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Top 100 Fantasy Rookies for 2013: 80-61

It’s time for the second annual Top 100 Fantasy Rookies, a list of 100 prospects who should make an impact on the 2013 fantasy baseball season. Just how much impact? In some cases, a lot; but in others, it may be minimal — or even negligible. That’s the inherent risk in predicting and projecting not only prospects’ development curves but also how these players possibly fit into their big league teams’ plans during the upcoming season.

That’s why, much like with my Mining the Minors columns, I’ve incorporated both talent and opportunity into each prospect’s ranking. 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 last year). But there are also plenty of players in these rankings who skew toward the opportunity side of the spectrum, because they’re (nearly) ready to be in the majors on Opening Day (read: David Phelps, 2012). 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.

Here’s the second batch, from Ryan Jackson to Jackie Bradley.

Nos. 100-81

What I hope these rankings provide for readers is some semblance of an idea of which prospects will be making an impression on the 2013 fantasy baseball landscape. If you happen to think that the guy ranked No. 12 should be No. 41 … or that there’s no way the player at No. 77 should be outside the Top 25 … well, I can’t say you’re wrong. I can only say this is my opinion based on my knowledge of these players and their teams — and where everything stands at the moment.

This year, to make be even more fantasy-friendly, I’ve added two new aspects:
1) Category Strengths to indicate the primary scoring categories in which each player might best contribute. Categories considered: BA, R, HR, RBI, SB, OBP, SLG, OPS, XBH for hitters; W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV, IP, K/9, K/BB, HLD for pitchers
2) Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak, which presents the best-case but realistic fantasy role for each player, specifically in 2013. Starting lineup considered: 14 hitters (C 1/2, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, MI, CI, OF 1/2/3/4/5, UT); 9 pitchers (SP 1/2/3/4/5, RP 1/2/3/4)

These rankings will be unveiled 20 players at a time, starting from No. 100. To be eligible, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats for hitters, or 50 innings pitched or 30 appearances for pitchers to this point in his career. All ages are as of April 1.

Also to be clear: This is strictly for 2013. In keeper or dynasty leagues, many of these players are already owned, are about to be drafted or may become in-season acquisitions, but the primary goal here is to help fantasy owners in 2-0-1-3.

80: Ryan Jackson, Cardinals SS
Talent: 6/10
Opportunity: 9/10
Age: 24
2012 Highest Level: Majors
Category Strengths: BA
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only MI reserve
Jackson got a kid-sized cup of coffee with the Cards last season (14 ABs), and he could be one of the beneficiaries of Rafael Furcal missing all of 2013, as Jackson is behind Pete Kozma on the depth chart but will be in the mix because of his D. He’s not inept with the bat and could sting the ball enough to help as a fill-in in super-deep NL formats. Also worth mentioning here, as a last resort option is Greg Garcia, a 23-year-old infielder whose shown good contact (16% career K rate) and plate discipline (12% BB) while reaching Double-A.

79: Justin Grimm, Rangers SP
Talent: 6/10
Opportunity: 7/10
Age: 24
2012 Highest Level: Majors
Category Strengths: K/BB
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only SP streamer
Grimm’s had a rough spring and needs more time to settle in at Triple-A after the Rangers jumped him around in 2012, including a pair of emergency starts in Texas, but he could be forced into action again if the back of the rotation falls apart after Martin Perez‘s injury and before Colby Lewis is ready to return. Another arm to mention here: Cody Buckel, a 20-year-old righty whose upside is likely a back-end starter despite nasty stats (particularly that 10.5 K/9, most of which came at A-ball or lower), also is on the Rangers’ short list of possible fill-ins until Perez and Lewis are healthy.

78: Tyler Cloyd, Phillies SP
Talent: 6/10
Opportunity: 8/10
Age: 25
2012 Highest Level: Majors
Category Strengths: W, WHIP, IP, K/BB
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only SP streamer
An unheralded, fringy prospect who debuted briefly late in 2012, Cloyd relies on command, control and finesse (2.0 career BB/9). The back-end of the Phils five-man (Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan) is shaky enough and if Roy Halladay is not quite right, the right-handed Cloyd could be a useful NL streaming option on occasion.

77: Christian Garcia, Nationals RP
Talent: 6/10
Opportunity: 8/10
Age: 27
2012 Highest Level: Majors
Category Strengths: ERA, K/9, HLD
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only RP 4
Garcia’s injury history would make Rich Harden blush (almost), and the right-hander currently is dealing with a partially-torn tendon in his right forearm, albeit one that’s expected to heal in time so Garcia can return to action after the first month of the season. There was talk of him being used in the rotation over the winter, but, the five-man already is pretty full — plus, dude is a risk to land on the DL each time he washes his hair. Put him in the pen, pitch him with proper rest, get quality stats on a per-inning basis. Rinse, repeat.

