With Major League Baseball season three long months away, it's time we turn our attention to other endeavors.
So what do you mean, Tim, we have to abandon baseball and start watching "Glee" with our boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives and/or significant others?
Oh good lord no! Glee?
Besides, dude, if you have a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband and wife, you might just be way too busy for anything else anyways. Best of luck getting everything on that Christmas list.
But, for the rest of us, rejoice! There's fantasy baseball—so get the Rotisserie grills fired up to full flame...it's time to take a look at some top prospects you need to know about.
Some you probably are already quite aware of, others perhaps vaguely familiar with, and yet more whose names you might swear I've completely invented...rest easy, I haven't.
The prospects listed below might not be that team's "highest ceiling" guy. I've hand-picked these prospects based on which ones I feel are most likely to help their team out (and your fantasy team) on the Major League level in 2012.
After all, stock-piling young prospects is an excellent approach to win big in your respective fantasy league. Plus, for the most part, prospects are cheap and when they succeed, you look like an all-seeing genius and overall bad ass.
It's a win win!
So here we go, let's get the well-known super-prospects out of the way first.
Jesus Trout Harper
Struggling blues musician from south of the Louisiana border? Nope.
Genetically mutated hybrid of the three best prospects to come along in a decade? Sadly, no.
Dang it. That would've been sweet.
I'm referring, of course, to Jesus Montero, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.
Jesus Montero—New York Yankees, C
Simply put, Montero is why Posada is expendable. Also Francisco Cervelli and possibly Russell Martin.
He's that good. Plus, he's already had 18 games in the big leagues to get his feet wet. He didn't disappoint.
The 6'3" 235-pound right-handed hitting Venezuelan (who just turned 22 last month) put up an impressive slash line: .328/.406/.590 in 69 plate appearances.
As his size and frame would indicate, he can mash. He projects as a 25 to 30 home run type of producer. The only question with him is his defense. But with numbers like he's capable of, the defense definitely is no deal-breaker.
And clearly, the Yankees have plenty of options at catcher.
He was a pre-2011 Baseball America top five talent, and is ranked third for 2012. He might not be as cheap as other prospects, but if you get the chance, nab him with the quickness. He could be this year's ROY in the AL.
Mike Trout—Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, OF
Trout's potential can be summed up in nine wonderful words: Some ranked him higher than Bryce Harper last year.
He's got it all. The consummate five-tool player, he has the speed (80-grade on the 20-80 scouting scale) to make lightning-quick teammate Peter Bourjus look average.
His power potential almost matches his speed. Like Montero, he's already had a cup of coffee in the bigs. His 2011 slash line indicates he was a bit overmatched: .220/.281/.390. However, you've got to remember that he made his debut while still a teenager.
To start 2012, the dynamic Trout will still be just 20 years old and is almost a lock to have an outstanding season.
Bryce Harper—Washington Nationals, OF
The only teenager whose name is more recognizable than Harper's is Justin Bieber's, and that's a crying shame.
Unlike Trout and Montero, Harper has yet to taste the big league life...just yet. The chances are good that if he has a solid spring, he might just make the Nationals at the age of 19.
His career minor league slash line is quite nice: .297/.392/.501. Last season he never really looked overmatched in Double-A even though he was playing against grown men in their 20s—while at the tender age of 18.
All right, now we'll move on to some names that aren't quite as well-known. Don't let the relative anonymity fool you though, these guys might make a big splash in 2012.
Matthew West—Texas Rangers, P
I cover the Texas Rangers, and that's putting it lightly. I eat, sleep and drink Rangers baseball. I'm a hardcore fan; that some (girlfriend) might say is fully obsessed.
Plus, I'm super-ticked off that my C.J. Wilson straight-edge toaster has now become obsolete.
Ah, I'll get over it.
That being said, before three months ago, I had never even heard of Matthew West. Turns out I wasn't alone.
The main reason for that is until last year, West was a third baseman. Not a bad one either. He showed quick hands, some decent pop and a rifle for a right arm.
Turns out it was that arm that thrust him onto the Texas Rangers' prospect radar. Between Low-A Spokane and High-A Myrtle Beach, West absolutely blew away the competition.
In 27 innings, the 2007 second-round draft pick from Houston, struck out 35. Which is impressive enough, but there's more. West's walk total: one. Yep, the uno.
Yeah, a one son! That's a Cliff Lee-like sub-one WHIP...
If West can continue to dominate in Double-A as he did all last season, don't be shocked if the Rangers call him up at some point in 2012. Pick this guy up in your fantasy league, especially if it's a league that rewards strikeouts and saves.
No kidding, he's good enough to possibly make Tanner Scheppers not only tradeable, but forgettable.
Grant Green—Oakland A's—SS
With former ace Trevor Cahil now toeing-the-rubber for the Arizona Diamondbacks, it's pretty obvious that Oakland's esteemed GM, Billy Beane, has his club in the "rebuilding" mode once again.
And there's few prospects in baseball better to build around than Grant Green.
Last season he made his Double-A debut and did just fine, to the tune of: .291/.343/.408. He's flashed some pop in the past—he hit 20 home runs in '10 while at High-A—but he's consistently shown a knack for getting on base.
He has three plus-tools with his batting, power potential and speed.
