The 2015 MLB RotoRob Draft Kit surges forward today with another of our beloved top 10 lists. So while you decide whether Juan Lagares deserves the four-year extension the Mets gave him, let’s turn our attention to this season’s rookie crop.
Ah, potential. Is there a bigger double-edged sword in all of Fantasy sports? Perhaps not, but while the chances for failure are higher banking on unproven rookies, the rewards can be far greater than investing picks in middling veterans. Plus, it’s a hell of a lot more fun.
So, in that spirit, let’s take a look at 10 players that could be making an impact in 2015.
1. Tim Beckham, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays: Selected No. 1 overall back in 2008, Beckham pretty much fell off our prospect radar back in 2010. He has logged just seven major league at-bats and missed almost all of last season with a torn ACL. Beckham entered spring training in the mix at both shortstop and second base for the Rays, but a poor showing has him ticketed for spot duty behind veterans Asdrubal Cabrera and Logan Forsythe. Still, neither Cabrera nor Forsythe is a great offensive talent, and if the Rays fall out of contention they could give the talented Beckham a long look to see if he’s part of their future. Hey, if nothing else, this kid’s got some moves (see video below).
2. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins: Considered by most publications to be one of the top handful of prospects, if the not the best of the bunch, Buxton will nonetheless open the 2015 season in the minors for some seasoning (and to prevent his service-time clock from starting). He is long on talent — excellent speed, developing power, ferocious bat speed, etc. — but short on experience with just three at-bats above High-A. It’s possible the Twins could hold Buxton back until 2016, but a more likely scenario is a late-June promotion. If that happens, pounce.
3. Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Chicago Cubs: In case you hadn’t heard, the Cubs’ minor league system is absolutely loaded with high-end prospects, and no one is more highly regarded than Bryant. The 23-year-old tore up the minors last year, clubbing 43 home runs between Double- and Triple-A, en route to being named the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year. Incredibly, his profile has increased this spring, feasting on pitching and leading both the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues with nine home runs (in just 37 ABs). While GM Theo Epstein’s abhorrence of carrying rookies on the Opening Day roster is well known, it’s hard to imagine Bryant won’t be up sooner than later. He’s a prime draft-and-stash candidate.
4. Addison Russell, SS, Chicago Cubs: Although less celebrated than Bryant, Russell’s ceiling is considered nearly as high. He’s got other issues to contend with, however, including the presence of Starlin Castro at shortstop and fellow uber prospect Javier Baez at second, as well as a lack of experience after missing much of the 2014 campaign with injuries. Russell has good speed, plus power and is an elite offensive prospect. The question is whether there’s a spot for him in 2015.
5. Dylan Bundy, SP, Baltimore Orioles: It’s been a long road back for Bundy, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013 and pitched just 41 1/3 innings last season before a lat strain shut him down. When healthy, the former fourth overall pick features a nasty fastball-cutter combination. He’ll open the year in Double-A Bowie, and the team wants to take it slow with him coming off a pair of injury-filled seasons so it remains to be seen if and when he gets the call in 2015.
6. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs: Summoned from the minors last August, Soler wasted no time in letting opponents know he was a force to be reckoned with by smashing three home runs in his first 11 at-bats. Still, while his raw power is undeniable, he is a bit lean on experience, logging just 555 combined ABs in the minors due in no small part to injuries and a pair of suspensions. That means you should expect some bumps along the way as Soler acclimates to a steady diet of major-league pitching. He’ll be to be the Cubs’ Opening Day right fielder (batting second) and is worth a late-round selection.
7. Aaron Sanchez, SP/RP, Toronto Blue Jays: Sanchez owns a big-time arm and the type of repertoire that could allow him to develop into a frontline starter down the road. His comand was better than advertised during a 33-inning stretch with the Jays in 2014 as well, registering 27 strikeouts to just nine walks. With the season-ending injury to Marcus Stroman (knee), Sanchez begins the season as the No. 5 starter. In that capacity he’s a very tempting high-upside option in the later rounds.
8. Daniel Norris, SP, Toronto Blue Jays: Limited by an innings cap, Norris worked just 6 2/3 frames for the Jays last year and didn’t impress the way Sanchez did. The southpaw, who turns 22 later this month, is thought to have more upside, however, with a low-to-mid 90s fastball that has all kinds of movement — he paced the minors in strikeouts (163) a season ago. It’s a lot to ask of such a young pitcher to sustain that kind of performance at the next level, but those strikeout numbers make him an enticing selection in the waning moments of your draft.
9. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: One of the reasons the Dodgers moved Matt Kemp (within their own division no less) was because they wanted 22-year-old Pederson to be their everyday centre fielder from the get go in 2015. Although he didn’t do much in a 2014 audition, he piled up the numbers in the minors, posting a .303-33-78 line with 30 steals at Triple-A Albuquerque. Pederson has legitimate 20-20 potential and Rookie of the Year aspirations, and he’s the biggest thing to come out of New Mexico since blue meth. Now, say his name…
10. Jung Ho Kang, 2B/SS, Pittsburgh Pirates: At 28 years of age, Kang isn’t really a “prospect” in the same sense as others on this list. He is a rookie, however, and one that hit .356 with 40 home runs and 117 RBI in 2014 for the Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization. A rough spring means he’ll likely open the season behind Jordy Mercer, but he has more offensive upside, albeit at the cost of some defensive skills. Even though the history of Asian infielders making a smooth transition to the majors isn’t encouraging, Kang has a chance to buck that trend.
Now it’s your. Let us know which rookies you’ll be tracking this season.