Stashing prospects away on your bench in fantasy baseball isn't the most exciting part of your draft-selection process, but if you play it the right way it could be the most rewarding aspect of your season.
Just like in the actual big leagues.
Guys like Aroldis Chapman and Stephen Strasburg have been late-season callups or injured-reserve guys during their first two seasons of big-league play, and that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to minor-league prospects itching to make it to the majors this year.
Enjoy selecting in the first few rounds—it's the best part of the fantasy baseball draft. But be diligent enough to know that shrewd moves like taking a prospect that will be back with the big club very soon could end up being your most important pick in the draft, even if it doesn't seem like it at the time.
Let's look at three guys that are must-haves on your bench to start the season.
Texas Rangers, IF, Jurickson Profar
The Texas Rangers have stockpiled top prospects like Profar, Mike Olt and pitchers Justin Grimm and Martin Perez, but right now there is no place for those guys in Arlington.
Profar, widely considered the top prospect in baseball by many pundits (including MLB.com's Watch List), is stuck behind shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Ian Kinsler on the Rangers' depth chart. Texas flirted with the idea of moving Kinsler to either first base or the outfield and/or trading Andrus during the offseason, but those ideas are a speck of the past and Profar looks headed for minor-league camp rather than a starting role (via MLB.com).
There's absolutely nothing wrong with starting the kid in Triple-A. Just make sure you don't forget about him this year, because he will be back in Arlington during the 2013 season.
The Rangers are in a transitional period in the organization. Gone are big sticks Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and "Mr. Ranger" Michael Young. In their place the Rangers will rely on free-agent signings Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski to provide the veteran leadership while counting on former role players David Murphy, Nelson Cruz and Mitch Moreland more than ever.
If things go south quickly, Profar will be up in the majors and starting at 2B before the start of the summer.
After hitting a home run in his first at-bat with the big club last season and impressing everyone from owner Nolan Ryan to manager Ron Washington, Profar has the tools and the pedigree to form a fearsome tandem with Andrus up the middle for Texas. He hit .281 in 126 games for Texas' Double-A affiliate in 2012, blending power (14 HR), speed (16 SB) and an ability to get on base (.820 OPS).
Kinsler stands in his way, but the Rangers will have a number of options (injury, poor outfield play, slow start) to move Kinsler from second base to stop blocking Profar's development as a pro.
Cincinnati Reds, OF, Billy Hamilton
Already being touted as the fastest man in baseball, Hamilton was sent out of major-league camp before he could earn a shot at a very crowded Cincinnati outfield this season.
However, his speed will make him too attractive to keep in Triple-A for long.
Hamilton is already making waves after a groundbreaking 2012 minor-league season in which he stole 155 bases, hit .311 and made heads turn with his ability to change the game with his legs. The SS-turned-outfielder will start the season in the minors, but his speed is too great to keep away from the rest of the world for long.
Forbes named Hamilton one of their "Sports Names You Need to Know" after his record-breaking 2012 campaign. It's high praise for a guy that isn't even a full-time MLB player yet, but goes to show you that big things are expected from a man who has the greatest shot (on paper) to break Rickey Henderson's all-time record.
As stated before, the Reds have a crowded outfield. Shin-Soo Choo, Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick are manning the three OF spots, but it's hard to see the Reds sticking with the injury-prone Choo in center field for long if things get off to an unceremonious start.
Be sure to keep Hamilton in mind during your draft this year. In true Billy Hamilton fashion, there's a good chance he scoots off your board very quickly late in drafts if you don't pay attention.
Pittsburgh Pirates, RHP, Gerrit Cole
Cole, the No. 1 pick from UCLA who has lit the minors on fire so far, was disappointed that he didn't make the Pittsburgh rotation right out of the gate in spring training (via Yahoo! Sports).
After posting a 9-7 record and a 2.80 ERA through three levels of the minor leagues in 2012, Cole made an early push to grab one of the last couple of spots in the rotation this year in camp. However, he didn't do quite enough to avoid the minor league cuts, and therefore isn't worthy of a high pick in your draft.
Don't worry, though—Cole will be back up soon.
His lively fastball (98 MPH) is his best pitch right now, but Cole commands four pitches that will all be dangerous at the MLB level and will keep Pittsburgh looking for opportunities to use the youngster in the rotation very soon.
Cole was on the UCLA staff with Cleveland Indians' prospect Trevor Bauer, but got more praise as the better pitcher of the two. Bauer has already received big-league time, but Cole has work to do to get to that level.
His comments about being demoted are enough to tell you that this kid is hungry, has all the tools to succeed up top and if he comes out firing in Triple-A like he did in the minors last season, the Pirates won't be able to keep his strikeout per inning potential away from the team for long. As such, make sure he's stashed away for a rainy day if your pitching staff leaves something to be desired to start the season.
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