This ranking of the top 50 fantasy baseball prospects for 2014 is intended to predict value for this season only, giving no weight to potential in 2015 and beyond. As such, consideration was given for probability of time in the major leagues as well as each player's current perceived ability to contribute in fantasy leagues.
For your convenience, we have aggregated selected insight from Keith Law's Top 100 baseball prospects (which ranks prospects for their career potential in both offensive and defensive contributions), Top 20 impact rookies, organizational rankings and various other sources. We have also laid out each prospect's path to the major leagues this season. All these elements helped inform the rankings process.
Here's our consensus staff ranking of the top 50 fantasy prospects for 2014. Note that they are listed at the position at which they are expected to play the most this season, which may differ from the eligibility they've earned in ESPN's fantasy game.
1. Masahiro Tanaka, SP, New York Yankees
This was the most transparent move of the entire offseason. The Yankees had a tremendous need to add a pitcher of Tanaka's caliber and were suffering from "post-traumatic Red Sox disorder" as ownership watched its archrival win another World Series title. Tanaka should help in all four starting pitching categories, particularly in strikeouts, as his disappearing splitter is going to generate some ugly swings and misses when he is ahead in the count.
From Keith Law's Jan. 22 article on Tanaka: "Tanaka isn't Yu Darvish, an unfair comparison based more on their country of origin than their stuff or builds. Tanaka is still a very good pitcher when judged on his own merits, with a fastball in the low 90s that was trending up as 2013 went on, hitting 98 mph in a few outings late in the year. His best pitch is a splitter in the low-to-mid 80s with good bottom, a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and his mid-80s slider will flash above-average to plus, as he's improved that pitch substantially since I saw him before the WBC in 2009. ... I think he'll be the Yankees' best starter in 2014 and one of the top 20-25 starters in the league."
2. Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox
There were 12 first basemen who hit at least 25 home runs in 2011. Last season, that total was halved as only Chris Davis, Edwin Encarnacion, Prince Fielder, Paul Goldschmidt, Brandon Moss and Mark Trumbo did so. Abreu represents the best of the new blood at the position and has the potential to join that sextet in 2014, as his raw power and U.S. Cellular Field are a perfect match. Thirty home runs as well as 80-plus runs and RBIs is a real possibility for this powerhouse.
From Keith Law's Top 20 impact prospects for 2014: "If I included them on my rankings, Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu would be 1-2 on this list; both are older, more experienced players than the kids ranked in this Top 20, and I think both will have an immediate impact in the majors, making the AL Rookie of the Year competition this year extremely fierce."