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R.O.I. 100: The ROI 100 - The Hitters

Erik Siegrist

Erik Siegrist

Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.

The ROI 100 - The Hitters
 
The ROI (Return On Investment) 100 is a different sort of prospect list. Most lists attempt to measure the likely futures and ceilings of the next generation of stars in raw baseball terms. The ROI 100, on the other hand, focuses solely on fantasy league economic upside, and attempts to measure the profit a player might return both in the short-term (the 2012 season) and long-term (over the length of a typical roto contract). As such, fantasy priorities such as stolen bases and saves, not to mention the simple opportunity for playing time, are given more weight than on some more traditional prospect lists, and if I don't think a player has a chance of providing value during that period, he isn't on the list at all regardless of his standing as a 'real' prospect. The over-riding principle here is a basic inflationary rule: a dollar earned in 2012 is worth more than a dollar earned down the road.
 
Part one lists the top 50 hitters; part two the top 50 pitching prospects. The 'Fantasy Comp' isn't an absolute, 99th percentile best case (the best case for every prospect is a Hall of Fame career the likes of which we've never seen before) but is intended to give you an idea of the shape of their fantasy production if all goes well. Obviously, a lot of players will fall short of even these lofty comps.
 
Disclaimer: Past performance does not guarantee future results. Prospect values and investment returns will fluctuate. This article is not intended to provide specific individual advice including, without reservation, investment, financial, legal, accounting, or rotisserie.

1. Bryce Harper, OF, Was: New Nats manager Davey Johnson (the guy who gave a 19-year-old Dwight Gooden a shot) has already said he's keeping an open mind on whether Harper is ready for the majors. More importantly for his short term value, Rick Ankiel is pencilled in as the team's starting center fielder, and he'll be no obstacle if Harper sets spring training on fire. He's shown the need for an adjustment period after hitting a new level of competition in his brief pro career so if he does break camp on the 25-man roster a slow start is a definite possibility, but Harper could also rip apart NL pitching en route to a Rookie of the Year performance and an early career run at a home run title. Fantasy Comp: Reggie Jackson

2. Jesus Montero, C/DH, Sea: The likelihood that he retains catcher eligibility nearly put him number one on the list, but as someone with a guaranteed job he'll have a higher price tag than Harper at your draft or auction table, and we don't yet know how hitting in Seattle will impact his power numbers. Ideally he'll catcher just enough to still qualify there in 2013, DH the rest of the time, and put up roster-anchoring four category production. Fantasy Comp: Mike Piazza

3. Mike Trout, OF, LAA: Also a strong candidate for the top spot, Trout slips a bit simply due to the fact that the Angels roster is very crowded with players for the OF and DH spots already, and a full season for Trout at Triple-A isn't out of the question as a result. He's got true five category potential and is probably ready for the majors right now, but it could take an injury or trade before he gets a chance to prove it. Fantasy Comp: the young Eric Davis

4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, ChC: His struggles in San Diego last season don't mean a whole lot just yet, and while Bryan LaHair is a nice story it's hard to believe he'll be any kind of impediment to Rizzo winning a job if he clobbers the ball this spring. His ceiling is maybe a little lower than some of the other players in the top 10, but first base is his for the taking, and the position is a lot more shallow in NL-only leagues than usual after the losses of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder to the junior circuit. Fantasy Comp: Kent Hrbek

5. Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oak: Scouts mostly agree that the talent is there, the A's seem intent on giving him a 25-man roster spot right out of the gate, and at age 26 he should be just heading into his prime. What we don't know yet is what kind of adjustment period Cespedes will have, both to big league competition and to life in North America. Those question marks are big enough to keep him from the top of the list, despite the near-guarantee of playing time. Fantasy Comp: Raul Mondesi (inevitable, but appropriate)

6. Devin Mesoraco, C, Cin: If you had any doubts about the Reds' confidence in Mesoraco, consider that they got rid of both Ramon Hernandez and Yasmani Grandal this offseason, leaving just Ryan Hanigan between the kid and the starting job. He doesn't have an elite-level bat like Montero, but his all-around game is solid and finding value behind the plate is always a dicey fantasy proposition. Fantasy Comp: Mike Lieberthal

