Posted: Mon March 11, 2013 1:45PM; Updated: Thu March 14, 2013 4:52PM
Eric Mack
Eric Mack>INSIDE FANTASY BASEBALL

Fantasy baseball 2013 draft preview: Rookies and prospects

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Dylan Bundy
Dylan Bundy is arguably the best pitching prospect in baseball, but faces a restricting innings limit.
Tom DiPace

Fantasy baseball 2013 draft prep central: Rankings, position primers and much more

Fantasy baseball tends to be a reactionary game: What happens one season significantly influences the values and draft process the next year. So how will owners and fans alike react to the legendary rookie class of 2012, the best since Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki in 2001? Hopefully, they won't expect a repeat.

This year's rookie class is one of the toughest to gauge in recent memory. While it is deep and intriguing, the potential rewards are just too tough to discern right now. The best prospects don't necessarily have clear paths to starting jobs, and the rookies who will have jobs won't carry much fantasy weight. Therefore, owners will likely be disappointed if they depend on rookies to lead their fantasy teams. This year's rookies have to wait their turn on draft day, which makes them more like sleepers than cornerstones for fantasy squads.

PRINTABLE DRAFT KIT: Top 300 Cheat Sheet | Position Rankings Cheat Sheet

Rookie years like the ones Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Yoenis Cespedes and Yu Darvish produced just don't happen very often. And, if you look at the early March 2012 average draft positions for that quartet, they weren't overwhelming. Trout was 213th in MockDraftCentral.com's ADP; Darvish, because he was expected to make the team out of spring training, was 124th; Harper was 225th; and Cespedes was an eye-popping 419th.

As part of our series on finding breakthroughs and players who will outperform their draft position, we examine the rookies and prospects. There are many ways to delve into this topic, particularly since there are so many prospects worth tracking and rookies who can impact baseball in any given year. You can rank them based on how they might fly off the board on draft day; you can rank them by position; you can project which are going to be the best long-term plays for keeper leagues.

SLEEPERS: Age 27 | Year 3 starters | Prospects | Injury risks | Super sophs | Contract year

Only seven rookies initially appeared in our Top 300 a week into March, but those are not the necessarily the most intriguing rookies for 2013. Some are there because they have jobs to start the season, and thus fantasy value out of the gate. Others are there because of what they can provide long term.

Our top 10 rookies for 2013 are not the rookies likely to be drafted first, nor the 10 best long-term prospects in baseball. Rather, they're the players who will make the biggest overall impact in fantasy as rookies.

Top 10 rookies in 2013

2013 Preseason All-Rookie Team
PositionPlayerTeam
CTravis d'ArnaudNew York Mets
1BJonathan SingletonHouston Astros
2BJedd Gyorko San Diego Padres
3BMike OltTexas Rangers
SSJurickson Profar Texas Rangers
OFWil MyersTampa Bay Rays
OFOscar TaverasSt. Louis Cardinals
OFBilly HamiltonCincinnati Reds
RHPDylan BundyBaltimore Orioles
LHPDanny HultzenSeattle Mariners
RPBruce RondonDetroit Tigers

1. OF Wil Myers (22 years old), Tampa Bay Rays

There's a reason Tampa Bay felt comfortable sending Kansas City two pitchers the Royals can immediately put in their starting rotation: The Rays are convinced Myers will be a stud big-league slugger. Despite that confidence, they're planning to start Myers at Triple-A this season, even though he already proved more than capable at that level last season (.304, 24 HR, 79 RBI, 66 R, 2 SB, .378 OBP and .554 SLUG in 99 games). It won't take Myers long -- perhaps only a couple of weeks -- to become a regular in the Rays' lineup, though.

BELLER: Is Wil Myers MLB's next rookie sensation?

Including his Double-A numbers, Myers combined for 37 homers and 109 RBI last season, so he is easily the most intriguing power bat among the rookies this year. He could reach 25 homers and 80 RBI, making him a great value in the later rounds.

2. 2B Jedd Gyorko (24), San Diego Padres

There are many things to like about Gyorko in fantasy, particularly the power potential he can provide at the thin second base position. Gyorko is transitioning from third base -- Chase Headley is entrenched as the Padres' third baseman -- and is reportedly doing well defensively, and there have never been many questions about his bat. He combined for 30 homers and 100 RBI in the minors last season, doing the bulk of his damage at Triple-A (.328/24/83/62/4/.380/.588 in 92 games). If you miss out on the few elite second basemen, Gyorko is an outstanding fallback option.

