Fantasy baseball is not won with the superstars you draft in the first five rounds. Fantasy baseball is won by being active and owning the break out players before anyone else knows who they are. Injuries and cold streaks affect most MLB players so you need to be ready to replace them with someone who can produce for at least a short period time. The players you will see listed below will not start out the year in the big leagues most likely and should be drafted in the later rounds of your fantasy draft. These are guys who will be knocking at the door in 2012 and will at some point probably be called up. I did not include Jesus Montero or Matt Moore because they will start out the season on their team’s big league squad. The players you are about to consider for your draft are well kept secrets and/or have MLB talent but still have something to prove in the minors before their promotion.
Shelby Miller / Photo By Erika Lynn
- Shelby Miller – SP – Cardinals
Miller will make his MLB debut this year barring a serious injury and he should dominate. The Cards will need him to be their third ace if they want a repeat championship. They have lost a major offensive contributor in Albert Pujols and will need the added pitching to get to the playoffs. Miller is a strikeout machine and has the control to go along with the stuff. He has some injury risk but as long as he shows up to Spring Training in good condition and with the right attitude, he will contribute in a major way this year. Draft him in the later rounds and let him sit on your bench. He may become the ace of your staff in no time.
- Trevor Bauer – SP – Diamondbacks
Bauer was a workhorse pitcher in college and I fully expect him to be a workhorse this year for the Diamondbacks. He boasts having over 8 different pitches and he can control them all although I’m sure they will hone that down to only about four pitches. Bauer’s off-season workouts and delivery are strange and unconventional but they seem to work just fine for him. I expect him to show up to Spring Training in great shape and battle for a rotation spot. Draft him in the middle rounds on the hopes that he can become even half of the pitcher scouts compare him to – Tim Lincecum.
- Danny Hultzen – SP – Mariners
Hultzen’s stuff is already major league ready and all he needs is the chance to go out and prove it. He dominated hitters in the AFL last year with a wicked slider and a pin-point fastball. There is a rotation spot open inSeattlenow that they traded away Michael Pineda to the Yankees. Hultzen will get the chance to pitch in the rotation but probably not right out of Spring Training. Use your last draft pick on him if he is still available and hope for half a season of brilliant pitching.
- Tyler Skaggs – SP – Diamondbacks
Skaggs is the youngest player on this list at 20 years old, but quite possibly has the most fantasy upside. Strikeouts are always a good thing in fantasy baseball and this guy racks them up like they are nothing. The keys to Skaggs are that he is left-handed and not only throws a loopy curve-ball but can also come straight in with an above-average fastball. He has the command and mechanics to be a 200+ innings #2 starter for years to come. He excelled at Double-A last year and I expect him to start the year there again. Draft him late or pick him up off the waivers in early 2012 and wait for him to get his shot at major league hitters.
- Matt Harvey – SP – Mets
Harveymostly makes this list because he is in the Mets system and they have terrible pitching at the major league level. He has good stuff and decent command that should allow him to easily become the ace of the Mets rotation. He may break camp with a rotation spot but most people will probably overlook him in the draft. Let him fall as far as you possibly can and pick him up for his Ks and innings. He may not pick up very many wins and his ERA could easily be over 4.00 with the team the Mets have this year. He will have fantasy value and the upside is true ace potential.
- Gary Brown – CF – Giants
Our first position player! Most people see Brown as a 2013 call-up. I disagree. With the outfield the Giants have they are going to give this kid a shot to see if he can spark their offense and defense. He has blazing speed on the base paths and could easily steal 30 bases in half a season. If he can become the Giants leadoff man he will have tons of fantasy potential. I expect a midseason call-up so draft him in deep leagues and let him ride the bench until he arrives inSan Francisco.
- James Paxton – SP – Mariners
Another Mariners starting pitcher who should get his chance this year! Paxton may even get the call-up before Hultzen. Paxton has shown he can get hitters out at every level of the minor leagues and he should make his MLB debut this year early in the season. Although he may not get a ton of wins, he should get strikeouts and have a low ERA with his control. Draft him in deeper leagues and keep an eye on him in any other league.
- Leonys Martin – OF – Rangers
Martin might make it easy for the Rangers to keep Josh Hamilton in left-field. His defense is stellar and he has the tools to be a high average hitter with average power in the big leagues. At 24 years old the Rangers should give him a chance this year to see what he can do. They want to go back to the World Series so look for them to make many adjustments this year including bringing Martin up. If you can’t draft an elite outfield, draft him in deeper leagues and wait for his call-up.
- Tyler Pastornicky – SS – Braves
The Braves were so close to the playoffs last year and will be a contender this year as well. The team is shedding its older players to make room for the up-and-coming young talent. There should be no reason Pastornicky won’t be this years Jason Heyward or Freddie Freeman. He made it to Triple-A last year and showed he could hit at that level. The Braves are unhappy with their situation at shortstop and should give Pastornicky the opportunity to start right out of Spring Training. Draft him as a backup SS and watch as he turns into your primary SS.
- Jaff Decker – LF – Padres
The Padres are essentially in a rebuilding mode with tons of young talent in the minors after some big trades this off-season. Decker is one of those talents. He struggled to make contact last year at Double-A but when he did, he smoked the ball. He had 19 HR last year at Double-A and the Padres need some power in their lineup. He may not make contact enough to stay in the big leagues but keep your eye on him this season because he may have a powerful year inSan Diego.
Follow Jared on Twitter @Jared_Thatcher