Young players have become more prominent in Major League Baseball, but fantasy baseball players can't expect every emerging prospect to carry their team. Properly valuing rising farm players' talent, timetable and opportunity will help win your fantasy baseball league.
11. Mike Montgomery, SP, Kansas City Royals
Too many walks for Manny
Despite coming off a down year where he posted a 5-11 record and 5.32 ERA, surrendered 15 homers and averaged 4.12 walks per nine frames at Triple-A Omaha, Montgomery is still considered a pitcher with a bright future. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound southpaw has three quality pitches in his arsenal, which include a low- to mid-90s fastball, a wicked curveball and an above-average changeup.
Much of Montgomery's 2011 woes can be attributed to inconsistent mechanics that have plagued both his command and control. The 22-year-old is competing with Felipe Paulino, Danny Duffy, Luis Mendoza and Aaron Crow for one of two openings in the Royals' starting rotation this spring.
12. Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals
A converted catcher, Myers projects as a well-rounded offensive contributor who hits for average, gets on base at a good rate, drives the long ball and runs a little on the base paths. Myers is compared to Dale Murphy and Jayson Werth because of his catching background, move to the outfield and wide array of tools.
Slowed by a knee injury in 2011, Myers managed to hit just .254 with eight home runs, 49 RBIs, 50 runs scored and a .745 OPS in 354 at-bats with Double-A Northwest Arkansas. However, the North Carolina native bounced back by registering a 1.155 OPS in the Arizona Fall League.
The 21-year-old is ticketed for a return to the high minors in 2012. Considering the way the Royals accelerated their top hitting prospects last season, a summer promotion for Myers is an attainable feat if he puts up the numbers.
13. Tom Milone, SP, Oakland Athletics
In terms of pure talent, Milone doesn't hold a candle to fellow A's rookies Jarrod Parker and Brad Peacock. However, Milone is probably the most big-league ready of the trio. The former USC standout hurls a fastball that sits in the high 80s, but he makes up for his lack of velocity with pinpoint control and outstanding command. He also has an impressive changeup and a deceptive, herky-jerky delivery that throws off hitters.
In 2011 at Triple-A Syracuse, Milone posted numbers reminiscent of a power pitcher as he fanned 155 batters in 148 1/3 innings. The southpaw also went 12-6, with a 3.22 ERA and issued only 16 walks, averaging a miniscule 0.97 walks per nine innings. During a five-start stint in the majors, Milone's strikeout rate plummeted to an average of 5.19 whiffs per nine innings, but he still managed to hold his own with a 3.81 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP over 26 stanzas.
The 25-year-old is not standard MLB universe material, but he is a safe end-game option in AL-only formats that could thrive in the pitcher-friendly environment of O.co Coliseum.
14. Neil Ramirez, SP, Texas Rangers
After Ramirez spent the 2010 season in low Single-A, he was bumped up to Triple-A early in the 2011 campaign due to injuries in the system and handled the jump well. In 74 1/3 innings with Round Rock, Ramirez compiled a 3.63 ERA, struck out 86 batters and surrendered only six home runs.
As evidenced by his average of 4.24 walks per nine innings in Triple-A, Ramirez still needs to improve his command, but considering that he was supposed to be in high Single-A, that was to be expected. A former first-round supplemental selection, Ramirez has the pitch assortment of a No. 2 or 3 starter, which includes a low- to mid-90s fastball, a nasty hard curveball and a developing changeup.
Although fellow Triple-A pitcher Martin Perez is considered the more highly regarded prospect, Ramirez is the more big-league ready of the two hurlers and should get the first call if the Rangers need to summon a starter this year.
15. Manny Banuelos, SP, New York Yankees
Small stature aside, the 5-foot-10, 155-pound Banuelos passes the eyeball test with scouts with his clean delivery and a three-pitch mix that includes a low- to mid-90s fastball, a hard curveball and a good changeup.
For Banuelos to get a taste of the majors this season, he must get some mechanical issues with his delivery sorted out. Last season, the Mexican southpaw averaged 4.93 walks per nine innings. His walk problems offset a lot of the good things Banuelos did such as being stingy at giving up home runs (0.62 per nine innings) and missing bats (8.68 whiffs per nine cantos). The 21-year-old also has to get better against righties, who touched him for a .285 average last season.
The Yankees seem intent on being patient with Banuelos' upbringing after the development of homegrown pitchers Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes didn't go according to plan. Banuelos is slated to begin the 2012 season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. With a big year, he has the chance to pitch his way to the Bronx before rosters expand in September.