Promise and Potential: The All-Rookie Fantasy Team

There’s nothing quite like the siren song of the prospect. Like with Christina Ricci in Buffalo 66, their youth can be exciting and yet vaguely uncomfortable to depend upon. Of course, sometimes you end up in jail or at the bottom of the standings.

Prospect lists are nice. This list is about players that will help this year. You don’t have to be in a keeper league to reap the rewards of drafting a high upside rookie for your bench. Just remember that most debuts don’t look like Jason Heyward’s, so don’t spend too many resources on these guys.

Oh, and to spice things up, Mr. Cistulli and I have put together a wager: his Bad News Bears against my Scout’s Darlings. I’m not nervous. Or, maybe I’m not not nervous.

The Batters

C: J.P. Arencibia, 25
Organization: Toronto Highest Level: Majors
ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .230/25/0
Comments: Arencibia is a free-swinger with muted walk rates and some iffy strikeout rates, but he has Powa with a capital ‘P.’ He’ll run into some home runs and hurt your batting average, but he’ll definitely play most of the year, which is more than we can say for the other catcher wunderkinds, Jesus Montero and Devin Mesoraco, even if they are better prospects.

1B: Freddie Freeman, 22
Organization: Atlanta Highest Level: Double-A
ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .272/18/5
Comments: Another prospect that might not have the upside of some his fellow young dudes at the position, Freeman should step into the starting role from the get-go. He has had some problems adjusting to new levels, his power ceiling is a question, and he’s awkward-looking at times. But he can still hit.

2B: Danny Espinosa, 24
Organization: Washington Highest Level: Majors
ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .226/20/19
Comments: Espinosa is the opening-day second baseman in Washington, and he’s got some nice tools (pause). If ZiPS likes you for a 20/20 season, you have to be doing something right. That said, he has some contact issues and might be hard to play in your league if it counts batting average. He’s aware of the issue and working on his front leg, but we’ve all heard that before.

SS: Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 26
Organization: Minnesota Highest Level: NPB
ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .281/7/38
Comments: This is a cheat. I know he’ll probably play second. But Grant Green and Manny Machado are not ready yet while Nishioka should be eligible here since he played short in Japan. Our own Patrick Newman wasn’t as bullish as ZiPS, so maybe walk that batting average and those steals back a little, but there’s definitely something interesting here considering the state of the position.

3B: Mike Moustakas, 22
Organization: Kansas City Highest Level: Triple-A
ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .258/22/6
Comments: Moustakas blasted through the minor leagues last year, hitting 36 home runs across Double- and Triple-A. He doesn’t walk much, but he’s cut his strikeout rate as he has advanced, so maybe he’ll just be a high-contact power hitter. Not many comps out there, but tons of talent in these Moose Tacos.

MI: Dustin Ackley, 23
Organization: Seattle Highest Level: Triple-A
ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .244/7/9
Comments: He may not have as much power as Seattle had hoped when he drafted him, and he doesn’t have game-changing speed either. What he has done so far is walk a little better than the average guy and strikeout in fewer than 20% of his plate appearances. He also looked decent in the fall league. But let’s just say we’re a little skeptical of his elite status as a prospect.

CI: Brandon Belt, 22
Organization: San Francisco Highest Level: Triple-A
ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .266/14/18
Comments: ZiPS likes Belt, alliteration likes Belt, I like Belt, you should like Belt. One thing, however, is likely – don’t expect those stolen base numbers. A scout at the Fall League felt that though he was athletic and stole 18 bases in rookie ball, it was more just because he could at that level. Look how those totals fell off at the higher levels. That athleticism, however, could mean he can play the outfield in order to get to the majors quicker.

OF: Domonic Brown, 23
Organization: Philadelphia Highest Level: Majors
ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .278/17/19
Comments: The best position prospect in the majors that will get significant time this year, Brown is primed and ready to go, and the projections systems love him. ZiPS, as per usual, is a little more restrained than Bill James, but that’s still an exciting line in fantasy baseball. Power and speed in your outfield plays well in leagues of any size or shape.

OF: Desmond Jennings, 24
Organization: Tampa Bay Highest Level: Majors
ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .268/4/36
Comments: With his speed and background, it may be surprising that ZiPS doesn’t project a better batting average, but that’s the way of the rook. Be bullish on him, but also realize that Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, and to some extent Dan Johnson are obstacles to Jennings’ playing time.

OF: Ben Revere, 22
Organization: Minnesota Highest Level: Majors
ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .281/1/39
Comments: Revere lit up the Arizona Fall League, making a tremendous catch in center during the all-star game and showing his speed virtually daily. He seems ready to play, and there are some underwhelming outfield options in Minnesota. It’s possible – not probable – that Revere makes the team as a fourth outfielder and backup center fielder, and then plays his way to some starts for his defense.

OF: Vernon Chris Carter, 24
Organization: Oakland Highest Level: Majors
ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .229/27/4
Comments: The ZiPS line, in this case, does a dang fine job representing Carter’s upside while also nodding at his flaws. VC has some holes in his swing, and he’s a little all-or-nothing, but he also has patience (.314 OBP by ZiPS) and more power upside than anyone in the organization. He’ll be in the majors, but will he play often?

