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Although some of the guys below might not open the year with the big club, you’re definitely going to want to target these young guns in your drafts. Especially if you’re in a deeper league with ample bench space, drafting these prospects that could make a huge splash seems more beneficial than drafting an uninspiring player who will likely never see the time of day in your stacked lineup.

J.P. Crawford

Crawford likely has the best chance of opening the year with the big club, as the Phillies need a shortstop and he’s a young player with a bright future. He’s smooth defensively, which will give him a longer leash, should his bat suffer a slow start to the 2018 season. He didn’t impress offensively in 23 games with the club last year, hitting just .214, but he did walk 16 times in 23 games, leading to a .356 on-base percentage.

Even at just 23 years of age, he’s proven to have an advanced approach, all while drawing plenty of walks and limiting strikeouts. Sure, his punch outs jumped to 25.3 percent in 23 big league games last season, but if you look at his time in the minors, his strikeout percentage hovered around 12 percent, and that number slightly jumped to around 16 in Triple-A. However, his walk rate remained similar and should be a reliable source of OBP in fantasy leagues this season.

For the counting stats that us fantasy owners salivate over, he should hit around 10 home runs with right around 10 steals as well. He’ll develop with time, but hitting in front of Carlos Santana and Rhys Hoskins is surely enticing.

Michael Kopech

Kopech is Nate Miller’s guy, so make sure you check out the Fantasy Alarm Offseason Baseball Podcast where Miller provides all the relevant information on his preferred pitcher for the upcoming season. Kopech has wipeout stuff and given the lack of talent on the Chicago roster, he could break camp with the team. However, I don’t think that will happen, because he likely has an innings cap of around 155-160 innings this season. Nevertheless, it won’t be long until we see the fireballer in the bigs.

Sure, he reportedly hit 105 miles per hour on the radar gun, but that’s not the only reason you want him on your squad. In Double-A last season, he notched an 11.69 K/9, albeit a 4.53 BB/9. Much like a guy later in this article, command may be an issue for the majority of his career, but it’s encouraging that the BB/9 dipped to 3.00 in Triple-A, albeit in only three starts (15 innings).

The opposition isn’t going to take him yard too often, and when he isn’t striking guys out, he does a good job of keeping the baseball on the ground. There’s a lot of young talent in Chicago, headlined by Kopech and Yoan Moncada. The latter will be off the board well before the former, but the flamethrower could prove to be more valuable in 2018. At the very least, Kopech will give you a huge boost in the strikeout department.

Brent Honeywell

Kopech was Nate Miller’s guy, but honey, well, this guy is my dude for the 2018 season. Brent Honeywell is going to be a fantasy league winner this season. Yeah, I said it. MARK IT DOWN. January 12th, 2018 is the day that I, Colby Conway, proclaimed that Honeywell will be on a ton of playoff and championship teams.

Honeywell has a repeatable delivery and looks effortless on the mound. He can get the opposition out with numerous pitches, but come on, how can you not get excited about a guy that throws a screwball!? Honeywell and his screwball have ascended the ranks of the minors with little resistance and he’s seen a significant jump in strikeouts in recent years, while maintaining a walk rate well under three batters per nine. He’s topped out around 123 innings in a given season, likely capping him at around 155-160 for the upcoming season. He could win a job out of a camp, but check out the podcast where I explain that it certainly isn’t the worst thing if he opens the year down in Triple-A.

His FIP has remained low in the minors, showcasing that his stuff is legit and he could easily headline the Tampa Bay rotation shortly after his promotion this season, especially if Chris Archer is actually traded out of town.

This season, you can expect nearly a strikeout per inning, while limiting walks, which will be a great benefit to your fantasy team’s ratios. How high am I on Honeywell? Well, he’s one of three players that I’m attempting to draft in every fantasy league.

Ronald Acuna

If you’re new to Fantasy Alarm or are just starting your fantasy baseball research for the season, you’ll quickly realize that I’m attempting to have 100 percent exposure to Acuna this fantasy season. He mashed in the Arizona Fall League and joined the 20/40 club last season across three different minor league affiliates. He was caught stealing 20 times, so he will need to improve in that department.

There is a vacancy in the Atlanta outfield and Nate Miller’s Braves would be foolish not to give the 20-year-old every opportunity to win the job. He’s smooth in the box, and can generate power without visibily overexerting himself. In Double-A and Triple-A last season, he hit over .325, with an OBP and slugging percentage north of .370 and .515 respectively. The earlier your fantasy draft the better, because when he erupts in early spring training, he’s going to shoot up the draft boards.

Tyler Glasnow

Like Acuna, I’ve mentioned Glasnow in recent weeks, but how could I not again this week? Check out last week’s article for some additional information on Glasnow, but I’ll say this again about the lanky right-hander; He has elite stuff and one could argue that his ceiling is among the highest in the game among younger pitchers. Glasnow has dealt with his fair share of struggles at the big league level, mostly due to command issues, but these tall pitchers sometimes deal with control issues. At 80 inches tall (roughly 6-foot-7), it’s hard to have everything perfectly in sync on every pitch.

In terms of numbers, he checks all the boxes. He’s just 24 years old, posted a career 11.9 K/9 in the minors and a 1.07 WHIP. The 4.2 BB/9 isn’t ideal, but he still notched a 2.02 ERA in the minors with that mark, and there are pitchers in the majors who have success despite dealing with some command issues. Ray Searage will continue to work with the right-hander and I might be going out on a limb with Glasnow, but this is the year. You’re going to want this guy. Remember that.

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