Top 20 fantasy prospects for 2012 

September, 19, 2011
09/19/11
4:05
PM ET
While some of you owners are plugging away to finish off your title run this week, many of you are already looking ahead to next season. Whether you're getting a head start on your competition or planning your title defense, it's important to learn a little about those prospects who could make a splash in 2012.

While most prospect lists rank players for their value over the long haul, this one has a narrower frame of reference. This set of rankings projects prospect value strictly on potential fantasy contributions for the 2012 season, not 2013 or any seasons beyond that. Thus, you won't find potential down-the-road stars such as Manny Machado here. There's a difference between the best prospects overall and the best prospects for the six-month timeframe that is the 2012 season. It's why players such as Ben Revere (32 steals), Jordan Walden (31 saves), Cory Luebke (3.27 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings, No. 44-ranked starting pitcher on our Player Rater) and J.P. Arencibia (23 homers), all made last year's "Top 20 prospects for 2011" over players with more long-term upside.

As such, don't get too hung up on the particular rankings at this stage; focus instead on the players themselves. Things will change based on offseason roster moves (trades, free-agent signings) as major league teams reshape their rosters for next season. New opportunities will open up for some players and close for others. This is just a snapshot based on how things look right now, well before Opening Day 2012. Projected playing time is obviously the key for fantasy purposes, and who gets a shot in 2012 depends on a variety of factors, such as team needs, injuries, performance or sometimes just being in the right place at the right time. For example, Brett Lawrie became a bigger presence on our 2011 radar screen after his offseason trade from Milwaukee to Toronto.

To see Jason's full list of top 20 prospects for the 2012 season, you must be an ESPN Insider.

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