3. 3B/1B/OF Mike Olt (22), Texas Rangers

Olt is coming off a breakthrough year in Double-A last season, where he went .288/28/82/65/4/.398/.579. However, he won't be able to play his natural position in Texas because Adrian Beltre blocks him at third base. The Rangers will give their best slugging prospect a chance to get at-bats in the outfield, at first base and perhaps at DH when Lance Berkman needs to rest his chronically bad knees. Olt still needs to make the team, and he will only likely do so if he can prove capable of being a relative regular, rotating among all his positions. If he does, the position versatility and power potential will come in handy for fantasy owners.

4. OF Adam Eaton (22), Arizona Diamondbacks

With a career minor-league average of .355 through 319 games, Eaton projects to be a rare, cheap source of steals who won't bury you in batting average like some other one-dimensional speedsters. Like the Rays with Myers, Eaton's front-office showed a lot of confidence in him, trading away Justin Upton this winter to open up a potential starting job. Eaton is currently the No. 1 rookie going off the board in fantasy (per average draft position), so it might not be so easy to get him in the late rounds.

5. OF Aaron Hicks (23), Minnesota Twins

If you miss out on Eaton, Hicks might be your man. He got off to a surprising start in spring training and looks capable of making the jump from Double-A to the Twins' Opening Day lineup in center field. That comes after a year where he broke through with career-best numbers across the board: .286/13/61/100/32/.384/.460. Hicks' draft position is more suppressed than any of the others in our top 10, so you can wait a while on him if you draft before the Twins officially give him the job.

6. OF Oscar Taveras (20), St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals are loaded with veteran outfielders, otherwise they might have considered this phenom for a starting spot out of spring -- instead, they sent him back to Triple-A to expand on his 2012 breakthrough year. A career .321 hitter in 327 minor-league games, the Dominican displayed his best power yet in Double-A (.321/23/94/83/10/.380/.572). It sets him up to be one of the most intriguing long-term prospects in baseball. Consider him a must-track in the early part of the season and one of the most impactful in-season call-ups in fantasy.

7. SP Trevor Bauer (22), Cleveland Indians

What do the Diamondbacks know that the minor-league stat sheets aren't telling us? They seemed awfully eager to deal this minor-league strikeout artist this winter. After blowing through the minors with 200 strikeouts in 156 innings, Bauer is major-league ready right now. He bombed in his four-stint trial a year ago (6.06 ERA), but he can post a strikeout per inning once the Indians give him a rotation spot. If it doesn't happen out of spring training, expect him to be too dominant to ignore once the season is underway.

8. SP Dylan Bundy (20), Baltimore Orioles

This modest ranking for the best pitching prospect in baseball is no knock on his potential, because he's clearly a future ace. The problem is that he's posted only 104 innings as a pro, so there's little chance the Orioles will allow him to surpass 150 combined innings this season. He'll likely serve as a reliever down the stretch, if he's not shut down completely in August. Once he moves beyond an innings limit and arrives in the Orioles rotation, he will instantly be their staff ace.

9. SS Jurickson Profar (20), Texas Rangers

Profar has a chance to ultimately be the best player in this rookie class, and most prospect rankings reflect that by listing him No. 1. But, since he's young, raw and blocked from a job with the big club by shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Ian Kinsler, Profar can't be higher than ninth on this list. Switch-hitting middle infielders with 30/30 potential like Profar don't come around often, though, so he will be well worth the stash in all leagues with reserves.

10. Bruce Rondon (22), Detroit Tigers

The top-ranked rookie in SI.com's initial Top 300 checks in here at No. 10 after a disappointing spring put his prospects of closing for the Tigers out of camp in jeopardy. Rondon has a Craig Kimbrel-like arm, but reports indicate his 100-mph fastball has been a bit too straight and wild to make him a reliable closer right away. Even if Rondon gets an apprenticeship as a setup man, the closer's job will be his once he proves effective and in command at the big-league level.

Top rookies by draft position

The below chart shows the average draft position of the rookies through one week in March. The data used is from MockDraftCentral.com and is sure to change as more drafts are completed leading up to Opening Day. The far right column lists the SI.com Top 300 ranking as of this writing.

Average Draft Position of Rookies
RankPlayerPositionTeamAverage Draft PositionTop 300 Position
1Adam EatonOFDiamondbacks219212
2Jedd Gyorko3B (2B)Padres225274
3Kyuji FujikawaRPCubs228NR
4Oscar TaverasOFCardinals234NR
5Bruce RondonRPTigers235143
6Wil MyersOFRays237277
7Shelby MillerSPCardinals253NR
8Hyun-Jin RyuSPDodgers272284
9Jurickson ProfarSSRangers286279
10Trevor BauerSPIndians289276
11Travis d'ArnaudCMets293NR
12Mike Olt3BRangers297NR
13Hiroyuki NakajimaSSAthletics308NR
14Billy HamiltonSS (OF)Reds335NR
15Leonys MartinOFRangers342NR
16Rob BrantlyCMarlins361NR
17Julio TeheranSPBraves367NR
18Dylan BundySPOrioles371NR
19Dan StrailySPAthletics374NR
20Tyler SkaggsSPDiamondbacks377NR
21Adeiny HechavarriaSSMarlins380NR
22Chris ArcherSPRays382NR
23Trevor RosenthalRPCardinals390NR
24Aaron HicksOFTwins409NR

Top-ranked rookies by position

In case you don't like our picks above, below are the top rookies by position, according to our position-by-position primers. They are ranked for their draft position and potential to help early in the season. If you are not afraid of the unknown and want to try to catch lightning in the bottle late in drafts, you can highlight these rookie names on your cheat sheets.

