Before we embark on the endeavor of ranking the top 25 fantasy prospects to target for the 2014 season, let's get one thing straight up-front: This is based on potential and projected impact for the 2014 season—and the 2014 season alone.
Oh, and before we forget, we better mention this list is all—and only—about 2014.
Got all that? Now then, moving on.
For many prospects who have either only just gotten their feet wet in the majors or who have yet to even dip their big toe in but at least have their swimming trunks on, their fantasy value for the upcoming season is as much about opportunity as it is about talent.
In other words, no matter how talented a youngster is, he also has to be both developmentally ready and in a place on his club's depth chart to contribute in order to be among the best of the best for 2014. That's why, on the pages to follow, you'll find the top 25 fantasy prospects have ratings in both "talent" and "opportunity" (scale out of 10).
As an example, take Byron Buxton. The consensus top prospect in baseball, he would earn a 10 in talent but merely a five in opportunity, since he's yet to play above A-ball and is unlikely to debut until August or September—and even that's only if everything goes just right for him. Hence, Buxton isn't on this list and didn't come all that close, frankly.
What's more, to better represent the fantasy factor here, also included are the standard 5x5 categories that a prospect could be best expected to contribute in for this upcoming season. Plus, each player write-up comes complete with his potential 2014 fantasy peak role to help you better grasp how he might fit into your roster if it all clicks just so.
It's also worth pointing out that to be eligible as a prospect for these purposes, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched or 30 appearances. (Service time, however, was not considered.) That means you will not see the likes of Christian Yelich, Khris Davis or Corey Dickerson among the hitters or Michael Wacha, Danny Salazar and Sonny Gray among the pitchers. They all played a little too much in 2013 to remain prospects in 2014.
Now that everything is clear about how we compiled this ranking of the top 25 fantasy prospects to target for this season only—again, that's solely 2014—it's time to count 'em down.
These rankings are based on 10- or 12-team mixed leagues with standard 5x5 rotisserie scoring for hitters (BA, R, HR, RBI, SB) and pitchers (W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV).
To be eligible as a prospect, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched or 30 appearances. Service time was not considered. And to be eligible at a particular position, players either must have played at least 20 games there in 2013 or be in line to start there in 2014.
For another prospect-related fantasy piece, here's a rundown of a batch of youngsters whose fantasy value is better or worse than their real-life value.