Impact Fantasy Rookies for 2013

It’s not often that you have a rookie make an impact like Angels outfielder Mike Trout had on in the major leagues in 2012. Rookies can usually be counted on to help round out a fantasy roster, fill in temporarily during injuries and, at times, provide an unexpected above-replacement-level contribution that pushes your team into contention. Drafting prospects — or claiming them off the waiver wire at the appropriate times — can be one of the toughest things a fantasy manager has to face each year thanks to their volatility and the fact that their playing time often hinges on injuries and disappointing performances from veteran incumbents.

What this article attempts to do is rank rookies based on their potential impact on 2013 alone. It does not take into consideration their future potential or ceiling. Some mid-range prospects will be ranked higher than top prospects simply because they’re more advanced at this point or have a clearer path to regular playing time during the upcoming season.

Catchers

1. Travis D’Arnaud: The trade from the Toronto Blue Jays to the New York Mets (with two Mets catchers heading to the Jays) gives the rookie a better shot at opening 2013 in the majors due to the lack of depth in Queens. He has a well-rounded game and can hit for both average and at least average power, but missed the second half of 2013 after injuring his knee.

2. Michael Zunino: The Mariners’ first round selection in the 2012 amateur draft, he ended the season in double-A before heading to the Arizona Fall League where he performed well. With John Jaso and Jesus Montero on the big league roster, the club can afford to be patient with Zunino but he may force his way to the majors before mid-season. He hit 13 home runs in 44 pro games in 2012.

3. Rob Brantly: Traded from Detroit to Miami in the Anibal Sanchez deal, the subsequent deal that saw incumbent starter John Buck head to Toronto (and then New York) opens the door for the rookie backstop to play everyday. He could develop an average bat — albeit with below-average power — and has added value because he hits from the left side.

Opportunity Knocks: Austin Romine (New York AL), Tim Federowicz (LA NL), Yan Gomes (Cleveland), Josh Phegley (Chicago AL)

First Basemen

1. Jonathan Singleton: Houston seems committed to giving Singleton, 21, another year in the minors — perhaps especially now that he’ll miss time with a marijuana suspension — but he’s a perfect candidate to fill the void at the first base and designated hitter positions with the club moving to the American League West for 2013. The current options at 1B/DH — Brett Wallace, Carlos Pena, and Rule 5 selection Nate Freiman — are no sure things.

2. Darin Ruf: There is a pretty big divide when you ask talent evaluators about Ruf’s potential. Some see him as a big league regular, while others see a quad-A bat or part-time role player. With the Phillies’ free agent outfield signings, Ruf could see significant competition for playing time in the outfield while also backing up veteran first baseman Ryan Howard. He might also win that competition, despite his advanced age for a player with his major league experience (27).

One Injury Away: Matt Adams (St. Louis), Michael Mcdade (Cleveland), Clint Robinson (Pittsburgh), Wilmer Flores (New York NL)

Second Basemen

1. Kolten Wong: With Skip Schumaker no longer with the club, St. Louis’ current options at the keystone include Daniel Descalso, Pete Kozma and Ty Wigginton — all of whom project best as utility players. The team is rumored to be thinking about trying Matt Carpenter in the role, but if that doesn’t work out, Wong has a clear path to playing time. The natural second baseman is an advanced left-handed hitter who spent 2012 in double-A and has the ability to hit for average and steal some bases. He could score a lot of runs while hitting out of the No. 2 hole in the Cardinals’ lineup.

2. Carlos Sanchez: I’m a huge fan of Sanchez who possesses both above-average tools and baseball instincts. Unfortunately, former first rounder Gordon Beckham stands in his way, although another poor offensive showing from the fifth-year big leaguer could help Sanchez find a spot on the big league roster before mid-season.

3. Jeff Kobernus: Rule 5 picks often don’t receive much playing time but Kobernus could be an exception to the rule, especially while playing on a veteran (and potentially injury prone) Detroit squad. He should hit for a respectable average and provide a healthy number of stolen bases.

Others: Henry Rodriguez (Chicago NL), Scooter Gennett (Milwaukee)

Third Basemen

1. Mike Olt: Olt offers some versatility and could end up filling in at first base at the big league level in 2013. He may not hit for a high average but he has solid power potential.

2. Jedd Gyorko: After hitting .328 with 24 home runs in 92 triple-A games in 2012, Gyorko is probably ready for the majors but Chase Headley stands in his way. It’s probably not a long-term solution, but Gyorko could be a better offensive option at second base than Logan Forsythe (another former third baseman).

