Each year fantasy baseball is a long strange journey for me. The only league I pay to play in is an 8 team AL only 4×4 rotisserie league with highly competitive adversaries. We have no add/drop, and no waiver wire, we meet once a month and draft anyone not yet on a roster. Those not on rosters can be prospects, players new to the AL from the NL or a guy who just went undrafted for whatever reason. To try and gain a major advantage I do extensive research on prospects so as to grab the guys who could be major contributors sooner rather than later. The other advantage to having a deep knowledge of the available pool of players in these drafts is that this is the only place from where we can choose keepers. For example 2 years ago at our July draft I selected Matt Moore, the Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher. He only had a cup of coffee in 2011 for the Rays, but in 2012 was a better than average fantasy starter the entire season. With that in mind the following list of 7 players should help your fantasy team THIS season. This is of course barring major injury or a trade to an NL team at some point.
7. Dylan Bundy – SP – Baltimore Orioles – Bundy is the best pitching prospect in the game. He was the 4th overall pick in the 2011 draft and made his MLB debut in late September of 2012 at the age of 19. The reason he is ranked 7th on this list has nothing to do with his stuff, it is all about innings limits. The Orioles will surely restrict the number of innings Bundy throws, but the question is by how much? And also how do they want to divide those innings between the minors and the majors?
6. Kyle Gibson – SP – Minnesota Twins – Gibson is the Twins best pitching prospect and would most likely already be entrenched in their starting rotation were it not for his Tommy John Surgery in 2012. He has recovered nicely and has a chance to make the Twins rotation out of spring, but will be on an innings limit much like Stephen Strasburg was of the Washington Nationals last year. That being said he is far more likely to start the year with the Twins, than Bundy is the Orioles hence the one spot rank ahead.
5. Carter Capps – RP – Seattle Mariners – The Mariners bullpen is a mess, Tom Wilhelmson will likely start the year as the Mariners closer, but Capps’s stuff and stats indicate he is a future closer. That being said his over 9 K/9 in his 2 months in the majors last year is sure to improve and help you get 4-6 Ks a week, and eventually 2-3 saves as well.
4. Danny Hultzen – SP – Seattle Mariners – Hultzen stalled at Triple-A last year with control issues. It was hardly career altering though and he is likely to start the year with the Mariners unless the Mariners start getting creative with their service times and want to maximize their control over Hultzen for the next 6 years. People were calling for the highly touted prospect to play last year and the Mariners are having enough problems filling Safeco Field without leaving a frontline starter to dominate 40 minutes away at Tacoma.
3. Wil Myers – OF – Tampa Bay Rays – The best prospect in the game who were he still on Kansas City would be sure to start in RF on opening day, but since he has been traded to the Rays his service time will be managed and most likely maximized. Basically unless Mariner gets seriously hurt, Myers is going to have to force his way into the majors by dominating AAA, something he is extremely capable of.
2. Trevor Bauer – SP – Cleveland Indians – Bauer is almost certain to break camp with the big club. His MLB debut stint with the Diamondbacks in 2012 went less than impressively, but not every 21 year old is ready to dominate in the bigs their first time around. His control was suspect with 13 walks in only 16.1 innings and he didn’t miss enough bats giving up 14 hits in those 16.1 innings. The encouraging factor was that his K/9 was still 9. I think it is possible the Diamondbacks just weren’t able to get the most out Bauer and that this could be the classic “change of scene = improved performance” scenario.
1. Bruce Rondon – RP – Detroit Tigers – Rondon won’t be handed the closers job no matter what when the Tigers break camp, but were he to pitch well enough he is the preferred choice of the Tigers to pitch the 9th inning. He fastball is practically legendary at this point, but his 2nd pitch is suspect and his control comes and goes. The control issue could work in his favor if he is “effectively wild”, meaning that the batter isn’t sure if the pitch is going down the middle or in his ear and therefore isn’t comfortable in the batters box. It is a hard pitch that way, but could help the rookie be better early as he learns to harness his abilities.