Fantasy Baseball 2016: Draft 'Buy or Sell' on Top Spring Training Rookies
The 2015 MLB season gave us one of the deepest and most productive rookie classes in recent memory, as a number of first-year players became major contributors on the fantasy baseball landscape.
All told, Kris Bryant (No. 33), Matt Duffy (No. 71), Carlos Correa (No. 90), Billy Burns (No. 110), Noah Syndergaard (No. 130), Francisco Lindor (No. 144), Odubel Herrera (No. 149), Delino DeShields Jr. (No. 153), Mark Canha (No. 157), Jung-ho Kang (No. 158), Justin Bour (No. 179), Eddie Rosario (No. 180) and Joc Pederson (No. 200) all ranked in the top 200 in standard scoring last year.
So which rookies could make their mark this season?
Ahead we've broken down some of the top prospects in the league who are in big league camp this year, with our take on whether to buy or sell them when your fantasy draft rolls around.
Prospects were lumped into six different categories, to make everything easier to digest.
Note: Everything is based on 10- or 12-team mixed leagues with standard five-by-five rotisserie scoring for hitters (BA, R, HR, RBI, SB) and pitchers (W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV). Lineup construction assumes 22 active roster positions, consisting of one each for catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, corner infield, middle infield and utility, along with five outfielders and nine pitchers.
International Free-Agent Signings
RF Hyun-Soo Kim, Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles agreeing to sign Dexter Fowler to a three-year, $33 million deal (per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports) has a direct impact on the fantasy value of Kim, as it means he'll be moving out of the leadoff spot and down in the order. He should still get a crack at everyday playing time with his plus on-base skills, but he's not worth drafting at this point.
SP Kenta Maeda, Los Angeles Dodgers
Maeda is not expected to make the same kind of impact that Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka did as rookies, but he still has the stuff to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. He wasn't a big strikeout pitcher in Japan (7.4 K/9 career), but his good command should mean a solid WHIP, and he'll be in a position to win plenty of games with a good Dodgers team.
Verdict: Buy as a late-round flier.
RP Seung-Hwan Oh, St. Louis Cardinals
A standout reliever in both the KBO and Japanese League, Oh piled up 357 career saves with a 1.81 ERA and 10.7 K/9 in 11 pro seasons. He's not going to unseat Trevor Rosenthal in the closer's role, but he could pitch his way into being the primary right-handed setup man alongside Kevin Siegrist.
Verdict: Sell, but be ready to swoop if Rosenthal gets hurt.
DH Byung-Ho Park, Minnesota Twins
No one expects Park to match the 1.150 OPS and 53 home runs he put up in the KBO last year, but his power potential is for real. He should open the season seeing everyday at-bats, and even hitting near the bottom of the order he'll have plenty of RBI opportunities in a good Twins lineup.
Stud Starting Pitchers on the Cusp
RHP Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins
The Twins will be relying on the trio of Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana and Kyle Gibson to lead their starting rotation once again this year but by season's end, there's a good chance Jose Berrios could be their best starter. The 21-year-old went 14-5 with a 2.87 ERA, 1.046 WHIP and 9.5 K/9 while reaching Triple-A last year.
Verdict: Buy as a draft-and-stash.
RHP Lucas Giolito, Washington Nationals
The Nationals have kept Giolito on a very short leash throughout his pro career, as he's never thrown more than 117 innings in a season and only has 253.2 total innings under his belt. The stuff is there for the 21-year-old to be an ace, but he may not get his shot until September, with an eye on cracking the rotation in 2017.
RHP Tyler Glasnow, Pittsburgh Pirates
Ryan Vogelsong and Jeff Locke are currently penciled into the final two spots in the Pirates rotation, but they won't stand in the way of Glasnow once he's deemed ready. All it will take is a few rough starts from one of those two and a strong start in Triple-A from Glasnow, and he'll be in the majors. He has the overpowering stuff (2.07 ERA, 11.8 K/9 career) to make an immediate impact as well.
