Fantasy baseball

The 2015 baseball season is over and owners across the fantasy world are either licking their wounds or clearing space on the mantle for the new trophy. But if you play in keeper or dynasty leagues it’s never too early to start preparing for the 2016 season. If you need an incentive, look no further than the amazing crop of future All-Stars that made their major league debuts this year. Then quit feeling sorry for yourself and get crackin.’

You should already know about Blake Snell, but if not, research “Baseball America 2015 Minor League Player of the Year” and you’ll soon realize he’ll be the top-ranked southpaw prospect entering 2016. Snell simply dominated batters over three minor league levels, finishing with a combined 1.41 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 134 innings pitched. He should be a fixture in the Rays’ rotation by mid-season. Equally intriguing might be Pittsburgh pitcher Tyler Glasnow. Like Snell, the 6-foot-8 Glasnow rose through three levels of the minors in 2015, closing out the year at AAA Indianapolis. His walk rate is still a bit high but the powerful righty struck out better than 11 batters per nine innings pitched in 2015 and his ERA improved with each step of his climb through the minors.

Lucas Giolito was a consensus top-10 prospect entering 2015 and his rating is likely to rise even further for 2016. The Washington Nationals picked him in the first round of the 2012 draft, even though they knew the then high school senior would require Tommy John surgery. Judging from his current ability to hit triple-digits on the radar gun, the surgery was successful. The 20-year-old has yet to pitch above the AA level, but he has the size, composure and nasty fastball of a future major league ace. The Nats are noted for being cautious with young pitchers, but Giolito should have an immediate impact upon his arrival in the majors. Be ready.

One of the more intriguing developing stories has to be phenom Julio Urias. The Dodgers signed the then 16-year-old Urias during the same Mexican scouting trip that brought them Yasiel Puig. Although afflicted with an impaired left eye, the 6-foot-2 lefty vaulted through the Dodgers’ system in 2015. Granted, he got hammered during his short introduction to AAA batters, but don’t let that sway your opinion. Instead, focus on the stellar strikeout-walk ratio of nearly 5:1 he posted in AA. Like Giolito, his arrival to the majors may take a while but he is a star in the making.

Colorado Rockies’ prospect Trevor Story can play 2B, SS and 3B. Third baseman Nolan Arenado is already a superstar and the Rockies owe Jose Reyes $22M for each of the next three. All of this means that DJ LeMehieu should be watching the rear-view mirror. Story split the 2015 season between AA and AAA levels, finishing with a combined 70 extra-base hits, including 20 homers, with 80 RBI and a .514 SLG. Still not convinced? He also stole 20 bases for the third consecutive year.

Joey Gallo has garnered most of the attention in the Texas Rangers organization but outfielder Nomar Mazara might be a better overall prospect. The Rangers signed Mazara as an international free agent in 2012, coughing up a $5M signing bonus to do so. While he doesn’t possess the raw power of Gallo – few do – he’s already shown he can man right field capably. Figure in Mazara’s combined AA-AAA slash line of .296/.366/.443 at age 20 and a budding middle-of-the-order player begins to appear.

Others to consider:

Yoan Moncada, Boston: The Red Sox invested $31.5M to sign Moncada and he stole 49 bases in only 81 games of A-ball in 2015.

J.P. Crawford, Philadelphia: The 20-year-old has a career minor league OBP of .380, and the speed to regularly steal 20+ bases.

Alex Reyes, St. Louis: The next great Cardinals’ arm, Reyes has three plus pitches, including a fastball that touches 100 mph.

Trea Turner, Washington: Turner struggled during his 2015 cup of coffee with the Nats, but hit .322 with 29 SB in the minors. Additionally, incumbent Washington SS Ian Desmond’s stock plummeted in 2015.