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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
Giants' Madison Bumgarner to take the ball on Tuesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:08 pm ET) Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner will take the ball when the team opens spring games on Tuesday, according to MLB.com.

While Bumgarner will start the game, he's only expected to throw one inning. "I'm looking forward to getting out there, facing some hitters and getting back into competition at game speed, playing baseball," Bumgarner said. "But right now, it's just about making sure you're ready to compete whenever the season starts."

Bumgarner is also expected to start for the team on opening day once the regular season begins. He posted a 2.98 ERA over 217 1/3 innings last year.


Christian Bergman motivated by Rockies' pitcher signings
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:04 pm ET) Rockies pitcher Christian Bergman chose not to feel slighted when the team added several rotation options this offseason, MLB.com reports.

"It motivates me in a sense, but when I achieve the goals that I want to achieve, that could go away," Bergman said Saturday. "Then you have to find new motivation. I like to motivate myself with more internal things than what other people say, because that changes -- day to day, even."

Bergman made three starts and four relief appearances during the Arizona Fall League, going 2-0 with a 4.34 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 18 2/3 innings, and chose to work on elements of his game against the quality competition.

"I worked on particularly my cutter and curveball, some basic stuff -- particularly getting back on top of the ball, getting everything going downhill," Bergman said.

Bergman, who missed two months last season due to a broken hand, went 3-5 with a 5.93 ERA and 31:10 K:BB ratio in 54 2/3 innings over 10 starts in 2014.


Diamondbacks' Jeremy Hellickson dealing with rib cramp
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:51 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Jeremy Hellickson had to cut a bullpen session short on Saturday due to a cramp near his ribs, according to MLB.com.

Hellickson doesn't expect to miss any time due to the issue. "I feel fine. It's more of a cramp than anything. It was a precautionary thing to shut it down," Hellickson said. "It doesn't even hurt right now.

The team will evaluate Hellickson on Sunday, and that will determine whether he takes any days off. Manager Chip Hale said the team's trainers do not expect Hellickson to miss any time as of right now.

The 27-year-old posted a 4.52 ERA over 63 2/3 innings last year.


Tigers to use Kyle Ryan as a reliever this year
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:42 pm ET) The Tigers view pitcher Kyle Ryan as a reliever this season, according to MLB.com.

Ryan pitched five games in relief with the club last year, but made one strong start against the White Sox late in the season. Despite the success in his one start, manager Brad Ausmus said the team will look at Ryan as a reliever. "We're going to use him, at least at the start of Spring Training, out of the 'pen," Ausmus said. 

Throughout his minor-league career, Ryan was mainly used as a starter. He posted a 2.61 ERA over 10 1/3 innings in the majors last year. 


Dodgers' Erik Bedard to start spring opener
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:35 pm ET) The Dodgers will turn to Erik Bedard during their spring opener on Wednesday against the White Sox, according to MLB.com.

Bedard isn't expected to open the season in the team's rotation, but should be used as depth in case the club loses a starter at some point. The 35-year-old posted a 4.76 ERA over 75 2/3 innings with the Rays last year.


Diamondbacks' Tomas to see time at third and in the outfield
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:28 pm ET) Diamondbacks infielder Yasmany Tomas will play third and in the outfield this spring, according to MLB.com.

Tomas has mainly been used as a third baseman early in camp, but has started to shag balls in the outfield during batting practice. The club plans to use Tomas in the outfield once spring games begin. The idea behind the move is to give the Cuban infielder as many at-bats as possible. "We've told Tomas that if there's a day when he is not going to play third, we're going to put him in the outfield just to get at-bats," manager Chip Hale said.

Tomas was mainly used as an outfielder while in Cuba, but Arizona is attempting to transition him to third. He's looked raw in fielding drills during camp, but both Tomas and Hale remain cautiously optimistic about the move. "It feels like it's been a long time since I played third base, but I like the position and I feel good about it," Tomas said.

The 24-year-old is expected to earn a starting spot with the club to open the season.


Yankees' Brendan Ryan (back) making progress
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:57 pm ET) Yankees infielder Brendan Ryan is making progress in his recovery from a strained back muscle, he told MLB.com Saturday.

"It's no big deal," Ryan said. "I've had a lot more serious issues in my back before. I wasn't too concerned. It being February, let's just make sure."

Ryan is taking treatment and expects to resume baseball activities next week.

"I don't know what they're going to allow me to do," Ryan said. "If not batting practice, maybe some baseball stuff. I imagine they might baby-step me into it. We always want to jump right back into it. I'd imagine some dry swings or hit off the tee. We'll see.

"I don't want to speak for them. That's how I get in trouble."


Rockies' Tulowitzki, Gonzalez to start running bases next week
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:32 pm ET) Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez are slated to start running the bases next week, MLB.com reports.

The team is taking it slow with both players after they lost a significant part of the 2014 season to injuries after undergoing surgeries in August. Neither player will see time in Wednesday's Cactus League opener.

"There are still some things they need to do on the field before they're even ready to go into a game -- running bases, specifically," manager Walt Weiss said Saturday. "Last year, we'd have been very happy with the way they're at right now when we thought about their recovery and everything they had to go through. With where they are now, we're very encouraged by it."


Twins' Kurt Suzuki fine after taking pitch off kneecap
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:24 pm ET) Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki said he would be fine after taking a pitch off his kneecap area Saturday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

Ryan Pressly slipped while attempting to deliver a changeup during a live batting practice session Saturday, and the ball crossed up the catcher.

"It was my fault," Pressly said. "I just slipped on the mound and yanked a changeup down. The ball caught (Suzuki) in the meaty part right between the shinguard and the padding. There's a little spot where he's vulnerable."

Manager Paul Molitor said Suzuki wasn't added to the team's post-workout injury report.


Girardi: Yankees 'taking it slow' with Carlos Beltran
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:15 pm ET) The Yankees are taking things slow with outfielder Carlos Beltran, and he won't be rushed into full throwing drills until he indicates he's ready, NJ.com reports.

"We're just taking it slow," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's done some throwing. We don't feel, with five weeks of games, there's really any reason to rush him. Guys do their work. But let's make sure he feels really good where he's at and we feel really good about where he's at."

Beltran had a bone spur removed from his elbow in October. He dealt with the issue throughout last season and hit just .233/.301/.402 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI in 403 at-bats. Beltran has performed light throwing drills and taken part in batting practice since reporting to camp Wednesday.


 
 
 
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