Fantasy Baseball: Five Rookies for 2010

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Fantasy Baseball: Five Rookies for 2010
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Want to impress your friends and dazzle your league-mates? The way to do that is to make smart selections at the end of a draft.

So why not take a look at a series of players that can make owners feel pretty good about themselves as they close out the final rounds?

Here are five players to keep an eye on as your team takes shape.

By the way, not reinventing the wheel, but these are the five rookies that would be on my draft list in most formats.

 

Drew Stubbs

The Reds liked Stubbs enough to push out incumbent Willy Taveras and give Stubbs the gig full-time. There is no denying how exciting the young player can be on the bases. He stole 46 bases last season in 107 Triple-A games before adding another 10 in 42 games for the Reds.

When it comes to grabbing steals late, Stubbs is certainly a player that can win a category and a reason not to reach early for the Michael Bourns of the world.

The one area where caution should be exercised is in the expectation of Stubbs to repeat his home run numbers of 2009. In his time with Cincinnati, Stubbs hit eight home runs. That compares to only three during his time in the minors that season. Just over 17 percent of his fly balls left the yard, a rate that does not seem sustainable over a full season.

Expect his average to come back, as he is certainly a better hitter than what he showed with the Reds, but do not expect to be getting the next Rickey Henderson.

A good comparison is likely the numbers expected out of Shane Victorino, but with more stolen bases. Victorino projects out (according to Bill James) to 95 runs, 59 RBI, 12 home runs, and a .283 average with 24 steals. Expect Stubbs to provide 80 percent of the production at 20 percent of the cost.

I think James shortchanges him on average, but .275 to go with 80 runs, eight home runs, and 45 steals would certainly justify the selection.

 

Alcides Escobar

Escobar has to be one of my favorite shortstops come the final rounds of a draft. For leagues that require owners to use a middle infield spot, he can provide a big-time boost when it would seem the pool is empty. To say he might lack power is an understatement, but he does give impressive value in return for the late selection. The Brewers traded J.J. Hardy because of Escobar, and fantasy owners should be grateful.

In limited time last season, Escobar hit .304 but watched the speed he flashed in the minors take a back seat. After stealing 42 bases in Triple-A, he snagged just four over his 38 games with the Brewers. During Winter League play, he dominated at the plate, hitting near .400 and improving his walk rate. Much of his value lies in his speed, so this should not be overlooked.

While he may not play in a standard 5x5 12-team league, if your lineup needs to include an extra guy up the middle, an owner could do worse than a .290 average and potential for more than 35 steals from Escobar.

 

Jason Heyward

Of late, this is a player I have written about a fair amount. Since that is the case, allow myself to quote myself:

Heyward may have only played 50 games above Double-A, but there is no denying his talent. He is coming off a 2009 campaign where he hit .323 with 17 home runs on the way to being named Minor League Player of the Year. He has an impressive batting eye, showing a good walk rate at every stop.

Even with his 6’4” frame, Heyward has shown he can steal double-digit bases, and every scouting report raves of his five-tool ability. Chipper Jones has drawn a direct comparison to Fred McGriff.

While he may look buried on the current depth chart, Bobby Cox is giving Heyward a shot at winning the starting job in right field. The only thing standing in front of him is a career platoon player in Matt Diaz. Diaz’s inability to hit right-handed pitching and the fact Heyward has shown an impressive ability to hit lefties well at a young age while ripping right-handers, it is likely a matter of when he takes over and not if he does.

I think that sums him up nicely.

 

Wade Davis

His stint in September should have started the wheels churning in the heads of fantasy owners everywhere. Davis shined in his limited outings and made himself the favorite for the fifth spot in the Tampa rotation heading into the spring. He will certainly be pushed by Andy Sonnanstine and Jeremy Hellickson. Sonnanstine will be looking to regain a spot, while Hellickson will hope to earn one.

Davis has all the tools to be effective, and Tampa has monitored his development closely. He threw 160 innings in 2008 and followed that up with 195 in 2009. Some might immediately look to the "Verducci Effect," but it should be noted that there is no true methodology available (to the novice analyzers) that can effectively weigh the strain of minor league innings.

For Davis, the key will be end of the season endurance. He should be able to throw 180 innings, though, should he be asked.

The projections have Davis putting together an ERA in the mid-4.00 range. I like to think that he can come in under 4.00, even if it is by the skin of his teeth. Add to that his ability to strike out greater than 150 hitters should he reach the innings projection outlined, and you would have a valuable starter at the back end of your fantasy rotation.

 

Scott Sizemore

One of my favorites this year, Sizemore has likely been moved down the order with the signing of Johnny Damon. While Austin Jackson as a leadoff hitter provides potential value and steals for owners, the outfield is so deep that he gets lost in the shuffle unless you are in an AL-only format. Sizemore, though, can swing the bat and plays at a much thinner position.

Similar to Escobar, owners will only want to look at Sizemore if they need to fill an MI spot in their lineup. The question as to if his numbers will translate is the biggest issue. In 2009, Sizemore had 17 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A while hitting .307 and stealing 21 bases. Those numbers would be an impressive feat should he be able to mimic them with Detroit.

Honestly, the only risk is that no one has seen him do it. Personally, I like him to fall in around .280 with 12 home runs in his rookie campaign. Speed translates, so 15 steals is not out of the question. At every level, his BABIP has fallen right into the .340 range. You might not be able to win a league with that, but it will not lose it for you.

I am more bullish on Sizemore than many, but the thin position has me thinking late-round steal.

 

You will notice that there are some potential rookies that did not make this list, including Stephen Strasburg. In my opinion, unless you are in a keeper league, he will not have enough impact this season to warrant keeping him on a roster. He is a player to watch and see if he gets pulled up at any point this season.

The Nationals may be tempted to rush him to the majors, but set personal expectations that he does not join the team until September call-ups.

Collin Hager is a featured fantasy baseball columnist on Bleacher Report. He is a regular contributor to FantasyPros911.com and writes the Elmhurst Pub fantasy blog. You can follow Collin on Twitter @TheRoundtable.

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