How does one go about deciding which prospects are worth a roster spot on your fantasy baseball team?
If you are in a non-keeper redraft league, it’s easy — none of them are! In standard 5×5 leagues, it gets a little tricky. Most leagues have just three bench slots, and if you are in a head-to-head league, chances are you need all the help you can get every week. You don’t really have the luxury to carry around prospects there either.
But for those of you that dwell in deeper leagues, especially keeper leagues, this is not just a luxury, it is a necessity. Even in a non-dynasty format, you have to carry a couple of prospects around on the off chance that they become the next Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg. There is nothing like getting in on the ground floor of those investments!
In my auction leagues, I impose a 20 percent tax per year with a minimum of $3 on a players’ price. If you can nab one of these guys super cheap, they may never land in a draft again. I got Jose Fernandez last year for $1. That means even in his prime years, he will be about $16 — well below market value. Discovering these gems is necessary in order to have money to spend on the studs that will inevitably be in every draft.
Here are some of the players I would use a roster spot on in keeper leagues that have five or more bench slots:
Javier Baez, Cubs: Baez is currently blocked by Starlin Castro, but many think he will be primarily a second baseman anyway. How long can Darwin Barney keep him down? My guess: only until the Super 2 deadline. ETA: early June
Oscar Taveras, Cardinals: If it weren’t for injuries that cost him two-thirds of the 2013 season, Taveras would have been up nearly a year ago. He is that good. His issue right now is that the Cardinals have a crowded OF with Allen Craig now roaming out there full time. If he can avoid injuries, he will be in St. Louis full time by mid-June. Sorry Jon Jay. ETA: before the All-Star break
George Springer, Astros: Much like the Cubs and Twins, the Astros have a farm system chock full of top prospects, and Springer is probably the best position player of the bunch. He has been on top-50 lists for about three years now. Don’t worry, Astros fans, the wait is almost over. ETA: first week of June
Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks: Bradley could force his way to the majors earlier than June if he has a good month or so at Triple-A Reno. Trevor Cahill and Randall Delgado are not doing anything to lock down rotation spots and the fans are getting antsy. There has been hype on Bradley since the D-backs drafted him. Every once in a while you have to appease the fans, even if it isn’t in the best interests of the franchise. ETA: before Memorial Day
Gregory Polanco, Pirates: As long as the Travis Snider/Jose Tabata platoon in RF is working, it will quash the talk of immediately promoting Polanco. That said, if he starts out hot at Triple-A Indianapolis, there is a strong likelihood that he will force the Pirates’ hand. When that will happen is anyone’s guess, but he will be in Pittsburgh before the dog days arrive. ETA: mid- to late-June
Kris Bryant, Cubs: Let’s face it, Luis Valbuena isn’t going to stop anyone from being promoted to the majors. The only thing that might get in his way is a hot-hitting Josh Vitters, but considering how poor of a spring Vitters had, it seems more likely that the Cubs will go straight to Bryant. ETA: All-Star break
Jake Marisnick, Marlins: Marisnick had a great Spring, yet still lost out to Marcell Ozuna. If Ozuna struggles at all, Marisnick will be called up. He is more highly-regarded than Ozuna by most scouts, and is even above Christian Yelich on some lists. He will be in South Florida before too long. ETA: mid- to late-June
These are about the only prospects I would use bench spots on this early in the fantasy baseball season because they’re all guys hwo should be in the majors before the end of June. I will doing another list of players that you should pick up when their time draws closer, so be on the lookout for that.