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Top 100 Fantasy Prospects for 2012: 100-81

Posted By Jason Catania On February 21, 2012 @ 8:15 am In Prospects,Sleepers,Stock Watch | 6 Comments

From Martin Perez to Wil Myers.

After spending the past few weeks at a secure, undisclosed location (Code Name: Parent’s Basement), I’ve emerged with a list of 100 prospects who, I’m fairly confident, will make an impact on the 2012 fantasy baseball season. Just how much impact? In some cases, it could be a lot; but in others, it could be minimal — or even none. That’s the inherent risk in predicting and projecting not only prospects’ development curves but also how these players could possibly fit into their big-league team’s plans during the upcoming season.

That’s why, much like I do with my Mining the Minors columns, I’ve done my best to incorporate both talent and opportunity. Sometimes, a player’s talent is so elite that it’s worth bumping him up the rankings even if his path to playing time isn’t all that clear (think: Mike Trout). But there are also plenty of players in the rankings who will skew more toward the opportunity side of the spectrum, as in: talent aside, they’re (nearly) ready from Day One. Trying to weigh and balance these two aspects — talent and opportunity — is what makes a list like this so challenging. And so fluid. Which is to say, my mind could change on any of the players on the list between today and tomorrow. Or even today and later today.

What I hope this ranking provides for you readers is some semblance of an idea of which prospects will be making an impression on the 2012 fantasy baseball landscape. If you happen to think that the guy ranked No. 18 should be No. 93 … or that there’s no way the dude at No. 47 should be outside the Top 10 … well I can’t say you’re wrong. I can only say this is my guess based on my knowledge of these players and their teams — and where everything stands at the moment.

So over the coming weeks, I’ll be unveiling my rankings 20 players at a time, starting from No. 100 and working all the way to the top of the list.

Remember, to be eligible for this, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (or 30 appearances) in his career.

Also to be clear: This is strictly for 2012. While some of these players are already owned, about to be drafted or could make for nice in-season acquisitions in keeper leagues, the goal here is to help fantasy owners in 2-0-1-2.

100: Martin Perez, Rangers SP
Talent: 8 (out of 10)
Opportunity: 3 (out of 10)
2011 Highest Level: Triple-A

Still one of the top young lefty arms around, but his tendency to struggle at each new stop (6.43 ERA in 49 Triple-A IPs in 2011) and the ridiculous depth in the Rangers rotation and bullpen make for a tough 25-man roster to crack.

99: Neil Ramirez, Rangers SP
Talent: 7
Opportunity: 4
2011 Highest Level: Triple-A

Made significant strides last year while pitching at three levels but still has only one pro season with 100-plus IPs. And again, how exactly is he supposed to break into the Texas big-league staff this year?

98: Tim Wheeler, Rockies OF
Talent: 7
Opportunity: 4
2011 Highest Level: Double-A

Former 2009 first-rounder finally showed some promise with 33 HRs and 21 SBs at Double-A, but he needs a full season at the minors’ highest level to see if he can improve on last year’s 142 whiffs.

97: Jeremy Jeffress, Royals RP
Talent: 5
Opportunity: 6
2011 Highest Level: Majors

One of the biggest fastballs in the game, Jeffress frequently hits triple digits. But if the 24-year-old’s 5.7 career BB/9 rate doesn’t improve, he’ll never be more than a fourth or fifth reliever, especially in the ridiculously-young, crazy-deep Royals bullpen.

96: Michael Taylor, A’s OF
Talent: 6
Opportunity: 5
2011 Highest Level: Majors

An offseason that started out with Taylor in line for an Opening Day job quickly turned into a situation where the now 26-year-old has to be wondering if he has a future in an organization that acquired approximately 38 new outfielders over the winter.

95: Matt Adams, Cardinals 1B
Talent: 8
Opportunity: 4
2011 Highest Level: Double-A

As much as Taylor’s path became blocked this offseason, Adams’ opened up wide enough for even the 6’3″, 230-pound masher (.300-32-101) to put himself in line to be the Cardinals first baseman of the future. Thanks, Al.

94: Dellin Betances, Yankees SP/RP
Talent: 7
Opportunity: 5
2011 Highest Level: Majors

The soon-to-be-24-year-old’s arm (10.1 K/9) is as big as his 6’8″ frame, but the Yanks brought in some rotation help. With fellow prospect Manny Banuelos (we’ll get to him down the line) also in the picture — and more likely to stick as a starter — it’s looking like Betances might fit best in the pen.

93: Simon Castro, White Sox SP/RP
Talent: 6
Opportunity: 6
2011 Highest Level: Triple-A

The main piece in the Carlos Quentin deal, Castro’s 2011 was more than forgettable (5.63 ERA, 1.44 WHIP). But a late-season surge and a change of scenery could do wonders for getting this 23-year-old righty back on track.