7. Yonder Alonso, 1B, SD: His path to the starting 1B job may be a little clearer in San Diego than Rizzo's is in Chicago, but Rizzo doesn't have Petco Park to squash his power production. Alonso doesn't quite have Rizzo's power upside to begin with, so you may have to live with some James Loney-esque numbers until Alonso finds his comfort zone. Fantasy Comp: Will Clark

8. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Col: The first player on the list without an obvious path to regular 2012 at-bats, Arenado's star is on the rise and if he keeps developing at the rate he's been going a second half major league debut isn't out of the question. The tools aren't in question, and Coors Field remains a factor for hitters. Fantasy Comp: Scott Rolen

9. Nick Franklin, SS, Sea: If you look at last year's numbers out of context this ranking seems far too high, but Franklin battled an illness to begin last season and his late-season numbers at Double-A were as good as could have been expected. The key to this ranking is his ability to stay at shortstop defensively, although his potential for five category production would look just fine at second base too. A move to third base or the outfield would make him less valuable. Fantasy Comp: Michael Young

10. Brett Jackson, OF, ChC: Personally I'm not 100% sold on Jackson, and think his lack of contact could cause him more problems than you'd expect from his minor league numbers, but he's still got 20/20 or better potential and that's too valuable an upside to ignore even if his batting average isn't what you'd hope it would be. He's got little left to prove in the minors, but Theo Epstein hasn't yet pulled the trigger on a trade to make room for him in a Cubs uniform. Fantasy Comp: Grady Sizemore

11. Yasmani Grandal, C, SD: The bat appears to be for real, but he's still got some things to prove defensively, and with Nick Hundley around the Padres have no reason to rush him to the majors this season. This is a pick that almost certainly won't start paying any real dividends until 2013. Fantasy Comp: Mike Napoli

12: Anthony Rendon, 3B?, Was: The Nationals aren't yet sure what to do with Rendon defensively, and may try him out at second base this season so he doesn't get blocked by Ryan Zimmerman. He also hasn't faced pro pitching yet, which makes his ultimate upside harder to gauge, but based on his last two seasons in college he appears to have a very special bat capable of excellent batting averages with sold (but not elite) power. It's a profile that would play just fine anywhere on the diamond, and as an advanced college hitter he shouldn't require much minor league seasoning, but he does have some questions to answer yet. Fantasy Comp: Edgar Martinez

13. Wil Myers, OF, KC: The results weren't there last season despite a move to the outfield that was supposed to put less pressure on Myers defensively and let him focus on his hitting, but there's still a lot to like about him, and a hot start to 2012 will have him banging on the door for a job in Kansas City. This isn't a Billy Butler situation where his power development is up in the air; every scout who watches Myers at the plate seems to come away thinking it'll be a question of when, not if, he starts depositing balls in seats on a regular basis. Fantasy Comp: Jermaine Dye

14. Michael Choice, OF, Oak: There's a lot of air in his swing, but he looks like a “classic” Moneyball-era A's hitter, with power and patience to spare. Oakland has too many OF options right now, but the picture becomes a lot clearer in 2013 which not-so-coincidentally is when Choice (and Grant Green) should be about ready. Fantasy Comp: Jay Buhner

15: Travis d'Arnaud, C, Tor: Yes, another catcher. Positional scarcity is no joke folks, and if you can snag productive young catchers cheap that's a lot fewer resources you have to spend at the draft or auction table going after an established stud backstop like Brian McCann. Plus, there are a lot of great catching prospects on the cusp of the majors at the moment, so now is the time to try and secure your future at the position straight through the middle of the decade. For the record I've put my money where my mouth is when it comes to having all these catchers listed so high, as I have Mesoraco, Grandal and d'Arnaud all on my RotoWire Staff Keeper League team's roster and in its farm system. As for the prospect at hand, d'Arnaud put together an outstanding Double-A campaign and like Mesoraco looks to be a very nice all-round catcher. Unlike the Reds' backstop d'Arnaud has young competition in the form of J.P. Arencibia, not to mention a couple of other catching prospects right behind him in the pipeline. He looks like the best of the bunch though, and with a 2013 ETA on tap and the possibility for a quicker call-up if Arencibia craters he could bring in a nice return. Fantasy Comp: Jason Varitek

