Young players have become more prominent in Major League Baseball. Properly valuing farm players' talents, timetables and opportunities will help rotisserie and head-to-head managers win their fantasy baseball leagues.
6. Tyler Skaggs, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Skaggs was taken with the 40th overall selection in the 2009 amateur draft by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim out of Santa Monica High School in California. He was shipped to Arizona as part of the Dan Haren deal in the summer of 2010. Skaggs spent the past four seasons in the minors, and he went 9-6 with a 2.87 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 122 1/3 innings (22 starts) between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno last year.
This 21-year-old southpaw measures in at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds and produces easy velocity with his smooth and repeatable mechanics. He doesn't light up the radar gun with his fastball, but it has nice deception and movement to it. His lean and athletic frame make him the ideal size for a major league starter, and he features three quality pitches - fastball, curveball and changeup. Skaggs is very close to major-league-ready and can throw strikes consistently with all three of his offerings, which is hard to find from a lefty his age.
After pitching well at Reno last year, Skaggs, despite a 5.83 ERA in six major league starts, pitched rather well in his big league debut. He'll need to improve his command some in order to reach his ceiling in the majors, but he's not far off at all. He's competing with the likes of Patrick Corbin and Randall Delgado for the final rotation spot in the desert this spring. Skaggs hasn't blown anyone away in camp (12.79 ERA in 6 1/3 innings), but the D-backs haven't announced their plans. He could very well start the year at Reno but should factor into the rotation picture at some point this year. He has the stuff and makeup to be a fantastic middle-of-the-rotation starter.
7. Gerrit Cole, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Cole soon to fill hole in Bucs' rotation
Cole was one of the most accomplished pitchers in the collegiate ranks when he was selected with the first overall pick in 2011 by the Buccos out of UCLA. He spent last year toiling at three minor league levels, including one start with Triple-A Indianapolis, and he combined to go 9-7 with a 2.80 ERA, 136 strikeouts and 45 walks in 132 innings (26 starts).
The Newport Beach, Calif., native has the ability to reach triple digits on his heater and projects to be a dominant, workhorse-like ace in Pittsburgh. He attacks hitters with aggressiveness on the bump. Watch as he makes another top prospect look overmatched in last year's Futures Game. He has great size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and three other pitches -- slider, curve and changeup -- that make him very close to major league-ready. He has a tendency to overthrow at times, but he's good enough to get away with it ... usually.
Cole could use a bit more polish to command his raw pitching power, but he's not far off. A September or earlier call-up is realistic given the question marks in the Pirates' rotation. It remains to be seen if he can improve his command enough to become a reliable ace, but if he shows he can this year in the minors, expect him basically to be a rotation lock in spring training next year. It won't be long before you'll be considering him for your fantasy baseball rotation.
8. Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves
Rebound year ahead?
After excelling at Triple-A Gwinnett in 2011 with a 2.55 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 144 2/3 innings (24 starts), the Braves had big hopes for him in their rotation. However, he underwhelmed in just 6 1/3 innings in Atlanta, with a 5.68 ERA in one start. It carried over to Gwinnett, where he went 7-9 with a 5.08 ERA and 97 K's in 131 frames (26 starts). Teheran was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2007.
The Columbian 22-year-old entered 2012 as the majors' No. 1 rated right-handed hurler, but he didn't carry himself that way. Lack of motivation, mental lapses and faulty mechanics were likely to blame for his rough spell last year. On the surface, Teheran has electric stuff, good movement on his pitches and perhaps one of the better changeups in the minors. His change is especially effective because of his lightning quick arm speed that generates high-90s heaters. If he can develop his curveball to complement his fastball-changeup combo, he will miss bats with regularity at the next level.
Teheran is the favorite for the fifth rotation spot this spring over Sean Gilmartin. His spring results (1.29 ERA, 18 K's and four BBs in 14 IP) are encouraging given some mechanical adjustments he made late last season. If his confidence is indeed back, he could be returning to the top prospect we saw back in 2011. Teheran figures to spend plenty of time in the Bravos' rotation this season if he continues to pitch like he's capable of, and he'll probably return nice value in drafts thanks to his regression a year ago.
9. Jedd Gyorko, 3B/2B, San Diego Padres
Gyorko is ready to play, today
At age 24, Gyorko probably has more minor league experience than most prospects on this list. He's spent two different seasons at Double-A San Antonio, and last year between San Antonio and hitter-friendly Triple-A Tucson, he had a slash line of .311/.373/.547 with 30 bombs and 100 RBIs. Twenty-four of those 30 jacks came at Class AAA. Gyorko was taken in the second round in 2010.
The West Virginia native may have been one of the best pure hitters in the minors last year, and his stocky build (5-foot-10, 195 pounds) and thick base help him generate plus power. He isn't highly athletic and doesn't have much room to grow, but his physique will suffice. Gyorko has a short, quick swing and consistently finds the ball with the barrel of the bat when making contact. He stays extremely quiet in the box and drives the ball to all fields.
With Chase Headley hunkered down at third base, Gyorko must make the transition to the keystone in order to make an impact in the short term in San Diego. He isn't anything special defensively, though, so the transition to second may not be as easy as you'd think. Still, he's impressing with the stick in spring training and could easily break camp with the team, especially now that Logan Forsythe (plantar fasciitis) is hurt. He will make an impact at the major league level this season, but how effective he'll be is another question. PETCO Park will limit some of his power, and his numbers in the hitter's paradise of the Pacific Coast League may be somewhat deceiving. It'll be easy to overvalue him in keeper leagues, so be careful.
10. Casey Kelly, SP, San Diego Padres
Another PETCO prospect
Kelly is best known for being involved in the blockbuster trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego to Boston before the 2011 season. Before that, Kelly was the 30th overall pick of the Red Sox in the 2008 draft. Despite missing three-plus months with an elbow injury, he had a fine year in the minors at three different stops (3.35 ERA and 39 K's in 37 2/3 innings). In six starts with the Friars, he didn't fare as well (6.21 ERA and 26 K's in 29 frames).
The 23-year-old right-hander ranges between 90-95 mph with his fastball, and he also utilizes a sinker and a curveball that continues to impress scouts. He doesn't have overpowering stuff for a guy with a 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame, but what he lacks in velocity, he makes up for in movement. His fastball has hard-biting sink to it, and he spots it effectively on both sides of the plate. Kelly also has a smooth, easily repeatable delivery that has limited his base on balls to a minimum (just three in 37 2/3 innings last year).
Elbow ailments to Cory Luebke and Tim Stauffer have opened the door for two spots in the rotation this spring, and Kelly is firmly involved in the competition for one of those spots. For him to win a job, though, the Friars would like to see improvement in his secondary pitches. At the end of the day, even if Kelly doesn't start in SD's opening day rotation, he'll be pitching at PETCO Park at some point in 2013. Keep him on your radar in National League-only and deep mixed formats. We've all seen the benefits most pitchers enjoy while pitching at the pitching-friendly PETCO atmosphere, and Kelly should be no different.
Keith, an editor with KFFL, joined the team as a Hot off the Wire analyst in 2008 and has been playing fantasy sports since 2005. He is involved in MLB, NFL and NASCAR content. He graduated from the University of California-San Diego in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications and was a four-year starter as a member of the baseball program.