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2012 Draft Prep: Top 50 Fantasy prospects


That's what most Fantasy owners say, every hour of every day, as they stare at their mundane draft lists wondering how they can slip something past the rest of the league and gain an advantage. They want to know not just the Fantasy stars of today, but the stars of tomorrow. And they want to beat everyone else to them.

To that end, I've compiled a list of the top 50 Fantasy prospects for 2012. Obviously, their usefulness will vary depending on your exact format -- keepers or no keepers, mixed or league-specific, 12 teams or 24 teams, etc. -- but the idea is these prospects are the ones most relevant to Fantasy owners today. They're not necessarily the ones with the most upside and they're not necessarily ones expected to play the most either. They're just the ones whose names you should know, for one reason or another.

To distinguish between the immediate and long-term contributors, I've included a "2012 Fantasy impact" scale, ranging from one to five. One means the player has no chance of reaching the majors this year. Five means he's on the opening day roster.

Combining the two extremes isn't the most objective task in the world, but if you treat this list as a general overview of the minor leagues and what they can do for you in the not-too-distant future, chances are you'll get the leg up you're looking for.

Top 50 Rookies/Prospects for 2012
Rank Player POS TM Age 2011 high 2012 impact
1 Matt Moore RP TB 22 Majors
If Stephen Strasburg was left-handed and not on an innings limit, he'd be Moore. At least, that's what some talent evaluators believe. The lefty might actually be underrated as a middle-rounder given his relief pitcher eligibility.
2 Yu Darvish SP TEX 25 DNP -- in Japan
Darvish might actually go a little earlier than Moore in some drafts, but the inherent uncertainty of drafting Japanese imports makes him less attractive long-term. Still, by all early accounts, he's an ace-caliber pitcher.
3 Jesus Montero C SEA 22 Majors
Montero was considered a better prospect than both Carlos Santana and Buster Posey when coming up through the minors. He has power to all fields, catcher eligibility and the assurance of full-time at-bats in Seattle. What's not to love?
4 OF WAS 19 Double-A
We all know Harper is good -- perhaps the best player on this list when all is said and done. This ranking assumes he won't quite make the team this spring but will be a viable mixed-league contributer when he arrives a few weeks later.
5 Mike Trout OF LAA 20 Majors
If the Angels didn't have so many outfield-DH option as it is, Trout would likely get an opening day nod. He'll go back to the minors for extra seasoning, but he won't be there long. Some actually consider him a better prospect than Harper.
6 Trevor Bauer SP ARI 21 Double-A
Bauer's stuff alone would make him a top pitching prospect. Factor in his studious approach and the minors won't be able to hold him for long. He had a shot at the fifth rotation spot before the Diamondbacks re-signed Joe Saunders.
7 Yonder Alonso OF SD 24 Majors
Alonso's performance late last season had Fantasy owners wishing for a trade. Well, they got one, but since it was to San Diego and PETCO Park, Alonso's value will depend more on doubles and on-base percentage than homers.
8 Devin Mesoraco C CIN 23 Majors
A certainy for the opening day roster, Mesoraco will be the full-time catcher as soon as he convinces veteran-lover Dusty Baker that he deserves the job. In the meantime, he has the offensive ability to survive a part-time role.
9 Yoenis Cespedes OF OAK 26 DNP -- in Cuba
Cespedes has plenty of hype as a budding power-speed threat but no results to back it up. Sure, he hit in Cuba, but that's no guarantee he's major-league ready. Still, given his age, he'll be contributing at some point this year.
10 Nolan Arenado 3B COL 20 Class A
Arenado did nothing but impress in 2011, from his combination of contact and power hitting at Class A Modesto to his eye-opening performance in the Arizona Fall League. He's one Casey Blake injury from taking over at Coors Field.
11 Julio Teheran SP ATL 21 Majors
Teheran didn't exactly live up to the Pedro Martinez comparisons in his first look in the majors, but based on his Triple-A numbers, he's close. He may not win a job this spring, but he'll be ready to contribute midseason.
12 Shelby Miller SP STL 21 Double-A
If the Cardinals don't have room in their starting rotation for Roy Oswalt, they won't for Miller either. Still, a late-season look is possible for the pitching prospect whose upside is comparable to Matt Moore.
13 Wil Myers OF KC 21 Double-A
You'd think Myers' stock would be down after a disappointing, injury-plagued season at Double-A, but his 1.156 OPS in the Arizona Fall League confirmed he's still as good of a hitting prospect as any.