16. Matt Adams, 1B, StL: Albert Pujols' departure leaves a large hole in the Cardinals lineup, so it's probably a good thing Adams has the build to fill large holes. Yeah, he's not the sveltest guy in the minors, but he's got big-time power and makes solid contact, and Lance Berkman isn't what you'd call a long-term solution at first base. He'll get some Triple-A seasoning in 2012, but he looks to be just about ready for prime time. Fantasy Comp: Mo Vaughn

17. Derek Norris, C, Oak: I just can't quit you, catching prospects. Norris has made huge strides defensively the last couple of seasons and no longer seems like a C/DH tweener. He'll be a batting average risk, but the power is real and if your roto league has replaced batting average with OBP as a category his potential value shoots way, way up, as he should be a walk machine. Fantasy Comp: Gene Tenace

18. Gary Brown, OF, SF: Brown looked really, really good last season, but he was a bit old for High-A which raises a couple of wee question marks. Still, he's got great speed, makes hard contact and can take a walk every now and then. The fact that he looks like he'll be a plus defender in center field just increases the chances he'll make a quick ascent up the ladder if he has no problems in Double-A. Fantasy Comp: Cesar Cedeno

19. Jedd Gyorko, 3B, SD: Gyorko has looked extremely polished since getting drafted, proving to be much better on defense than expected and having absolutely no problems smacking around pro pitching all the way up to Double-A. He could stand to draw more walks, and his ultimate power upside could be a bit limited, but the Padres haven't yet found a long-term solution at third base and Gyorko looks to be just about ready for the big leagues. He's also a bit under the radar as prospects go, which just decreases his price tag and increases his profit potential. Fantasy Comp: Edgardo Alfonzo

20. Zack Cozart, SS, Cin: He's not exactly an all-glove no-stick throwback shortstop, but Cozart's game definitely begins on defense. That's going to get him a big league job this season, but he shouldn't be useless at the plate, having the potential for modest power and speed with a batting average that won't hurt you. At a thin position that can be very useful production, so while he doesn't have the offensive upside of most of the guys below him on this list this is one case where a gift horse in the hand is worth two in the bush, or something along those lines. Fantasy Comp: Orlando Cabrera

21. Jean Segura, 2B/SS, LAA: The speed, solid line drive bat and defensive chops (the Angels tried converting him to shortstop last year with mostly positive results) make him a potential fantasy stud, and while he could be a couple of years away the Angels' current whippet infielders are getting expensive in arbitration or have expiring contracts, so there could be room for him sooner than you think. Last year's torn hamstring hopefully won't be a recurring issue. Fantasy Comp: Chone Figgins

22. Ryan Lavarnway, C, Bos: Remember when catching prospects who had real upside with their bats didn't grow on trees? Lavarnway's not going to be winning any Gold Gloves, but he's become just good enough defensively to get by, and he figures to provide a solid mix of batting average, power and on-base skills as soon as the second half of this season. Fantasy Comp: Mike Stanley

23. Tim Wheeler, OF, Col: When you put up a 30+ HR, 20+ SB season at Double-A, you get some attention. Wheeler's still rough around the edges in terms of plate discipline and base stealing skills, but the ability is there, and while Coors Field isn't quite the offense booster it was back in the day being a Rockies hitting prospect is still better than being a Padres hitting prospect when it comes to power numbers. Fantasy Comp: Jacque Jones

24. Wilin Rosario, C, Col: This time last year Rosario would have ranked a lot higher, but the longer he goes without learning to hit a breaking ball the further he'll slide down the prospect ranks. While he's not polished behind the plate he's got all the skills necessary to be a major league catcher, but offensively his power is the only thing he's bringing to the table right now. Fantasy Comp: Miguel Olivo

