Finally, fantasy baseball is back in our lives. The time has come to hype up and critically analyze highly touted prospects as well as throw dirt on some heroes of the past. Each and every week of the baseball season we will check in on the hottest phenoms and see which are ready to make an impact in the majors as a top fantasy baseball prospect. Last season, rookies such as Buster Posey, Jason Heyward and Neftali Feliz burst onto the scene and made sizeable impacts on their respective teams. This space will be dedicated to finding those types of players before they become the obsession of band wagon fans all across the country.
1) Jeremy Hellickson – TB (LW:1)
Hellickson has missed a couple days of work early in the grapefruit league schedule, but that hasn’t scared me off from keeping him in the top slot. He still remains the most polished of all rookie hurlers and also owns the distinction of being the only rookie who is guaranteed to break camp with the big boys. The Rays rotation has undergone an overhaul this offseason and that has opened up a nice opportunity for Hellickson. He will start the season at the back of the Rays rotation with room to grow.
2) Kyle Drabek – Tor (LW:7)
Many fans were unsure of what the Blue Jays had planned for their prize haul from the Roy Halladay trade, but Drabek has proven that he not only can hang, he may even thrive right from jump. With a spot in the rotation right there for the taking, Drabek could be a very valuable asset this season. Manager John Farrell has made it very clear that Drabek will not be hindered by an innings limit and that should be cause for celebration from Jays fans. This kid will be something special sooner rather than later.
3) Freddie Freeman – Atl (LW:14)
I will freely admit that I had no idea what to expect from the Braves young first baseman headed into spring training, but it appears he is destined to shine. It’s always easier to get a read on young hitters than it is pitchers since they come with much more exposure, but Freeman has really taken his opportunity and run with it. Freeman is 6 for his first 14 at the plate with three doubles. Expect to see a solid batting average, decent power and an outstanding glove at first from the young star.
4) Jake McGee – TB (LW:NR)
That Tampa Bay farm system just keeps churning out talent huh? I’m man enough to admit that I completely whiffed on McGee in my first column, but this young man looks to have all the makings of a dominant closer in waiting. He has the makeup, heart and arsenal to make that dream a reality as soon as opening day. He appears to have manager Joe Maddon firmly in his corner and wants the ball each time out. With only mediocre options such as Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Peralta to beat out this spring, don’t be shocked to see him become the first guy out of the bullpen in the 9th sooner rather than later.
5) Chris Sale – CHW (LW:12)
Although he does not project to open the season in the closers role, Sale does figure to handle setup duties for Matt Thornton and will be next in line should the lefty suffer an injury. Starting the season in the 8th inning where many scouts argue is the tougher of the late inning jobs will allow Sale to gain invaluable confidence for his inevitable rise into the 9th inning job. He will be incredibly valuable to the White Sox this season no matter what capacity that turns out to be.
6) Danny Espinosa – Was (LW:NR)
Here is another young star ticketed for stardom that I will gladly admit I missed the boat on. Espinosa is projected to open the season as the Nationals second baseman and his combination of speed and power figures to play real well no matter where he hits in the lineup. He holds the distinction of being one of only three minor leaguers to amass 20 steals while also clubbing 20 home runs. He should play a prominent role in Washington all season long.
7) Michael Pineda – Sea (LW:22)
There are still conflicting reports out there as to whether or not Pineda will begin the season with the big club or back down in AAA, but one thing that is for certain is this towering right hander is ready to contribute right away. He may already be the Mariners second best starting pitcher, but logistics could get in his way as he ascends to the big leagues. Service time is always an obstacle for young players since delaying their debut can allow a team to control them for an addition year before free agency. Pineda’s first appearance on March 2nd produced two perfect frames so he is ready to show he wants to contribute now.
8) Zach Britton – Bal (LW:25)
Zach Britton has all the makings of a future ace. With his incredibly advanced arsenal of pitches and an excellent makeup as well, Britton will certainly put on an Orioles uniform this season it just depends on when that will happen. On a much-improved Baltimore team that promises to challenge the top teams in the AL East for prominence, don’t be shocked to see Britton in the very near future. His first appearance of the spring resulted in two scoreless innings so the Orioles are well aware of what this young phenom is capable of.
9) Desmond Jennings – TB (LW:5)
Jennings is in a tough spot in Tampa Bay. Many in the organization feel he is ready to contribute at the big leagues now, but Tampa has been reluctant to slip completely into rebuild mode and that hurts his chances of playing time. With Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon soaking up at-bats until they inevitably end up on the shelf, Jennings might be relegated to AAA for the time being. His ability to get on base and then subsequently steal at will while there, make him an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on.
10) Domonic Brown – Phi (LW:2)
Brown has been tentatively slotted into the vacant right field job in Philadelphia ever since Jayson Werth left in free agency, but he has struggled mightily thus far in limited spring training work. Most scouts feel he might not be quite ready and the Phillies have no real reason to rush the youngster. Ben Francisco has shown he can be a capable bottom of the order hitter and the Phillies absolutely will not want to stunt the growth of a kid who figures to be a large part of their future. Additionally, he’ll require surgery on a broken hamate bone in his wrist that will sideline him for the next three to six weeks.