Verdict: Buy as the best draft-and-stash pitching prospect out there.
LHP Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays
The 2015 Minor League Player of the Year, Snell climbed three levels to reach Triple-A while going 15-4 with a 1.41 ERA, 1.022 WHIP and 10.9 K/9. He'll be knocking on the door if he keeps pitching like he did last year, but he doesn't have a clear path to a rotation spot, and the staff will be even more crowded once Alex Cobb returns. He'll debut at some point in 2016, but the uncertainty of when makes him a better waiver target down the line.
LHP Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers
Urias is still well ahead of the developmental curve as a 19-year-old with 72.2 innings of work between Double-A and Triple-A to his credit, but he still doesn't have a clear route to Los Angeles. The Dodgers rotation may not be as talented without Zack Greinke, but the returns of Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy, the additions of Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda, and a full season of Alex Wood gives them enough depth that they won't have to rush Urias.
"Rookie" Pitchers Who Already Have MLB Experience
RHP Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks
The No. 7 pick in the 2011 draft, Bradley was viewed as a future front-line starter coming up through the Diamondbacks' system, but injuries have derailed his career the past two seasons. He broke camp as part of the rotation last year and should get a crack again this spring, but until he proves he can stay healthy, let someone else draft him.
RHP Jon Gray, Colorado Rockies
The results weren't great for Gray in his first taste of big league action, as he posted a 5.53 ERA in 40.2 innings of work, but that was accompanied by a 3.63 FIP that gives some reason for hope going forward. His elite fastball velocity (94.4 mph) allowed him to move quickly, but it's the command of his slider/changeup that will determine just how good he can be.
"Pitching in Denver's high altitude is a difficult task, but he may have better pure stuff than any pitcher in franchise history," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.
Verdict: Buy as a late-round flier who could be in for a breakout performance
LHP Steven Matz, New York Mets
One of two rookies ranked on my preseason top 150 Big Board, Matz checked in at No. 126 overall as the 35th-ranked starting pitcher. The left-hander had a 2.27 ERA, 1.234 WHIP and 8.6 K/9 in six starts last season, and he has the electric stuff to give the Mets another dynamic young starter. Don't overpay for the hype, but he can definitely help your team.
Outfielders with a Clear Path to an MLB Job
CF Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
Buxton showed what he's capable of with a .305/.367/.500 line in the minors that included 30 extra-base hits and 22 stolen bases before a promotion in June, but he hit just .209/.256/.326 with a 31.9 percent strikeout rate in 138 plate appearances in Minnesota.
He still has the skills to be a five-tool star and a clear path to the center field job after the team traded Aaron Hicks, but he's had a hard time staying healthy. If he can avoid injury, he could be a breakout star, and there may not be a bigger risk/reward play this year.
Verdict: Buy, but proceed with caution.
LF Hector Olivera, Atlanta Braves
The 30-year-old Olivera is in the process of transitioning to the outfield after serving primarily as a third baseman, and if he can prove ready for the everyday left field job, he could be a key bat in the middle of the Braves lineup. There's some legitimate power and run-production potential here, but the Braves offense figures to be among the worst in baseball, so that also has to be taken into account.
Verdict: Sell, but monitor him on the waiver wire.
RF Nick Williams, Philadelphia Phillies
Williams improved both his strikeout rate (28.8 percent to 18.8 percent) and walk rate (4.5 percent to 6.8 percent) significantly last year, and he continued to show solid power with 26 doubles and 17 home runs. He spent all of last season at the Double-A level, so more time in the minors seems likely, but his future is bright.
LF Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds
The left field gig is wide open for the Reds heading into spring training, and according to manager Bryan Price, top prospect Jesse Winker has a real shot at winning the job (per C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer). He's not the favorite, but if he doesn't break camp with the team, he should take over the job at some point in 2016.
Verdict: Buy as a draft-and-stash option who could contribute sooner than later.