92: Chris Archer, Rays SP/RP
Talent: 6
Opportunity: 6
2011 Highest Level: Triple-A

Last year was a noticeable step back from 2010′s breakout (2.34 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 9.4 K/9) for the former Cubs prospect, mainly because his walk rate (5.3 BB/9) returned to his career norm. But Archer’s mid-90s fastball and nasty slider could be mid-season bullpen reinforcement for a Rays club that is too stocked with starters at the moment.

91: Clint Robinson, Royals 1B/DH
Talent: 6
Opportunity: 6
2011 Highest Level: Triple-A

We know Robinson can hit — a .932 OPS in 2011 followed up a 1.035 OPS at Double-A the year prior — but the questions are: 1) With Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler locked into the lineup, can he find a way to PT in KC? And 2) at 27, can it happen fast?

90: Matt Harvey, Mets SP
Talent: 8
Opportunity: 5
2011 Highest Level: Double-A

Future number two horse was impressive across two levels (3.32 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 10.3 K/9) after going No. 7 overall in 2010, and there’s not much in his way at the big-league level, so a strong start at Double-A in 2012 could have him on the verge by late summer.

89: Brad Brach, Padres RP
Talent: 5
Opportunity: 8
2011 Highest Level: Majors

Gaudy digits (2.89 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 11.8 K/9, 34 SV) got the 25-year-old a 7-inning taste in San Diego. Now the 2008 42nd-rounder needs to prove he can be another in the long line of lesser-known Padres set-up men.

88: Tanner Scheppers, Rangers RP
Talent: 6
Opportunity: 7
2011 Highest Level: Triple-A

Strike One: Once a possible starter, the 2008 supplemental pick’s future is now clearly in the pen. Strike Two: He’s already 25. Strike Three: The Rangers, you might have heard, already have too many arms. A mid-season debut, though, would work, as long as Scheppers can get his control under, er, control.

87: Alex Torres, Rays SP/RP
Talent: 6
Opportunity: 7
2011 Highest Level: Majors

Lefty has plenty of stuff (9.6 K/9 at Triple-A), but the accuracy (5.1 BB/9) and role (starter? reliever?) are up in the air. Too many better options in Tampa’s rotation, so if the 24-year-old is going to make an impact in 2012, it’ll be in relief.

86: Nestor Molina, White Sox SP
Talent: 7
Opportunity: 6
2011 Highest Level: Double-A

The 23-year-old control artist, formerly of the Toronto org, has only pitched 22 IPs at Double-A, but man, were they something (12 H, 2 BB, 33 K). Still, wouldn’t shock to see the White Sox push him to the bigs in the second half to get a first-hand look at the reason they parted with Sergio Santos.

85: Jose Ceda, Marlins RP
Talent: 5
Opportunity: 8
2011 Highest Level: Majors

So far, the minor-league numbers (1.36 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 12.0 K/9, 24 SV in 2011) haven’t quite translated to the bigs (4.43, 1.38, 9.3 in 20.1 IPs last year) for the 25-year-old rocket-armed right-hander. With Heath Bell now closing, Ceda’s no longer an option for the ninth, but he could still become a dangerous set-up man.

84: Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mets OF
Talent: 6
Opportunity: 7
2011 Highest Level: Triple-A

Ill-timed shoulder injury cut short his season and killed any shot at a 2011 call-up that instead went to Lucas Duda. Captain Kirk, 24, isn’t a first-division regular, but he does a bit of everything (career .280/.354/.465), so as long as he’s recovered, he might be just an Andres Torres slow start from debuting.

83: Alex Wilson, Red Sox SP
Talent: 6
Opportunity: 7
2011 Highest Level: Triple-A

Wilson’s breakout season (3.11 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) got the 2009 second-rounder noticed by those running an org that’s in need of a few healthy, innings-eating arms. A return to Triple-A to spiff things up would help, but this 25-year-old is nearly ready to pitch in at the back of Boston’s rotation if Daniel Bard and/or Alfredo Aceves don’t work out.

82: Shawn Tolleson, Dodgers RP
Talent: 6
Opportunity: 7
2011 Highest Level: Double-A

Pitching across three levels, Tolleson’s stats were just stupid (1.17 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 13.1 K/9, 25 SV). What’s not? The thought that the 24-year-old could pitch the seventh or eighth — or even ninth — for the Dodgers in 2012.

81: Wil Myers, Royals OF
Talent: 9
Opportunity: 4
2011 Highest Level: Double-A

Coming off 2010′s remember-this-name breakout, a nasty infected knee injury turned 2011 into somewhat of a mulligan season for Myers (.254/.353/.393). He’s only 21, though, so there’s no rush, and a 2012 debut may be just wishful thinking. Still, the catcher-turned-outfielder has the type of bat and discipline (14% BB) to hit in the bigs this year.


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