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.
16. Taylor Green, 3B/2B, Milwaukee Brewers
The 25-year-old Green doesn't have much to prove in the minors after he hit .336 with 22 home runs, 88 RBIs, 36 doubles, 74 runs scored and a .996 OPS in 420 at-bats with Triple-A Nashville in 2011. Blessed with a pretty swing, Green has shown to be a well-rounded hitter whose only glaring weakness is his struggles against left-handed hurlers.
While Green doesn't have a clear path to play every day, his bat and defensive versatility will land him starts this season when the Brewers decide to rest third baseman Aramis Ramirez and second baseman Rickie Weeks. He also could figure in the first base mix with Mat Gamel, another unproven Brewers farmhand. Green is likely going to begin the 2012 campaign as a reserve on the Brewers' bench, but will get an opportunity to start a couple of times a week and could push for more playing time if he hits.
17. Wily Peralta, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
Lombardozzi threatens for PT
Peralta is the crown jewel of the Brewers' farm system. In 2011, the Dominican righty went 11-7, with a 3.17 ERA and a 157:59 strikeout-to-walk ratio, in a combined 150 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Peralta has good command of both four-seam and two-seam fastballs, and he utilizes his slider as a swing-and-miss pitch.
Although Peralta is on the cusp of the majors, the Brewers return all five veteran starters from their NL Central champion club of 2011, so the Dominican is ticketed for a return to Triple-A. Peralta would likely be the club's first option should a need arise this season. He profiles as a No. 3 starter.
18. Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
The tools-laden Marte enjoyed a breakout season in the minors in 2011, hitting .332 with 12 home runs, 38 doubles, 91 runs scored, 24 steals and an .870 OPS in 536 at-bats with Double-A Altoona. Because Marte is so aggressive at the plate (100 strikeouts to 22 walks in 2011), it's easy to be skeptical of his .309 career average and wonder how it will hold up against tougher pitching when BABIP is not on his side. There are mixed reviews on whether Marte will show future gains in the power department, but his doubles total from 2011 is promising.
One thing's for certain, Marte is widely considered a top-notch defender and that will be the calling card that gets him to The Show at some point this season. Blessed with plus wheels, Marte is a safe bet for 20-plus steals over the course of a full season. Even though he's not the most polished hitter, Marte has an enticing tool set and has the ability to develop into a 15-homer, 25-steal producer down the line.
19. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B/SS, Washington Nationals
Lombardozzi lacks the tools that draw attention to scouts, but he makes up for it with steady performance that is hard to ignore. Last season, the switch-hitter combined to hit .309 with eight home runs, 52 RBIs, 86 runs scored, 30 steals and a .360 on-base percentage in 556 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A.
Since Lombardozzi lacks power, he is not an ideal long-term candidate to start, but he does bring a lot of hidden value with his scrappiness and abilities to make contact, get on base at a decent clip and run. Lombardozzi is competing for a utility spot on the Nationals' 25-man roster, and there's a good chance he winds up back at Triple-A Syracuse because he still has options. Because double-play partners Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond have their share of flaws and have been prone to slumps, don't be surprised if Lombardozzi finds his way into the lineup at some point this season as a regular.
20. Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
A 23rd-round selection out of Division II program Slippery Rock (Pa.), Adams has flown under the radar because of his draft status and 230-pound body that doesn't excite scouts. But Adams sure can hit. In 2011, Adams hit .300 with 32 home runs, 101 RBIs, 80 runs scored and a .923 OPS in 463 at-bats at Double-A Springfield. He has been a consistent performer at every level of the way; he carries a .316 lifetime batting average to go with a .917 OPS. He has the raw power to hit 25 to 30 home runs in his prime.
Although Adams probably doesn't need much more seasoning in the minors, he is not in the most advantageous position when it comes to playing even though Albert Pujols departed for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the offseason. The Cardinals still have All-Star Lance Berkman to man first base, and the Redbirds would also like to find at-bats for Allen Craig (knee) when he gets healthy. There has been talk of moving Adams to the outfield, but he doesn't necessarily have the athleticism to play there.