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Top fantasy baseball prospects: AL - 21-25

By Keith Hernandez
Edited by Nicholas Minnix and Tim Heaney

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.

21. Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals

Tampa Bay Rays OF Wil Myers
Starling help ease loss of Myers?

Starling passed up a chance to attend the University of Nebraska when he was selected fifth overall in the 2011 draft out of Gardner-Edgerton High School in Kansas. The 20-year-old was set to play quarterback in college, which is a testament to his all-around ultra-athletic makeup. Due to a late signing, he didn't make his pro debut until Rookie-level Burlington last year, posting a triple slash line of .275/.371/.485 with 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 200 at-bats.

Standing out above all else are his elite physical and athletic gifts, and he may be the most pure all-around athlete on this list. Unfortunately for Starling, all of his tools are extremely unpolished at this time. Speed is probably his biggest asset, both on the basepaths and on defense in center field, where he can cover large amounts of real estate. He has plus power and could easily develop into an offensive juggernaut with speed, ala Mike Trout, but in order to realize those lofty aspirations, Starling must certainly fix his rigid mechanics and shore up some holes in his swing. He must develop a better understanding of the game, which would go a long way in helping to lower his strikeout rate and keep him from chasing balls outside the zone.

Starling could become a potential superstar in the Show and wind up replacing Wil Myers as KC's next big-time stud prospect outfielder in a couple of years. The potential with Starling is through the roof, but because of his raw skills, the Royals and impatient fantasy baseball players will likely have to wait this one out for a bit. His arm strength and speed will definitely play at the next level, so it'll all come down to whether he can become polished with the lumber. With Starling, there's no guarantee, making him the ultimate boom-or-bust prospect.

22. Alex Meyer, SP, Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins SP Alex Meyer
Meyer has tall upside

Meyer, 23, was originally drafted in the 20th round back in 2008 by the Boston Red Sox but chose to go to Kentucky to play college ball. He was taken again in 2011 as the 23rd overall pick by the Washington Nationals. The Twinkies acquired him over the winter in the trade that sent Denard Span to the nation's capital. Last year at Single-A Hagerstown and Potomac, Meyer combined to fan 139 in 129 innings while going 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA and 1.101 WHIP.

This tall drink of water (6-foot-9, 220 pounds) is a power pitcher. Go figure.... Because of his high-90s fastball and much improved K-inducing slider, Meyer has excellent upside as a strikeout artist at the major league level. However, because of his long and large frame, consistent mechanics and control have eluded him so far. A three-quarters arm slot probably doesn't help matters. The upside here is palpable, though, and he could be a beast that carries a rotation with the right seasoning.

Minnesota might be the perfect place for him, oddly enough. While they aren't particularly known for grooming strikeout specialists, their reputation for developing quality arms shouldn't be overlooked. This could work in his favor to help refine his raw mechanical and command profile. In the end, Meyer could easily wind up becoming a staff ace; it just might take a few more seasons to get him there.

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.

23. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros

Houston Astros SS Carlos Correa
Coronation for Correa?

Although he wasn't the consensus projected No. 1 overall draft pick of this past year's draft, the Astros felt Correa had enough upside to be worthy of the top overall selection. In just 204 plate appearances in two Rookie League stops last year, he hit .258 with three home runs and 12 RBIs and also stole six bags. By looking at his large, physical build (6-foot-4, 190 pounds), you wouldn't automatically guess he's only 18 years old. He'll likely fill out more as he ages, which is why some evaluators (BaseballInstinct.com) feel Correa is eventually destined for a position switch, most likely to the hot corner.

Correa's swing is fundamentally sound for his age, and his raw power skills make him a candidate to become an above average home run hitter, especially as he adds strength. Baseball Prospect Nation notes, however, that because of his large and big frame at a young age, his swing and stride can become long, which is something he'll have to refine if he's to advance through the upper minor league levels and on into the bigs. He possesses above-average range at shortstop and is fundamentally sound at the position. His length and projected growth won't do him any favors down the road in terms of speed numbers, though.

The upside is clearly present with this Puerto Rican prospect, and he projects to hit for a high average with plenty of round-trippers. If he can remain at shortstop - his soft hands, first-step quickness and aggressiveness at the position say he can - he'll be even more valuable in fantasy circles with the skills he can contribute. If he can tidy up some minor holes in his swing over the next few seasons down on Houston's farm, we could see him as soon as 2016. It's safe to say the 'Stros could use some infield talent like this.

24. Mason Williams, OF, New York Yankees

New York Yankees OF Mason Williams
Williams has sweet stroke

The Yankees need an injection of youth into their aging roster, and Williams can provide that soon enough. The fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft, Williams excelled in his first full professional season with Single-A Staten Island in 2011, hitting .349 with three home runs and 28 stolen bases in 269 at-bats. Last year at two more Single-A stops, he hit a combined .298 with 11 long balls and 20 thefts in 359 at-bats.

Williams, despite his smallish 6-foot, 150-pound frame, boasts surprising strength and bat speed at the dish. His quick lumber often finds contact and barrels up the baseball, but he lacks fence-clearing power. Baseball Prospect Nation projects Williams to max out at low double-digit homers as his ceiling in the big leagues. What he lacks in big-fly power, Williams makes up for in dazzling athleticism, speed and balance.

New York's current stable of outfielders own similar traits to Williams, but they won't be in the picture much longer. Because of the Yankees' current financial restraints, Williams will be a perfect fit in their outfield, possibly as soon as the 2015 season. His ability to hit for a high average and stolen base prowess could set him apart as a valuable asset up the middle, especially if he adds strength as his body matures. The flip side would be if he can't translate his excellent contact and line-drive rates to the next level, which would severely limit his profile.

25. Taylor Guerrieri, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays MGR Joe Maddon and PC Jim Hickey
Maddon, Hickey: Keep 'em comin'

Guerrieri, 20, displayed last year at Single-A short-season Hudson Valley why the organization views him as a future front-line starter. The tall, lanky right-hander went 1-2 with a 1.04 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 52 innings over 12 starts. He walked just five batters and allowed zero long balls.

Despite the small sample size in his first professional season, Guerrieri showed growth in developing his secondary pitches, most notably his changeup. His bread-and-butter is a two-seam heater that has late sinking action, making him a candidate for a high ground-ball rate throughout his career. Like any young hurler, though, his future success will be dictated by whether he can effectively develop and mix his change and K-inducing curveball to complement his fastball. In his favor is his ability to throw all his pitches for strikes, which can be a tough chore for developing pitchers of his age.

The South Carolina native will have to prove himself at the lower minor league levels in 2013 before his contributions to a major league rotation can even be realized. However, the Rays own the reputation of excellent developmental plans for their young pitchers, meaning Guerrieri could wind up on the fast track to the bigs before long. A debut in 2015 is realistic, depending upon how he fares moving up the minor league ladder.



 


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