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Underrated & Overrated Fantasy Hitting Prospects for 2013

It’s unlikely any 2013 rookie will have the impact in fantasy that Mike Trout did last season. Actually, it’s kind of unlikely any rookie will have the kind of fantasy impact that Trout did last season again in our lifetimes. Sure, prospects are generally speaking poor bets for consistent production. Yet, every year a few of these long shot bets come through and pay off big. Over the last decade names such as Trout, Craig Kimbrel, Albert Pujols and Rocco Baldelli all helped bring home fantasy titles to their many delighted owners. You don’t even need to find a Trout – which is good because, again, that’s really unlikely! Sometimes a Todd Frazier fills a need perfectly for a team lacking a third baseman. Hitting on a useful prospect or two like that can really make the difference for your fantasy team.

Today I wanted to profile a couple of the position player prospects I’d gamble on to help your team. I’m also going to look at a couple players owners are targeting a lot that I don’t think are quite worth the risk. Remember that these players are being evaluated entirely for their 2013 usefulness, without regard to keeper or dynasty implications.

Underrated: Aaron Hicks, CF, MIN

The biggest mark in Hicks’s favor is that he appears to be the favorite to be the Opening Day center fielder in Minnesota. In fact, Manager Ron Gardenhire yesterday pondered whether Hicks can handle the leadoff spot. Fantasy value is always about opportunity. Lesser talents who actually play are preferable to a superstar riding the bench. The Twins seem to want to give this prospect an opportunity and fantasy owners should take note. The appeal is obvious as Hicks has always been a toolsy player. In 2012 he made adjustments at the plate and showed he might be the late bloomer many hoped. I’m still concerned about how much Hicks will actually hit and he probably can’t be counted on for batting average this season. What he can potentially add are some home runs and stolen bases at a dirt cheap price. I like to target power and speed combination outfielders and I think Hicks fits that mold even if he doesn’t fully get there in 2013. His development over the course of last season gives me some hope that we can catch lightning in a bottle here.

Overrated: Travis D’Arnaud, C, NYM

My concerns with d’Arnaud are more general criticisms of young catchers rather than anything specific to his game. Catchers are (anecdotally at least) thought to take some time to adjust to the majors. They have a host of other adjustments they need to make to learn to deal with the responsibilities of handling a major league staff. Often the bat suffers in the meantime and it’s a steep learning curve. Add to this that CitiField is not a forgiving park for young hitters and d’Arnaud’s health and durability have been issues in the past. I do really like d’Arnaud’s game and expect him to be a very good major leaguer. I just wouldn’t bet my fantasy season on that happening in the first 1,000 major league at-bats of his career or so. The bottom line is that there are probably going to be safer options around.

Underrated: Adam Eaton, OF, ARI

Arizona traded two very good big league outfielders – one of them among the best young players in the game – to make room for… Adam Eaton? Yup. Adam Eaton. Looking at recent events in the desert it sure seems like the Diamondbacks have gone out of their way to accommodate this guy. That should give you a good idea how they evaluate him internally. Eaton is a gamer who consistently has played larger than his tools and short stature. He’s a tough out who works at-bats and is capable of driving the ball. Like Hicks above, Eaton is probably more help in stolen bases than he is in home runs… but Chase Field will help some on that account. Eaton is the favorite to lead off for the D-Backs and that’s a very desirable fantasy asset. There is still potential for a bit of a logjam in the outfield with Kevin Towers holding on to Jason Kubel and signing Cody Ross. The injury to Ross could give Eaton a chance to run away with this and force others like Gerardo Parra to lose playing time. Fantasy owners aren’t all that shy about targeting Eaton but I think he might still exceed expectations.

Overrated: Wil Myers, OF, TB

If you’ve been reading my work for a while you know you won’t find many bigger Wil Myers fans than me. All the same, I’ve got to question if he’s worth drafting where it will take to stash him. The always cost conscious Rays are very likely to keep Myers in the minors to manipulate his service time. So you’re probably looking at a dead roster spot for a minimum of 6 weeks. That’s a pretty significant chunk of your fantasy season. When Myers does debut he is capable of mashing right away, but it should never come as a surprise to see a rookie struggle out of the gate. Arguing against him further is Tropicana Field’s pitcher friendly environs. If I wanted to stash a rookie I’d obviously love to have Myers but I just don’t think there’s great value here between the hype, the playing time and the ballpark. Give me an extra month and a half of some veteran at fantasy’s deepest position instead.

Fangraphs author Jason Catania yesterday talked about something similar when he profiled prospects who could be underrated in fantasy compared to reality.