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2022 Fantasy Baseball Prospects: Top 10 at first base includes Spencer Torkelson, Triston Casas and Seth Beer

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The minor leagues are about stretching limitations. The major leagues are about concealing limitations.

Hence the disparity at first base. What’s traditionally regarded as a repository for big bats is typically lacking in big prospects. Confining someone so young to a position so inflexible is a concession of sorts and generally points to a lack of athleticism that could make the whole endeavor go belly-up.

It’s only after that overextended third baseman, outfielder or whatever reaches the majors that he migrates to the cold corner. And once he’s there, he can stick around a long time, ensuring the position never endures a real drought period.

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But when prospect hunting, yeah, the first basemen are in short supply. The most plodding of plodders pigeonholed there from the get-go can sometimes have real sleeper appeal since we ultimately only care about the numbers they put up, but their defensive limitations do give them a narrow path to playing time.

Having said that, the top two on this list are about as can’t-miss as it gets.

Top prospects: Catcher

Note: This list is intended for a variety of Fantasy formats and thus weighs short-term role against long-term value. Not all of these players will contribute in 2022 — most, in fact, will not — but among prospects, they’re the names Fantasy Baseballers most need to know.

1. Spencer Torkelson, Tigers

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2021: high Class A, Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: .267 BA (431 AB), 30 HR, .935 OPS, 77 BB, 114 K

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He needed some time to adjust to each level, suppressing his batting average a bit, but by tearing through basically the entire minor-league system in his first professional season, the top pick in 2020 nonetheless lived up to the billing. He ditched playing third base upon reaching Triple-A, making for one less hurdle on his way to becoming a middle-of-the-lineup force.

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2021: Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: .279 BA (308 AB), 14 HR, .877 OPS, 57 BB, 71 K

Comparisons for Casas have ranged from Joey Votto to Cody Bellinger, but the most fitting in terms of build, swing and approach is Freddie Freeman. His hit tool stood out the most in 2021, particularly with the reduction in strikeout rate, but scouts still love his power, which came on late. Note that he also hit three home runs for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics.

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2021: Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: .265 BA (445 AB), 36 HR, 12 SB, .988 OPS, 83 BB, 157 K

A late slump brought his batting average down to size, but considering Pratto hit .191 with a .588 OPS in 2019, there’s still no overstating the enormity of his breakthrough. The Royals’ big investments in hitter development since then have unlocked the former first-rounder’s potential, putting his athleticism on full display thanks to better swing decisions and a shorter stroke.

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4. Dustin Harris, Rangers

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2021: low Class A, high Class A
Minor-league stats: .327 BA (404 AB), 20 HR, 25 SB, .943 OPS, 47 BB, 73 K

Right down to his defensive versatility and base-stealing prowess, two rare qualities for a first baseman, it’s hard to identify a true weak spot for Harris, which suggests he’s only flying under the radar because his breakthrough was so unexpected. He hit a combined three homers in his first 301 minor-league at-bats, carrying over into this year, before learning to elevate the ball as regularly as he barrels it up.

Age (on opening day): 25
Where he played in 2021: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .287 BA (362 AB), 16 HR, 33 2B, .909 OPS, 39 BB, 76 K
Major-leaguer stats: 4 for 9, HR, 2B, 1 BB, 3 K

The Diamondbacks seemed reluctant to turn first base over to Beer, calling him up to serve as DH during an interleague series, but the quick impression he made probably would have kept him around if he hadn’t dislocated his shoulder. He’ll have a narrow margin for error as a limited defender but consistently produced in the minors and may be a little under-hyped.

Age (on opening day): 24
Where he played in 2021: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .300 BA (437 AB), 24 HR, 37 2B, .957 OPS, 64 BB, 64 K

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The former 11th-round pick had exactly 64 strikeouts, 64 walks and 64 extra-base hits in 2021, which is to be praised for more than just its congruity. Unlike Nick Pratto, Pasquantino has been this way since the Royals drafted him, and now that he’s reached the upper levels, people are taking notice. Is he or catcher MJ Melendez the better fit at DH?