14 Jurickson Profar SS TEX 19 Class A
Yes, he's young. Yes, he's far away. Yes, he's seemingly blocked by Elvis Andrus. But Profar is shaping up to be a first-round type player at shortstop and is a must-have in long-term keeper leagues.
15 Jarrod Parker SP OAK 23 Majors
Parker's 2011 numbers were skewed by early control issues in his return from Tommy John surgery. He's still an ace in waiting and with the rebuilding Athletics, his wait might be over in spring training.
16 Drew Pomeranz SP COL 23 Majors
The only way Pomeranz's first professional season could have gotten better is if he didn't get traded to Colorado. Still, he has the upside to succeed there and is a favorite for a rotation spot this spring.
17 Anthony Rizzo 1B CHC 22 Majors
PETCO Park may not have done Rizzo any favors, but Wrigley Field should be more to his liking. Of course, Bryan LaHair will have to flop for Rizzo to get his shot. The Cubs say they want him in the minors for now.
18 Danny Hultzen SP SEA 22 DNP -- unsigned
Aside from maybe Trevor Bauer, Hultzen is the 2011 first-rounder most likely to debut in the first half this year. The second overall pick is a big reason why the Mariners were willing to trade Michael Pineda.
19 Brett Jackson OF CHC 23 Triple-A
The new Cubs regime prefers a conservative approach with top prospects, but Jackson's Triple-A numbers will force the team's hand by midseason. He's a five-category player if his strikeouts don't hold him back.
20 Manny Machado SS BAL 19 Class A
Machado, who was the third overall pick in the draft, is in some people's estimation a safer bet than Jurickson Profar offensively. Chances are you'll be happy with either at the weak shortstop position.
21 Gerrit Cole SP PIT 21 DNP -- unsigned
Cole was drafted ahead of Danny Hultzen and Trevor Bauer, but the Pirates are taking a slower-than-molasses approach with their pitching prospects. He's an excellent keeper, but he comes with a definite waiting period.
22 Travis d'Arnaud C TOR 23 Double-A
If you thought J.P. Arencibia was good, just wait until you see D'Arnaud. He has the homers and a batting average to go along with them. Come midseason, the Blue Jays will have a dilemma on their hands.
23 Leonys Martin OF TEX 23 Majors
Still transitioning from Cuba, Martin has looked like a legitimate leadoff hitter in the minors and is the team's best long-term answer in center. He'll get a shot there this year even if not on opening day.
24 Addison Reed RP CHW 23 Majors
Reed's minor-league numbers are Craig Kimbrel-like, only without all the walks. He already has a job in the White Sox's bullpen. If he's able to supplant Matt Thornton for saves, he's mixed-league material.
25 Tyler Skaggs SP ARI 20 Double-A
Skaggs is overshadowed by Trevor Bauer in the Diamondbacks system, but the former Angels farmhand has emerged as an ace-caliber pitcher in his own right. Chances are Arizona won't have a need for him this year.
26 Miguel Sano 3B MIN 18 Rookie
The Miguel Cabrera comparisons became a little more valid when Sano hit 20 homers in 267 at-bats last year. He has a long way to go still, but given his potential, he's well worth the wait.
27 Gary Brown OF SF 23 Class A
A couple years from now, Brown might very well be the best leadoff hitter in the game. His high contact rate and ability to motor around the base paths makes him an ideal fit for that ballpark.
28 Jacob Turner SP DET 20 Majors
Turner looked overmatched in a big-league trial last year, which isn't surprising given his age. His future is still bright, but he'd be better off losing the battle for the fifth rotation spot.
29 Jon Singleton 1B HOU 20 Class A
Now that he's out of the Phillies organization, Singleton can stay at first base where he belongs. As good as his bat has looked, he might speed through the minor-league system now.
30 Michael Choice OF OAK 22 Class A
Choice has shown plenty of power in the minors. His strikout rate could come back to bite him in the majors, but the Athletics are so desperate for offense that he might get a look later in the year anyway.
31 Anthony Rendon 3B WAS 21 DNP - injured
Rendon projects to hit for average and power, which is great and all, but the Nationals already have a third baseman who does that. So how does a second baseman who hits like Ryan Zimmerman sound? It could happen.
32 Hak-Ju Lee SS TB 21 Double-A
Lee's combination of speed, extra-base pop and bat control makes him something like the Shane Victorino of shortstops. Given the Rays' lack of production at that position, he could move faster than expected.
33 Taijuan Walker SP SEA 19 Class A
Yet another reason why the Mariners were willing to trade Michael Pineda, Walker shows similar ability with a strikeout-to-walk ratio well beyond his years. Don't expect to see him until 2014, though.
