Rookies can make or break your fantasy team each and every year. Take last year’s Buster Posey for example. Once the season began, he was available in over 99.5 percent of standard leagues and was an afterthought on draft day. Flash forward to the end of the season, and Posey was the third ranked catcher, Rookie of the Year and 11th in MVP voting.
With so many players switching teams this offseason, there are many new prospects that could make an immediate impact on your fantasy team. The following are players that are either projected to make the team straight out of spring training or join the team during a midseason call up—don’t forget any of these names come draft day.
C J. P. Arencibia, TOR
Stats, AAA: 413 AB, 76 R, 85 RBI, 32 HR, 0 SB, .301 AVG, .359 OBP, .986 OPS
Analysis: Arencibia is a name that every fantasy draft owner should circle come game day. He put up gaudy numbers in AAA but was limited at the Major League level because John Buck was having a career year. Now that John Buck has chosen to leave the team via free agency, there is no one left to block him from being a starter on the rising Toronto Blue Jays.
Add in the fact that he is surrounded by one of the best offenses in the American league, and you have a player that could be a top five catcher come season's end. Don’t expect a high average, but you can anticipate 15-20 home runs in his rookie campaign with a legitimate shot to win Rookie of the Year.
1B Brandon Belt, SF
Stats, A-AA-AAA: 492 AB, 99 R, 112 RBI, 23 HR, 22 SB, .352 AVG, .455 OBP, 1.075 OPS
Analysis: Brandon Belt seemed to come out of nowhere to explode onto the fantasy radar in 2010. After getting drafted in the fifth round in the 2009 Amateur Draft, he has made a name for himself in his first professional season. Many within the Giants organization have compared him to the former NL Rookie of the Year, Buster Posey. He has shown an incredible sense of the strike zone as demonstrated by his .455 OBS, while also showing a rare combination of speed and power (20+ HR and SB).
Moving through three levels of minor league ball, he finished the season at AAA and is in prime position to be called up to the Majors in 2011. Although he may not be with the Giants come opening day, his play in AAA would leave them no choice but to make him a midseason call up. You can expect him to hit for a high average and power paired with a few stolen bases along the way.
2B Dustin Ackley, SEA
Stats, AA-AAA: 501 AB, 79 R, 51 RBI, 7 HR, 10 SB, .267 AVG, .368 OBP, .775 OPS
Analysis: After getting drafted second overall in the 2009 MLB Draft as an outfielder, Ackley put up respectable numbers after making the eventually transition to second base. His numbers are not lights-out, but he was able to have a K/BB ratio of around 1.00 which is impressive for a first-year player. He only had 10 SB last season, but many figure him to be a 20+ SB a year type prospect.
Ackley will get the opportunity to win the starting position right out of the gate if he impresses with a good spring training. Although the power numbers may not come right away, he can put up numbers similar to that of Brian Roberts or Freddie Sanchez. If anything, Ackley should be considered a late-round target in deeper leagues with the potential to make an impact midway through the year.
3B Mike Moustakas, KC
Stats, AA-AAA: 534 AB, 94 R, 124 RBI, 36 HR, 2 SB, .322 AVG, .369 OBP, .999 OPS
Analysis: After a lackluster season in 2009, Moustakas moved from being rated the 13th to the 80th ranked prospect. He responded by putting up the best numbers of his career by belting 36 home runs with a .322 BA. One area of concern is that he only walked 34 times last season so that is something he can improve upon.
With that said, Moustakas is an elite prospect heading into next season. The 3B position for Kansas City is his to lose in spring training, and he has a power potential that few have the ability to match. Over the course of spring training, be sure to monitor his status and draft him in the mid-to-late rounds in all leagues.
SS Reid Brignac, TB
Stats, Majors: 301 AB, 39 R, 45 RBI, 8 HR, 3 SB, .256 AVG, .307 OBP, .682 OPS
Analysis: As a result of the recent trade of Jason Bartlett, Reid Brignac will finally get a chance to prove himself at the major league level. Brignac is never going to wow you with his numbers, but he is more than capable of putting up 15-20 home runs along with a .275 BA, above average for the depleted shortstop position. If you happen to miss out on the top shortstops in the 2011 fantasy baseball draft, don’t hesitate to take Brignac as your fantasy starter in the late rounds.
OF Desmond Jennings, TB
Stats, AAA: 458 AB, 82 R, 36 RBI, 3 HR, 37 SB, .278 AVG, .362 OBP, .756 OPS
Analysis: Desmond Jennings has big shoes to fill as the potential replacement for All-Star OF Carl Crawford. However, he possesses all of the physical tools and athletic ability to hold his own in left field. His closest comparison is Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen, only with less power.
Come 2011, Jennings could be a cheap source for stolen bases and a threat at the top of the Rays lineup for years to come. A stat-line of .275-5-50-80 is very obtainable, not bad for someone projected to be drafted in the 20th round.
OF Domonic Brown, PHI
Stats, Majors: 62 AB, 8 R, 13 RBI, 2 HR, 2 SB, .210 AVG, .257 OBP, .612 OPS
Analysis: Domonic Brown is another player who has big shoes to fill after the Phillies lost Jason Werth to the Nationals a few weeks ago. He had a very good year in the minors in 2010 before being called up to the Phillies for the home stretch. That experience could prove to be invaluable as he gets a chance to take the starting job right out of spring training.
Down the road, Brown figures to develop into a consistent power hitter for the Phillies along with the ability to steal 20+ bases a year. As for 2011, you can expect a .280 AVG with plus power potential, it doesn’t hurt that half of his games are played in the hitter-friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park.
OF Chris Carter, OAK
Stat, AAA: 551 AB, 92 R, 94 RBI, 31 HR, 1 SB, .258 AVG, .365 OBP, .894 OPS
Analysis: There are many questions about the future of Oakland Athletics’ Chris Carter. However, two things are for certain, he can hit home runs, and he can walk—sounds like Adam Dunn to me. Carter isn’t projected to make the team straight out of spring training, but with the recent trade of Rajai Davis, they have an opening at the outfield position.
Keep a close eye on Chris Carter over the next few months, when he gets called up he can provide some much needed pop for the punch-less Oakland Athletics and your fantasy team.