Editor's note: A lot has changed since we originally posted this on March 10. Some top prospects (Oakland's Chris Carter, Mike Stanton, Ike Davis) have been sent down, some others (Gaby Sanchez, Michael Brantley, Jonathan Niese) have jumped up and grabbed key roles on their big league squads, while a handful of lower-level prospects (Juan Francisco, Mike Leake, Allen Craig) have made surprisingly strong bids to make the team. Thus, Jason is back with an "end of camp" update -- in italics -- on each Top 100 option, addressing any potential changes.
The objective is to win now.
Most prospect lists take the "long" view, looking at a player's potential over the next few seasons. This list doesn't. It has a different purpose, a narrower scope. I'm examining the players most likely to help your team this season. I'm not even considering 2011.
This set of rankings is going to look markedly different from others. Much of what I did in assembling it is project playing time, because that's what it's all about. If I didn't see any scenarios in which a player will get at-bats this season, then he didn't make this list, because he's of no use to you non-keeper-league owners. For example, I love Dustin Ackley's swing as much as the next person, but I don't think Ackley is going to replicate Gordon Beckham's quick ascension to the majors. Ackley is looking at getting maybe some September at-bats, and that's all, so I couldn't justify putting him among this group. For comparison sake, Jason Heyward (this year's No. 1 prospect) didn't make this list last year. I still expected big things from Heyward, but because he wasn't expected to reach the big leagues, he had little value in single-season formats.
So if you're scanning the list below and wondering where the Rangers' Martin Perez is, there's your answer. Arizona's Adam LaRoche has been a pretty consistent, durable player in his career, so no Brandon Allen either. Allen's talent might warrant inclusion, but he's blocked at first base for now.
Keith Law's Top 100
Keith Law ranks the overall top 100 major league prospects. To see the first 25, click here.
If you're looking for standard prospect ratings, Keith Law's Top 100 prospect rankings might be more to your liking. But for fantasy purposes, playing time is the key, and all kinds of unpredictable variables determine which players will ascend to the big leagues and when. Sometimes it's because of injuries to big league starters, or maybe there's just a spot open for a minor leaguer to step up. Nobody saw Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee coming last season, but sometimes players happen into an unforeseen opportunity and take advantage of it. As such, some of the players at the bottom of this list shouldn't necessarily be considered "top prospects," but because they have a chance to get some playing time, I address them so you know what to expect.