34 Jameson Taillon SP PIT 20 Class A
Taillon was drafted between and Manny Machado in 2010, so nobody doubts his upside. But by giving him less than 100 innings last year, the Pirates showed they plan to develop him slowly.
35 Brad Peacock SP OAK 24 Majors
Provided he wins a rotation spot in Oakland, Peacock has a chance to be this year's Brandon Beachy after coming out of nowhere to post a stellar ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio in the minors last year.
36 Yasmani Grandal C SD 23 Triple-A
On the surface, Grandal's move to San Diego is bad news, but at least now he's not blocked by Devin Mesoraco. If he overtakes Nick Hundley midseason, he should hit well enough to factor in mixed leagues.
37 Dellin Betances SP NYY 24 Majors
Betances is closer to being a finished product than Manny Banuelos and, thus, rates a shade ahead of him on this list. A hard-throwing workhorse for the high-scoring Yankees can survive a high walk rate.
38 Manny Banuelos SP NYY 21 Triple-A
By all accounts, Banuelos has the upside of an ace, but his control has evaporated in the upper levels of the minors. The Yankees won't need to rush him with Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda on board.
39 Zack Cozart SS CIN 26 Majors
Whether Cozart can be a 20-20 player remains to be seen, but he was off to a good start before needing elbow surgery last year. He's the Reds' only choice at shortstop, so he's worth a flier in Fantasy.
40 Wilin Rosario C COL 23 Majors
With Chris Iannetta gone, only Ramon Hernandez stands in Rosario's way for regular at-bats. The 23-year-old's poor plate discipline limits his upside, but you know he'll hit homers in that ballpark.
41 Randall Delgado SP ATL 22 Majors
Delgado is more advanced at this stage than Julio Teheran and, therefore, more likely to earn a rotation spot this spring. His command is still spotty enough that it could be short-lived, though.
42 Mike Montgomery SP KC 22 Triple-A
To this point, Montgomery's numbers haven't lived up to his stuff, but his issues are more mechanical than anything else. As soon as he figures them out, he'll be a fixture in the Royals rotation.
43 Nathan Eovaldi SP LAD 22 Majors
A shortage of arms forced the Dodgers to rush Eovaldi last year, but he performed well enough that he'll likely be on call again this year. His hard fastball could make him a surprise contributor.
44 Garrett Richards SP LAA 23 Majors
The hard-throwing Richards doesn't profile as a true ace, but he's good enough to factor in mixed leagues if he's able to bump Jerome Williams from the fifth starter role at some point this season.
45 Ryan Lavarnway C BOS 24 Majors
Lavarnway's minor-league numbers are off the charts, and he proved his bat is major-league ready with his clutch two-homer game late last year. Still, he won't get at-bats until he proves himself defensively.
46 Chris Parmelee 1B MIN 24 Majors
Not only did Parmelee's on-base ability translate to the majors in his late-season trial last year, but he also showed surprising power. He could get a shot this year if Justin Morneau continues to flounder.
47 Arodys Vizcaino RP ATL 21 Majors
On the spectrum of Braves pitching prospects, Vizcaino is closer to Julio Teheran than Randall Delgado. But he's set to work in middle relief this year and could get stuck there. He's risky as a long-term keeper.
48 Joe Benson OF MIN 24 Majors
Benson has shown some tools in the minors -- some power, some speed and a decent walk rate -- but his exact upside is still in question. Given his age, he'll get the first call if the Twins have a need midseason.
49 Wei-Yin Chen SP BAL 26 DNP -- in Japan
Imports from the Japanese league have often been disappointments in Fantasy, but Chen might be an exception given his youth and command of his low-90s fastball. The Orioles will give him every chance to prove himself.
50 Tyler Pastornicky SS ATL 22 Triple-A
The Braves let Alex Gonzalez walk this offseason because they were confident Pastornicky could replace him. Of course, if he can't hit .314 like he did in the minors, he'll end up being just another Ryan Theriot.
Best of the rest: James Darnell, 3B, SD; Tommy Milone, SP, OAK; Dylan Bundy, SP, BAL; Archie Bradley, SP, ARI; Billy Hamilton, SS, CIN; Bubba Starling, OF, KC; Zack Wheeler, SP, NYM; Adam Eaton, OF, ARI; James Paxton, SP, SEA; Jean Segura, SS, LAA; Nick Franklin, SS, SEA; Jake Odorizzi, SP, KC; Chris Carter, 1B, OAK; Matt Harvey, SP, NYM; Jedd Gyorko, 3B, SD; Will Middlebrooks, 3B, BOS; Taylor Green, 2B, MIL; Matt Davidson, 3B, ARI; Brandon Guyer, OF, TB; Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF, NYM; Hisashi Iwakuma, SP, SEA; Liam Hendriks, SP, MIN; Alex Liddi, 3B, SEA; David Cooper, 1B TOR; and Eric Surkamp, SP, SF.

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