There’s a little bit of everything in this year’s fantasy rookie class: power guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., speed guys like Victor Robles and pitchers like Yusei Kikuchi.
Guerrero, the consensus No. 1 overall prospect in baseball, isn’t our top rookie this season because he injured his side and could start the season at Class AAA once he returns. Washington Nationals prospect Victor Robles, who is scheduled to start in center field on opening day, tops the chart according to BaseballHQ.com.
This year’s top 15 most impactful rookies:
1. Victor Robles, OF, Washington Nationals: Robles’ elbow injury last season merely delayed his ascension. In 59 MLB at-bats, Robles, 21, had a .288/.348/.525 slash line with three home runs and three stolen bases in 21 games last September. While that slugging percentage might be a bit high (.450 would be more like it), his average and on-base percentage should hold up. Throw in 20-25 stolen bases and Robles should excel.
2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays: Scouts expect Guerrero to contend for both batting and home run titles throughout his career. How about 2019? A strain to his side and his service clock could keep him out of the majors into the early season. With health and opportunity once he returns, he could be good for a .290 season with 20-plus home runs.
3. Garrett Hampson, 2B-SS, Colorado Rockies: The unheralded prospect is the favorite to win the second-base job out of spring training. He will have to beat out Ryan McMahon and fellow prospect Brendan Rodgers. A patient hitter who makes tons of contact, Hampson should be able to maintain solid numbers in the majors while potentially stealing 25-plus bases.
4. Nick Senzel, UT, Cincinnati Reds: Senzel struggled with several injuries the last 18 months. The natural third baseman’s athleticism allows for versatility with Eugenio Suarez firmly entrenched at third. If he finds his way into the lineup, Senzel brings an above-average offensive skill set. He should maintain a respectable average, hit double-digit home runs and steal 10-15 bases. He’ll start the season in the minors.
5. Alex Verdugo, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: With Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp gone, 2019 looked like the year for Verdugo to finally break into the lineup. Then the Dodgers signed free agent A.J. Pollock. Still, there are at-bats to be had for Verdugo. He held his own during a 37-game stint in the majors in 2018. While his power still lags, expect a .270 batting average with the potential for him to hit double-digit home runs.
6. Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox: After agreeing to a six-year, $43 million contract without ever playing an inning in the majors, Jimenez is ready to produce in the big leagues. He has potential to hit .290 with 30-plus home runs. For 2019, the average should remain healthy with double-digit home run production.
7. Yusei Kikuchi, LHP, Seattle Mariners: Making his stateside debut this season, Kikuchi is a four-pitch pitcher. His fastball and slider are his two primary pitches, which should allow for him to tally swings and misses against MLB competition. However, Kikuchi has struggled, especially early in his career, with walks.
8. Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros: Tucker’s path to playing time is crowded, but he should overtake incumbent Josh Reddick for the right-field job fairly soon. At maturity, Tucker is a good bet for 25-plus home runs and 10-15 stolen bases. For now, expect 10-15 home runs, a .265 average and some struggles elevating the baseball.
9. Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers: Despite what the stats suggest, Hiura isn’t quite ready to contribute. While he simply barrels fastballs with reckless abandon, Hiura struggles identifying breaking pitches, leading to swing-and-miss issues. Fear not. Hiura’s history of success and his path to playing time suggests a midseason transition to MLB, where owners will take advantage of his knack for extra-base hits, even if his average suffers.
10. Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals: If not for injuries, Reyes’ ascension to the top of the Cardinals’ rotation would be close to complete. Unfortunately, 2017 Tommy John surgery and a lat injury last season have slowed his climb. While there is concern for an imposed innings limit on Reyes’ workload, his stuff should play well against MLB hitters, resulting in a high strikeout rate and a low batting average against.
11. Luis Urias, 2B-SS, San Diego Padres: Urias is the favorite to win the opening-day shortstop competition in spring training. If he does, he should be a great source for average and on-base percentage while giving fantasy teams virtually nothing in home runs and stolen bases. Urias has been hampered by a sore hamstring since late September.
12. Danny Jansen, C, Toronto Blue Jays: With the trade of Russell Martin to the Dodgers, Jansen should see the bulk of the playing time at catcher for Toronto. With the catching market incredibly depressed, a guy like Jansen, who makes solid contact, finds holes, works gaps and can hit 10 home runs, should provide above-average production.
13. Francisco Mejia, C, San Diego Padres: Acquired in a midseason trade with Cleveland, Mejia is expected to split time at catcher with Austin Hedges and see time elsewhere on the diamond this season. While his offensive output has left something to be desired, Mejia’s track record suggests a solid average and 10-15 home run potential.
14. Austin Hays, OF, Baltimore Orioles: Last season was a lost season for Hays because of an ankle injury and poor production. He had surgery in September. If healthy, Hays looks like he has a chance to win an outfield job. He’ll be a .275, 25-plus home run hitter at maturity. But expect MLB pitchers to take advantage of his aggressiveness, which should limit his batting average.
15. Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays: If things play out as they did with Guerrero last season, we won’t see Bichette until next season. However, he’s one of the best pure hitters in the minors and should be ready to produce by midseason.
Fast riser: Chris Paddack, SP, San Diego Padres. With a combined 2.10 ERA in 90 minor-league innings (topping out at Class AA) and eye-popping 120/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio, his mid-90s fastball and elite change-up could make him an impact starter right out of the gate. A strong spring earned him to spot on the Padres season-opening rotation.
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