Age (on opening day): 24
Where he played in 2021: Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: .286 BA (367 AB), 27 HR, 29 2B, .969 OPS, 51 BB, 82 K

Capable of playing all four corner spots, Yepez may settle in as more of a bat-first utility player, but with all the alterations he has made the past couple years — from his swing to his swing decisions to his physique — I wouldn’t rule him out as a full-timer. Whether he can sustain the power gains is the determining factor.

Age (on opening day): 21
Where he played in 2021: Rookie ball, low Class A
Minor-league stats: ..306 BA (121 AB), 14 HR, 15 SB, 1.122 OPS, 31 BB, 50 K

What we have here is a massive slugger, standing about 6-feet-6, who strikes out too much but so pulverizes the baseball that it may not matter, as it hasn’t in the lower levels. Yeah, I’ll make the Aaron Judge comparison, unlikely though it may be. Garcia is the logical outgrowth of three-true-outcomes culture and a reasonable enough pickup to dream on.

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9. Aaron Sabato, Twins

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2021: low Class A, high Class A
Minor-league stats: .202 BA (361 AB), 19 HR, .373 OBP, .783 OPS, 92 BB, 149 K

Miserable though his professional debut was, Sabato is still a player whose bat rated highly enough in college to get him drafted in the first round. He says the lack of reps in 2020 hindered his transition, and it’s worth noting he hit .253 with 1.015 OPS in 22 games after being promoted to high Class A. Just look at how much he got on base, too.

10. Jonathan Aranda, Rays

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2021: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .330 BA (348 AB), 14 HR, 22 2B, .962 OPS, 42 BB, 76 K

Aranda barely registers for most prospect publications, but it’s hard to dismiss a guy who led the Double-A South league in every slash line measure (.325/.410/.540). At 5-feet-11, his power is more gap-to-gap, and while he has played all over the infield, first base is his only real fit. That’s a difficult profile to land, but it’s clear he has some bat skills.

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South American 2030 World Cup bid seeks final in Montevideo

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BUENOS AIRES (AP) — Members of the South American candidacy for the centennial 2030 World Cup want to host the opening match in Buenos Aires and the final in Montevideo, where Uruguay won the first edition of the tournament in 1930.

Government and soccer officials representing the joint bid of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay held their first organizing committee meeting Tuesday. Argentine President Alberto Fernández also said he wants to add Bolivia to the group.

One other bid has already been formalized: Spain-Portugal-Ukraine. Morocco and another joint bid of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Greece are moving ahead.

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Alejandro Domínguez, the president of South American soccer body CONMEBOL, highlighted the historical links. Uruguay hosted the first tournament in 1930 and won the first title by beating Argentina 4-2 in the final.

“FIFA has the obligation of honouring the memory of those who came before us and made the first World Cup,” he said. “At the end, the ones who want it more win it. And in that Argentina and all of our countries have a tradition.”

FIFA will make the decision in 2024, two years before the next edition of the tournament takes place in the United States, Mexico and Canada with 48 teams for the first time.

Chile sports minister Alexandra Benado Vergara said Argentina’s World Cup title in Qatar gives an extra push to the South American bid, which she sees as stronger since other nations joined Uruguay’s initially single-nation candidacy.

“Argentina’s victory is also the victory of our region,” Vergara said. “We can totally say we will have a bid that is sustainable, clear, austere during these times of our region and the world.”

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Vergara’s Uruguayan counterpart Sebastián Bauzá said South America “feels we have the right to organize that World Cup.”

Argentina’s Fernández said on his social media channels he wanted to add Bolivia to the bid because “this is the candidacy of the entire continent. That is why I will propose that Bolivia become a part of this dream.”

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2023 USFL schedule: Best early games, title odds and more!

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What are the best games in the early part of the USFL season? Who is favored to win it all? We break it down.



