Bryant headlines list of Top 10 fantasy prospects
Cubs slugger has most potential for production in the bigs despite start in Minors
Every week, the MLBPipeline.com crew will rank the top 10 fantasy baseball prospects in the Minor Leagues. These rankings are based solely on expected 2015 fantasy production in the Major Leagues, in contrast to the MLBPipeline Top 100 Prospects list, which reflects long-term value in all phases of the game.
We went 15 deep in our preseason fantasy prospect rankings, and that still wasn't enough to cover every promising youngster who could produce in the big leagues this season. Here are five unranked players who made Opening Day rosters and have fantasy upside, listed in order of 2015 value:
Jake Lamb, 3B, D-backs
When Arizona realized what other teams did -- that Yasmany Tomas has no shot to play third base -- it paved the way for Lamb at the hot corner. He obviously won't keep up his 54-homer, 378-RBI pace, but the 2014 Double-A Southern League batting champ and MVP Award winner can hit for average and power.
Ryan Rua, OF, Rangers
The only player to be drafted out of NCAA Division II Lake Erie (Ohio), Rua went from the 17th round in 2011 to the big leagues in 2014. He has matured from a masher into an all-around hitter who could hit .270 with 15 homers if he holds onto Texas' left-field job. Rua is off to a 1-for-11 start with seven strikeouts, though he did break up Sonny Gray's no-hitter on Opening Day.
Michael Taylor, OF, Nationals
Taylor made his big league debut last season, when he broke out by hitting .304/.390/.526 with 23 homers and 37 steals in the Minors. That power/speed combo makes Taylor enticing, and he's getting a chance to show what he can do with Denard Span out with an abdominal injury.
Devon Travis, 2B, Blue Jays
Acquired from the Tigers in exchange for Anthony Gose in November, Travis became Toronto's Opening Day second baseman when Maicer Izturis went down with a groin strain. A career .323/.388/.487 hitter in the Minors, he brings much more to the table offensively than Izturis, and he homered on Opening Day.
Christian Bethancourt, C, Braves
Bethancourt's best tool is his cannon arm, which is meaningless for fantasy purposes, and he'll lose some at-bats with A.J. Pierzynski. But he makes consistent contact and should deliver decent numbers for a catcher (.250 with a few homers and steals).
And with the Minor Leagues set to begin play on Thursday, here's an updated top 10 list of fantasy prospects:
1. Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs (preseason rank: 1)
Bryant led the Minors with 43 homers in his first full pro season and posted a 1.037 OPS in Triple-A during the second half, and he's back in Iowa mostly to delay his future free agency until 2021. He'll be up soon enough, however, and he'll be the best rookie in baseball despite the late start.
2. Rusney Castillo, OF, Red Sox (preseason rank: 3)
An oblique injury and Boston's outfield surplus combined to send Castillo to Triple-A Pawtucket to begin the season. But the Red Sox gave him a $72.5 million contract last August so he could provide instant speed and pop, so he should be their right fielder before too long.
3. Carlos Rodon, LHP, White Sox (preseason rank: 15)
Rodon is on the Chris Sale express path to U.S. Cellular Field, though the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 Draft won't arrive quite as quickly. Currently at Triple-A Charlotte, he has the plus fastball and wipeout slider to bolster Chicago's rotation as soon as he fine-tunes his command.
4. Yasmany Tomas, OF, D-backs (preseason rank: 6)
Tomas' well-above-average power earned him a $68.5 million contract in November, but Arizona has yet to figure out how to get him into its lineup. Once he hits a few homers at Triple-A Reno, he'll push David Peralta out of the Diamondbacks' left-field job.
5. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Angels (preseason rank: 12
Traded twice for All-Star second basemen (Dee Gordon, Howie Kendrick) on the same day at the Winter Meetings, Heaney cost himself a chance to make the Los Angeles rotation with a shaky spring. But he finished with 5 1/3 no-hit innings against the Dodgers, putting him in line for a promotion from Triple-A Salt Lake when the Angels need a fifth starter in mid-April. He has the polish and solid stuff to reach double digits in wins with a respectable ERA and WHIP as a rookie.
6. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets (preseason rank: 14)
Call up Syndergaard sooner rather than later. He has premium stuff and strike-throwing ability, and there's nothing left for him to prove at Triple-A Las Vegas after leading the Pacific Coast League in strikeouts there a year ago.
7. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (preseason rank: unranked)
Lindor is just 21 and has played only 38 games above Double-A, so Cleveland remains committed to giving him more time at Triple-A Columbus. That still doesn't change the fact that he's a better all-around player than Jose Ramirez, and Lindor will hit for average with possible double-digit steal and homer totals if he gets a chance in the big leagues.
8. Maikel Franco, 3B/1B, Phillies (preseason rank: 13)
Franco didn't hit much during his September callup or Spring Training, so he's back at Triple-A Lehigh Valley to begin 2015. Franco could lead Philadelphia in homers and RBIs as a rookie if the club trades Ryan Howard or moves Cody Asche to the outfield.
9. Alex Meyer, RHP, Twins (preseason rank: unranked)
Meyer's big league debut has yet to happen because he had shoulder fatigue last September and had trouble finding the strike zone this spring. Meyer may be back with Triple-A Rochester after topping the International League in strikeouts there in 2014, but he has by far better pure stuff than any of Minnesota's big league starters.
10. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (preseason rank: unranked)
Baseball's best prospect played in just 30 games last year because of injuries to both wrists and a concussion. However, Buxton is so talented that scouts continue to compare him to Mike Trout, and Buxton could jump from Double-A Chattanooga to Minnesota in a hurry.
Dropped out: Hector Olivera, 2B, Dodgers (No. 7).