25. Jurickson Profar, SS, Tex: Profar would be almost at the top of any 'real' prospect list, and much as I love his combination of all-around talent and off-the-charts makeup, he's just too far from the majors to be of much use in leagues where you might have to decide whether to sign him to a long-term contract before he's even played a game in the majors. That said, prospects this good sometimes have a way of speeding up their timetables, and if the kid can walk more than he struck out as an 18-year-old in A-ball the sky's the limit on what he could be accomplishing at 20. Fantasy Scenario: Barry Larkin

26. Miguel Sano, 3B, Min: Another uberprospect showing up about 20 spots lower than you'd otherwise expect, Sano didn't even turn 18 until midseason and still swatted 20 homers. Of course he did that in Rookie ball, so he's got a long way to go before he's returning any value in the majors, but the offensive skill set is such that he could erupt at any moment and charge through a Twins system starving for offensive talent. Fantasy Scenario: Miguel Cabrera

27. Manny Machado, SS, Bal: Machado hit a bit of a bump in High-A as an 18-year-old, but a knee injury could be as much to blame as his inexperience. He appears to have the defensive skills to stick at shortstop and the stick to be among the best at that position, but given his age there are still a lot of directions his development could take, which makes the following Fantasy Comp a bit of a copout in that Trammell did a little bit of everything. Whatever path he takes though, he looks like he'll be a good 'un. Fantasy Comp: Alan Trammell

28. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cle: If catchers are the big thing right now, shortstops could be dominating this list next year. Lindor's barely got his feet wet in the pros after being drafted last season, but he's polished beyond his years and could move up the ladder quickly. His defense looks like it'll be better than his bat, but not by much as he might be a modest five category threat at his peak. Again, he's young and a lot could happen between now and the majors, but scouts are drooling. Fantasy Comp: Edgar Renteria

29. Xander Bogaerts, 3B?, Bos: He's a shortstop now, but unlike the guys just above him it seems almost certain that Bogaerts will outgrow the position, and even third base might be asking a bit much once he fills out. The offensive potential is another thing entirely though. He's got big-time power, and at least before he made a two-level jump last year showed he had a strong handle on the strike zone. This is not your typical overhyped Red Sox prospect. Fantasy Comp: Tim Salmon

30. Billy Hamilton, 2B?, Cin: Yes, there are questions about whether he can stick as a shortstop (I don't think he will) and whether he'll make enough contact/draw enough walks to make full use of his speed on the base paths in the majors, but still... 103 steals? Holy shneikies. Even if it takes him a couple of years to get to the majors, that's a potential fantasy payoff too huge to ignore. Fantasy Comp: Vince Coleman

31. Rymer Liriano, OF, SD: Liriano's propensity to fail miserably after a promotion is a bit disconcerting, but when he's comfortable he's got plus speed (although given his build he's expected to lose a step or two as he gets older), some power, and solid plate discipline. He's not an elite prospect and will probably be stuck in a corner outfield spot in the majors, but he's the kind of guy who could sneak up on you and suddenly start having very productive seasons before you realize it. Fantasy Comp: Marquis Grissom

32. Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Hou: Singleton is a kid who looks like he'll be a big-time power hitter, but aside from a first half eruption in 2010 as yet his size and pretty swing haven't translated into actual balls in seats. The potential is there for everything you'd want in a first baseman though, your traditional .300-30-100-100 slugger. Plus, the Astros have no one blocking his path (sorry, Brett Wallace fans, it's true), so if his power blossoms he could advance very quickly. It's still an 'if' though, and not a 'when'. Fantasy Comp: Adrian Gonzalez

33. Christian Yelich, OF, Mia: When the Marlins drafted Yelich most scouts threw around comps like Mark Grace or Casey Kotchman, sweet-swinging but power-challenged first baseman. The Fish saw something different in him though, as so far they look like they knew what they were on about, as a shift to left field saw Yelich both hit for more power than expected and steal an eye-popping 32 bases in 37 attempts. He has trouble against lefties, not a big surprise for a kid just beginning his development as a hitter, but the tool chest is obviously a lot more full than a lot of folks thought, and consequently the upside a lot higher. Fantasy Comp: Paul O'Neill

