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2012 Draft Prep: Top 50 Fantasy prospects

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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.

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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 Bryce Harper 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's.
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 Bryce Harper 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 Jonathan 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 Bryce Harper 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 Manuel 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 Manuel 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 Nate 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.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Diamondbacks' Brad Ziegler to face hitters soon
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:33 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Brad Ziegler will face hitters soon, according to FoxSports.com.

Ziegler had microfracture surgery in September, and is working his way back. He threw a bullpen session on Friday, and should face hitters pretty soon. The 35-year-old is expected to open the year in the bullpen if healthy. 

Ziegler posted a 3.49 ERA over 67 innings last season. 


Yankees' Carlos Beltran says his elbow feels fine
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:23 pm ET) Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran said his elbow felt fine after Friday's game, according to the Journal News.

Beltran went 0-2 with a walk during the game, but didn't wear a brace on his arm. He said it's now just a matter of getting his timing down before the regular season. The 37-year-old is expected to open the season as a starter in the outfield.

Beltran hit .233/.301/.402 over 403 at-bats last season. 


Pirates' Jameson Taillon to face hitters next week
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:50 pm ET) Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon will face hitters next week, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Taillon underwent Tommy John surgery last April, but is working his way back. Taillon tossed a 30 pitch bullpen session on Friday. He's expected to do it again on Tuesday. If his Tuesday session goes well, Taillon will throw live batting practice on Friday.

Taillon said he's feeling pretty good about his progress. "I'm feeling really strong, throwing the ball cleaner than I ever have," Taillon said. "Everything has been feeling really good. The elbow has been responding really well."

Taillon is expected to open the season in the minors, but could be promoted to the majors if he gets off to a strong start. 


Brewers' Adam Lind dealing with back injury
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:23 pm ET) Brewers first baseman Adam Lind is dealing with a back injury, according to MLB.com.

Lind's back flared up while taking grounders on Thursday. He was scratched from Friday's game, and is considered day-to-day. Lind was acquired by the club during the offseason, and is expected to see significant time at first base.

The 31-year-old Lind hit .321/.381/.479 over 290 at-bats last season. 


Report: Mets' Daniel Murphy dealing with bruised hand
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:18 pm ET) Mets infielder Daniel Murphy is dealing with a bruised right hand, according to ESPN.

X-rays reportedly came back "OK," and Murphy shouldn't miss much time. Murphy was hit in the hand during Friday's game against the Tigers. He stayed in the game to run the bases, but was replaced at the start of the next inning. 

The 29-year-old Murphy hit .289/.332/.403 over 596 at-bats last season. 


Diamondbacks' Chris Owings takes batting practice on Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:10 pm ET) Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings was able to take batting practice on Friday, according to MLB.com.

Owings is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, and has been limited early in camp. Manager Chip Hale said he was happy with Owings progress, and noted it was a big day for the infielder.

"Everything he's done has been right on time," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "We've slowed him down, because it's important that that swing is right. This was a huge day for him."

Owings will likely go through another round of BP before he's ready for game action. The team may also opt to give him at-bats in minor-league games before using him during actual spring training games.

The 23-year-old Owings hit .261/.300/.406 over 310 at-bats last season. He's expected to open the year as the team's starting shortstop. 


Angels' Matt Lindstrom feeling 100 percent this spring
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:03 pm ET) Angels reliever Matt Lindstrom is feeling pretty good after having ankle surgery last season, according to the Los Angeles Times

Lindstrom struggled with oblique and ankle injuries last season, but has drawn some rave reviews during camp. "Right now, his stuff is very similar to when he was throwing the ball well early last year," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "That's exciting. This guy has closer's stuff. It's just a matter of how consistent he is and if he can keep it going."

Lindstrom admitted he came back from ankle surgery too soon last year, and it impacted his numbers. He was able to rehab the injury during the offseason, though, and feels much better now. "I can tell the ball is coming out of my hand better, the way it's supposed to," Lindstrom said. "It wasn't right last year, but now, I don't have any reservations. I can concentrate on getting people out."

The 35-year-old posted a 5.03 ERA over 34 innings last season. He's competing for a role in the Angels bullpen this spring. 


Orioles sign Elih Villanueva to a minor-league deal
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(8:54 pm ET) The Orioles have signed pitcher Elih Villanueva to a minor-league deal, according to MLB.com.

Villanueva has played in just one game in the majors. He gave up eight runs over three innings in a start for the Marlins back in 2011. Villanueva had a strong showing in the Dominican League, leading the circuit with a 2.63 ERA.


Reds' Stephenson hoping to make an impact this season
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:49 pm ET) Reds pitcher Robert Stephenson is hoping to make an impact in the majors this season, according to MLB.com.

Stephenson may not open the year in the majors, but is hoping he arrives sooner rather than later. "My goal by the end of the year is to be in Cincinnati," Stephenson said. "It's your dream growing up as a kid. It would be awesome to be there but at the same time, I want to get to a point where I deserve to be there and belong there."

Stephenson is considered the team's top prospect. He dealt with shoulder issues earlier in camp, but is cleared for action now. 

Manager Bryan Price said Stephenson has a few things to work on, but seemed optimistic about his long-term outlook. With Robert, it's command -- not necessarily throwing strikes, but the quality of the strikes," Price said.

The 22-year-old should start the year in the minors, but could earn a promotion based on how well he pitches.


Mariners' Chris Taylor homers, triples on Friday
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(8:42 pm ET) Mariners shortstop Chris Taylor hit a home run and tripled on Friday against the Dodgers.

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