The first week of the fantasy baseball season has come and gone and one group has already made quite a name for themselves, the rookies. Just about every youngster found in the rankings this week made great strides over the last seven days. In just a short period of time these young guns have stepped up into the spot and forced people to recognize their game. Pitchers dominate the rankings this week and it’s with good reason too. Some of the following young men outdueled proven veterans last week and gave themselves additional confidence as they progress toward rookie of the year dreams. Let’s take a closer look at these very sound fantasy baseball sleepers.
1) Kyle Drabek – Tor (LW:1)
Firing out of the staring blocks like Usain Bolt, Kyle Drabek came to play last Saturday. Undoubtedly that bandwagon I’ve been touting since the early stages of spring training is going to get jammed up in a hurry. Against the Twins, Drabek chucked seven innings of one-hit ball with seven strikeouts mixed in while securing his first major league win. He was making proven major leaguers look silly out there and didn’t even have his best stuff either. He will take the hill again on Friday against the Angels for his second stiff test in as many outings. This kid is for real.
2) Jeremy Hellickson – TB (LW:2)
While not quite as impressive as Drabek in his first start, Hellickson did still manage to turn quite a few heads in his first appearance of the year. Hellickson took the hill against the Angels on Wednesday and while his overall numbers weren’t overly impressive, his double digit strikeouts were. The young righty racked up ten punch-out’s in just 5.2 innings which has Rays fans and fantasy baseball owners alike salivating at his future potential. Like Drabek, pitching in the AL East will pose quite a challenge for the rookies but Hellickson looks poised to more than hold his own.
3) Craig Kimbrel – Atl (LW:9)
After beginning the season is what many believed to be a timeshare, Craig Kimbrel has taken the closers gig in Atlanta and established himself quickly. Manager Fredi Gonzalez made it very clear in spring training that he would use the hot hand, but he sure has taken a liking to Kimbrel in the early going. The righty flamethrower has converted his first two save chances in impressive fashion with two clean innings and five strikeouts combined. He doesn’t figure to relent the job anytime soon.
4) Michael Pineda – Sea (LW:3)
Another youngster with a rocket arm who made his much anticipated debut last week was Mariners youngster Michael Pineda. I’ve been singing his praises in this space for weeks and came away from his first start on Tuesday fairly impressed. Although he suffered a loss at the hands of a red-hot Rangers outfit, Pineda flashed his entire arsenal and kept a potent lineup at bay. He ended up going six innings while giving up three runs, but certainly pitched well enough to win. Keep an eye on him next time out against the Blue Jays.
5) Brandon Beachy – Atl (LW:8)
All eyes were on Beachy for his first start of the season on Monday in Milwaukee and he did not disappoint. After beating out Mike Minor in spring training, Beachy was handed the fifth spot in the rotation and stated his case to stay there right out of the gate. The Braves rookie ended up tossing six innings of one-run ball while striking out seven. He only walked one batter in the game and has his fantasy baseball owners overjoyed with their investment. Look for him to continue to pitch well and earn some trust as the season progresses.
6) Zach Britton – Bal (LW:NR)
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t expect to see Britton back in the show quite this quickly. Some extenuating circumstances (re: injury) forced the Orioles hand and they were all too willing to call the promising lefty back to the big leagues. Britton then proceeded to hurl six impressive innings against the Rays while flashing the devastating fastball-slider combo that has fans giddy with excitement. Many are under the impression that once Brian Matusz returns from the disabled list Britton will be returned to the minors. I for one am not convinced that’s the case and plan on seeing much more of Britton for weeks to come.
7) J.P Arencibia – Tor (LW:NR)
J.P Arencibia is a highly touted prospect who I glossed over in spring training because outside of Buster Posey rookie catchers just don’t seem to stack up in their first year. Arencibia is quickly turning me into a believer and is making the Blue Jays look real good for sticking with him through a rough spring. He has amassed five hits in his first 13 plate appearances with two longballs and five RBI, a pace that most catchers would love to claim as their own. He looks to be the real deal in the early going.
8) Brandon Belt – SF (LW:4)
A slight bump in value for Brandon Belt this week, but that’s not to say he didn’t perform quite well. In fact, it’s more of an indicator that all the rookies on this list he is presently looking up at are absolutely crushing it. Belt had a decent start to the season in the opening series against the Dodgers with a homerun, four RBI and a stolen base to boot. Since then he has gone 2-12 and is mired in his first mini-slump of the season. The young first basemen should be fine so don’t jump ship just yet.
9) Freddie Freeman – Atl (LW:6)
Freddie Freeman almost fell off this list entirely after a sluggish start to his rookie campaign, but I’m willing to give the youngster the benefit of the doubt. With just three hits in his first 23 at-bats along with a paltry one RBI, many people are wondering if Freeman is in fact ready for the big leagues. The Braves will be patient with their young star and you should do the same. Keep the faith and he is sure to reward you.
10) Jordan Walden – LAA (LW:NR)
A trendy sleeper pick entering this season, Jordan Walden went out and had himself an eye
-popping spring while waiting for his chance to usurp the closers job from the always
mediocre Fernando Rodney. Rodney wasted no time in losing manager Mike Scoisca’s trust
and has already lost the role less than a week into the season. In steps the hard-throwing righty Walden to restore some normalcy in the Angels bullpen and he has done just that. He already has two perfect innings and one save to his credit since being named the go-to guy in the ninth and looks ready to claim the job from here on out.
Dropped Out: Mark Trumbo (LAA), Ivan Nova (NYY), Mitch Moreland (Tex)