filling first. However, Moreland is somewhat below average at the position, and if management feels he is holding the team back, they could go to Olt at first.
In this scenario, Olt is still a very long shot to approach the top 10 at his position, let alone all of baseball. In the minors, he never hit over .300 or stole many bases, so Olt is likely to be a three-category contributor in fantasy, at least early in his career.
In recent history, the elite fantasy players either contribute in all five standard categories (Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Kemp) or contribute in four exceptionally (Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols). Olt does not seem to have either ability at this point.
Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers
Another possibility for Texas would be to move Ian Kinsler to first base, making room for stud prospect Jurickson Profar. The hype around Profar for fantasy centers around him being a power/speed combination player at a weak position.
But Profar never hit over 14 HR, never hit .290 or better, and after stealing 23 bases in 2011, he stole only 16 in 2012. Since we are discussing who "could" have a significant impact, there is room to consider Profar a potential 20/20 candidate. But even that does not get one into the top ten without a high average.
Profar's best case scenario is probably what Ian Desmond did in 2012, batting .292 with 25 HR and 21 SB. If someone said he had a season like that in his future, it would not come as a shock, but it is unlikely to be 2013. And even that exact stat line would not be worth a top 10 ranking.
Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays
Wil Myers had the kind of minor league season in 2012 that, if the numbers were exactly replicated, would put him in the discussion for top 10 status: .314, 37 HR, 109 RBI and 98 R.
There are two problems with those numbers. One, he did most of that damage in the Pacific Coast League, where everyone hits, and two, without the stolen bases, he could not fall very far short of that to be out of the conversation. Adam LaRoche batted .271 with 33 HR and 100 RBI last season and no one considered him a top fantasy choice.
Myers could hit 25 HR this season, given this assumed May 1 call-up. If given good lineup placement, he could stumble on 90 RBI and bat .280 in a best case scenario. But without stolen bases, he would need to be over .300, with 30-35, 100-plus RBI and 90-plus runs scored to be in the conversation.
Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers
Nick Castellanos was brought up as a third baseman. But there's a certain MVP manning the hot corner in Detroit, so Castellanos has moved to right field to get his bat to the majors more quickly.
He is a .316 hitter through three minor league seasons and would significantly improve the Tigers corner outfield production if called up. The power is still developing as he had 32 doubles, but just 10 HR in 134 games in 2012.
Castellanos will likely hit for both a high average and 25-30 HR power in his prime, but as a 2013 contributor, fantasy owners can hope for a best case .280 and 15 HR.
Travis D'Arnaud, New York Mets
Travis d'Arnaud gets a boost for being a catcher, so he already has fantasy appeal. Also, interestingly enough, his batting average and slugging percentage rose with each promotion from High A through Triple-A, indicative of a player who thrived when challenged.
d'Arnaud has two problems that will limit his early upside. First of all, he has struggled to stay healthy, playing 75 or less games four out of six seasons. He also does not like to walk. He drew just 19 free passes in 303 plate appearances in 2012.
A powerful backstop, d'Arnaud could approach .300 in his prime while hitting 25 HR. But for this season, playing in unfriendly Citi Field and trying to stay healthy, d'Arnaud projects for little more than .260 and 10-15 HR.
Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles' careful management of their future ace will likely keep him from fantasy relevance for at least half of 2012. But going off of the presumed May 1 call-up, at which time he was dropped into the rotation, Bundy could produce immediately.
While innings limits will always keep rookie pitchers from reaching the top ten among fantasy producers at the end of the year, Bundy's per start upside is in that tier.
In 103.2 minor league innings in 2012, Bundy had 119 strikeouts and just 28 walks. When they sent him to A-Ball to start the year, he made eight starts without allowing a single earned run, with a 0.233 WHIP, and 40 strikeouts against two walks.
Bundy could immediately provide a fantasy team an ERA just over three, with a WHIP around 1.2 and close to one strikeout per inning.
Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red sox
Jackie Bradley Jr. exceeded expectations in 2012, hitting .315 with 9 HR, 24 SB and 90 R. In fact, Bradley might have the skill set to produce 15 HR and 30 SB in his prime, with a high on base percentage based on his 87 walks in 128 games last season.
Bradley does not have a ton of power and will likely never approach the 30 HR Trout hit in 2012. But there is plenty of value in a .300/15/30 player, especially placed near the top of Boston's order, where he can score runs by the hundreds.
Bradley is the heir apparent to Jacoby Ellsbury, a free agent after this season. But if Ellsbury suffers another injury, Bradley could make an impact as early as this season.
Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals
Shelby Miller gets a bump on this list because he is likely to start the season in the Cardinals rotation, providing that extra month of production the rest will not get.
Miller had some early-season struggles in 2012, but fixed the mechanical issues and was stellar for St. Louis in a few late season bullpen appearances. He also 10.5 per nine in the minors, and had a 10 K/BB rate in the second half of the year.
Miller has two seasons over 130 innings under his belt, so the usual bump to the 160-170 range makes him a viable fantasy draft pick. His upside is Jordan Zimmermann's 2011, under a similar innings cap. 3.18 ERA, 1.147 WHIP and 7 K/9 would be most welcome on many teams.
Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals
Oscar Taveras is neck-and-neck with Myers and Profar as the top hitting prospect in the game, and he probably has the most direct route to the majors, with outfielders Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday both on the wrong side of 33.
Taveras batted .321 with 23 HR, 94 RBI, and 83 R in 2012, adding 10 steals. Assuming the May 1 call-up, Taveras could certainly match the power numbers, and possibly even hit as high as .285, though early adjustments by major league pitching could leave him closer to .265.
The Cardinals outfield is aging fast, but Taveras is ready to step in at any moment and fill either corner outfield spot. An early enough call-up could make him a leading Rookie of the Year candidate and late round bargain in fantasy.
Billy Hamilton, Cincinnatti Reds
The fastest player in baseball, Billy Hamilton is the only player on this list with, in my opinion, a realistic chance of being in the top 20 fantasy players overall at the end of the season. And the reason is obvious; he could get called up May 1 and steal 80-plus bases if given regular playing time.
Does that sound unrealistic? Hamilton stole 155 bases, a professional record, in 132 games last season. He is learning a new position, center field, which might keep him in the minors a bit longer than Reds fans would like, but with Shin-Soo Choo playing center field, they may feel his services are required sooner than later.
And after all, Dee Gordon stole 32 bases in 87 games with a .280 OBP in 2012, so 80 over almost a full season for a significantly faster player with a higher OBP is well within the realm of possibility.
While some may argue he provides zero power and is therefore limited to, at best, three category production (depending on how high his speed pushes his batting average), I would argue that one of those categories could double the production of the other league-leaders, single-handedly winning fantasy owners the category.