Jeremy Hellickson went 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA last year en route to winning the AL ROY. Who will be this year's Hellickson?
It is never too early to start thinking about fantasy baseball.
Pitchers and catchers report in about two months, and the fantasy season will be upon us sooner than you think.
Who will be this year's Jeremy Hellickson, Eric Hosmer or Craig Kimbrel?
Here's a list of the top 11 rookies that will have an impact on your team for this season and help you claim a championship.
Teheran went 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA in AAA last season.
Julio Teheran strikingly resembles Pedro Martinez.
Both are from Latin America, are around 6'0" and 170 pounds and have electric stuff.
It might not be fair to compare Teheran to Pedro just yet, but the 20-year-old has all the tools to be an MLB star.
In AAA Gwinnett last season, Teheran went 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA and had 122 Ks in 144 IP. The youngster has a low-to-mid 90s fastball with sink, a sharp 70-mph curveball and an above-average changeup. Yeah, sounds like Pedro to me.
Teheran's stock is only getting better. The Braves shipped off Derek Lowe to the Cleveland Indians and are still using Jair Jurrjens as trade bait. 2012 will be the year Teheran cracks the starting rotation and makes an impact.
Bold prediction: The Braves will most likely want to limit the young fireballer's innings. 110 IP, 5 Ws, 4.10 ERA, 60 Ks.
Offensive-minded Devin Mesoraco will start Opening Day.
Devin Mesoraco should secure a starting spot out of spring training, which will make him a valuable play at the catcher position.
Don't expect a very good average from Mesoraco, but he's got plenty of pop. He hit 15 home runs last year with AAA Louisville and then had two HRs in 18 games with the Reds last year.
Mesoraco will benefit playing in Great American Ballpark. Balls fly out of that stadium. In 2011, Great American yielded an average of 2.57 home runs per game. That's fourth highest in the MLB, behind The Ballpark at Arlington (Rangers), Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards (Orioles).
Mesoraco hardly puts the ball on the ground (why should he? he's a slow runner), so fly ball after fly ball in that stadium will turn into big power numbers.
The only problem is that Mesoraco will probably get fewer than 400 at-bats. He won't be a Carlos Santana, but he's still a safe play in deeper leagues. Expect a J.P. Arencibia type year.
Bold prediction: .245 BA, 20 HRs, 60 RBIs, .730 OPS.
A healthy Cozart has the potential to be a 20/20 guy.
Zack Cozart burst onto the scene last year, raking in 12 hits—including two HRs—in his first 11 games. Then, an elbow injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Cozart should start the year at shortstop for a slugging Cincinnati Reds team. It's an offense that already features standouts Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. Add Cozart to the top of that lineup, and he will produce worthy fantasy numbers.
The SS position in fantasy is very shallow. There's a huge drop off after Hanley Ramirez (who will most likely lose his SS eligibility after this season), Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes. Cozart is a safe play in the late rounds. He could possibly hit 20 home runs in the hitter friendly confines of Great American Ballpark. Plus, his 39 stolen bases in two AAA seasons is a bonus.
Cozart needs to work on his patience at the plate. He needs to cutback on the strikeouts and draw more walks, unless he'll just be another Drew Stubbs at SS.
Bold prediction: . 270 BA, 15 HRs, 20 SBs, 70 Rs.
Turner can be a mid-rotation guy in 2012.
The Detroit Tigers are notorious for agressively promoting young pitchers to the big leagues. Justin Verlander made his debut when he was 22 years old, and Rick Porcello was 20 years old in his first MLB start.
Jacob Turner will follow the same path.
In three AAA games last year, Turner went 1-0 with a 3.12 ERA, striking out 20 batters in 17.1 innings. Turner flew through the minors and made three starts for the Tigers last year. The 20-year-old struggled (12 earned runs in 12.2 innings), but don't let that scare you. He's going to have a breakout year.
Turner is another big-bodied (6'5" 210 lbs), power-throwing righty. He consistently sits at 92-93 mph and has even touched 96. While his power four-seamer is impressive, his heavy two-seamer is his best pitch. He'll throw that in the low 90s with late movement to generate lots of weak contact.
He's even tough on lefties, holding them to just a .228 batting average in the minors.
Bold prediction: Command and durability are concerns. 140 IP, 7 Ws, 4.20 ERA, 95 Ks.
Shelby Miller is the top right-handed prospect in baseball.