34. Hak-Ju Lee, SS, TB: While Reid Brignac and Tim Beckham are ahead of him on the Rays' depth chart, Lee looks like the guy most likely to be the team's long-term solution at shortstop. There are no questions about his defense, and his performance at High-A last year gave plenty of hope that he'll be a useful offensive player as well, providing gap power, some speed and good contact and plate discipline skills. The caveat here is Tampa's habit of taking their time in advancing their prospects, so given a traditional rotisserie contract format this may be a year early to draft him. Still, his glove could make him an exception to the Rays' rules. Fantasy Comp: Tony Fernandez

35. Zach Cox, 3B, StL: He's got Matt Carpenter ahead of him on the Cardinals' depth chart, not to mention World Series hero David Freese, but all three have fairly similar profiles at the plate (plus batting average with moderate power) and Cox seems to have the most upside, so I'm giving him the best chance to emerge from the muddle in the long term. He'll get another full year or so in the high minors to learn to hit lefties and smooth out the rough patches in his game, particularly on defense, and after that it's game on in the Great St. Louis Third Base Battle. Fantasy Comp: Jeff Cirillo

36. Starling Marte, OF, Pit: He got his career back on track in a big way at Double-A, adding some power to his arsenal along with his top-shelf speed. He also makes great contact, which is a good thing because he only takes a walk when he's forced to. The plate discipline issues may hold him back from reaching the full potential of his physical gifts, but from a fantasy perspective he's still got 20/20 or better upside. Fantasy Comp: Roberto Kelly

37. Joe Benson, OF, Min: He's got power/speed upside and a major league job waiting for him on a team desperate for offense, which is fine credentials for a list like this. He doesn't have a huge upside though, and contact issues could make for a tough adjustment to the majors (as was seen during his brief trial last year), so temper your expectations. Fantasy Comp: Marty Cordova

38. Mike Olt, 3B, Tex: He was looking pretty darn good last year before he broke his collarbone, and while Adrian Beltre looks immovable above him on the Rangers' depth chart Olt could be ready for the majors (and for a trade if necessary) pretty quickly. He looks like he'll be a better real-life player than a fantasy asset, supplying power, walks and plus defense at the hot corner with a wavering batting average, but that type of player can still have plenty of value. Fantasy Comp: Ron Cey

39. Anthony Gose, OF, Tor: Things I love in a fantasy prospect: 70 steals and 62 walks as a 20-year-old at Double-A. Yes, Gose strikes out a lot and still plays out of control too often, but a guy that can run and get on base consistently will always have a home on my squads. Gose also started to drive the ball with more authority last year, and while the development curve is never as predictable as we'd like Gose's is climbing nicely. Fantasy Comp: Brady Anderson

40. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B, Was: While having big league genes isn't a guarantee of big league success (see Tim Raines Jr.) Lombardozzi's skill set gives him the potential to not just match but surpass his dad's career. He's also got a shot some immediate value, as Ian Desmond's inability to hit could cost him his job sooner rather than later, moving Danny Espinosa to short and Lombardozzi into the starting lineup. He's got no power, but he makes regular contact, controls the strike zone well enough and can swipe his share of bases, which would make him a valuable enough contributor. Fantasy Comp: Bill Doran

41. George Springer, OF, Hou: He might need a little more development time than some college players, but he also features better pure athleticism than most college players so that's probably a wash. Springer has some contact issues which might hold down his batting average, but otherwise he's got a shot at being very productive in the other four categories while also supplying plus defense. Fantasy Comp: Torii Hunter

42. Grant Green, OF, Oak: A couple of years ago Green looked like he had a great future, but his failure to develop much plate discipline has dimmed his prospect status overall and the move from middle infield to the outfield cut into his fantasy value. He's still got upside as a guy who makes a lot of contact with solid power numbers, but it doesn't look like he'll be a stud. Fantasy Comp: Garret Anderson