76: Sean Gilmartin, Braves SP
Talent: 7/10
Opportunity: 8/10
Age: 22
2012 Highest Level: Triple-A
Category Strengths: W, K/BB
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only SP streamer
Upside here is that of a solid back-of-the-rotation starter who won’t hurt himself with giving up too many free passes (2.0 career BB/9), but even once he’s ready, the left-hander isn’t going to be more than a security blanket for fantasy owners because of his lack of stuff (6.4 K/9 across Double- and Triple-A in 2012). Gilmartin’s losing his spring battle with Julio Teheran, who’s much higher on this list, to be Atlanta’s No. 5, but he could see some spot starts as an insurance policy.

75: Josh Vitters, Cubs 3B
Talent: 6/10
Opportunity: 8/10
Age: 23
2012 Highest Level: Majors
Category Strengths: XBH
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only CI reserve
It’s no secret that Vitters looked brutally bad in his first stint with the Cubs (.121/.193/.202 with 33 strikeouts in 109 PAs), and there’s no promise here that he’ll be worth rostering at all. But he still makes solid contact — when he, ya know, connects — and could fall into some doubles and a few homers if Chicago decides to see what he can do with regular PT. It’s not like Ian Stewart and Luis Valbuena are obstacles.

74: Christian Colon, Royals 2B
Talent: 6/10
Opportunity: 8/10
Age: 23
2012 Highest Level: Triple-A
Category Strengths: BA
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only MI reserve
Colon suffers the stigma of being an overdraft at No. 4 overall in 2010, but he should be a major leaguer — in some form or another — pretty soon. His biggest asset is making contact, as his elite 9% K rate indicates, but the result will probably be a hollow batting average. Blocked by Alcides Escobar at short, Colon fits better as a second-division second baseman anyway, and unless one of Chris Getz or Johnny Giavotella comes up with the half-season of their lives, he’s likely to get a look post-All-Star break.

73: Paco Rodriguez, Dodgers RP
Talent: 6/10
Opportunity: 8/10
Age: 21
2012 Highest Level: Majors
Category Strengths: ERA, WHIP, K/9, K/BB, HLD
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only RP 4
Drafted in the second round last June, Steve (a.k.a. “Paco”) Rodriguez became the first player in his class to reach the majors by debuting just two months after the ink dried on his pro contract. The Dodgers brought in J.P. Howell this offseason, but Rodriguez is ready to be the second (or even first) lefty out of the pen and could rack up holds and post strong peripherals.

72: Martin Perez, Rangers SP
Talent: 6/10
Opportunity: 8/10
Age: 21
2012 Highest Level: Majors
Category Strengths: W, IP
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only SP streamer
As the frontrunner for the Rangers fifth rotation spot heading into camp, the southpaw Perez would’ve ranked higher if not for the left forearm fracture he suffered in his second spring outing, an injury that is expected to keep him sidelined until May. Even before the bad break (pun intended), Perez wasn’t likely to have a huge fantasy impact because of his uninspiring showing in the high minors in recent seasons and in the majors last year (albeit in only 38 innings). Sure, pitching every fifth day for Texas could bring some wins, but he’s got blow-up potential, especially in his home park.

71: Allen Webster, Red Sox SP
Talent: 8/10
Opportunity: 7/10
Age: 23
2012 Highest Level: Double-A
Category Strengths: K/9, HLD
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only SP streamer or RP 4
Acquired in last August’s massive deal with the Dodgers, Webster had a crazy-good spring before being sent to minor league camp. A legitimate prospect as a starter, he may factor into things in 2013 while breaking into the bigs as a reliever, given the Red Sox’ fairly full five-man. The righty’s repertoire — heavy two-seamer in the low-to-mid 90 (which has jumped a few ticks this spring) and a strong changeup — would play up in such a role, at least until he’s ready to displace one of Boston’s other arms.

70: Austin Romine, Yankees C
Talent: 6/10
Opportunity: 9/10
Age: 24
2012 Highest Level: Triple-A
Category Strengths: BA
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only C 2
A back injury kept Romine from getting his first real chance in the majors last year. Even though he’s slated to start back in Triple-A to begin 2013, Romine is healthy and in position to seize a share of catcher at-bats in the Bronx, as Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli are more traffic cones than roadblocks. That’s not to say Romine is going to solve all your fantasy problems, but he could be a passable second catcher in single-league play.

69: Jonathan Pettibone, Phillies SP
Talent: 6/10
Opportunity: 8/10
Age: 22
2012 Highest Level: Triple-A
Category Strengths: W, WHIP, IP, K/BB
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only SP streamer
At 6’5”, 200, Pettibone is a well-built, innings-eating righty whose primary value comes from durability and limiting mistakes. To wit, he’s thrown more than 450 frames since 2010 and walked 124 (2.5 BB/9) while surrendering just 24 homers (0.48 HR/9). Should something go wrong at the back-end of the Phillies’ five-man, Pettibone would get consideration and could be occasionally-useful SP depth in fantasy.

68: Tim Federowicz, Dodgers C
Talent: 6/10
Opportunity: 10/10
Age: 25
2012 Highest Level: Majors
Category Strengths: BA, OBP
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only C 2
He’s a backup/platoon backstop who may turn into another Ryan Hanigan type in fantasy, but Federowicz is pretty much locked in as A.J. Ellis‘ backup in L.A., so owners in NL leagues that start two Cs need to be aware of him as a living, breathing catcher.