Look for Green to possibly make the team right out of spring training.
Julio Teheran—Atlanta Braves—RHP
Teheran might be the next Craig Kimbrel for the Braves. No, I doubt he'll get the chance to close games with Kimbrel, last year's NL ROY winner in that slot to stay, but he could be that lights-out setup man that makes Kimbrel's job even easier, and the Braves bullpen almost unhittable.
The 20-year-old Colombian won't blow you away with any of his offerings, but he has three plus-pitches with his fastball, curveball and changeup, and his command and delivery are graded as above average as well.
Last year he pitched 19.2 innings for the Braves, and struggled with his control, as he walked eight while striking out just 10. Regardless, look for Teheran to have a breakout year in 2012.
Eventually it's no stretch to surmise that the Teheran/Kimbrel combo might be reminiscent of the Rivera/Wetteland combination late-90s Yankees fame.
Shelby Miller—St. Louis Cardinals, RHP
Miller is the prototypical pitching prospect from Texas. He's big (6'3" tall) and has an excellent fastball as well as an intimidating arsenal.
Over 247 minor league innings pitched, Miller has struck out 312 batters. Which is impressive. This former 2009 first-round pick might be making his Major League debut sooner, rather than later.
Like Teheran, Miller has five plus-pitching tools. Miller's fastball grades as a 70, as he has been known to touch 95 MPH in the final frames of a game, and can crank it up near triple digits if needed.
He features a 12-to-6 curveball that can be used as a knee-bending punch-out pitch offering or it can be buried in the dirt to induce swings and misses.
His changeup could use some more polish, but it gets the job done nicely as it takes the batter off of his fastball effectively.
Miller's the real deal, and at 21, will most likely see some time with the Cardinals, possibly in the 'pen or the rotation. Give him a few years and he could be St. Louis' solution to the aging Chris Carpenter.
Jameson Tailon—Pittsburgh Pirates, RHP
Yet another big Texan on the prospect list, surprise, surprise.
At 6'6" tall, Tailon still has some room to fill out his frame. Regardless, his thin physique doesn't hurt his talent, that's for sure.
Like Miller, Tailon has the 70-grade plus-plus fastball. But he also has a 70-grade curveball, that is an absolute wipe-out pitch.
Tailon also features five plus-pitching tools.
His high-90s heater occasionally touches triple digits, and his 65-grade slider just might become his strikeout pitch. If Tailon reaches his full potential, think not just a dominating starter, but think of a right-handed Randy Johnson.
Of those on my list, Tailon has the least minor league experience. However, he still might make the Pirates out of spring training as his repertoire is good enough to put him in the show ASAP, a la Chris Sale of the White Sox a few years back.
Matt Moore—Tampa Bay Rays, LHP
Matt Moore is the type of talent that makes scouts drool. And unlike most prospects whose best days are behind them once they make it to the big leagues, Moore has not only proven his abilities in the Show, but he's done it in the playoffs as well.
All you need to know about Moore was right there in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Rangers, as he pitched a shutout and made many Rangers (okay, all of them) look foolish as they flailed helplessly.
That's what a plus-plus 80-grade fastball—from the left side—can do to a team...even if they happen to be the best hitting club in the Major Leagues.
Moore's a real once-in-a generation talent. Supremely talented teammate (and fellow lefty), David Price, might not have a ceiling as high as Moore's.
(Insert sharp whistling sound here.)
Do what the Rays did, and lock this kid up for not only this year, but for years to come (if your league allows).
Kyle Seager—Seattle Mariners, 3B
Like several others on this list, Seager got a taste of the good life last year with the Seattle Mariners. Seager was somewhat overshadowed by fellow youngsters Justin Smoak, and Dustin Ackley—and with good reason, especially with Ackley.
At Triple-A Tacoma, Seager put up numbers so gaudy: .387/.444/.585 that the Mariners basically had to call him up.
Once in the big leagues, naturally, Seager's numbers dipped: .258/.312/.379. Still pretty impressive considering he saw some tough pitching while playing in a tough division.
The versatile third baseman can also play second, some short stop and a little first. He projects as the type of player that has a great chance of becoming a quality utility guy and an outside chance of being an above-average Major League starter.
Anthony Rizzo—San Diego Padres, 1B
Rizzo was last year's second-ranked prospect (behind Casey Kelly) for the Pads. He possesses plus-power and can drive the ball to the opposite field with authority.
At the tender age of 21, and in his first full season at Triple-A, Rizzo went absolutely nuts at the dish in 2011.
.331/.404/.652. He also banged out 26 home runs and knocked in 101.
Yeah, he did Triple-A twirlers like that.
Rizzo will not be getting any Christmas cards from the Pacific Coast League's pitchers.
He got a little taste of the bigs last season, but watch out for a monster year in 2012. He's an absolute lock to be the Pads' starting first baseman out of spring training.
If he reaches his full potential, the Padres might just have their answer to the departed Adrian Gonzalez. If not, think Paul Goldschmidt, and no matter how the cookie crumbles, you'll be glad you've got Rizzo on your fantasy team.
So there we are.
Consider your newfound awareness of these top-flight prospects the soft, knowledge-blanket you craved to keep you warm over the harsh, baseball-less winter.
Put them all on your "must have" list, and please, don't hesitate to say "I told you so."
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