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NBA Trade Targets: 6 potential destinations for Raptors’ Anunoby

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O.G. Anunoby is a defensive ace, one of the most talented 3-and-D players in the NBA and a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate. So, the prospect of trading a player with that all-around skillset is a tough proposition.

But as Thursday’s NBA trade deadline draws closer, Anunoby is a player that will draw interest from several teams on the market as he has the tools that can fit into any scheme. Recent reports have linked him to several potential candidates.

With that kind of demand, the asking price and potential return will likely be the highest of the three big names being floated around in Toronto Raptors trade rumours: Anunoby, Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. Making Anunoby an even more attractive trade chip, the defensive wing has one more year of control on his contract and a player option worth $19.9 million (likely to be declined) for the 2024-2025 season.

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On the floor, Anunoby hasn’t been lights out offensively this season, averaging 16.9 points on 45.7 per cent from the field and 36.6 per cent from long range. But he is the defender often tasked with trying to shut down the opposing team’s No. 1 option, so going all out on both ends is a lot to take on. Currently, he leads the league in steals at 2.1 per game and is averaging a career-high 0.8 blocks. And he’s currently hitting corner 3’s at a 46 per cent clip and is 39 per cent on catch-and-shoot looks from beyond the arc.

Should he be traded, Anunoby is not going to be a first or second option on offence for a championship contender, but he can be a final piece as a role player that makes a defensive impact and contributes some offence when called upon.  

Here are six teams that could potentially swing a deal for Anunoby and what they would have to include to get it done.

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NEW YORK KNICKS

Adding Jalen Brunson in the summer, despite calls of it being an overpay, has been key to the success of the Knicks so far this year. Forward Julius Randle has seen marked improvements, bumping his averages from 20.1 points and 9.9 rebounds on .411/.308/.756 shooting splits to 24.7 points and 10.8 rebounds on .457/.341/.749 splits — good enough to earn him all-star honours. This season, he has 15 30-plus point scoring performances compared to the 14 he had over the course of last season.

Under coach Tom Thibodeau, the Knicks have been a solid defensive team but have regressed in recent years, finishing first in points-per-game allowed in the 2020-2021 season, sixth in the 2021-2022 season, and currently sitting 10th this year. Despite being in the top-third of the league, the Knicks will want to improve on those defensive numbers.

Shams Charania of The Athletic reported interest from the Knicks in Anunoby, a player that could absolutely bump that rating to where it was in years past and be the true No. 1 defensive stopper that Thibodeau needs. Moreover, Anunoby would become the best corner 3-point shooter on the team, eclipsing Quentin Grimes’ 44.3 per cent, and the second-best catch-and-shoot option behind Brunson’s 43.0 per cent hit rate.

Potential player targets: It’s been speculated that any Anunoby deal with the Knicks is unlikely to get done unless the return package centres around either young guard Immanuel Quickley (two years, $2.7 million) or Canadian wing RJ Barrett (one year, $10.9 million + an extension that kicks in next season at four years, $26.7 million). However, the Knicks are unlikely to part with Barrett in this deal. Instead, the Raptors could look at a combination of forward Obi Toppin (two years, $5.5 million), big man Isaiah Hartenstein (two years, $8.0 million), and maybe Quickley.

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Draft assets: The more attractive part of this proposition is the potential haul of picks that Toronto could get from New York in return, with the Knicks having all of their own picks from now until 2030, as well as the first-round picks from the Mavericks (top-10 protected), Pistons (top-18 protected) and Wizards (top-14 protected) in the 2023 NBA Draft. The two latter picks are likely to transfer to next year’s draft, as the Pistons and Wizards seem to be entrenched in the lottery.

Regardless, the Knicks have a ton of draft capital, whether it be their own or from other bottom-feeding teams, and the allure of holding onto future selections from routinely lottery-bound franchises is an alluring proposition. Charania reported that the Knicks have “shown a willingness to offer multiple first-round picks for Anunoby.”

PHOENIX SUNS

The other team mentioned by Charania as having interest in Anunoby is the Suns, and considering how disappointing their season has been until now, it’s not surprising that they’d be in the sweepstakes.

