There have been a lot of impressive performances by youngsters this season in fantasy baseball, but who’s been the most impressive? Here at FBS, we take a look at the most impressive rookies this year and let you know who can help you the most—both now and long-term.
1.Stephen Strasburg, SP WSH: 2-1, 1.78 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 41 K
Even people that know nothing about baseball know who this kid is. Strasburg is the most electrifying prospect to make his debut in my lifetime, and his performance on the mound shows exactly why. In his first four starts, he’s registered more strikeouts (41) than any other SP in history. He’s pitched seven innings in two of those four starts and registered at least eight K’s in all four starts. His value clearly lies in his ability to strike hitters out at an alarming rate, and with a 99+ MPH fastball, a dirty 12-6 curve, and a changeup that’s faster than Maddux’s fastball ever was, this kid looks every bit as good as advertised. He very well could be a top 10 SP in the MLB right now.
2.Jason Heyward, RF ATL: .251, 11 HR, 45 RBI, 5 SB
Like any rookie, Heyward has been battling peaks and valleys on his inaugural campaign, but the overall line is still quite impressive. Heyward was MLB’s number one prospect heading into Spring Training, so it’s no wonder that he won the job right out of the gate. His legendary manager Bobby Cox has nothing but the highest praise for the youngster, often stating that his presence and intelligence for the game are unlike anything he had seen for a player of that age before. He’s quickly becoming a fan favorite and may very well make his first All-Star appearance this summer. At just 20 years of age (21 in August), Heyward has a very promising future ahead of him. He plays a great RF and is on pace for around 25 HR’s and 100 RBI, and I think if you told he and the Braves that they’d be getting that from him at the beginning of the year, that they’d take it in a heartbeat; I know every fantasy owner on the planet will.
3.Brennan Boesch, RF, DET: .337, 11 HR, 40 RBI, 2 SB
Boesch is becoming a household name these days with his continued dominant performance. After originally coming up because of injury, Boesch has proven that he belongs at the MLB level. In fact, the Tigers shifted Carlos Guillen (again) to 2B just so Boesch could be kept in the everyday lineup. Just when it seems that he hits a rookie wall, the big rookie keeps raking at the plate. What’s most impressive about his statistics are that he’s only played in 48 games. He’s got very similar stats to Heyward, but much less buzz surrounding him. He’s still available in far too many leagues and is a reliable fantasy starter in any format right now and the foreseeable future.
4.Mike Leake, SP CIN: 5-1, 2.92 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 58 K
During Spring Training, the biggest news on the block in Cincinnati was the arrival of flamethrower Aroldis Chapman. However, the Reds had another young starter who they felt was more prepared than Chapman to begin the season, and his name: Mike Leake. After being drafted 8th overall in the 2009 draft, Leake never spent a day in the minor leagues and seems to not have skipped a single beat. The righty from Arizona State has been absolutely phenomenal since the beginning of the season and his 5-1 record doesn’t reflect just truly how good he’s been. Although he’ll be monitored closely as the season continues to wear on, Leake should pitch enough innings to keep him highly attractive to fantasy owners and one of the rookies who will make the most impact for his team this season. The Reds have to be thrilled with his development and fantasy owners who plucked him from the waiver wire are grinning from ear to ear.
5.Justin Smoak, 1B TEX: .227, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 1 SB
This kid is making Texas fans forget that Chris Davis even exists. Smoak was largely considered a steal when the Rangers selected him 11th overall in 2008, and he’s starting to show his true potential. Smoak’s power stroke is very impressive, and when he lays into a ball he absolutely crushes it. He reminds me a lot of Adam Dunn, in the sense that the power is there (clearly) but the average may not be. He is still obviously very young (23) so his average could very well climb as his experience at this level grows. Look for his average to climb upwards as soon as the second half of this season and hop aboard the Justin Smoak bandwagon. He’s part of a very good, young Texas team and could be integral to your fantasy team as well.
6.Carlos Santana, C CLE: .318, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 0 SB
We had to wait a lot longer for Santana’s debut than the rest of the rookies on our list, but boy is the young backstop worth it. Although he plays for an atrocious Indians team, Santana’s raw talent is undeniable and his presence at the plate is quite impressive for a rookie. The fact that he’s a catcher obviously boosts his value, especially since he can rake. He’s produced at a high rate at every level and will be a fixture in the Indians lineup for the foreseeable future. The sky is the limit for Santana in my opinion, and if he can improve upon his defensive skills, he’d be even higher on this list. Fantasy owners certainly need to take note that there’s a new catcher to add to the list of those (elite) that are actually worth drafting.
7.Ike Davis, 1B NYM: .265, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 1 SB
Some were pushing Davis aside when he cooled down after his scorching start, but Davis has once again picked it up. He’s got eight homers this season, and each one has come at a “clutch moment” (when the Mets were either ahead or trailing by four runs or less), so his ability to come through when it matters is not in question. He has struck out 58 times in 57 games, which is a bit alarming, but the big lefty has a long swing through the zone and is prone to chasing the slider or breaking pitch. Having said that, Davis has been everything that the Mets front office, fans, and fantasy owners everywhere could have hoped for; as this team had Mike Jacobs playing 1B and batting cleanup on opening day. To ask a rookie to come to the show and hit cleanup every day in New York is no easy task, and Davis has not shrunk down from it one bit. I love his future, and most importantly, we like Ike!
8.Mike Stanton, RF FLA: .213, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 3 SB
Stanton is most famous for his 500-foot homer this year when playing for Double-A Jacksonville that went over the 60-foot scoreboard in center field. When it’s all said and done for Stanton, he’s going to have a lot of memorable moments just like that one during his career at the ML level. In fact, his first homer of the season was a grand slam off of TB’s Matt Garza. Stanton is a phenomenal athlete with (arguably) more upside than anyone in the show right now. At just 20 years old, he is already a behemoth 6’5, 240 lbs and may very well continue to grow. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has already labeled him baseball’s new Paul Bunyan, and he should give Marlins fans something to get excited about for a long time. Although he’s striking out at a ridiculously high clip (29 through 16 games), that’s expected for the youngster who is just beginning to get his feet wet. Look for Stanton to string together a second-half run as he gets adjusted to the pitching at this level.
9.Austin Jackson, CF DET: .302, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 12 SB
Jackson got off to an absolutely blazing start to the season and many believed that the Tigers had robbed him from the Yankees. While that still may be the case, Jackson has certainly cooled down but still boasts a very impressive overall line. As long as he’s hitting leadoff for the Tigers, he’ll never drive in a ton of runs so his value lies squarely in his ability to get on base and steal bases. Jackson looks like a legitimate CF of the future in Detroit and Tigers fans should feel very happy with the fine young athlete. I’m sure that everyone would like to see his walks go up (73 K: 18 BB), but his patience should continue to improve with everyday of experience he gets.
10.Drew Storen, RP WSH: 2-1, 1.89 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 14 K
We start and end with a pitcher from DC—who would’ve known? Well, maybe the Nationals front office would have when they drafted the two first and tenth overall respectively in the 2009 draft. He was chosen to be the closer of the future and has flashed his dominant potential since he was called up earlier this year. He’s biding his time as a set-up guy for Matt Capps right now, but there’s no doubt who will be the closer in Washington by 2011. Storen is ready and ready right now, as evidenced by his very impressive ERA & WHIP. Capps could even be traded by the All-Star break, so Storen should be firmly implanted on all fantasy radars. He is dynasty league gold.
Honorable Mention: SS Starlin Castro, CHC; SP Hisanori Takahasi, SP NYM; Sergio Santos, RP CHW; Jake Arrieta, SP BAL