67: Hunter Morris, Brewers 1B
Talent: 6/10
Opportunity: 8/10
Age: 24
2012 Highest Level: Double-A
Category Strengths: HR, XBH
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: NL-only CI reserve
In the wake of injuries to both Corey Hart and Mat Gamel, Morris was presented with a nice opportunity to impress this spring and promptly failed. The Brewers will rough it at first until Hart’s back in May, so it’s not inconceivable that Morris could get a look in the meantime (or maybe later in the year), but he’s probably a second-division starter at best in the end, so his fantasy upside is limited, especially in 2013. Also worth pointing out here: Khris Davis, a 25-year-old who’s having himself quite a spring (.364 average, five homers, 13 RBIs) and could steal the roster spot that might have gone to Morris as a bench bat and/or backup outfielder.

66: Oswaldo Arcia, Twins OF
Talent: 8/10
Opportunity: 7/10
Age: 21
2012 Highest Level: Double-A
Category Strengths: BA, XBH
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only OF 3
Arcia’s proving to be a pure hitter as he climbs the ladder, one who could smack plenty of doubles, 15-20 homers and hit .290-plus on a regular basis. (Nick Markakis, anyone?) After dealing Denard Span and Ben Revere this winter and possibly moving Josh Willingham by the July trade deadline, the Twins outfield could be as empty as a politician’s promise, so Arcia may be in line for regular run over the second-half.

65: Taijuan Walker, Mariners SP
Talent: 9/10
Opportunity: 6/10
Age: 20
2012 Highest Level: Double-A
Category Strengths: ERA, K/9
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: Mixed league SP streamer
Walker is easily a Top 5 starting pitcher prospect, but he ranks this low because he’s likely no more than a September call-up, considering he could use another full year of seasoning, not to mention, the rebuilding M’s shouldn’t rush him. But if Walker kills it in his second go-round in the high minors, he could earn 5-10 starts down the stretch with Seattle and would be a huge waiver wire or FAAB target.

64: Stefen Romero, Mariners INF
Talent: 7/10
Opportunity: 8/10
Age: 24
2012 Highest Level: Double-A
Category Strengths: BA, XBH
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only MI or CI
Underrated in prospect circles, all Romero has done in his pro career is hit. After a dynamite .352/.391/.599 line with 23 homers and 34 doubles split between High- and Double-A, Romero made an impression in his limited time with the M’s this spring, too. There are questions surrounding exactly where fits best on D (second? third? left field?), but the bat should play. Considering Seattle’s never-ending search for offense, Romero is bound to get a shot after a few more months in the high minors.

63: James Paxton, Mariners SP
Talent: 7/10
Opportunity: 7/10
Age: 24
2012 Highest Level: Double-A
Category Strengths: ERA, K/9, HLD
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only SP 5
Paxton has two plus pitches in his mid-90s fastball and a wicked curve, both of which could get major league hitters out tomorrow. A knee strain cost him a month during the middle of last year, which explains why he barely cracked the 100-inning mark — something he’s only done once, by the way. The missed time, combined with inefficiency from iffy control (4.3 BB/9), has slowed Paxton’s development some, so he could use at least a few months in Triple-A. If the M’s call him up to start, he’ll be immediate strikeout help, but ultimately, and maybe in the short-term, he may fit better as a shutdown reliever.

62: Nick Castellanos, Tigers OF/3B
Talent: 8/10
Opportunity: 8/10
Age: 21
2012 Highest Level: Double-A
Category Strengths: BA, XBH
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only OF 3 or CI
The Tigers shifted Castellanos from third base to outfield to give him a cleaner, non-Miguel Cabrera-blocked path to the majors. That dims his fantasy value a bit: His high-average, gap-power profile isn’t as useful plugged into OF. There’s also the question of whether Castellanos’ development will be impacted by the position switch and possibly being rushed for the organization’s benefit, especially with the recent release of Brennan Boesch. After starting like gangbusters in High-A (.405/.461/.553), Castellanos needs to conquer Double-A (.264/.296/.382) before he debuts in Detroit. The surrounding lineup will certainly help once he’s ready for Detroit, but until then, easy, Tigers.

61: Jackie Bradley, Red Sox OF
Talent: 8/10
Opportunity: 8/10
Age: 22
2012 Highest Level: Double-A
Category Strengths: BA, SB, OBP
Potential 2013 Fantasy Peak: AL-only OF 3
How’s this for a spring: 16-for-35 (.457) with a 5:7 K:BB? Bradley was already on the Red Sox’ radar after a big first full season as a pro — .315/.430/.482 with 42 doubles and 24 steals — but he turned the quiet, far-away beeps into a loud, closer-than-expected blare. Boston brought in Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes on multi-year deals, but Jacoby Ellsbury is a free agent at season’s end, so Bradley almost certainly will be up around the All-Star break. His skills aren’t especially fantasy-friendly, but they will translate sooner than most young prospects.