As baseball has entered the second half of the season and the trade deadline approaches, let’s take a look down on the farm. With potential deadline trades going through, many prospects may be on the move. To this point of the season here are some top performers from multiple levels of the minor leagues that in a few years may be fantasy mainstays:
Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds: This 21-year-old switch-hitting speedster is "quickly" becoming a household name among casual baseball fans, especially following the All-Star Futures Game on July 8. He is stealing bases at an alarming rate; totaling 109 steals through July 15 (the all-time minor league record is 145 stolen bases by Vince Coleman in 1983). Hamilton was called up to Double-A Pensacola during the MLB All-Star break after hitting .323/.413/.439 with 28 extra-base hits at High-A Bakersfield. He also has a knack for being a selective hitter, taking 50 walks. His speed is elite and his high batting average from both sides of the plate scream a comparison to Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes. The Reds have solid organizational depth at shortstop that may delay his arrival to the majors, but when he arrives Hamilton will be an exciting player to watch.
Starling Marte, OF, Pirates: Marte has excelled at every level in his minor league career and is knocking on the doorstep of PNC Park. A year after winning the Double-A Eastern League batting title, Marte has followed up this season at Triple-A by hitting .286/.349/.490. He has also developed his power, already hitting 10 home runs this season. He is a legitimate five-tool prospect as he is known for his athleticism in the field and speed. The Pirates have MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen entrenched in center field but Marte could move to a corner-outfield spot at the major league level.
Danny Hultzen, LHP, Mariners: The Mariners’ first-round pick from 2011 is cruising through the ranks. He dominated at Double-A Jackson this season posting an 8-3 record, a 1.19 ERA, and 79 strikeouts in 13 starts before earning a promotion to Triple-A Tacoma in June. The 6-foot-3 left-hander has a nice mix of pitch types with a solid fastball-changeup combo that is mixed with a slider. His three-quarter delivery is deceptive to hitters and is a similar motion to Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner. He is likely a future top of the rotation starter and considering that he’s been surrounded by talented pitchers in the upper levels of the Mariners’ system (James Paxton and Taijuan Walker), the future rotation in Seattle is shaping up nicely.
Wil Myers, OF, Royals: Another standout from the All-Star Futures Game, Myers converted from catcher and will likely be a right fielder in the future for the Royals. Between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, Myers is hitting .327/.404/.676 with 28 home runs and a monstrous 75 RBI. A right-handed hitter, he actually hits for a higher average against right-handed pitchers. The Royals have some of the best young hitting talent among MLB organizations currently and a relatively crowded outfield, but Myers is not far away from being a big-time player in the lineup.
Dylan Bundy, RHP, Orioles: Another obvious top prospect, during Bundy’s eight starts early this season at Low-A Delmarva, he did not allow an earned run in 30 innings of work. He has continued his success at High-A Frederick, with a 4-3 record, 3.11 ERA, and 42 strikeouts in 37.2 innings. At only 19 years old, the Orioles will likely let him spend a little extra time in the minors to make sure he is not rushed into the majors, but it will be difficult if he keeps performing at a high level. Ideally, Bundy will be the ace of the Orioles’ pitching staff in a few years, or maybe even sooner.
Following the excitement of the 2012 NBA Draft in New Jersey on Thursday (and the boos directed to Commissioner David Stern), teams and fans are infused with optimism they found a future star. Some of these draft picks are expected to contribute down the road, or way down the road (i.e. Knicks’ small forward Kostas Papanikolaou). The important question is, which of these rookies are going to be the 2012 fantasy additions to add to your team?
The most coveted fantasy rookie will be the (uni-browed) No. 1 overall pick, rebounding and shot-blocking beast, Hornets’ center Anthony Davis. Other top rookies were drafted to teams where their skill sets will lead to instant starts and significant playing time. I will outline a few players who should be considered when your league fantasy draft rolls around. Let’s hope my picks are as popular as Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver walking to the podium:
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F, CHA (2nd overall pick) – Kidd-Gilchrist was an integral part of the Kentucky team that won the NCAA championship this past fall. He just may be joining a less talented team than the one he played on in Lexington. MKG meet MJ. He averaged 11.7 points per game and 7.4 rebounds in his only season as a Wildcat. Those numbers seem small, but his presence was much more than the numbers. He can dominate in transition and is an NBA-ready defender who will grab a solid amount of rebounds. His scoring opportunities will be aplenty because the Bobcats simply do not have other heavy scoring options. MKG is an all-out “hustle” player, winner and leader that will be looked to immediately in Charlotte to improve on last year’s miserable team.
Bradley Beal, G, WAS (3rd overall pick) – Beal was the third of three straight SEC freshmen taken to lead off the draft. The 6-5, 202 shooting guard averaged 14.7 points per game at Florida this past season, shooting 44.5 percent from the field. He is known as a high-character person and the Wizards have needed that presence more than any team the past few years. Beal has been compared to Celtics’ shooting guard Ray Allen, as he’s a pure shooter who can spot up shots well, is great from the free-throw line and can knock down threes. His main playing competition is guard Jordan Crawford. John Wall is incredible at creating opportunities for teammates when he drives the lane, so Beal and his shoot shooting stroke are a better fit than Crawford, who needs to dominate the ball to be effective. Beal gives coach Randy Wittman a threat on the perimeter for Wall to set up and keep defenses from collapsing on Wall’s scoring in the lane.
Terrence Ross, G/F, TOR (8th overall pick) – Ross was taken a few picks higher Thursday than many experts were predicting. His skill set as a wing would have been too difficult for Toronto to pass on. At 6-7, he’s tall enough to slide over to small forward, a position he often played in college. The Raptors have a similar wing option in DeMar DeRozan, who thrives in transition and likely will lead to Ross beginning the season in a bench role. He averaged 16.4 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting 37.1 percent from three as a sophomore at Washington last season . The Raptors will definitely make use of his contributions from the perimeter and his role should grow as the season progresses. His defensive game is decent for a rookie and his all-around scoring ability will give him regular playing time from the start, and he should eventually play alongside DeRozan.
Marquis Teague, G, CHI (29th overall pick) – The speedy Teague set the tempo for the NCAA champion Kentucky Wildcats as a freshman last year. He averaged 10.0 points and 4.8 assists per game for the high-powered Wildcats. He’s known for his penetration in the lane and great court vision. He will be joining a Bulls team that will be without point guard Derrick Rose for a period of time due to his knee injury. The Bulls also reportedly may not bring back C.J. Watson, who filled in for Rose much of last season. That leaves the diminutive (5-11) John Lucas III and Teague as the only options at point guard, and the latter has the much higher ceiling (figuratively and literally). Teague’s experience playing with a boatload of talented teammates at Kentucky should only help his transition to the Bulls who have Luol Deng, Richard Hamilton and Carlos Boozer to handle the scoring load. He may have difficulty on defense against other NBA point guards but coach Tom Thibodeau will help develop that part quickly.