Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
I'm playing the "futures market" in one of my fantasy baseball leagues. By that I mean my bench is filled with guys who can't help me now, but could be big in a couple months.
They can't help my current lineup because they aren't yet on a major league roster. They are still learning and refining their craft at the minor league level.
There are a number of quality minor leaguers who are sure to be called up by June and could make a big difference for your fantasy roster.
Let's look at a few of the players "down on the farm" who could help fantasy owners sooner rather than later. They are worth keeping an eye on and plucking from the waiver wire when they become available in your league.
George Springer, Houston - The 24-year-old probably should have started the season in the Astros' outfield. Houston doesn't figure to be looking for a playoff run this season, but when it does, it will be with Springer leading the way. He hit 37 home runs and knocked in 108 last season in the minors and he's a sure-fire star in the making.
Byron Buxton, Minnesota - The second overall pick of the 2012 draft, this 20- year-old is a can't-miss prospect. Not yet a power hitter, he's a speedster who stole 55 bases in the minors last season. When he fills out, he'll be capable of 20-25 homers to go along with those high steal totals. What fantasy owner wouldn't want a 20-50 guy. You get extra credit if you can name the last major leaguer with 20 homers and 50 steals in the same season? Answer at the bottom of the page.
Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs - There aren't many shortstops with 30-home run power, but Baez appears to have that ability. In fact, he hit 37 in two minor league stops last year. He might end up playing second base depending on Starlin Castro's performance, but either way he should be up with the big club pretty soon. A middle infielder with power is fantasy gold.
Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs - The hot corner prospect has the tools to be an All-Star. The No. 2 overall selection of the 2013 draft, Bryant probably won't reach the majors until the end of the year ... at the soonest. When he gets there, however, you will want him on your roster. In three minor league stops last season, Bryant hit a homer every 14.2 at-bats. That translates to 35 homers in a 500 at-bat season. And he's just 22.
Archie Bradley, Arizona - When Patrick Corbin went down for the season, Bradley was the most likely candidate to replace him, but likely for financial reasons he was sent to the minors. He won't be there long because Bradley has major league stuff. He went 14-5 with a 1.84 ERA, 1.211 WHIP and 162 strikeouts in 152 innings in two minor league stops. He walks a few too many, but stash him on your roster if you can, he'll be a star.
Maikel Franco, Philadelphia - The Phillies have a need for a power hitting third baseman and Franco could be the long-term answer. He hit 31 homers with 103 RBI last season and could replace Cody Asche on the big club if the incumbent doesn't get off to a good start this season.
Marcus Stroman, Toronto - There was a chance Stroman would stick with the Blue Jays when they broke camp, but in the end he was sent down. That shouldn't be for long. Stroman went 9-5 with a 3.30 ERA, 1.128 WHIP and 129 Ks in 111 innings last season. One look at the Blue Jays rotation tells you there is an opportunity if he starts well at Triple-A Buffalo this spring.
This plan only working if you have a strong and healthy starting lineup to keep you in the race until June, but if you do, claiming a few of these players could put you over the top.