We recently began a series looking at the potential top rookie producers at each position around the baseball diamond. This series should be valuable for anyone participating in a fantasy league that allows keepers. It could also help anyone playing in more traditional formats who may need to fill holes throughout the season or may be in need of a little spark.
Jose Peraza, Reds: The Reds traded long-time third baseman Todd Frazier to the White Sox back in December in a three-team deal that actually saw the Dodgers receive the better overall rookie haul. Cincinnati received a couple of underwhelming prospects and Peraza — who is reportedly the jewel of the deal from the Reds’ perspective. The rookie second baseman was supposed to fill the gap created by a Brandon Phillips trade but the veteran has so far nixed any attempts from the club to trade him. That creates a bit of a problem for Peraza, who may have to settle for another year in Triple-A or some time as a big league utility player. Once he receives regular playing time, the former Braves prospect has a chance to impact fantasy leagues with his game-changing speed. He stole just 36 bases last year but had 60 or more the two years prior.
Keep an Eye On:
Alen Hanson, Pirates: Pittsburgh’s veteran infield is all but set for 2016 and the club also has jack-of-all-trades Sean Rodriguez coming off of the bench, which means Hanson will once again spend time in Triple-A — barring a significant injury. An offensive-minded second baseman, the 23-year-old rookie does a little bit of everything at the plate — with mostly gap power — and can even steal 20+ bases with regular playing time. His prospect standing in Pittsburgh might be getting a little stale so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the move to another organization at some point in 2016. And that might give him a better opportunity to visit The Show.
Micah Johnson, Dodgers: Another speedster, Johnson landed in Los Angeles from Chicago (AL) during the Todd Frazier/Jose Peraza deal. He doesn’t have the ceiling that Peraza possesses but he arguably has a higher floor and is probably ready for The Show — at least in a part-time capacity. Johnson, 25, could provide some valuable fantasy steals but it remains to be seen how much playing time he’ll get in 2016 while playing for the veteran-heavy Dodgers — especially after the re-signing of Howie Kendrick.
Tony Kemp, Astros: It’s hard to project significant playing time for a rookie who shares the same position as spark plug Jose Altuve, who also happens to be the heart and sole of the Astros. Kemp, though, started to expand his defensive repertoire in the minors last season and now has experience at second base, left field and center field. Unfortunately for the promising prospect, the club is also quite stacked, depth-wise, in the outfield. He’ll find some playing at some point, though, thanks to his ability to steal bases, get on base and hit for average.
Darnell Sweeney, Phillies: A full-frontal youth movement should be on full display in Philly in 2016, which could bode well for Sweeney — a former Dodgers prospect. He’ll have to battle the likes of Cesar Hernandez and Andres Blanco for playing time but a hot spring could get him a starting gig. Sweeney, 25, has contact issues but he has some pop and could steal 20-30 bases with regular playing time. His speed also helps him compensate for the lack of contact and creates healthy BABIPs (He’s never hit lower than .271).
Ryan Brett, Rays: Logan Forsythe was the epitome of a league-average hitter throughout the first four years of his big league career but he enjoyed a 4.1 WAR, breakout season in 2015. That has made him the odds on favorite to start at second base for the Rays in 2016. However, one good year does not guarantee a successful future so Brett could be in line for significant playing time if Forsythe falters. The young spark plug isn’t flashy but he could steal some bases and hit for a respectable average.
Dilson Herrera, Mets: Like Jose Peraza, Herrera could be ready to have value at the big league value but he’ll open 2015 blocked by a more veteran player. The organization acquired former Pirate Neil Walker during the offseason and he’ll definitely be given every opportunity to play regularly for the Mets. That will leave Herrera back in Triple-A for a second showing despite producing an .893 OPS there last season. He has the ability to hit for average, steal a couple bases and hit a few home runs over the fence.