One of my main rules for fantasy baseball is quite simple: be wary of young players.

I’m of the belief that you should almost always take established veterans with your early picks. However, every year a few youngsters go on a tear, proving to be just as valuable as the vets at the top of the fantasy rankings.

So which young studs should you pick up this season? Just scroll down and find out.


Justin Upton

I think this is the year the 24-year-old Upton wins his first NL MVP award.

Last year, he cranked 31 homers and drove in 88 runs. He also stole 21 bases and posted career highs in contact rate (78.7 percent), OPS versus right-handed pitchers (.889) and on-base percentage (.369). 

Upton is definitely worth a top-10 pick this season. Snag him early and let him lead your team to fantasy glory. 


Clayton Kershaw

Like Upton, Kershaw won’t be sneaking up on anyone this season.

He’s still just 24-years-old, but as the 2011 Cy Young award winner proved last year, his youth isn’t exactly a problem.

He got more control of his command last year, which greatly improved his efficiency. He only averaged 2.08 walks per nine innings, which was 19th best among starting pitchers. The lefty also struck out 248 batters and posted a 2.28 ERA, while winning 21 games.

I wouldn’t select him ahead of Roy Halladay or Justin Verlander, but Kershaw would be a steal in the 15-20 range of your draft.


Starlin Castro

I’m expecting Castro to be one of the breakout fantasy stars of 2012.

Last season, he hit .307 while posting a .341 on-base percentage and an OPS of .773. He also drove in 66 runs and racked up 207 hits. Only Alex Rodriguez has more hits in a season at such a young age.

If he improves his power a little, the 22-year-old will be one of the best shortstops in the league. Don’t be surprised if he surpasses guys like Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes in terms of fantasy production this season.

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