OF: Trayvon Robinson, 22
Organization: Los Angeles N.L. Highest Level: Double-A
ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .254/11/33
Comments: Robinson is relatively new to switch-hitting, but has been developing better patience as he has advanced through the Dodger system. He’s athletic but he may not be suited for center long-term. Still, power and speed combos are tantalizing, and there’s an opening in the Dodger outfield for now.

CI: Eric Hosmer, 21
Organization: Kansas City Highest Level: Double-A
ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .263/14/8
Comments: All it took was Lasik surgery for Hosmer to produce a .313/.365/.615 line in Double-A, or so the story goes. The biggest question with Hosmer is how long he’ll stay in the minor leagues.

*Matt Dominguez should start the year with the Marlins at third base, but is known for his glove more than his bat.

The Pitchers

SP: Jeremy Hellickson, 23
Organization: Tampa Bay Highest Level: Majors
ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA): 135.7/119/47/11/3.58
Comments: And thus sprung Hell-Boy, complete with nickname and three-pitch arsenal, from the (Devil) Rays’ minor leagues, ready to dominate. He’s a control artist with tiny minor-league walk rates and a great curveball and changeup, but his fastball comes in over 91 MPH and there’s reason to believe he can hit this nice projection. The ace of this team by far.

SP: Aroldis Chapman, 23
Organization: Cincinnati Highest Level: Majors
ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA): 103.3/122/67/11/4.01
Comments: This is a man in need of a nickname – Gasman? Ugh. He averaged 99.6 MPH on his fastball, which is just other-worldly, and in relief used only his slider otherwise. That pitch was just as wicked but depended more on movement. There’s some concern about his control in the starting role, but as a reliever he’ll be worth owning even if he doesn’t close. That many strikeouts play anywhere in the lineup.

SP: Michael Pineda, 22
Organization: Seattle Highest Level: Triple-A
ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA): 107/83/38/12/4.12
Comments: Pineda might not be a strikeout or ground ball leader. Instead, he’s a guy that has some punch (a mid-90s fastball and elite control), and some minor flaws (more fly balls as he’s advanced, as is usual in prospects). The park will mask any issues, though, and Pineda is probably the second-best true starting pitcher prospect that will hit the majors this year.

SP: Kyle Drabek, 23
Organization: Toronto Highest Level: Majors
ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA): 157.7/109/81/18/4.97
Comments: Drabek owns four or five pitches depending on how you count ‘em, and he used all of them in his cup of coffee last year. It sounds like a kitchen-sink approach, but his fastball hits the mid-90s and he got ground balls by the bushel, so he’s certainly got upside. Might not be a huge strikeout guy though.

SP: Mike Minor, 22
Organization: Atlanta Highest Level: Majors
ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA): 158/162/74/19/4.33
Comments: His names start with the same letter, he struck out more than one per inning, and walked fewer than one per three innings last year. What more could you want from your upside pick?

SP: Zach Britton, 23
Organization: Baltimore Highest Level: Triple-A
ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA): 141.3/87/67/14/5.16
Comments: Peruse the strikeout and walk rate portions of Britton’s minor league record and you may come away unimpressed, as perhaps ZiPS did. He hasn’t shown exceptional strikeout ability or the freaky command – call him the anti-Hellickson if you like. But a plus-plus sinking fastball and the ground-ball rates to go with it are a couple of things Britton owns that Hellickson doesn’t.

RP: Jake McGee, 24
Organization: Tampa Bay Highest Level: Majors
ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA): 72.3/63/34/6/4.48
Comments: The ZiPS machine sorts McGee as a starter, but it’s possible that his injury history and lack of secondary stuff – as well as the Rays lack of an established closer  – will move the powerful lefty to the pen. If he does end up the closer, his mid-nineties fastball would work well to shut opponents down. Dark horse for saves at the least.

RP: Chris Sale, 22
Organization: Chicago (AL) Highest Level: Majors
ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA): 143.3/130/52/18/4.40
Comments: Once again, a probable reliever is listed with the starters in ZiPS, but give Sale fewer innings and he’ll use his giddyap to better those numbers. He’s an exciting young lefty, and if only the man in front of him (Matt Thornton) wasn’t also a lefty, he’d be a lock to steal some match-up saves this year. As is, the non-save numbers might be so good that he’ll be rosterable anyway.

RP: Jordan Walden, 23
Organization: Los Angeles (AL) Highest Level: Majors
ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA): 64/54/31/6/4.36
Comments: Walden has had some control and command issues as he’s ascended, but since a move to the pen, his strikeout ability has moved to the point that the walks don’t seem to be as big of a problem any more. His power sinker would play well as a closer, but he has to leap past Fernando Rodney (no problem) and Scott Downs (a little tougher).

*Jarrod Parker is also interesting, but he is recovering from TJ surgery and only managed 78 1/3 innings in Double-A, so he may not arrive until late in the season if at all.

We hoped you liked reading Promise and Potential: The All-Rookie Fantasy Team by Eno Sarris!

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With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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