Fantasy baseball breakout prospects
Is there a Mike Trout or Bryce Harper among the prospects that will debut in 2013? It's unrealistic for fantasy owners to expect a statistical season from a prospect similar to the one Trout had last season, but there are farmhands who will undoubtedly impact fantasy squads this season. This is the first of a two-part series that will examine a few prospects that could greatly impact your fantasy season at the plate in 2013.
Adam Eaton (ARI), OF, RotoWire Prospect Rank: 73
Barring an injury, Eaton is almost certain to be the Diamondbacks' leadoff man and starting center fielder on Opening Day. Before appearing in 22 Major League games last season, he began the season at Double-A Mobile where he only played in 11 games before being promoted to Triple-A Reno. He hit .375 in 130 minor league games and set career-highs in several offensive categories including runs (130), hits (198), doubles (47) and stolen bases (44).
When the Miami (OH) product made his major league debut on September 4 last season he promptly hit in five straight games with four of those five games coming as multi-hit efforts. He also scored a run in each of those contests. Two common themes emerge as you glance at Eaton's minor league numbers; he scores runs and he steals bases. He won't hit for much power (his career-high for home runs in a season is 10) and his 5-foot-8 frame suggests that is unlikely to greatly improve. However, he did have 66 extra-base hits across all levels last season, though he no doubt benefited from playing Triple-A home games in an extremely hitter-friendly environment. Arizona is very high on Eaton and if his minor league numbers translate to the majors, he could pay off in a big way as the team's tablesetter.
Jedd Gyorko (SD), 2B, RotoWire Prospect Rank: 34
With Chase Headley comfortably manning third base for the Friars, Gyorko was moved to second base and played 47 games there in 2012. He played primarily shortstop at West Virginia but was moved to third base to begin his professional career. While he told MLB.com that he is comfortable having played middle infield in college, scouts worry his footwork will prevent him from staying there long term.
For fantasy owners he actually presents better value at second base as opposed to third. At the plate, he's proved all he can in the minor leagues. In 2011, he led all minor leaguers with 192 hits between High-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio with 74 extra-base hits and 114 RBI. All he did was follow that up by hitting 30 home runs between San Antonio and Triple-A Tucson.
Headley proved that great offensive numbers can be had playing home games in Petco Park, as did Adrian Gonzalez a few years back. Gyorko's defense and a job battle with Logan Forsythe appear to be the only things that would keep him in the minors. With Forsythe's current battle with plantar fasciitis, Gyorko will get plenty of playing time and it's possible he takes the reins and doesn't give them up. Regardless, he should be in the big leagues this season to provide some offense for a team that desperately needs it.
Aaron Hicks (MIN), OF, RotoWire Prospect Rank: 87
When the Twins traded Denard Span to the Nationals last November, it appeared that the center field job and leadoff spot in Minnesota was all Ben Revere's. Just a week later as the winter meetings were wrapping up in Nashville, Revere was traded to the Phillies and left the middle of the Minnesota outfield and leadoff spot open for competition.
Joe Benson and Darin Mastroianni are battling with Hicks for the job despite Hicks not having played a game above Double-A in his career while Benson and Mastroianni have combined for a grand total of six major league appearances in center field. After struggling a bit offensively in 2011 at High-A Fort Myers with a .242 batting average (he did have 30 doubles), Hicks seemed to put everything together last season with Double-A New Britain. The former first-round selection led the Eastern League with 100 runs scored and tied for the lead with 11 triples to go along with 135 hits, 45 extra-base hits, 13 home runs, 61 RBI and 32 stolen bases, all career-highs.
This spring, Hicks leads all of baseball in several offensive categories including RBI (1st, 13), home runs (T-2nd, 4) and runs (T-2nd, 15). The Twins have a reputation of not rushing their prospects, but their offseason trades are likely an indication that they feel Hicks is major league ready or at least close to it. He's done little to suggest otherwise in Grapefruit League play. Of course, it's still prudent to take spring training numbers with a grain of salt, but what the 23-year-old has done so far is impressive and certainly increases the chances that he breaks camp with the big league club. It is possible that Minnesota could delay Hicks' arbitration clock by sending him to Triple-A Rochester to begin the season, but general manager Terry Ryan told MLB.com that will not impact whether or not he makes the team.
Hicks is the center fielder of the future for Minnesota and should provide more power than any leadoff man the Twins have had in recent memory.
Wil Myers (TB), OF, RotoWire Prospect Rank: 5
Fresh off a 2012 season when he received multiple Minor League Player of the Year awards, Myers finds himself with a new organization after Kansas City traded him to Tampa Bay in the seven-player deal that sent James Shields to the Royals. Pitching wasn't the problem last season for the Rays as they gave up major league lows in runs (577) and ERA (3.19). It was at the plate where they struggled. Tampa Bay tied for the fourth-lowest team batting average (.240) in baseball in 2012 and while the injury to Evan Longoria didn't help, the departure of B.J. Upton to Atlanta hurts.
This is where Myers could come in, though it has been reported that the Rays want him to become better defensively, so it's likely that he will begin the season in Triple-A Durham. That move will also delay his arbitration clock. It will be hard to keep him out of the big leagues especially if the Rays struggle to score runs. At some point this season, Myers should be with the big league club and, in the not-so-distant future, the heart of the Rays' lineup. The defensive versatility of Ben Zobrist could also impact when Myers debuts. Zobrist's flexibility would keep his bat in the lineup while allowing Myers to take a majority of the work in right field. With offensive numbers from Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha from a season ago that included 37 home runs, 69 extra-base hits, 109 RBI and 98 runs scored, it's hard not to be excited about his potential.
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