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. Brett Jackson, OF, Chicago Cubs
Jackson is a well-rounded player who gets on base, hits for power and steals bags. Last season Jackson combined to hit .274 with 20 home runs, 58 RBIs, 84 runs scored, 21 steals, a .379 on-base percentage and an .869 OPS in 512 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A. Based on his .292 career average and history of high strikeout totals, Jackson probably won't compete for batting titles, but he is a potential fantasy star with the ability to be a 20-homer, 20-steals guy with a .360-plus on-base percentage.
Not much punch, but plenty of PT
A good athlete, Jackson projects as the Cubs' center fielder of the future. Nearly ready for the bigs, the 23-year-old is expected to start the 2012 campaign at Triple-A Iowa while the Cubs employ a veteran outfield of Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and David DeJesus. But don't expect Jackson to stay in Iowa for long.
12. Wilin Rosario, C, Colorado Rockies
Power hitting and Coors Field go hand in hand, and Rosario has the thunder in his bat to develop into one of the game's premier power hitting catchers. Over the last two years, Rosario has combined to swat 40 home runs in 675 Double-A at-bats, averaging a dinger every 16.9 at-bats.
The big question is whether Rosario can improve on his woeful plate discipline, develop into a higher percentage hitter and become more consistent against off-speed pitches. In 2011 at Tulsa, the Dominican backstop hit .249 with a .284 on-base percentage, drawing only 19 walks against 91 strikeouts.
Despite some of his hitting flaws, the 23-year-old draws rave reviews for his catching tools and strong throwing arm, which could help him win the Rockies' backup catching spot this spring. Although Ramon Hernandez was brought in to be the team's starting catcher, he is viewed as merely a stopgap until Rosario is ready to assume a regular role. That could happen this season or next year, depending on how quickly Rosario progresses.
13. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
There's no doubt Arenado is the organization's third baseman of future, it's just a matter of when the transition will happen. As a 20-year-old, Arenado hit .298 with 20 home runs, 122 RBIs, 32 doubles, 82 runs scored and a .836 OPS in 517 at-bats with high Single-A Modesto. A pure bat, Arenado is one of the rare power hitters with a high rate of contact as he fanned only 53 times in the California League, good for a strikeout rate of 9 percent.
He followed up a fine season in the Cal League by earning Arizona Fall League MVP honors after registering a 1.059 OPS. While scouts are giddy about Arenado's bat, he doesn't have any experience in the high minors, so the Rockies want him to get his feet wet against more advanced pitching this season.
Arenado, 20, has the special hitting skills to post gaudy numbers in the Texas League and force his way onto the Rockies' major league roster by this summer. Even though the Rockies added a veteran third baseman in Casey Blake, he is not a road block that will stop Arenado's ascent. In the hitter-friendly conditions of Coors Field, Arenado is capable of developing into a .300-25-100 slugger in his prime.
14. Nathan Eovaldi, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Eovaldi was far from a finished product when the Dodgers summoned him to the majors late last season, but he held his own by posting a 3.63 ERA and notching a quality start in three of six tries. As shown by his 23:20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 34 2/3 innings, Eovaldi still has some improvements to make as a pitcher.
Blessed with a mid-90s fastball with heavy movement, Eovaldi is very stingy when it comes to surrendering the long ball, allowing only five homers in 137 2/3 innings between Double-A and the majors last season. Criticized for his lack of quality secondary pitches, Eovaldi made leaps and bounds by developing a respectable slider last year, but there are still doubters that wonder if his future lies in the bullpen due to his limited repertoire.
Even though Eovaldi averaged a healthy 8.7 strikeouts per nine frames in Double-A, his walk rate (4.0 free passes per nine innings) needs to be trimmed down for him to enjoy sustained success in the majors. In the winter, the Dodgers added veterans Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano to lock down the team's fourth and fifth spots in the rotation, meaning Eovaldi is headed back to the minors for some additional seasoning.
15. Tyler Pastornicky, SS, Atlanta Braves
Thanks to his glove, Pastornicky is slated to open the season as the Braves' starting shortstop. Offensively, Pastornicky doesn't bring a lot of upside. He is a contact hitter who combined to bat .314 between Double-A and Triple-A last season. Despite the solid batting average in a one-year span, Pastornicky doesn't project as a high average hitter in the majors as evidenced by his lifetime .278 mark in the minors.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound shortstop is characterized as a "punch-and-judy" hitter who is adept at playing the little game. He doesn't bring much power to the table as shown by his .374 career slugging percentage. With a chance to accumulate a lot of bats, the 22-year-old has a chance to be a quiet producer in the stolen base department as he has averaged 36.5 steals per season since entering professional baseball in 2008.
Although not a MLB universe option, Pastornicky is a useable NL-only piece whose starting role will give him a chance to steal 20 bags and rack up modest totals in the runs scored and RBI departments.