This article on Rookie Impact Players was written by Bill Root of RotoExperts.com, and is just one example of the over 300 pages of information you'll get when registering for RotoExperts' free Baseball Draft Kit. www.rotoexperts.com
Are you looking for the hot prospect that will make a cannonball-like splash in 2009? Do you want to leave the collective tongues of your league mates wagging when you draft that fantasy diamond in the rough? Bill Root tells you which rookies are ready to explode on the scene and make fantasy impacts in 2009.
Let’s be honest, we are all looking for the "next big thing" in our fantasy drafts. We all want to roster under-the-radar prospects like Edinson Volquez (SP, CIN) or Geovany Soto (C, CHC) so we can look like brilliant talent evaluators.
In fact, many fantasy owners simply throw away pick after pick hoping to get lucky with a rookie selection. I am here to save you some picks and get you some accolades within your leagues.
This article will tell you which rookies will make fantasy headlines in 2009 and provide reasons to avoid certain youngsters. These tools will get you the props you are craving and save you time and draft picks. What more can you ask for? Read on and thank me later.
The prospects tiered and previewed below all qualify as rookies and are listed in order of who will make the greatest fantasy impact in 2009. Please refer to our "Top 200" list for a preview of the long-term fantasy value of these prospects.
TIER 1 (THE BLUE-CHIPPERS)
Matt Wieters (C, BAL) Age: 22
2009 Projection: .305 BA, 23 HR, 74 RBI, 64 R, 1 SB
Wieters is the perfect storm for fantasy owners. Why? Because he is going to be an absolute fantasy stud at a position of scarcity. In 2008, between Single-A and Double-A, Wieters had a .355 batting average, 27 home runs, and a .600 slugging percentage.
Did I mention he had a bases-on-balls/strikeout ratio of 82/76? Are you kidding me with those numbers for a kid in his first full season of professional ball? The Orioles shipped Ramon Hernandez (C, CIN) out of town to make room for Wieters and he is all set to take over the backstop duties by at least June (if not Opening Day).
Wieters' current Average Draft Position ("ADP") is 67.78 in AL-only leagues. That is a reasonable slot if Wieters joins the big club in June. But, if he is the Opening Day starter, it is a steal to get him that low. Reach up and grab Wieters. He could win you a title down the stretch even if he only gets 400 at bats.
David Price (SP, TAM) Age: 23
2009 Projection:165 IP, 3.94 ERA, 137 K, 50 BB, WHIP 1.35
Honestly, if this is the first time you have heard of Price, I hope you are in one of my fantasy leagues. You don't see too many lefties with Price's stuff. Price's four-out save against the Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series was legendary.
Unfortunately, it also let the secret out to the fantasy world: this kid is special. As he refines his changeup, his arsenal will get even better. In 2008, in 109.2 innings pitched, Price had 109 strikeouts and 32 bases-on-balls.
In addition, he had a ground out/air out ratio of 1.45. So, not only does Price miss bats, but he also induces a good amount of ground balls when hitters do make contact. The Rays dealt Edwin Jackson (SP, DET) to open up a spot in their rotation. And yeah, I don't think I would mind putting Price in my fantasy rotation either.
TIER 2 (THE NEXT LEVEL)
Travis Snider (OF, TOR) Age: 20
2009 Projection: .280 BA, 18 HR, 70 RBI, 50 R, 0 SB
It is somewhat of an overused expression. But, the ball really did sound different coming off Snider's bat when I saw him play in the 2007 Arizona Fall League. The AFL groupie who was sitting a few rows away obviously agreed as she was doing everything possible to get the future big league star's attention.
Yes, believe it or not, there are AFL groupies of all ages. But, I digress. Snider has a sweet left-handed swing and he can drive the ball to all fields with authority. In 2008, across three minor league levels, Snider hit .275, with 23 HR, and 91 RBI. In his major league audition, Snider impressed by hitting .301 in 73 AB.
It appears Snider and Adam Lind (OF, TOR) will share the left field and designated hitting duties for the Jays out of spring training. However, there is still a possibility that Snider is sent to Triple-A to begin the season. This dude is a natural born hitter and he will be an impact player once he locks down a full-time job.
Notably, Snider has shown a propensity to be a free swinger at the higher levels and he has struggled against lefties. Snider's ADP in AL-only leagues is sitting at 153.89. I would actually reach up a little higher to grab this kid because of his high ceiling.
Cameron Maybin (OF, FLA) Age: 21
2009 Projection: .252 BA, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 66 R, 34 SB
Maybin is the total package and he appears to have the starting centerfield/lead-off gig locked up for the Marlins. He has the speed and power to put up eye-popping fantasy numbers. In 2008, at Double-A, Maybin hit .277, with 13 HR and 21 stolen bases in 390 AB.
The tools are obviously there, however, I think he needs a little more seasoning than the blue-chippers discussed above. Specifically, Maybin needs to cut down on the strikeouts (124 K in Double-A) if he ever wants to raise his batting average.
Maybin will get that seasoning in the major leagues and have an inconsistent season. I wouldn't overpay for him. But, there is upside beyond my projections if he pulls some plate discipline out of his batting helmet.
