*The following list is based solely on future fantasy value projected for each player during the prime years of their career. Defense is not taken into account whatsoever in this list. Comps are based on who a player will profile most comparable to during the prime years of their career in terms of fantasy value. Prospect value is based on a mix of future fantasy value along with how soon they will be contributing to fantasy teams.
1) Byron Buxton -This outfield prospect took home Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year Award in 2013. Baseball America also rated Buxton as the Best Batting Prospect and Most Exciting Player from the Midwest League, and the Fastest Baserunner from the Florida State League. This 19 year-old phenom also took home the Midwest League MVP and Midwest League Prospect of the Year honors. Buxton put up a ridiculous stat line in 2013 with a .334 BA, 12 HR’s, 77 RBI’s, 109 R’s, and 55 SB’s. The outfielder will probably need to spend at least another year to two years in the minors, but the Twins expect Buxton to eventually become the face of the franchise. For fantasy baseball, Buxton is capable of putting up extremely valuable stolen base totals while putting up very respectable numbers in every other fantasy category. Buxton is one of the few ballplayers on the planet capable of putting up comparable HR/SB splits to Mike Trout. We might have the next fantasy baseball game-changer on our hands here.
Future Fantasy Comp: Mike Trout
2) George Springer – This 24 year-old prospect turned in a 2013 stat-line for the ages. Springer hit for a .303 BA, 37 HR’s, 108 RBI’s, 106 R’s, and 45 SB’s between Double-A and Triple-A. In 2013, Springer played in the Future’s Game and was one of the finalists for the USA Minor League Player of the Year Award. Astros’ fans were clamoring for his call-up all year, but the organization was in no hurry to start Springer’s service time with the big league club going nowhere in 2013. The fans in Houston will be looking to their young outfield prospect to help turn this organization around. Without much currently blocking him on the big league roster, Springer should have every chance to earn a starting spot out of spring training, and the Astros are hoping he does just that. Springer could become a 30HR/30SB hitter during his prime years, with the possibility of going 20/20 or better right out of the gate in 2014.
Future Fantasy Comp: Matt Kemp
3) Clint Frazier – The Cleveland Indians selected this 19 year-old outfield prospect out of high school in the first round with the 5th overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. Frazier’s all-hustle approach has earned him respect among scouts, coaches, teammates, and the rest of the baseball community. In high school, Frazier broke the school records for HR’s and RBI’s, which were previously held by the Oakland Athletics’ 1B/OF Brandon Moss. After signing with the Indians, Frazier hit for a .297 BA, 5 HR’s, and 28 RBI’s in 172 AB’s in the Rookie Arizona League. The Indians love the amazing raw power that their young outfield prospect possesses. Frazier is said to have elite bat speed and impressive natural strength that could allow him to hit anywhere from 25 to 35 HR’s during his peak years. Scouts believe he will hit for a batting average around .270 to .280 during his prime. He is still a long way from contributing to the big league club, but if Frazier continues on this pace, he could eventually become a top power option and perennial all-star for the Indians.
Future Fantasy Comp: Jay Bruce
4) Nick Castellanos – The top prospect for the Detroit Tigers got his call towards the end of the 2013 season. He was used as a back-up and insurance policy during the stretch run, and only accumulated 18 AB’s. In 2012, Castellanos was shifted from 3B to the OF in hopes to get him to the majors quicker. Scouts are quick to point out his bat speed, which should help the OF prospect to hit for more homeruns in the future as he continues to develop, possibly allowing Castellanos to become a 20-plus HR a year hitter. He will never be much of a base stealing threat, but may be capable of chipping in 5 to 10 SB’s a year. Castellanos’ big contribution to fantasy teams should be with the batting average, as he projects to hit around .300 in his prime. Hopefully the Tigers will find a way to fit Castellanos into an outfield that will already feature Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter in 2014, so fantasy managers can get a glimpse of what the future holds for the top prospect in Detroit.
Future Fantasy Comp: Michael Cuddyer
5) Mason Williams – This 22 year-old outfield prospect had a less than impressive 2013 campaign. In 2011, Williams made the New York-Penn League All-Star team while batting .349 with 3 HR’s and 28 SB’s on the year. In 2012, the outfield prospect made the SAL League All-Star team while batting .298 and raising his HR total to 11, while chipping in 20 SB’s. Then in 2013, Williams was solid during his stint in High-A, hitting for a .261 BA with 3 HR’s and 15 SB’s in 406 AB’s, but unimpressive after his call-up to AA-Trenton, where he batted .153 with 1 HR and 0 SB’s through 72 AB’s. Although Williams only hit 4 HR’s last year between both levels, scouts believe he has the tools to develop into a 15 to 20 homerun bat in the future. Speed is one of William’s main assets, as he should be capable of stealing 20 to 30 bases each season. The Yankees sent Williams to the Arizona Fall League, where he has been holding his own against some of the top competition from the minor leagues. Williams is likely ticketed for a return to AA-Trenton to begin the 2014 season. 2014 will be a big year for Williams in terms of development and will give us a better idea of what we might be able to expect from him in the future. If he takes another step back, he could start to lose his prospect luster. But if Williams uses his tools to translate his abilities into performance, he could join the ranks among the top prospects in all of baseball.
Future Fantasy Comp: Austin Jackson
Honorable Mention: Jackie Bradley (BOS), Michael Choice (OAK), Courtney Hawkins (CHW), Domingo Santana (HOU), Bubba Starling (KCR).