Five Rookie Hitters to Draft for 2018 Fantasy Baseball
Five Rookie Hitters With Veteran Production Potential
We Fantasy team owners love to boast that we were the first in our league to find the next rookie sensation. I’m talking about a prospect who can provide a Fantasy team with an unexpected spark that will help propel it to a Fantasy championship.
Despite all the detailed scouting reports and other resources at our disposal, finding that special rookie impact player is extremely difficult. You might end up falling in love with several rookies but despite all your draft prep, prospects are a volatile group and rostering too many of them can work against you because of their unpredictable nature.
Try to limit your exposure to a select one or two that you feel particularly strong about. I’ve selected five rookie batters who have a good chance to secure ample playing time, and have the skill set that gives them a good chance at a successful rookie season. Take my advice, but you should also do your own research to determine if a particular player should be added to your Fantasy team.
Ryan McMahon, 1B, Rockies
At press time, MLB.com’s Rockies depth chart lists McMahon as Colorado’s starting first baseman. Ian Desmond was expected to play first base for the Rockies last season, but he broke his hand in spring training. With Carlos Gonzalez likely headed out of Colorado via free agency, Desmond will play in the outfield in 2018. McMahon’s natural position is third base, but that spot is currently owned by perennial All-Star Nolan Arenado. Although he can also play second base, McMahon’s best chance to secure regular at bats this season is as the Rockies’ first baseman.
The 23-year-old left-handed hitting McMahon has a lifetime minor league triple slash of .298/.368/.510. He should fare well in Coors Field, which ranked number one in overall run production in 2017. Scouting reports describe a “natural loft” to his swing, and he is a naturally gifted power hitter. The league average for isolated power (ISO) was .171. McMahon only posted an ISO below .210 once during in his five-year minor league career. He did a good job of limiting his strikeouts last season. His K rate dropped from 30.1 percent in 2016 to 17.7 percent in 2017. McMahon battled through 19 unremarkable big league at bats late last season but, if he has a good spring he could get regular at bats in 2018.
Willie Calhoun, OF, Rangers
Despite his relatively small five-foot eight-inch 187-pound frame, the 23-year-old Calhoun can pack a punch, as his minor league career .520 slugging percentage and .868 OPS suggest. Calhoun has excellent bat speed and is a power hitter with a lifetime minor league ISO of over .200. However, he doesn’t carry all the expected high strikeout baggage that so many other sluggers do. His above average 11.6 percent minor league career strikeout rate dipped a bit when he was called up to the big leagues, but it was still a manageable 18.9 percent in a limited 37 PA sample size. Calhoun is an excellent contact hitter, and his .348 minor league career OBP demonstrates that he’s got solid on base skills. He has the potential to get 400 plus at bats with the Rangers this season, and with his power potential and ability to make contact, he could produce a .270-plus batting average and bang out upwards of 20 home runs as a full-time major league hitter.
Minor-league numbers aren't everything, but it's hard to see how Willie Calhoun doesn't become a Fantasy star in relatively short order. He's hit .277 with 58 HR in 260 games at AA/AAA, with an 11.5% K rate.
— Chris Towers (@CTowersCBS) January 11, 2018
Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard all the hype surrounding Acuna, especially if you’re a baseball fan who plans on owning a Fantasy team this season. There’s a lot to love about him. He has true five tool potential, and even though he’s just 19 years old, Acuna has excelled at every level of professional baseball he’s played. Last season, he batted .287 in High A ball, .326 in Double-A, and .344 in Triple-A ball. He ended his 2017 season in the Arizona Fall League, where he was the youngest player ever to win the league’s MVP award. Acuna has demonstrated excellent plate discipline, and although he might not start the season in the big leagues, he should make his big-league debut early enough in 2018 to make an impact on your Fantasy team.
Willy Adames, SS, Rays
The Rays are in rebuilding mode for 2018, and as their top offensive prospect Adames could make his major league debut and receive regular playing time early in the season. Adames is a line drive hitter with good bat speed who can spray the ball to all fields. He has a career double-digit walk rate, and a .365 OBP. Adames has developing power. He has a lifetime .410 slugging percentage and has hit 30 or more doubles in each of the last two seasons. As he fills out his six-foot 200-pound frame and develops what I like to call “man strength”, some of those doubles can turn into home runs, and he could eventually develop upper teen to lower 20 home run potential production. Adames has moderate speed and has stolen 10 or more bases in each of the past three seasons.
Jake Bauers, 1B, Rays
Sticking with the Rays - Brad Miller is penciled in as their first baseman for the upcoming season, but...let’s face it, he is an awful hitter! The Rays placed Bauers on their 40-man roster, and while he can play both first base and in the outfield, it’s probably just a matter of time before he replaces Miller and gets regular at bats. Bauers has compiled a .276/.362/.412 triple slash thus far in the minor leagues. There are only a few first basemen (Paul Goldschmidt and Wil Myers come to mind) who can consistently steal bases, but Bauer has stolen 30 of 39 bags over the past two seasons. He’s still just 22 years old, and he’s another prospect with developing power. Like Adames, the 59 doubles he’s hit over the past two seasons could be a good indication that we’ll see some more power coming off his bat as his career progresses.
Ryan McMahon Photo Credit: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
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