The 2009 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit continues today as we kick off the RotoRob Top 10 Lists of Lists that Fantasy Owners always Wanted, but were Afraid to Ask For with the RotoRob debut of our newest voice, Todd Habiger, who brings us the Top 10 rookies. Please join me in giving Todd a hearty welcome to RotoRob. He’s a long-time fantasy expert and is an excellent writer, to boot!
This list includes players (with less than 130 major league at-bats or 50 innings pitched) that will create the biggest stir this season.
In fantasy leagues, owners are constantly search for the next big – that mega star that will lift their team to fantasy glory. But there is a danger in investing in too many rookies. For every Evan Longoria there’s an Alex Gordon, the player that despite the hype only puts up modest numbers in their rookie season. Unfortunately, most rookies aren’t going to pan out and give you superstar numbers, so buyer beware (or caveat emptor, for my Latin friends). Even so, rookies can be good for injury fill-ins or to plug into your starting lineup in deeper leagues.
Below are my best bets to help you this year.
1. Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles: You got to like it when a rookie catcher is compared to Mike Piazza (unless they’re talking about his defense). Wieters comes into this season with a tremendous amount of hype, and based on his average draft position, you’ve noticed. He is a superb prospect that can help your team this year – but probably not for the first month or two. With the O’s not expected to contend, the plan is to keep Wieters in the minors long enough to delay his service time. So if you draft him, be sure you get a serviceable backup for the first month. After that, sit back and enjoy the ride.
2. Colby Rasmus, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: This super prospect lost a little luster last year with injuries and mediocre numbers. But don’t fret, he’s the real deal and will arrive this season. Tony La Russa plans to bat him ninth to start the season, but if Rasmus shows he can handle the bat he’ll move up in the order quickly. I expect a solid season for Rasmus in the range of .280-20-65-10.
3. David Price, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays: If you haven’t heard of Price, stop reading right now, take your wife and kids out for a nice meal, take up building model cars and send the money you were going to waste playing fantasy baseball this year to: Todd Habiger, PO Box 1259, Overland Park, KS 66204. Of course, Price is one of the most hyped prospects of our time. His coming out party was when he closed the door on the Red Sox to send the Rays to the World Series. But his fame is going to be as a starter and from the looks of things he’s going to be a good – if not great – one. But remember, he is a rookie and his innings are going to be watched. Think 12 wins and an ERA in the mid to upper 3s.
4. Chris Perez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals: La Russa doesn’t plan on naming a closer, but rather go with a bullpen by committee. Really, how often has a committee worked out well? Expect Perez to eventually lay claim to the job and hold on to it for say, the next five to 10 years. He has a great fastball that can reach the upper 90s when he needs something extra. But Perez can be wild and lacks a consistent secondary pitch. Still, he’s the best option in a rather mediocre St. Louis pen. I’m putting him down for 25 saves.
5. Travis Snider, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: Snider shot through the Blue Jays farm system last year, starting out at High A and ending up in the Show. This kid is the real deal and should lay claim to either an outfield or the DH slot. Power is Snider’s game and he should eventually find his way into the middle of the Jays lineup. Despite a somewhat high strikeout totally, scouts expect that Snider to settle into a .280 hitter or better.
6. Cameron Maybin, OF, Florida Marlins: This kid is an all-world athlete. A true five-tool player, Maybin should be able to translate those skills into a regular stint in the 30-30 club. As of now, he doesn’t have the greatest plate discipline, so don’t expect a stellar batting average or on base percentage right way. What you can expect is tape measure home runs, blazing thefts of second and lots of Sports Center moments. All that with a .230 BA.
7. Taylor Teagarden, C, Texas Rangers: The Ranger farm system is so deep that Teagarden didn’t even make Baseball America’s Top five Texas prospects. But my money’s on him having the biggest impact on the big league club this year. Teagarden had an impressive debut, smacking six home runs in 47 at bats to give him a leg up on the starting catcher position entering 2009. But it’s a tough road with former top prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia and fellow prospect Max Ramirez standing in the way. Still, Teagarden offers more of a complete package with his defense ability to call a game.
8. Brett Wallace, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals: Wallace is one of my big hunches this year (for more, see below). The man can hit. He started knocking the cover off the ball in High A ball and when an injury created an opportunity at Double-A, Wallace didn’t lose a beat, batting over .300 with power. With Troy Glaus injury prone and no suitable replacement on the St. Louis bench, I think Wallace could have an opportunity to make an impact on the big league club right away.
9. Dexter Fowler, OF, Colorado Rockies: Fowler is a superb athlete who is still translating all his potential on the baseball field. Blessed with natural speed and strength, Fowler had an amazing 2008, being selected to the Futures Game and making the Olympic Team. While he hasn’t shown much power yet, scouts seem to think it’s only a matter of time. With the Colorado outfield looking pretty underwhelming right now, Fowler could find himself in a battle to make the opening day roster. If that happens, snatch him up.
10. Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas Rangers: Not even old enough to legally drink yet, Andrus nonetheless unwittingly caused a ruckus this offseason when the Rangers said they were moving All-Star shortstop Michael Young to third base to make room for the kid. Young immediately asked for a trade, but eventually backed down and agreed to the move. While he will probably only show modest power in his career, Andrus has good speed and should be able to steal 20+ bases regularly.
RotoRob only wanted my top 10 so I gave him my best bets. But still, with no insider knowledge, I just have a feeling about the five guys below. There’s nothing out there to say these guys are ready or have an easy path to a big league job, but there’s something about them that my gut is telling me “these guys are going to do something this year.” If they pan out, remember you heard it here first. If they don’t, hey they were only hunches, what do you expect?
Alcides Escobar, SS, Milwaukee Brewers: One J.J. Hardy stands in Escobar’s big league path, but eventually Hardy is going to be just a speed bump. Escobar is outstanding defensively and projects to hit with decent power, Throw in a touch of speed and you’ve got a future All-Star in the making.
Gordon Beckham, SS, Chicago White Sox: I must admit, I have a major man crush on Beckham. I think he’s going to be an outstanding power hitting shortshop (provided he stays there). The kid can simply rake. He hit the ground hitting, so to speak. Beckham showed good power in his minor league debut and then tore into AFL pitchers this winter. With Chris Getz no sure thing at 2B in ChiTown, I’m thinking Beckham might have a shot at seeing the Show this year.
Chris Tillman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles: Tillman is a good bet to open the year in Triple-A, but where he ends it is up for debate. He has nasty stuff — the kind No. 1 starters are made of. I’m guessing the first injury to the O’s rotation will unleash Tillman on big league batters and then, look out.
Kila Ka’aihue, 1B: Kansas City Royals: There’s nothing to suggest that Ka’aihue has any shot in hell of making the Royals this year. The club traded for Mike Jacobs and, if needed, Billy Butler can slap on a glove and play first base. But Ka’aihue has good plate discipline (something Jacobs can only dream about) and something the Royals sorely need. I personally think he’d look great in the middle of the Royal lineup.
Tommy Hanson, RHP, Atlanta Braves: The Braves have revamped their starting rotation by adding Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez to the mix and seemingly leaving Hanson to fend for himself in Triple-A. Last year, Hanson had a season to remember, putting himself near the top of everyone’s top pitching prospects list. He dominated High A ball and didn’t miss a beat upon promotion to Double-A, a stint which included a no-hitter. The hitter-friendly AFL didn’t slow Hanson down either, as he won the pitching Triple Crown.