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After making the NBA Finals two seasons ago, they crashed out in seven games against the Dallas Mavericks in Round 2 last year and have been a hot bed for drama since. They’re currently the seventh seed, sporting a 27-26 record in a crowded middle-ground out West. Since superstar guard Devin Booker went out with a groin injury on Dec. 25, they’re 10-11 and rank dead last in the NBA in points-per-game.

Booker is scheduled to return as early as Tuesday night against the Brooklyn Nets, and the team is 18-11 when he plays. He could come back just in time for the Suns to make a run at the trade deadline and use that momentum to climb the standings in the West.

Anunoby would be an interesting fit in Phoenix, playing alongside another great wing defender in Mikal Bridges. The two could form one of the most dynamic and versatile defensive tandems in the league, jumping passing lanes with their length in zone defence, or keeping the top-two opposing offensive options at bay in man-to-man defence.

Potential player targets: The Suns don’t have a lot of players that would draw much interest from the Raptors, as most are either too old, not good enough, or deemed untouchable. On the more optimistic side, the hope would be a return package that included one of Deandre Ayton (four years, $33 million) or Bridges (four years, $22.7 million). However, Ayton still has a no-trade clause that he could exercise if he doesn’t want to come to Toronto and Bridges remains a valuable piece in Phoenix.

Instead, if this deal were to be made, the package would likely centre around wing Cameron Johnson (one year, $5.8 million) and cap filler in the form of Jae Crowder (one year, $10 million) or Dario Saric (one year, $9.2 million), both of which would likely be sent to another team or bought out.

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Draft assets: The more appealing part of a potential deal with the Suns is that they, unlike most other contenders, still hold onto all their draft picks between now and 2030, and they could choose to go all-in this year while Chris Paul is still a positive player.

Even better for the Raptors, with the Suns already struggling, who knows where they could be in three-to-five years when those eventual first-round picks begin to pay off. If the Suns continue to fade even further as guys age out or become unsettled, those picks could be incredibly valuable come 2025 or 2027.

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INDIANA PACERS

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The Pacers have been one of the surprises of the season. Despite winning only two of their last 14 games, they’ve shown a willingness to contend for at least a playoff spot this year. Extending Myles Turner is emblematic of that mentality.

Turner has been a name perennially floating in trade rumours, with even the Raptors being named as a potential destination. That won’t be the case anymore, as his place in Indiana is set in stone and the franchise clearly considering him part of the core.

Though they’ve taken a clear leap this year around Turner, first-time all-star Tyrese Haliburton and Canadian rookie Bennedict Mathurin, the team is still lacking on the defensive side, giving up the sixth most points-per-game this season. Bringing in Anunoby would go a long way in addressing those issues.

Indiana’s other Canadian rookie Andrew Nembhard has been a great depth addition on the defensive end with his ability to guard 1-3. However, Anunoby takes it a step further, as he’s able to take on anyone that two-time block-leader Turner isn’t taking care of in the paint.

The Pacers are also projected to have enough cap space next season to re-sign Anunoby and etch him in as a part of the core moving forward. A line-up of Haliburton, Mathurin, Anunoby, Aaron Nesmith and Turner is small but quick and versatile, with Haliburton leading the charge on offence and Anunoby carrying the load on defence.

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Potential player targets: Now that Turner is off the table, the Raptors would have to shift their attention to the depth pieces that the Pacers possess. As far as the younger players go, Mathurin (four years, $7.4 million) is also likely off limits, so if Indiana intends on getting an Anunoby deal done, they’d probably have to include Nembhard (four years, $2.1 million).

To make the deal financially viable, big-man Daniel Theis (three years, $8.9 million) would likely have to be included. And to make up the rest of the cost, the Pacers could throw in 22-year-old stretch-four Jalen Smith (three years, $5.0 million) and 25-year-old Canadian wing Chris Duarte (three years, $4.4 million) alongside the aforementioned Nembhard.