43. Tyler Pastornicky, SS, Atl: He's the polar opposite of most of the shortstops above him on the ROI 100, a prospect with very limited upside but one who's going to be handed a starting job this year by the Braves unless he completely falls on his face in the spring. He does have a bit of potential to contribute in batting average and steals, which combined with the playing time makes him a viable pickup, but don't expect a long, glorious career. Fantasy Comp: Mike Caruso

44. Robbie Grossman, OF, Pit: Grossman re-tooled his swing and as a result restored the luster to his prospect status, busting out at High-A, carrying that momentum straight through the Arizona Fall League. He was drafted out of high school as a five-tool athlete, but scouts now seem to view him as more of a solid all-round player without any true plus tools. Normally that profile would make him a future fourth outfielder, but given his past pedigree, breakout year and outstanding batting eye I think he's got a better than usual chance to exceed those expectations and become a very useful starting outfielder. Fantasy Comp: Gary Matthews Sr.

45. Jake Marisnick, OF, Tor: He solidified his spot as the Jays' center fielder of the future last year, going from five-tool project to seven-skill prospect almost overnight. He's basically where Mike Trout was heading into last season, although his overall fantasy upside seems more limited both in terms of power and steals. If he continues to progress the way he did in 2011 Marisnick could occupy the spot on 2013 prospect lists that Trout does now, although ironically without Vernon Wells' contract blocking his path to playing time. Fantasy Comp: Amos Otis

46. Jonathan Schoop, 2B?, Bal: Another shortstop who'll probably have to switch positions as he grows up and fills out, Schoop put together a nice season at Low-A and held his own after a promotion to High-A. His best asset right now is outstanding contact skill which reflects in both his batting average and low K totals, but scouts are mixed on how much power he'll develop and what his eventual defensive home might be. If it's second base, so much the better for his fantasy value. Fantasy Comp: Kevin Seitzer

47. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atl: The guy who likely makes Pastornicky's tenure as the Braves shortstop a short one, Simmons is a defense-first prospect right now but he does show some flickers of potential on offense, mainly in batting average and with the possibility for a handful of steals. He's a potential future Gold Glover though and could jump through the system quickly, especially if Pastornicky looks badly overmatched. Fantasy Comp: Gary Templeton

48. Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Min: An elbow injury slowed down his development a bit last season, but Arcia still made very good contact after he returned. Plate discipline is the biggest issue for him, but even if he fails to get a handle on the strike zone he makes more than enough good, hard contact to get by, and he looks like a player who should develop at least solid power down the road. He'll be stuck as a left fielder though, so he'd better hit. Fantasy Comp: Al Oliver

49. Leonys Martin, OF, Tex: I waffled on including Martin, but in the end I figured Cespedes would get lonely if he were the only Cuban in the ROI. The Rangers signed Martin in the hopes that he would be the long-term center fielder that Julio Borbon isn't, but Martin's first season as a pro didn't exactly prove he'll be any better than Borbon. The defense is plus, but Martin's plate discipline eroded badly at Triple-A and he was ineffective on the base paths. The Rangers have little reason to rush him with both Borbon and Craig Gentry around, so seeing him begin the season back at Triple-A wouldn't be a surprise. At the same time, if Martin does show that he can be a useful top-of-the-order bat, he'll shove aside the other two pretty quickly. Fantasy Comp: Lance Johnson

50. Bubba Starling, OF, KC: I freely admit, this is the one hunch pick I allowed myself on the hitters list. By all accounts, Starling is an outstanding high school athlete, but he hasn't yet taken a pro at-bat and most observers think he's just too raw in terms of baseball skills to advance very quickly through the minors. A 2015 or even 2016 major league debut isn't of out the question, which makes him useless in formats where you'd have to sign him long-term heading into the 2014 season. And yet, there are enough scouting reports about his advanced approach at the plate that I think he could surprise and end up in High-A by the end of this year, which would significantly advance his timetable. Given his massive tool set (power, speed, defense, you name it and Bubba's got it) that makes him a guy I'm willing to go out on a limb for. Fantasy Comp: Andre Dawson