Who is the Number 1 Fantasy Outfield Prospect in 2013?

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Ray Guilfoyle takes a look at three outfield prospects who could be considered the top fantasy outfield prospect in 2013.

Over at Fake Teams, Jason Hunt has been publishing his early prospect position rankings, and recently he posted his Early Top 20 Fantasy Outfield Prospects for 2013. Jason ranked Royals outfield prospect Wil Myers as his No.1 fantasy outfield prospect for next year, just ahead of Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras. One could argue that Tavaras is the better outfield prospect and I wouldn't disagree.

But is there another, better choice, for the No. 1 fantasy outfield prospect for 2013? How about the minor league record holder in stolen bases, Reds outfield prospect Billy Hamilton? I was trading emails with another fantasy owner on Friday night while watching the Cardinals tremendous comeback to beat Bryce Harper and the Nationals on Friday night, and he asked if Hamilton is the better option than Myers or Taveras. HIs reasoning was that he could steal 100 bases in the big leagues. My response was "I am not sure if he can hit enough to steal 100 bases".

Here are their minor league stats, courtesy of Baseball-Reference:

Wil Myers

Year Age Tm Lg Lev G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 21 2 Teams 2 Lgs AAA-AA 134 522 98 164 26 6 37 109 61 140 .314 .387 .600 .987 313
2012 21 Northwest Arkansas TL AA 35 134 32 46 11 1 13 30 16 42 .343 .414 .731 1.146 98
2012 21 Omaha PCL AAA 99 388 66 118 15 5 24 79 45 98 .304 .378 .554 .932 215
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/14/2012.

Myers was named the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year in September, capping a monster 2012 season for him. He was limited due to injuries in 2011, and some questioned his top prospect status as his numbers were below expectations in 2011. But he showed he was in good health with a solid Arizona Fall League campaign in 2011 , and regained his prospect status. Many, including me, felt that he could be a mid-season call up in 2012, but Dayton Moore and the rest of the Royals front office thought otherwise, allowing Myers to feast on AA and AAA pitching for the whole season. If not for the August home run surge from Phillies prospect Darren Ruf, Myers would have lead all minor leagues in home runs this season.

Myers proved that he could handle more advanced pitching in AAA, hitting 24 HRs, scoring 66 runs and driving in 79 runs in less than 400 at bats in the Pacific Coast League this season. With the move to AAA, his strikeout rate dropped from 27.6% to 22.3%, while his walk rate remained relatively constant.

I would be shocked if he does not start the 2013 season in the big leagues. The Royals are looking to improve their rotation this offseason, so assuming the Royals go the trade route to obtain a starting pitcher could open up a roster spot for Myers to show off his talents to Royals fans for the next 5 - 6 years.

Oscar Taveras

Year Age Tm Lg Lev G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 20 Springfield TL AA 124 477 83 153 37 7 23 94 42 56 .321 .380 .572 .953 273
Prorvided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/14/2012.

Oscar Taveras had an excellent season at AA Springfield in 2012, terrorizing Texas League pitching by triple slashing .321-.380-.572 with 23 HRs, 83 runs, 94 RBI while displaying a solid eye at the plate as evidenced by his 56-42 strikeout to walk rate in 477 at bats. Earning comparisons to former All Star Vladimir Guerrero, Taveras' free swinging at the plate has yet to hurt him in the batting average or power department.

I see him advancing to AAA to start the 2013 season, as the Cardinals are a team that does not rush their prospects, and their outfield is full with the likes of Matt Holliday in left field, John Jay in center field and Carlos Beltran in right field. I could see Taveras staying in AAA for the whole season, with a possible call up if one of their starting outfielders gets hurt.

Billy Hamilton

Year Age Tm Lg Lev G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 21 2 Teams 2 Lgs A+-AA 132 512 112 159 22 14 2 45 155 37 86 113 .311 .410 .420 .830 215
2012 21 Bakersfield CALL A+ 82 337 79 109 18 9 1 30 104 21 50 70 .323 .413 .439 .852 148
2012 21 Pensacola SOUL AA 50 175 33 50 4 5 1 15 51 16 36 43 .286 .406 .383 .789 67
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/14/2012.

Hamilton quite possibly was the most exciting minor league hitter this season, as he showed off his speed almost every chance he had in 2012. Not only did he steal 155 bases to break the minor league record for stolen bases in one season, but he lead, not one, but TWO leagues in stolen bases, despite not playing a full season at either level.
Lost behind the stolen base record is the fact that Hamilton improved his batting eye at the plate, which is probably more important than the stolen base record.

Hamilton improved his walk rate at each level in 2012. In Low A in 2011, Hamilton walked in 8.5% of his at bats, while striking out at a 21.8% rate. He started the 2012 season in High A, where he improved his walk rate to 12.8%, while reducing his strikeout rate to 17.9% in 337 at bats. He was promoted to AA at midseason, where his walk rate improved again, from 12.8% (in High A) to 16.9% in 175 at bats. His strikeout rate jumped from 17.9% to 20.2% with the promotion, but the walk rate is something that could put him on the fast track to the big leagues.

Hamilton is learning a new position in the Arizona Fall League this month, as the Reds have moved him off shortstop to center field. Should he look good in center, while not impacting his performance at the plate, I could see him getting a late season call up to the big leagues. But, moving off shortstop to center field is certainly no small task, so keeping him in AA/AAA for all of 2013 is probably the best idea. The Reds have grown tired of Drew Stubbs lack of plate discipline despite his gold glove center field play, so Hamilton has an opportunity to be the Reds leadoff hitter and starting center fielder in 2014.

So, Minor League Ball faithful, who is your No.1 outfield prospect for 2013?
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