Fantasy Baseball Pickups: Make sure these rookies are owned in your league

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Several prospects have been called up of late, and some are already making a fantasy impact. (AP Photo)
Several prospects have been called up of late, and some are already making a fantasy impact. (AP Photo)

Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies

It’s a week filled with prospects getting called up, and it’s Rodgers’ turn in Colorado. Trevor Story is banged up, Daniel Murphy is sitting out games while struggling trying to play through his finger injury, and most importantly, the Rockies have by far the worst wRC+ (37) from the second base position this season, so Rodgers has multiple paths to playing time. The shortstop has proven capable enough of playing second base, and he was batting .356 with nine homers in 135 at bats in Triple-A. A top-10 prospect in baseball, Rodgers also gets to benefit from Coors Field, which has remained as hitter-friendly as ever so far this season, yet he’s owned in just 36% of Yahoo leagues right now. He has a real chance of being a difference maker.

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Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves

He just turned 22 years old and was leading the International League with 15 homers before getting called up to Atlanta, where he’s off to a hot start (4-for-7 with a homer) over his first two games. Riley is a third baseman but was tried out in the outfield in Triple-A last week, so it sounds like this move was possibly in the plans even before Ender Inciarte went to the IL. And a Josh Donaldson injury could always be right around the corner. Just realize that while Inciarte has struggled badly at the plate (65 wRC+), he’s strong defensively, so there’s no guarantee Riley has a spot in Atlanta’s lineup everyday once the team is at full strength. Of course, Riley’s bat could force his way into it, and he certainly has enough upside to warrant huge FAAB bids over the weekend.

Corbin Martin, Houston Astros

He owned a 1.48 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP with a 28:11 K:BB ratio over 24.1 innings in Triple-A before recently joining Houston, and he impressed during his debut striking out nine Rangers over 5.1 innings. A solid prospect, Martin will benefit from a pitcher’s park, a top defense and the league’s best offense by a mile, so he’s a popular add for a reason (although beware his next start is in Fenway). The Astros’ pitching is so loaded it’s crazy, as they were able to shift a still perfectly capable Collin McHugh to their pen with this move, bypassing other intriguing arms such as Josh James and Forrest Whitley, who remain waiting in the wings (and this after the team lost Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel to free agency and Lance McCullers to injury).

Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers’ top prospect, Hiura was recently called up thanks to Travis Shaw going on the IL and struggling mightily (his 32.5 K% is in the bottom 5% of the league). Hiura had a 164 wRC+ with 11 homers and four steals over 129 at bats in Triple-A, although he’s off to a slow start in Milwaukee (2-for-12 with five Ks). Miller Park favors hitters, although more so for lefties, and the team’s lineup and willingness to run should help as well. It’s unclear how long Hiura’s audition will be, but there’s plenty of potential he runs away with the Brewers’ second base job over the rest of the season (with Mike Moustakas moving back to his natural position at third).

Nicky Lopez, Kansas City Royals

He doesn’t have a lot of power upside, but Lopez is an underrated prospect who had a 5:20 K:BB ratio over 116 at bats in Triple-A this season, helping him produce a .457 OBP (with nine steals). That crazy plate discipline has carried over into the bigs early on (1:3 K:BB), and he’s already batting second for the Royals, who continue to run wild (they lead MLB both in SB and CS), which is a nice setup for fantasy success. Lopez is owned in just 14% of leagues right now, but that figures to change soon.

Willie Calhoun, Texas Rangers

Once a highly-sought after fantasy prospect, Calhoun had mostly been forgotten after continuing to disappoint, but he’s back up with Texas after clubbing eight homers (140 wRC+) with more walks than strikeouts in the minors this season. Calhoun doesn’t run, and there’s not an obvious spot open in Texas even after Delino DeShields was sent down with Hunter Pence hitting so well. Still, the lefty should at least platoon, and he’s swatted a homer during each of his first two games back (going 6-for-12 with five RBI). Playing in one of baseball’s best hitter’s parks, Calhoun is a post-hype sleeper with good power potential who’s available in nearly 85% of leagues.

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Oscar Mercado, Cleveland Indians

He’s not a top prospect, but if you’re looking for steals, Mercado had 14 stolen bases over 30 games in Triple-A so far in 2019 and has once recorded 50 SBs in a minor league season. Cleveland has World Series hopes but its offense has a worse wRC+ (77) than the Giants, with its outfield a big reason why. Stolen bases don’t often become available on the waiver wire, yet Mercado still is available in more than 80 percent of leagues (although there’s some concern he’s sat the last two games versus righties).

Zac Gallen, Miami Marlins

With prospects being all the rage, here’s another if you’re looking to stash for the future. Gallen currently sports a 1.16 ERA and a 0.55 WHIP with a 64:9 K:BB ratio over 54.1 innings in Triple-A (his 28.9 K-BB% would rank No. 4 in the majors). Part of the Marcell Ozuna trade, Gallen should get a chance in Miami’s rotation sometime this summer. While the team’s lack of run support hurts, throwing in Marlins Park more than offsets that.

Willians Astudillo, Minnesota Twins

While Miguel Sano has returned from the IL, Mitch Garver and Nelson Cruz have joined it, opening up at bats for Astudillo. He’s cooled after a hot start but can provide plenty of value at a tough-to-fill catcher position (the aforementioned Garver has remarkably been the No. 3 fantasy catcher this season) now playing more. Living up to his billing, the anti three-true outcomes hitter has just one walk and two strikeouts (and two homers) over 70 plate appearances this season.

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