Shelby Miller is the best right-handed starting pitcher in the minor leagues.
At AA Springfield last year, Miller was 9-3 with a 2.70 ERA and had 89 strikeouts in 86.2 innings. He throws a mid-to-high 90s fastball with a solid 12-to-6 curveball.
Miller would be much higher on this list, most likely the top five, if he wasn't currently blocked. The Cardinals will most likely go with Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook to start the year.
Plus, the Cardinals will want to keep the 21-year-old on a strict innings limit.
Having said that, Miller will be valuable to your fantasy team in 2012. Injuries are inevitable, especially for pitchers. If any of those pitchers go down, Miller will be the one to step up.
Even if there aren't injuries, Miller is still worth drafting. He's going to be called up in June or July, and when he is, he'll dominate. Don't be afraid to use a late-round pick on Miller.
Bold prediction: He's a must pick up for deeper mixed and keeper leagues. 130 IP, 8 Ws, 3.75 ERA, 120 Ks.
Harper will be given a shot to make the 25-man roster.
Ah, Bryce Harper. Everybody knows about the 20-year-old phenom.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson said that Harper will have a chance to make the 25-man roster to start the season. If he does, then watch out. Harper is for real.
Harper makes the list because of his potential. There's a chance that he won't provide value is 2012, but there's also a chance that he gets called up and dominates. If I knew for sure that Harper would be a starter, he would most likely be No. 1.
There are a couple of factors here. Mainly, it comes down to money. If Harper starts the year for the Nats, then he's eligible for Super Two status, meaning he'll be eligible for arbitration after his second full season. If the Nationals don't mind paying Harper more money much sooner, then calling him up earlier won't be a problem.
Prince Fielder is another reason the Nats might promote Harper. They are in the hunt to land the big first baseman, so imagine that lineup with both Fielder and Harper. There's not a better way to sell tickets for a team that will have Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Prince Fielder and Ryan Zimmerman on Opening Day.
Harper's stats are impressive. He has 17 home runs in 109 minor league games with a .297 average and 26 stolen bases. More importantly, Harper hit .333 with six HRs in 93 at-bats just a couple of months ago in the Arizona Fall League.
Bold prediction: It's hard to project given the situation. .250 BA, 15 HRs, 15 SBs, .790 OPS. If he makes Opening Day roster, he could have more like 25 HRs.
Alonso doesn't have to worry about being blocked anymore.
Nobody benefited from the Cincy/San Diego trade more than first baseman Yonder Alonso.
The 24 year-old Alonso is a hitting machine. In the 192 games he played at AAA Louisville, Alonso compiled a .296 batting average with 24 home runs. Then in just 88 at-bats with the Reds last season, Alonso had 29 hits (good for a .330 average), five HRs and a mouth-watering .943 OPS.
He's been ready for significant MLB playing time for more than a year, but the only problem was Joey Votto. The Reds tried to get Alonso's bat in the lineup by putting him in left field, but that was a disaster defensively. See also: Vlad Guerrero 2010 World Series.
That won't be a problem anymore. San Diego had first baseman woes the entire 2011 season. The HR numbers may not project as well going from Cincy to San Diego, but he'll still have plenty of extra base hits. Plus, he'll have OF eligibility, making him even more versatile.
Bold prediction: .285 BA, 27 HRs, 80 RBIs, .840 OPS.
Darvish has had a sub-2 ERA for the last five years in Japan.
There's no being lost in translation with Darvish; he's a physical specimen.
The 25-year-old righty from Japan is 6'5"and weighs 185 pounds. Not only does he consistently throw his fastball 92-95 mph, but he has command of SEVEN—yes, that's seven—different pitches.
Don't let the failure and busts of previous Japan pitchers scare you. In the last five seasons with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, Darvish is 76-28 with a 1.72 ERA and has a dazzling 4.9 K:BB ratio.
The two most undervalued stats for pitchers are WHIP and K/9.
Darvish strives in these categories. During that five-year span, Darvish has a 0.89 WHIP and a 9.5 K/9. Furthermore, Darvish's ERA has never been above two.
Darvish won't be an ace like Halladay or Verlander, but expect him to settle in as a solid SP3 in 2012. He'll be playing for the two-time defending AL champs, so he'll have an offense to provide plenty of firepower. Also, pitching against division foes the Mariners and A's will always be a good matchup.
