Knowing which prospects can help fantasy baseball owners succeed in their leagues is a pretty important aspect of the game. Each year, there are a crop of players who come to the Major Leagues, some heralded and some not, and make a big impact:
- The 2012 season saw rookies like Norichika Aoki, Wilin Rosario, Wade Miley, and Chris Sale make significant impacts on fantasy teams (that last one wasn’t technically a rookie, but Sale had zero career starts before 2012).
- The 2013 season saw rookies like Yasiel Puig, Starling Marte, José Fernandez, and Matt Harvey have significant impacts on fantasy teams (again, the last one wasn’t a rookie but had 10 career starts under him).
The concept of a “fish” at a poker table is a lesser player that exists essentially for the profits of the experts. The general concept of a fish is one who gets distracted by shiny, spinning things, bites, and ends up as dinner. That latter concept is important; don’t be sucked in by shiny new toys i.e. hyped-up rookies. For as many Fernandez’s and Aoki’s as there are, there are more Ackley’s and Gose’s.
With that being said, rookies and young stars are as much a part of fantasy baseball as they are real baseball. Over the next four weeks, I will be looking at young players that will either break camp this year or should get called up at some point and can have a significant fantasy impact. Emphasis on can; there are a lot of moving parts between now and June or even now and April.
Archie Bradley (RHP) – Arizona Diamondbacks
Bradley was a first round pick of the D’Backs back in 2011 coming out of high school. After his first few minor league seasons, it’s pretty easy to see why: Between Single-A and High-A in 2012, Bradley struck out 156 batters in 140 innings (as a starter). He then struck out 162 batters in 152 innings in Double-A last year. Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 225 lbs, he’s bigger than most players would be a couple years out of high school. Gerrit Cole is about the same size as him and two years older, for instance. The frame is there to support a high strikeout arm – though, who are we really kidding, any pitcher can blow out his elbow at any time.
His heater sits at mid-to-upper 90s and the breaking ball (a curve ball) gives him two plus pitches. He could stand to mix in his changeup more because it shows flashes of being above-average.
His minor league numbers indicate that control is an issue for him and walks used to be pretty dangerous business in Arizona because of park factors. Last year though, Chase Field was just 16th in home runs given up (between Petco in San Diego and Dodger Stadium). If that becomes more a trend than a blip, it should help Bradley contain his ERA when he gets to the big leagues.
What to do on draft day
Bradley managed a 1.23 WHIP last year at Double-A and the assumption would be that unless he drastically improves his control, it will get worse once he gets the call. This is probably why I will not be drafting him on draft day in re-draft mixed leagues (one year leagues). The strikeouts are nice but the WHIP could be very bad which could make the ERA volatile.
Bradley’s price is rising in drafts. His current ADP of 307.64 puts him not very far behind Ivan Nova and Bradley doesn’t even have a roster spot at the moment. Fantasy owners can grab him on draft day as a late bench spot but fantasy owners that grab him expecting him to be a SP6 are reaching.
Chris Owings (SS) – Arizona Diamondbacks
The acquisition of Didi Gregorius last year in the three-team trade that involved Shin-Soo Choo kind of muddled things for Chris Owings. The former first round pick seemed to be the shortstop of the future for Arizona but Gregorius came in the trade and ended up with over 400 plate appearances in 2013. However, Gregorius has never been known to be a prolific hitter and his nine home runs between Triple-A and the big club last year are a single-season high for him on his career. To boot, he had just one stolen base.
Owings can offer what Gregorius can’t: hitting. Owings has hit at least 10 home runs in each of the last three years at various levels. Owings also hit 29 doubles in 2011 at High-A ball, 35 doubles between rookie ball, High-A, and Double-A in 2012, and 31 doubles last year spending most of the year at Triple-A. He might strike out and not walk enough to be a .300-type hitter but Owings can certainly be in the .270+ range. In fact, that’s exactly what his ZiPS projection is. He has at least 10 stolen bases at every level as well.
For as good as Owings might be, he still has Gregorius blocking his path to the big club. I would assume that if they were high enough on Gregorius to give up Trevor Bauer, they’re pretty high on him. There are other levels to this though: Should either Aaron Hill or Martin Prado get injured this year, Owings would be the natural replacement. He doesn’t necessarily have to beat out Gregorius to get a starting job (though he certainly could); there are other mitigating factors that are possible.
What to do on draft day
As of the last ADP rankings from the NFBC, Owings was sitting at 364.76 as the 27th SS off the board. That means undrafted in most 12-team leagues and that sounds about right. Owings is a player that, unless the leagues are really deep (NL-Only leagues or 16-team leagues with MI options) or the benches are really long, shouldn’t be drafted. There’s no guarantee of playing time here.
With that caveat, Owings is a player to keep an eye on on the waiver wire. Should he not break camp with the Diamondbacks, he’s almost certainly going to be there at some point in the first half. There’s a lot of talent here, Owings just needs to get a spot in the lineup.
Both of these players are guys I would not draft in typical 12-team mixed leagues. There are a lot of questions with playing time for both of them, though both would seem at the top of the list for call-ups in the case of injury. The league-specific and deep-leaguers should have these guys on ‘watch’ lists though, while everyone else has to keep an eye on the waiver wire.