Rankings are stupid.
Just kidding (but seriously, they are).
The arbitrary task of arranging players of similar skill sets on a list; effectively saying “I like ‘this’ player more than ‘this’ player”, is ultimately an exercise in futility. Players not living up to the lofty expectations we put on them, players exceeding the not-so lofty expectations we put on them, and injures that halt or delay progress are all reasons that rankings fluctuate and never look the same from one year to the next.
Yet for their inherent uselessness, people can’t seem to get enough of them. People love lists. People love seeing how other people rate players over one another. I can’t explain it, I just go with it.
Enter: “The Early Season Top 5’s.” A series designed to be more of a quick, fun, and casual look into the players I feel rank in the top 5 at their position for fantasy purposes, touching briefly on how the player is doing currently, and what his short term and long term prospects look like. I will try to do one position per week, and the rankings will be updated throughout the year as guys are either promoted or my feelings for them change.
Before we begin, as always, I have a few disclaimers.. ( mainly because I like to over-explain myself)
- Don’t Talk About The Top 5’s
Had to get that out of my system. Please, talk all you want about them. Tweet the crap out of them.
2. This Is My list
Meaning that I have my man crushes, and I will rank accordingly. If I leave one of your favorite players off a list, naturally it’s because I hate him and the team he’s on.
3. Closeness to the Bigs doesn’t trump all
I’ll admit that players who are a breath away from the major leagues often appear more sexy than their lower level counterparts because they’re also closer to helping our fantasy teams, but upside cannot be ignored. Especially when the person writing this article is an upside whore. If I’m confident that a lower level guy will hit his projection, he may just find himself above someone who is more of a sure thing.
Guardians of The Hot Corner
3rd baseman are made, not born. Players who can’t handle an up-the-middle infield position are usually then relegated to hot corner duties. As such, there are many current short stops or 2nd baseman in the minor leagues that will likely end up making the transition before their time in the minor’s is out. For now, these 5 players will be one’s who are already at the position. Now, some of them may eventually be forced to flee the position themselves, but let’s not dwell on that. Now is the time to dream…
1. Miguel Sano / Minnesota
.387/.465./.757–43 hits, 9 2B’s, 1 3B, 10 HR’s, 34 K’s, 14 BB’s in 129 PA’s at High-A Fort Myers(as of 5/10)
I don’t need say too much here, that triple slash line pretty much speaks for itself. The Thunder god of power in the minor leagues is feasting on Florida State league pitching, and it probably won’t be too long before he needs to be challenged by a promotion to AA.
The power is very real. It may always have some swing and miss to go with it, but it’s very real, and it will play at the highest level. Questions about his future defensive home abound and a move to right field or even 1st base could happen, but with more reps at 3rd he should be able to be at least average at the position. If he can work on his pitch recognition and cut down on his strikeouts, we could very well be looking at the best prospect for fantasy baseball. Imagine with me if you will, a 3rd baseman that could one day challenge for HR titles. As Llyod Christmas would say: “Mmmmmmm. That sounds good. I’ll have that.”
2. Anthony Rendon / Washington
.303/.466/.545–20 hits, 7 2B’s, 3 HR’s, 15 K’s, 19 BB’s in 88 PA’s at AA Harrisburg(as of 5/10)
I know what you’re thinking, but the Nat’s demotion of Rendon after only 30 major league PA’s gave me the out I needed to put him on this list. We know who Rendon is at this point; he’s going to hit for high averages, he’s going to get on base, and he’s going to sting the ball all over the yard. Unfortunately for him, the presence of Ryan Zimmerman likely means his future with Nat’s will be short. Whatever team his future lies with, he still profiles as someone who can hit .300+ with 20+ HR’s in his prime. All the while being more than able to handle the position; keeping his long term value very high.
3. Kaleb Cowart / Los Angeles Angels
.202/.264/.319–24 hits, 8 2B’s, 2 HR’s, 31 K’s, 9 BB’s, 4 SB’s in 131 PA’s at AA Arkansas(as of 5/10)
Cowart definitely has not carried the success from his first full season of pro ball over to his 2nd. Jumping from the hitter’s paradise that is the Cal League to the Texas League can often be a large adjustment for a player, and Cowart, thus far has yet to adjust to the better competition.
He still has solid power potential(20+ HR/year), and when he makes the necessary adjustments we should begin to see some of that power manifest itself. His quick stroke from both the left and right side should also give him the ability to hit for good averages as well. He’s also an adequate defender and figures to stay at the position long term.
But perhaps the best part about his fantasy prospects, is his relatively clear path to the big leagues. The combination of Alberto Callaspo, Brendan Harris, and Luis Jimenez will not be enough to keep Cowart from taking what’s rightfully his when he’s ready. He should be ready to assume the role at some point in 2014.
4. Mike Olt / Texas
.139/.235/.236–10 hits, 4 2B’s, 1 HR, 32 K’s, 9 BB’s in 81 PA’s at AAA Round Rock(as of 5/10)
Known as a slow starter, Olt apparently didn’t want to buck the trend to kick off 2013. There have been reports of him not looking like his normal self at the plate in the early going this year, but let’s hope that those don’t prove to hold true and that Olt will quickly snap out of whatever funk he’s in.
He possess huge power potential, and could be a perennial 25-30+ HR/year threat when he matures. He has a quick swing and is able to hit the ball to all fields, but unfortunately his penchant for strikeouts will likely keep his averages somewhat low. However, he’ll hold his fantasy value because of his defensive prowess as he is one of the best–if not THE best–fielding 3rd baseman in the minor’s.
We saw first hand last year what the log jam in Texas looks like as Olt was only able to receive 40 PA’s toward the end of the year. Granted, he did little with those PA’s to warrant more playing time, but with Adrian Beltre locking down the Ranger’s hot corner there just wasn’t enough playing time to go around. The situation hasn’t changed at all in 2013, and unless he turns his slow start around, the team will be in no hurry to get him to the major’s. It also means he becomes a good trade chip if the Rangers decide they need to add some help for the playoff push come mid season.
5. Joey Gallo / Texas
.227/.338/.573–25 hits, 6 2B’s, 1 3B, 10 HR’s, 45 K’s, 17 BB’s in 130 PA’s at Low-A Hickory(as of 5/10)
I almost just copied what I wrote about Sano and pasted it here for Gallo, because the two are almost carbon copies of each other–at least as it relates to what type of players they project to be.
Massive raw power is Gallo’s calling card, but unfortunately, like Sano, he has a ton of swing and miss as well. And, he too has many scouts wondering if he’ll be able to handle the position long term.
Fortunately for Gallo, he’s several years away from even sniffing the big leagues and fantasy lineups, so he’s got plenty of time to work on his game. As I’ve said before, take this time to dream. Get lost in his power potential. Put on some mood music and let the thoughts of a 3rd baseman who hits 40 bombs a year consume every fiber of your being.
There you have it. There’s a ton of upside on that list, but there’s also a few with lower floors that just need to do what they’re supposed to do. All should affect fantasy lineups at some point, but a few may not be 3rd baseman by the time that happens. For them, I suppose we didn’t ever have much of a hope…just a fool’s hope.
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