I know how much you loved verbal math problems on the S.A.T. along with your other painful high school and college memories. So add the next integer in this list: Buster Posey, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Trevor Bauer and ____?
Okay I will give you the full order and go back a few more years:
|2001 – Mark Prior (USC)|
|2002 – Khalil Greene (Clemson)|
|2003 – Rickie Weeks (Southern University)|
|2004 – Jered Weaver (Long Beach State)|
|2005 – Alex Gordon (Nebraska)|
Have the answer yet?
|2006 – Tim Lincecum (Washington)|
|2007 – David Price (Vanderbilt)|
|2008 – Buster Posey (Florida State)|
|2009 – Stephen Strasburg (San Diego State)|
|2010 – Bryce Harper (College of Southern Nevada)|
|2011 – Trevor Bauer (UCLA)|
Okay, surely you have the answer now but there is a terrific point to be made here about the Golden Spikes Award which is awarded each year to the best amateur baseball player in the United States. The award was created by USA Baseball and sponsored by the MLBPA and first presented in 1978 (yes, Bob Horner, Arizona State). And the award has always been given to a college baseball player.
So the answer (to put some of you out of your misery) was 2012.
And the Golden Spikes winner in 2012 was drafted in June by the Seattle Mariners and just voted by fellow Arizona Fall League players as the hitter there most likely to reach the Majors first – Mike Zunino, out of Florida (also a winning answer to the original question). Given the quality and major league careers of those players (and almost every single one going back to Horner) you would be well advised to add the winners and possibly some in contention for the award to your minor league picks for fantasy leagues.
Now onto a discussion of the top performers at the 2012 Arizona Fall League. First, my top players are in the context of fantasy player scouting, so a player like Josh Prince (OF, MIL) who might be a very good third or fourth major league outfielder won’t gain you any fantasy points for playing good defense and hitting for a very good AVG without much run production with it (although in deep enough leagues, the stolen bases IF he plays every day AND is allowed to run would be helpful).
Let’s do the top AFL players by positions:
C – Mike Zunino (SEA) - Likely of all these players to get the most MLB at-bats this year, allowing the Mariners to upgrade the catching defense and move Jesus Montero to his best position – DH.
1B – Jonathan Singleton (HOU) - Despite running out of gas thus tailing AFL numbers, should be in the mix for the now AL Astros
3B – Anthony Rendon (WAS) - Although 1) he will likely have to change positions and 2) health is one skill Rendon does not have
SS –Nick Franklin (SEA) - Although personally I wonder if he might not be moved to second base IF Justin Smoak and/or Mike Carp can’t carry 1B for the Mariners and they move Dustin Ackley to first. Otherwise, Franklin has to wait for Brendan Ryan to go away.
OF – Billy Hamilton (CIN) - Although I don’t think we see him in Cincinnati until late in the year at the earliest (injuries aside). Hamilton needs work in the outfield at Triple-A.
OF – George Springer (HOU) - Excellent pure hitter who will have double-digit HR and SB once he arrives
OF – Rymer Liriano (SD) - Terrific long-term potential (i.e. shouldn’t be up for a year or two)
OF/3B – Nick Castellanos (DET) - At least for now moved to the outfield by the Tigers because he is blocked at third by the MVP but could easily move back for another team. While Castellanos had a disappointing AFL campaign, he was likely trying to do too much. Still a great long-term bet.
None of the good starting pitchers should be considered for 2013 rosters (unless Kyle Gibson starts for the Twins) but there WERE more good pitchers this year than on recent AFL rosters, but those will be discussed along with some deeper players to watch for fantasy purposes in AL/NL-only leagues in my Platinum article to be published in the next week.