In keeping with the burgeoning top-10 theme here at Fake Teams, I'm going to count down the 10 best prospects for 2012 fantasy value. The only caveat to this list is that these are players that are not going to make their team's opening day roster. This means no Matt Moore (who I adore), Jesus Montero (who I also adore at his current ADP of 160 or Yoenis Cespedes (who I like but is probably overvalued). Also, these are only players with rookie eligibility -- so while Travis Snider and Johnny Giavotella were recently sent down and I like them to still contribute this season, you won't see them here. These are guys who likely will go undrafted in redraft leagues, but may hold real value in even the shallowest of leagues.
To further that point, if we had made this list last year, it would probably have been headlined by the likes of Desmond Jennings, Brett Lawrie, Zach Britton, Dustin Ackley and Jason Kipnis. Whether you were in a keeper league where you can only pick up minor leaguers as they are called up to the majors or a standard redraft league with a small bench, some these players became pretty valuable members of your roster. So who are this year's models?
1) Trevor Bauer, SP, Diamondbacks - This is probably not the name you expected to see at #1, but every day I'm more convinced that Bauer is going to be a special pitcher, and soon. There are three major things I'm looking for in candidates for this list: overall skill, opportunity and short-term value -- and Bauer is the best combination of the three. His skill set is obvious as he was the Golden Spikes winner at UCLA last year and was my #10 prospect for dynasty leagues. His opportunity is just as obvious as the back two-fifths of the D'Backs rotation consists of Josh Collmenter and Joe Saunders. Finally, Bauer's unique delivery and repertoire is a nice recipe for initial success upon promotion as it will likely take a few looks for hitters to get used to him.
2) Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals - I don't mean to channel my inner Captain Obvious, but Harper is going to be awesome and will contribute counting stats as soon as he's promoted, including strikeouts. The Nationals will be under a lot of pressure to call up Harper before Memorial Day, as fans get frustrated watching Rick Ankiel and/or Roger Bernadhina in center field. If he gets 90-100 games in the majors this season, which is pretty realistic, he should be able to hit 15+ HR along with double-digit steals. Just be prepared that it might come with a .240 average.
The rest of the top 10 is after the jump..3) Mike Trout, OF, Angels - Trout's ranking here is much more of an indictment on the Angels organization than it is on his talent, as his talent is undeniable. I mean he was my #1 dynasty league prospect for good reason. In his prime, you're looking at a potential .300+ average, 20-25 HR and 30-40 SB. However, as the Angels head into the season with their best OF in Salt Lake, his prospects for this season are deflated. Even if he does get the call-up within the first two months of the season, I don't trust Mike Scioscia to actually play him every day.
4) Shelby Miller, SP, Cardinals - Once Matt Moore starts the season on the Rays roster, the title of best starting pitching prospect in the minors will likely belong to Miller -- though I don't expect him to hold it for long. Of course, that's because I think he'll be ready to join the Cards rotation right around the super-two deadline. With a 11.4 career K/9 and only 11 HR allowed in nearly 250 innings, he's got the track record for success.
5) Ryan Lavarnway, C, Red Sox - Lavarnway still qualifies on this list because as of right now, it looks like he'll start the season in Pawtucket despite his .455 spring average. Assuming that is the case, I don't expect that stay to be for long. Jarrod Saltalamacchia isn't exactly drawing any Carlton Fisk comparisons either offensively or defensively, and Lavarnway could hit 25+ HR given 500 at bats. But even if he only gets 300-350, there's still lots of value in that with the dearth of catching available.
6) Danny Hultzen, SP, Mariners - Hultzen was billed as the most major-league ready player available in the 2011 draft and he did not disappoint during his professional debut in the Arizona Fall League. With Jason Vargas, Hector Noesi and Kevin Millwood penciled into the Mariners rotation, it's hard to see how there's not opportunity for Hultzen once he gets his feet wet in AA. Plus, he'll have Safeco on his side.
7) Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs - With the Brian Lahair experiment in full throttle, Rizzo will bide his time in AAA -- but I'd be surprised if he is not up at Wrigley by mid-June. Rizzo really struggled in his first taste of the bigs last year with San Diego, but in case you haven't heard, Wrigley Field is a lot friendlier to left-handed power than Petco Park.
8) Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies - It's really easy to get excited about a hitting prospect who draws Coors Field as his home, but expectations need to be tempered a little here. Yes, he's only got Casey Blake ahead of him. Yes, he's a top prospect (#19 on my ranks). But, the fact remains that he's never played a single game above High Class-A. However, he's got a good enough idea of the strike zone that he shouldn't embarrass himself when he gets the call -- possibly in early June.
9) Tyler Skaggs, SP, Diamondbacks - It's pretty easy to envision the back-end of the Diamondbacks rotation being Bauer and Skaggs by July 4th. Often overlooked, as he's had a slow, steady rise to prospect stardom, Skaggs was the key piece Arizona got in the Dan Haren trade. He's got good strikeout potential and will have a very good defense behind him (Jason Kubel notwithstanding).
10) Jarrod Parker - SP, Athletics - Parker is a guy that I always feel like I should be higher on, but just aren't. He's still got a bright future ahead of him, and he's likely to see Oakland's rotation within the first two months of the season, but his stuff is just not as crisp now as it was pre-surgery. The ballpark will help him, but his WHIP may hurt you.
Honorable Mention: Brad Peacock, Starling Marte, Jacob Turner, Casey Kelly, Tim Wheeler.