As a bonus, we list some of the favorite long-term prospects from the best two prospects sources in the business, Baseball America and MiLB.com.

Catchers
RankPlayerTeam
1Travis d'ArnaudNew York Mets
2Rob BrantlyFlorida Marlins
3Austin RomineNew York Yankees

Other catcher prospects to watch: Mike Zunino, SEA; Gary Sanchez, NYY; Austin Hedges, SD.

First Basemen
RankPlayerTeam
1Mauro GomezBoston Red Sox
2Chris McGuinessCleveland Indians
3Matt AdamsSt. Louis Cardinals
4Hunter MorrisMilwaukee Brewers
5Jonathan SingletonHouston Astros

Other first base prospects to watch: C.J. Cron, LAA; Alex Dickerson, PIT.

Second Basemen
RankPlayerTeam
1Jedd GyorkoSan Diego Padres
2Kolten WongSt. Louis Cardinals

Other second base prospects to watch: Delino DeShields, HOU; Jonathan Schoop, BAL.

Third Basemen
RankPlayerTeam
1Mike OltTexas Rangers
2Nolan ArenadoColorado Rockies

Other third base prospects to watch: Miguel Sano, MIN; Matt Davidson, ARI; Kaleb Cowart, LAA; Anthony Rendon, WAS; Wilmer Flores, NYM.

Shortstop
RankPlayerTeam
1Jurickson ProfarTexas Rangers
2Hiroyuki NakajimaOakland Athletics
3Billy HamiltonCincinnati Reds
4Adeiny HechavarriaFlorida Marlins
5Didi GregoriusArizona Diamondbacks

Other shortstop prospects to watch: Xander Bogaerts, BOS; Nick Franklin, SEA; Javier Baez, CHC; Francisco Lindor, CLE; Carlos Correa, HOU.

Outfielders
RankPlayerTeam
1Adam EatonArizona Diamondbacks
2Wil MyersTampa Bay Rays
3Leonys MartinTexas Rangers
4Aaron HicksMinnesota Twins
5Oscar TaverasSt. Louis Cardinals
6Billy HamiltonCincinnati Reds
7Darin RufPhiladelphia Phillies
8Avisail GarciaDetroit Tigers
9Brett JacksonChicago Cubs
10Christian YelichFlorida Marlins
11David LoughKansas City Royals

Other outfield prospects to watch: Nick Castellanos, DET; Bubba Starling, KC; Jackie Bradley, BOS; Byron Buxton, MIN.

Starting Pitchers
RankPlayerTeam
1Trevor BauerCleveland Indians
2Hyun-Jin RyuLos Angeles Dodgers
3Dylan BundyBaltimore Orioles
4Dan StrailyOakland Athletics
5Shelby MillerSt. Louis Cardinals
6Tyler SkaggsArizona Diamondbacks
7Danny HultzenSeattle Mariners
8Chris ArcherTampa Bay Rays
9Kyle GibsonMinnesota Twins
10Julio TeheranAtlanta Braves
11Zack WheelerNew York Mets
12Gerrit ColePittsburgh Pirates
13Martin PerezTexas Rangers
14Jeff LockePittsburgh Pirates
15Jake OdorizziTampa Bay Rays
16Jarred CosartHouston Astros
17Rudy OwensHouston Astros
18Mark RogersMilwaukee Brewers
19James PaxtonSeattle Mariners
20Kyle McPhersonPittsburgh Pirates
21Chris HestonSan Francisco Giants
22Tyler CloydPhiladelphia Phillies
23Jonathan PettibonePhiladelphia Phillies
24Nathan KarnsWashington Nationals
25Casey KellySan Diego Padres

Other starting pitching prospects to watch: Jameson Taillon, PIT; Jose Fernandez, MIA; Tijuan Walker, SEA; Archie Bradley, ARI; Max Fried, SD; Kyle Zimmer, KC.

Relief Pitchers
RankPlayerTeam
1Bruce RondonDetroit Tigers
2Kyuji FujikawaChicago Cubs
3Trevor RosenthalSt. Louis Cardinals

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