Colby Rasmus (OF, STL) Age: 22
2009 Projection: .258 BA, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 58 R, 12 SB
In the fantasy world, Rasmus suffers from a sickness I have labeled "Forgotten Prospect" syndrome. Remember, Rasmus hit .275, with 29 HR, and 18 SB at Double-A in 2007.
Consequently, in 2008, the hype machine told us he was a superstar in the making and that he was on track to be the Cardinals' starting CF coming out of spring training. Well, it didn't work out last year.
But, guess what? His tools didn't vanish and the opportunity is still there for him in the Cardinals' outfield. Skip Schumaker (STL, OF) can't hold this kid off for long. So, as a savvy fantasy owner, you should have Rasmus squarely on your radar.
Rasmus has the hitting ability, plate discipline, speed, and developing power to be either a leadoff man or middle-of-the-order threat. He is a legitimate total package for fantasy purposes. While there may be some growing pains, Rasmus' 2009 numbers will ultimately depend on when the Cardinals give him his shot.
Tommy Hanson (SP, ATL) Age: 22
2009 Projection:90 IP, 3.78 ERA, 92 K, 35 BB, 1.23 WHIP
In the past year, Hanson has dominated minor league hitters like they were straight out of tee-ball. In 138 IP, between High-A and Double-A, Hanson had a 2.41 earned run average, 163 strikeouts, and a .175 batting average against.
Even more impressive, in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League, Hanson garnered MVP honors by posting a 0.63 ERA, with 49 K, and a .105 BAA in 28.2 IP. Sick. Absolutely sick.
Hanson appears headed to Triple-A to start the season after the Braves offseason acquisitions of Derek Lowe (SP, ATL), Javier Vazquez (SP, ATL), and Kenshin Kawakami (SP, ATL). However, at some point during the summer, Hanson will join the rotation and flourish. You should know that this 6"6' future ace would be at the top of this list if he was in the rotation to begin the season.
TIER 3 (THE FUTURE IS NOW)
Gio Gonzalez (SP, OAK) Age: 23
2009 Projection:175 IP, 4.32 ERA, 173 K, 72 BB, 1.32 WHIP
Sleeper alert. This kid deserves much more hype heading into the season. He gets lost in the prospect world because of all the attention paid to Brett Anderson (SP, OAK) and Trevor Cahill (SP, OAK) in the Oakland system.
However, Gonzalez is the one that is almost guaranteed a rotation spot heading into the spring. This lefty is a strikeout machine (678 K in 582.2 career minor league IP). While his fastball only sits in the low 90s, he has one of those old-school Barry Zito(SP, SF) curveballs that freezes hitters.
Gonzalez struggled with command of his fastball last year and it led to him walking 4.46 batters per nine innings in the minors. On the flip side, he struck out 9.37 batters per nine innings and had a .233 BAA.
You can't ignore a young gun with stuff like this just because he has some command problems. He could be moved to the bullpen if his control doesn't improve. Or, if he irons out the command issues, he becomes a fantasy ace. High risk, high reward type player. I will take my chances.
Elvis Andrus (SS, TEX) Age: 20
2009 Projection: .264 BA, 3 HR, 41 RBI, 50 R, 37 SB
Andrus is not ready for the big leagues. Michael Young (SS, TEX) reluctantly moved over to third base to open up the shortstop job for Andrus. Andrus has blazing speed and excellent defensive range.
However, he could use some more time in the minors to develop more power and refine his strike zone judgment. But, he may not get that time. The Rangers appear hell-bent on giving Andrus the job sooner rather than later.
Andrus has the potential to be a star one day. But, in the short-term, I expect a boatload of stolen bases, a modest batting average and very little power.
Taylor Teagarden (C, TEX) Age: 25
2009 Projection: .242 BA, 9 HR, 48 RBI, 50 R, 0 SB
Defense does not win fantasy baseball championships. Keep this in mind if you consider drafting Teagarden. This backstop is a defensive wizard, but his offensive skills are limited.
In 2008, between Double-A and Triple-A, Teagarden hit an abysmal .211, with a .319 on-base percentage, and 9 HR. Of course, all the blind optimists remember is his 47 AB major league audition last year where he hit .319 with 6 HR. While Teagarden has some nice power, he has some huge holes in his swing.
So, why do I have him on this list? Teagarden should win the starting catcher role in Texas over Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C, TEX) and Max Ramirez (C, TEX) because of his strong defensive skills.
Thus, he has an ability to make an impact at a premium position because of his modest power. Teagarden's current ADP is 188 in AL-only leagues. I would take a pass on him in this slot and take a flier on another rookie if I was looking for youth.
Dexter Fowler (OF, COL) Age: 22
2009 Projection: .303 BA, 6 HR, 41 RBI, 47 R, 13 SB
This kid is ready for the big show and Colorado needs to give him an everyday job now. Fowler drips fantasy tools. He has speed, developing power and can hit for average. Fowler will run for days when he hits gappers at Coors Field.
Last year, in Double-A, Fowler hit .335, with 9 HR, a .431 OBP, and 20 SB. Impressive. Ryan Spilborghs (OF, COL) will probably earn the centerfield job coming out of spring training. But, Fowler should takeover by early June and he will make a fantasy impact immediately.
All Average Draft Positions provided by mockdraftcentral.com.