Bold prediction: Expect a Michael Pineda-esque year. 185 IP, 12 Ws, 3.45 ERA, 170 Ks.
If Mike Trout can find a spot in the Angels' OF, expect him to thrive.
Mike Trout is an eligible rookie in 2012 again. He had 123 at-bats last year, just seven away from the MLB minimum to qualify for ROY.
Trout would be higher on this list, perhaps even No. 1, if he was guaranteed a starting job come Opening Day.
But he's not. In fact, I don't see that happening. The Angles are slated to have Peter Bourjos, Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter to start the year.
I know what you're thinking. Trout is way better than Bourjos, and that's true. But, I doubt the Angels rush the 20-year-old back to the majors. Plus, the Angels have $41 million already invested in Wells and Hunter combined. The odds don't look good for him to start the year in the MLB.
With that said, he's definitely going to be called up. While he struggled in 2011 (.220 BA), he still showed promise. He had five home runs and six doubles for the year, and hit .308 in the last seven games of the season.
Don't let last year's struggles scare you. He was just 19 years old when he made his debut. In three seasons in the minors, Trout has hit .338 with 22 HRs and 102 SBs.
Bold prediction: Trout has the potential to be a 20/40 guy in the future, and he's worth drafting this year. .265 BA, 18 HRs, 20 SBs, .800 OPS.
Matt Moore was lights out in his limited time in the MLB in '11.
The Tampa Bay Rays threw lefty Matt Moore to the wolves at the end of the 2011 season, and he absolutely dominated.
In his first MLB start and a playoff berth on the line, Moore struck out 11 in five shutout innings at Yankee Stadium.
What about for an encore? Moore tossed seven scoreless innings, yielded two hits and struck out six in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Rangers.
The 22-year-old southpaw has a career 12.7 K/9 in the minor leagues. In his five seasons in the minors, he has never had an ERA over 3.40.
The kid throws effortless gas (mid 90s) and has both a plus curveball and changeup. His silky smooth delivery and his ability to change speeds will baffle hitters all year long. He will rival what Hellickson did last year.
Plus, he'll be anxious to reward the Rays after they gave him a five-year, $14 million contract.
Bold prediction: Expect Moore to be fantastic the entire season. 170 IP, 14 Ws, 3.10 ERA, 185 Ks.
Jesus Montero will have plenty to smile about in 2012.
Jesus Montero has been one of the most talked about prospects for the past few years. This year, he'll prove he can live up to the hype.
Many thought Montero was going to get significant time last year, but the Yankees limited Montero to just 18 games. In his brief stint, the 22-year-old hit .328 with four home runs.
His success in the MLB last year isn't a fluke. He's dominated the minors for the last five seasons. From 2007-2011, Montero collected 570 hits in 489 games (good for a .308 BA). During that time, he mashed 76 HRs, including 39 at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Not only does Montero have an excellent skill set, but there are three important factors to why he'll be a must-start catcher in all fantasy leagues.
1. Like shortstop, the catcher position is very shallow. In some instances, it's better to start no catcher than have a sub-par one.
2. Montero will be a "phantom" catcher, meaning he won't be catching everyday. The Yanks still have Russell Martin as their regular backstop, so Montero will most likely inherit the DH slot. You'll get C eligibility for a player who hardly catches. That will keep Montero's legs fresh coming down the stretch.
3. Montero's opposite field power. Montero loves going the other way, and that will play dividends in Yankee Stadium. A smooth stroke to the short porch in right will certainly be beneficial.
Bold prediction: .280 BA, 25 HRs, 85 RBIs, .855 OPS.
Wil Myers could be this year's Eric Hosmer. He's capable of a .280/20 HR season.
Keep these players on your watch list. They just missed making the list.
Wil Myers, Kansas City OF: Solid deep league play. Could be this year's Eric Hosmer,
Brett Jackson, Chicago Cubs OF: Able to play all three OF positions. Chicago is hurting for a power hitter. Could be a 20/20 guy.
Brad Peacock, Oakland A's SP: Trade from Nats to A's helps this youngster. A's rotation not very solid after losing Cahill and Gonzalez.
Randall Delgado, Atlanta Braves SP: Possesses good stuff, but nowhere to go. Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran are already ahead of him.
Ryan Lavarnway, Boston Red Sox C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach aren't full-time solutions. If he gets the ABs, he'll have a chance to be like J.P. Arencibia this year.