OFs Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers
With the recent news that Josh Hamilton will start the season on the disabled list, the Rangers' left field job will be up for grabs to start the season. Justin Ruggiano, James Jones and Ryan Rua are in-house options with MLB experience, but top prospects Lewis Brinson (1.004 OPS, 31 2B, 20 HR) and Nomar Mazara (.808 OPS, 26 2B, 14 HR) are also in camp. They both have star potential, and both should debut in 2016.
Verdict: Buy both as draft-and-stash options.
3B/OF Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers
Another option for the Rangers will be Joey Gallo, who has legitimate 80-grade power but will need to prove he can make enough contact. He struck out at a 37.2 percent clip in the minors last year and a dizzying 46.3 percent rate in 123 plate appearances in the majors. Will he be the next Adam Dunn or the next Rob Deer?
Verdict: Buy, but expect the worst.
RF Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
An imposing physical specimen at 6'7" and 275 pounds, Judge posted an .866 OPS with 12 home runs in Double-A last year, but he struggled to a .680 OPS with eight home runs after being promoted to Triple-A. More time in the minors will do him good, but he's in line to take over as the starting right fielder in 2017 when Carlos Beltran leaves in free agency.
"Depending on how much Judge balances power versus discipline, he could be a higher-average hitter with 20 or so homers per season or more of a masher who delivers 30-plus long balls," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.
Verdict: Sell, but be ready to swoop if Beltran gets hurt.
1B A.J. Reed, Houston Astros
Jon Singleton will get every chance to win the first base job for the Astros, but A.J. Reed is in camp, and he has a chance to make a serious push for the job. The 22-year-old hit .340/.432/.612 with 30 doubles, 34 home runs and 127 RBI between High-A and Double-A.
Verdict: Buy as a late-round flier with significant upside.
Orlando Arcia, Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers' decision to trade Jean Segura was a clear indication that they're ready to turn things over to top prospect Orlando Arcia at some point this year, but he'll be headed to the minors to begin the year.
"We're going to send (Arcia) to Triple-A and allow him to continue his development," general manager David Stearns told Adam McCalvy of MLB.com following the Segura trade. "Ultimately, as he continues to grow and mature as a player, his production and his continued development will dictate his timeline to the Major Leagues, rather than a move like this."
Verdict: Buy as a draft-and-stash.
J.P. Crawford, Philadelphia Phillies
Crawford has a chance to be a cornerstone piece of the Phillies' rebuilding efforts, and his advanced approach was evident in his 63/54 BB/K ratio last season when he hit .288/.380/.414 with 35 extra-base hits and 12 steals. The 21-year-old may wind up being a better real-life player than fantasy player as a rookie, though.
Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
The highest-ranked rookie in my preseason top 150 Big Board, Seager checked in at No. 60 overall and fourth among shortstops behind Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Troy Tulowitzki. He hit .337/.425/.561 with 13 extra-base hits in 113 plate appearances as a rookie, and he should be an immediate contributor out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup.
"Seager has a higher offensive ceiling than any big league shortstop except for Carlos Correa," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.
Verdict: Buy as a top-five shortstop
Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves
Despite manager Fredi Gonzalez saying that performance will dictate when Swanson arrives in the majors for the Braves, leading some to believe he has a chance to win the job this spring, last year's No. 1 overall pick will almost certainly be headed to the minors.
The 22-year-old is as advanced as any shortstop prospect in recent memory, but chances are he won't make a legitimate impact until 2017 at the earliest.
Trea Turner, Washington Nationals
The Nationals' decision to sign Daniel Murphy and Stephen Drew this offseason means that Trea Turner won't be rushed into an everyday role in the majors, but as soon as he's deemed ready, the team will return Danny Espinosa to a utility role.
"He also saw time at the keystone in the big leagues, and it's possible that the Nats could use him interchangeably at both positions next season before ultimately deploying him as the everyday shortstop," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.
That versatility should give him a better chance of making an impact in 2016.
Verdict: Buy as a late-round flier with upside.