Some of the best late-round fantasy gems come in the form of rookies, many of whom are overlooked by the casual fantasy player. Don’t be fooled by their youth and inexperience though. While rookies are risky, these young studs can return enormous fantasy value, offering far more upside than some of the crusty veterans still left on the board in the late stages of drafts.
Let’s take a look at this year’s fantasy baseball All-Rookie Team. Don’t be afraid to dive in and take the plunge with this year’s crop, as they could be key in helping you win your fantasy league.
C – Devin Mesoraco, Reds: Things clicked for him two years ago, and he hasn’t looked back since. Mesoraco slugged his way to a .281 average with 15 homers and 71 runs batted in at Triple-A Louisville last year, and he’s poised to play everyday for the contending Reds. He’s an intriguing late round catcher option in fantasy drafts.
1B – Yonder Alonso, Padres: He currently only qualifies in the outfield in the Yahoo! game, but that will change quickly. Alonso was blocked in Cincinnati by Joey Votto, but now moves back to his natural 1B position after being a key part of the Mat Latos trade. He’s shown an ability to hit for a high average in the past (.296 at Triple-A, .330 in the majors), and should provide plenty of gap power. The downside is that spacious Petco Park has been known to suppress home run totals, so don’t expect more than 20 bombs.
2B – Anthony Rendon, Nationals: The reality is, there may not be a second base prospect in the minors who makes for an exciting fantasy option this year. Cory Spangenberg (Padres) and Kolten Wong (Cardinals) are natural second baseman, but I wanted to think a bit outside the box here. A natural third baseman, Rendon is blocked by Ryan Zimmerman in Washington, causing rumors to swirl that he’ll move to second base in order to get his advanced bat to the majors faster. He profiles as a .280 – .290 hitter with 20-25 homer ability.
SS – Tyler Pastornicky, Braves: Some folks give Reds shortstop Zack Cozart the edge here, but I like Pastornicky a bit more. While he may never hit more than 10 homers in the majors, he shows good contact ability, which should allow him to hit for a reasonable batting average (.299 at Double-A, .365 at Triple-A). He also totaled 27 steals in ’11. While he many never be a star, he could be an interesting middle infielder for those in deep leagues this year.
3B – Nolan Arenado, Rockies: His .298/20/122 line last year at High-A put him on the fast track to the majors. He’s likely to begin the year at Double-A, but with nobody blocking him in the majors, he could find his way to Colorado by midseason if he continues dominating the minors.
OF – Bryce Harper, Nationals: At 19, he’d be the youngest in the majors by a long shot once he gets the call, but we’ll have to wait on that as he’s been ticketed for Triple-A to start the year. Harper has a true 80 grade in the power department, and could post 40 home run seasons annually in the majors. He’ll also hit for a solid batting average and steal bases, making him one of the most exciting prospects in recent memory. His MVP-caliber skill set makes him a desirable draft-and-stash target this year for those in leagues with deep benches.
OF – Mike Trout, Angels: He slugged five homers and stole four bases in 135 big league plate appearances last year. He was the victim of bad luck (.247 BABIP), numbers which should normalize considering his solid ability to make contact (82.1%). A logjam in the Angels outfield will push Trout to Triple-A to begin the year, but it shouldn’t be long before his tantalizing skills force him into a regular big league role.
OF – Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics: The conservative projection is that he can be a 20/20 player almost immediately, but what can we expect from his batting average? So many questions surround Cespedes, many that won’t be answered until we see how he handles big league pitching. His .200 average this spring is disappointing, but don’t put a ton of stock in it. Some scouts feel he has speed and power grades of 70, making him a potential fantasy star.
UTL – Jesus Montero, Mariners: He’ll qualify at catcher pretty early in the year, but for now, has no position in the Yahoo! game. Montero showed solid skills during his September call-up (.328/4/12), and will be a key cog in the Mariners lineup this year. He should hit for a solid average immediately, and the possibility is there for him to hit 20 or more homers this year, even in spacious Safeco Field. To me, he’s the fantasy bat that will return the most value during the 2012 season.
SP – Matt Moore, Rays: The hype machine is out of control after his dominating playoff performance against the Rangers last season (7 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 6 K, 2 BB). But it isn’t crazy to think he can post a K/9 over 10 this year, making a 200 strikeout season well within his reach. I actually prefer him over Stephen Strasburg, especially since he shouldn’t be confined by an innings cap.
SP – Yu Darvish, Rangers: Yu throws seven different pitches and is already being billed as a future ace, even before throwing a pitch in the majors. He’s struggled with control a bit this spring, with seven walks in nine innings, but the swing and miss stuff is apparent. He could be a bargain ace in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts.
SP – Trevor Bauer, Diamondbacks: Bauer will begin the year at Double-A, but he showed a dominant strikeout arsenal this spring (9/1 K/9 in 10 IP), and is a few Josh Collmenter disasters or an injury away from his major league debut.
SP – Jarrod Parker, Athletics: He was the key piece in the Trevor Cahill trade, and could be the next stud pitcher to come through Oakland. Parker has a power arsenal that could prove to be dominant in the friendly pitching confines of the Oakland Coliseum. While he doesn’t warrant being drafted in mixers at this point, he could be a hot free agent pick up once he does get the call.
SP – Shelby Miller, Cardinals: Dominated the minors last year, putting himself in a position for a midseason call-up in 2012. He posted a strong 9.24 K/9 last season at Double-A. If he takes yet another step forward, it’s going to be hard for the Cardinals not to bump one of their starters from the rotation, and give the kid a shot.
RP – Addison Reed, White Sox: Reed dominated in his brief stint in the majors last year (14.73 K/9 in 7.1 IP). Matt Thornton will begin the year as the closer, but it may not take long for Reed to push his way into the role. At a minimum, he’ll be a strong source of strikeouts and ratios as a set-up man.
Rob Steingall is a syndicated fantasy analyst. Follow him on Twitter
Have a prospect question? A player you want to see covered? Send it to MinorDevelopments@yahoo.com
Related fantasy baseball video on Yahoo! Sports
Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
• Jeff Passan: Matt Bush takes sad, maddening fall from No. 1 MLB pick to jail
• Jason Cole: The New Orleans Saints should pass on Bill Parcells in the interim
• Police dog bites player during Brazilian soccer match