Fantasy Baseball: Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Re-Ranking the Top MLB Rookies
We will get to the gaudy numbers being put up by Mike Trout and Yu Darvish, along with other young bucks in the big leagues, but in general, young players are having a larger impact on the game today than ever before.
A list of the top players under 25, rookie or not, 10 years ago would have produced perhaps three or four legitimate impact players. Today, teams are bringing their prospects up faster (including a certain 19-year-old in Washington D.C.), and those players are proving they can perform immediately.
This is a re-ranking, so players like Matt Moore and Yoenis Cespedes are ranked on expected value for the rest of the season, not only on their production to this point.
No. 10: Drew Smyly, Detroit Tigers
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
If someone said during the preseason that a Tigers rookie pitcher would have an impact this season, pervasive wisdom would have predicted Jacob Turner. But Turner faltered in spring training, and Smyly burst onto the scene.
Through nine starts, the 23-year-old has posted a 3.14 ERA and 8.5 K/9. His 2-1 record is due in large part to lack of run support, but he has shown a mature approach on the mound, mixing pitches effectively and maintaining a K/BB rate just over three.
The only cause for concern with Smyly is a possible innings limit, but if the Tigers are in a heated playoff race down the stretch, it would seem less likely they would shut him down.
No. 9: Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks
Norm Hall/Getty Images
Trevor Bauer might be dominating the minor leagues, causing some to call for his early promotion, but for now, it's Wade Miley taking care of business in the big leagues. Through 10 games in 2012, Miley is 6-1 with a 2.41 ERA.
Many will question how can rank behind some of the other pitchers coming later on this list, but his 5.5 K/9 shows he may be benefiting from some luck. His BABIP is .278, well below the .328 number from 2011.
Miley likely has some regression coming, but is still a solid option in most fantasy leagues who use pitcher streaming to gain an advantage. Pick the matchups wisely, and you will be rewarded.
No. 8: Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland A's
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Good for about a strikeout per game, limiting his batting average, Yoenis Cespedes' five homers and four steals through 28 games is evidence of a potential 25/25 player in the coming years. The hamate bone injury he suffered is on the mend, so health is less of a concern.
If you've watched Cespedes, you know he never gets cheated. Every swing is vicious, and when he connects, the ball flies. If he stays healthy the rest of the season, Cespedes could hit 20 HR and provide 20 SB.
His average keeps him behind other players on this list, but an increased contact rate could allow him to hit .275 as soon as next season. Keeper league owners may find value in the 30/30 potential of a player with Cespedes' raw skills.
No. 7: Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
After being road blocked by Joey Votto in Cincinnati, the Mat Latos trade sent Yonder Alonso to San Diego, where he was dropped right into the middle of a putrid lineup and asked to produce in power-sapping Petco Park.
Predictably, he only has one home run in 49 games so far this season, but the kid is also batting .286 with 16 doubles and 14 RBI despite the lack of runners on base ahead of him, or run producers behind him.
Fortunately for Alonso's fantasy owners, Carlos Quentin just made his season debut after starting the year on the disabled list, and Quentin's bat behind Alonso in the lineup should earn him more pitches to hit and improve his runs scored potential. If nothing else, the average should stay between .280 and .300.
No. 6: Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
If you own Matt Moore, now is NOT the time to trade him away. If you do not own him, now IS the time to check up on his owner's selling price. You may not be able to buy-low for much longer.
Sports websites, including this one, touted Moore's preseason to the point of murdering his upside. Considering his draft position, if Moore was exactly what people expected, he would have merely matched that value.
Now at 1-5, with a 4.76 ERA, if acquired for value equal to a replacement-level matchups pitcher, Moore could return bountiful profit on that investment. His 9.2 K/9 shows the stuff is still for real. And it may only be a matter of comfort before he becomes everything you hoped for.
No. 5: Addison Reed, Chicago White Sox
David Banks/Getty Images
I've been an Addison Reed fan since the end of last season. He was always the heir apparent to the White Sox closer job, and his minor league strikeout totals rival Craig Kimbrel.
While his ERA and WHIP don't seem to reflect that potential, all eight of his earned runs on the year have come in two non-save outings. He allowed six in a game the Sox were already losing to Kansas City and later gave up two in a game they were winning big and still won.
Reed's K/9 is over 11, and he has not allowed an earned run in a save situation this season. Expect these trends to continue, and Reed could go into 2013 as a top-5 reliever.
No. 4: Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
Cooper Neill/Getty Images
Yu Darvish has been exactly as advertised. He's big and powerful off the mound, is racking up wins due to ample run support and is racking up strikeouts with both his well-controlled fastball and baffling off-speed stuff.
The league-leader in wins, boasting a 9.7 K/9, is one of baseball's best sell-high candidates as the year progresses. Many excellent Japanese pitchers have experienced early success due to lack of film for other batters to study and unique deliveries born out of Japanese pitching mechanics. Darvish's dominance to this point is not overly surprising. Continued dominance would be, especially come August.
As a fantasy owner, if I could get value in return for him that compared with that of a top-25 starting pitcher in my league, especially come July, I would make the deal and be thrilled with it. But when I say to expect regression, Darvish's skills could limit that regression to perhaps a 3.75 ERA with 180-200 strikeouts and 15-18 wins.
No. 3: Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Jesus Montero has had his ups and downs thus far in his first year in Seattle, but thanks to an injury to Miguel Olivo, he has attained catcher eligibility earlier than expected. His .246 average, six homers and OPS of .680 doesn't seem to call for this ranking, but call it a vote of confidence that he can hit .270-.280 and add 20-25 home runs this season.
Granted, home games at Safeco, along with division games at the expansive Oakland Coliseum will not help him accrue those power numbers, and the lack of runners on base will limit his RBI chances, but fantasy owners know how hard it is to get a catcher with power, and how valuable they can be.
Montero can hit. He hit .328 in his cup of coffee with the Yankees in 2011, he is hitting .380 against left-handed pitching and it is only a matter of time before his approach matures versus righties as well. He's a top-10 fantasy catcher now, with potential to be a top-50 overall player next season.
No. 2, Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Bryce Harper is hitting .284 with an OPS of .891, and he is 19 years old. That needs to be clearly understood. He has 21 runs scored in 29 games. He has four home runs, six doubles and already four triples. And he already has earned the reputation among veterans as a guy who plays hard on every pitch.
No, he won't be the 40-HR MVP candidate this year that he might develop into in two or three or five years. But stretch his major league stats out over 162 games, and you'd get 78 extra-base hits, 117 runs scored and 78 walks.
Harper is already fantasy useful, but redraft league owners might be wise to shop him and his probably hot and cold streaks for a more consistent, proven veteran. The same is not necessarily true for the top man on this list...
No. 1: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Mike Trout is on pace for 23 HR, 37 SB, 93 runs scored. He is batting .304 with an .886 OPS, and all of those numbers are in line with career expectations. In his prime, Trout is thought to have 30/40 upside, with speed comparable with the best base-runners in the game and a compact swing that produces power to all fields.
Trout is also an exemplary fielder and hits both lefties and righties, so there seems to be a promise of unlimited playing time. Long story short, if you have him, don't trade him for less than a top-30 overall player, and if you have him in a keeper league, make that top-15.