Most savvy fantasy players will roll the dice on a rookie in the end game of their drafts this spring. While these players may not start out in the majors, they offer far greater upside than some of the marginal major league talents you’ll find late in the mixed league game. Let’s take a look at the more notable hitters this week, their ownership levels and pros and cons for ownership. Next week, we’ll do the same with some pitchers.
Wil Myers, OF, Rays (Y! Ownership: 34%)
Pros: A clear opportunity for playing time in Tampa (Luke Scott and/or Kelly Johnson can be bumped from the lineup at any time). He has plus raw power and already has one season of upper minors dominance under his belt. Myers should be one of the first positional call-ups this season.
Cons: Tampa plans on giving him some more minor league seasoning (cough… delaying his service clock… cough), and could leave him in the minors until at least June. He has a very aggressive approach, and he could struggle with strikeouts early on.
Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals (Y! Ownership: 19%)
Pros: An extremely special bat that should produce high averages and plenty of power when he arrives. Carlos Beltran is an injury risk, so the path to playing time could open up early on or at any moment. Jon Jay could be floated as trade bait to get an acceptable shortstop (Pete Kozma may be a great guy, but he’s not the solution) if the organization feels he can handle the gig. Matt Holliday is hurt already.
Cons: Carlos Beltran is banged up, but hasn’t landed on the DL yet. Taveras is working on his defense in centerfield, but isn’t quite there yet.
Jurickson Profar, MI, Rangers (Y! Ownership: 25%)
Pros: He has above-average power and speed at a premium position. An advanced hitting approach should make him a consistent .300 hitter rather quickly. Very young (21), and should only continue getting better as he matures physically.
Cons: A logjam up the middle (Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler) means Profar will need to bide his time in the minors. Something has to give here, although it may not happen until the winter.
Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers (Y! Ownership: 25%)
Pros: Tremendous raw power, and a growing legend thanks to his video game Spring Training performance (.527, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 4 SB) have him as a prospect on the rise. Yoenis Cespedes debut last year gives hopes that he’s the next Cuban hitting star.
Cons: Where are the walks (0 this Spring)? A lack of upper minors experience makes him a huge unknown, despite the success of Cespedes. If Carl Crawford is healthy, where does he play? Starting the year in Double-A.
Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies (Y! Ownership: 5%)
Pros: His spring performance has been incredibly impressive and the fact that he hasn’t been sent down means he’s seriously being considered as the Opening Day third baseman. He’ll also play half his home games at Coors. ‘Nuff said.
Cons: The Rockies have a few marginal options ahead of him they can use in order to keep his service time from starting. Major league teams have a tendency to do this. It’s a cruel, cruel practice in the eyes of the fantasy community.
Jedd Gyorko, 3B, Padres (Y! Ownership: 31%)
Pros: He’s a lock to make the Opening Day roster, and the Chase Headley injury gives him an even longer leash. Early spring success created a buzz, and 30 homers in the upper minors last season only fuels the fire.
Cons: Petco Park is a tough place to hit. His power may not play right away, so until he gets 2B eligibility, fantasy value may not be there. He doesn’t run much, so value will be tied to his bat. Get well soon, Chase Headley.
Jackie Bradley, OF, Red Sox (Y! Ownership: 8%)
Pros: His performance last season in the minors was impressive, and he’s done nothing but stroke the ball this spring. The opportunity for playing time is there, as he’s a better outfielder than Johnny Gomes right now.
Cons: May be a better player in real life than in fantasy. Modest power and speed will keep him from being a fantasy star, but he’ll still be a useful asset. I think Austin Jackson is a fair comparison (not that this is a bad thing).
Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins (Y! Ownership: 2%)
Pros: A great spring opened up a ton of eyes (.364, 5 HR, 14 RBI). Juan Pierre isn’t a big roadblock, and can easily be bumped from the lineup to create a place for Yelich to play. His hit tool rivals fellow top prospect Oscar Taveras.
Cons: Jeffrey Loria owns the Marlins. Jeffrey Loria is notoriously cheap. Jeffrey Loria is bad for baseball. If Yelich goes nuts in the minors, we may see him later this season. A 2014 arrival is more likely, most likely midseason, thanks to Loria.
Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds (Y! Ownership: 15%)
Pros: This guy could almost single-handedly win your speed category in roto leagues, and may do it all by himself in his prime. Shin-Soo Choo is not a natural center fielder, so if Hamilton has a smooth transition to his new position, the Reds may be forced to make a decision in their outfield.
Cons: Hamilton swings a toothpick, so extra bases have to come via his legs. The good news is, he’s so fast, he can outrun many balls he puts in play. The logjam in the Reds outfield limits his fantasy appeal for 2013.
Rob Steingall is a syndicated fantasy analyst. You can follow him on Twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/rsteingall) and email prospect questions to MinorDevelopments@yahoo.com