Draft assets: The Pacers, like most teams that were thought to be tanking this season, already possess a bevy of future picks at their disposal, including all their first-rounders from now until 2030. They also control Cleveland and Boston’s picks in this upcoming draft, and though those are projected to be picks in the mid-to-late 20s, they possess value in what should be a pretty stacked draft class.

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OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

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Currently sitting at 25-28 as the 12th seed in the West, the Thunder have had a surprising season, surpassing expectations for a team that most had already written-off (especially after theseason-ending injury to rookie Chet Holmgren). Though they’re not in a position to contend right now, their young core takes shape more and more each day.

Canadian first-time all-star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been a revelation and is finally getting his well-deserved flowers, Josh Giddey has taken an under-appreciated step in his sophomore season, bumping his shooting splits from .419/.263/.709 to .485/.326/.778, and rookie Jalen Williams has been a Swiss Army knife, doing everything and doing it efficiently.

Pairing Anunoby with defensive stalwart (and famed James Harden stopper) Luguentz Dort on the wing would be a match made in heaven. Additionally, SGA has been a stud on that end as the only guard in the top-25 in blocks-per-game this season with 1.1 a night. He has also averaged 1.7 steals, good for eighth across the league.

The Thunder are the youngest team in the league with an average age of 22.6. Adding Anunoby, a championship-winning player who has been on his fair share of playoff runs, to a roster this young and inexperienced would signal a change for the Thunder. It would mean that all those years of tanking are finally coming to an end, and that it’s time to cash in on the surplus of youth and draft capital.

Potential player targets: Let’s make this clear off the top: Toronto is not getting SGA. No amount of Photoshopped jersey swaps can change that for the time being.

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Instead, the Raptors could ask for a combination of OKC’s young talent. That could include 19-year-old Ousmane Dieng (four years, $5.2 million), 22-year-old Darius Bazley (one year, $4.2 million) and 21-year-old Tre Mann (three years, $3.5 million). Then maybe add 31-year-old Mike Muscala (two years, $3.5 million) as cap filler and that could get the deal done. Or, if the Raptors want to target a more valuable piece in return, they could ask for Canadian Dort (five years, $16.5 million) and Dieng as a package.

Draft assets: The more intriguing element to a potential deal with the Thunder is the draft capital that could come back to Toronto. Thunder general manager Sam Presti has been stockpiling draft picks for years, collecting them in trades that sent stars like Paul George and Russell Westbrook out of town. As it currently stands, the Thunder have 31 picks between now and 2030, with 16 of those being first-round selections (with minimal protections).

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MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES AND NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

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Recently, oddsmakers have pegged both the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans as not only possible, but highly likely destinations for Anunoby. Both teams see themselves as contenders, with the Grizzlies sitting in second place in the West at 32-21 and the Pelicans (despite recently going through a 10-game losing streak) have looked every bit like a contender at points this season when superstar Zion Williamson is healthy.

Both squads are rivals in the Southwest Division, and reports have suggested that neither team wants the other to acquire Anunoby’s services, for obvious reasons.

Both teams also have the assets to get a deal done, with neither team having sacrificed much draft capital to get where they are now.

Here’s how a potential deal with the Grizzlies could look:

Memphis acquires: Anunoby (two years, $18.0 million)

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Toronto acquires: Dillon Brooks (one year, $11.4 million), Xavier Tillman (one year, $1.7 million + team option next season), Ziaire Williams (two years, $4.7 million + team option in 2024-2025), 2023 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick (via Golden State), and a 2025 pick swap

Here’s how a potential deal with the Pelicans could look:

New Orleans acquires: Anunoby (two years, $18.0 million)

Toronto acquires: Dyson Daniels (two years, $5.6 million + team options in 2024-2025 and 2025-2026), Jaxson Hayes (one year, $6.8 million), Garrett Temple (two years, $5.3 million), 2023 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick (via Milwaukee), 2025 first-round pick.

Should the Raptors decide to cash in on one of their most valuable assets in Anunoby at the NBA trade deadline, there will be no shortage of suitors lining up to make a deal.

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