3. Anthony Rendon: Like Gyorko, Rendon faces stiff opposition for big league playing time from an incumbent — in this case Ryan Zimmerman. Rendon has also suffered a rash of injuries both in college and pro ball and that remains a big concern entering 2013. There has been some talk that Rendon could break into the majors at second base but Danny Espinosa is fairly established at that position. His hope of playing time at third base will hinge on an injury to Zimmerman.

4. Josh Vitters: Previously considered the third baseman of the future for the Cubs, Vitters has failed to develop as hoped and needs to make a quick splash at the big league level to remain in Chicago’s plans. He has competition for playing time at the hot corner in 2013 from Ian Stewart and possibly Luis Valbuena.

Others: David Adams (New York AL), Matt Davidson (Arizona), Garin Cecchini (Boston), Jonathan Schoop (Baltimore), Nolan Arenado (Colorado)

Shortstops

1. Adeiny Hechavarria: A trade from Toronto to Miami provides the rookie with a regular gig on the big league roster in 2013. His greatest asset — his defense — is of little use to fantasy managers, but it could help the Marlins’ pitching staff. Hechavarria probably won’t hit for a huge average or more than gap power but he could steal a handful of bases.

2. Jurickson Profar: Profar has much more offensive potential than Hechavarria but the rookie, who turns 20 in February, doesn’t have guaranteed playing time in 2013 with Elvis Andrus still in Texas. A creative move, such as shifting second baseman Ian Kinsler to first base, could open up a spot for Profar but he’ll probably have to open the season at Triple-A.

3. Nick Franklin: Incumbent shortstop Brendan Ryan offers plus defense but the Mariners’ offense is far from potent, so the club may look to Franklin to add a spark. He’ll probably move permanently to second base down the road but he should hold his own at shortstop for a while.

4. Hiroyuki Nakajima: In Japan, Nakajima hit for average as well as some power but it remains to be seen how well his tools will translate to the North American game. He also has the speed necessary to rack up double-digit steal totals. He’s a big wild card but should have an opportunity to win the starting job.

Others: Xander Bogaerts, Hak-Ju Lee, Didi Gregorius, Jonathan Villar

Corner Outfielders

1. Oscar Taveras: The Cardinals’ outfield is set in 2013 without Taveras but an injury to either veteran corner outfielder — Matt Holliday or Carlos Beltran — could open the door for perhaps the best pure hitter in the minors. He’s unconventional but Taveras has done nothing but hit throughout his pro career.

2. Wil Myers: Kansas City shocked the baseball industry when it traded the second best hitting prospect (after Oscar Taveras) in the minors to Tampa Bay for pitching help. Myers instantly became the right-fielder-of-the-future for the Rays. After spending most of 2012 in triple and hitting 37 home runs, he should be in the majors in June, as soon as his arbitration clock is manipulated to give the club another year of control. .

3. Nick Castellanos: After beginning his pro career at the hot corner, Castellanos was shifted to right field in 2012 to prevent the roadblock at third base from veteran slugger Miguel Cabrera. Castellanos’ power potential is still up in the air but he’s a gifted hitter. His added versatility could be of value to fantasy managers.

4. Avisail Garcia: Another Tigers’ outfield prospect, Garcia already had a taste of the majors in 2012 and he even received playing time during the playoffs. Andy Dirks has earned the right to open 2013 as the Tigers’ starting left-fielder but he was likely playing above his head last season so either Garcia or Nick Castellanos could benefit from his regression.

5. Oswaldo Arcia: Minnesota spent the off-season dismantling its outfield depth and Arcia’s development in 2012 may have been one of the reasons why they were comfortable parting with both Denard Span and Ben Revere. Arcia offers solid left-handed power and also shows the ability to hit for average.

6. Robbie Grossman: Grossman doesn’t have a huge ceiling but he does a little bit of everything and can play all three outfield positions. A switch-hitter, the California native may be a future fourth outfielder but he deserves a shot at playing every day — and might get that shot with the Astros. Grossman is a little ways down on the depth chart but the starting outfield jobs are wide open heading into spring training.

Others: Eury Perez (Washington), Gary Brown (San Francisco), Grant Green (Oakland), L.J. Hoes (Baltimore)

Center Fielders

1. Leonys Martin: Craig Gentry is seemingly the only thing standing between Martin and the starting center field job… In other words, expect the rookie to receive significant at-bats in 2013 — unless the organization makes a trade for Justin Upton or signs free agent Michael Bourn. Martin is a smart hitter who makes good contact and has some pop, although it may manifest itself as gap power in the big leagues.

2. Adam Eaton: Eaton may be in line for the undisputed starting gig in center field now that Justin Upton has left town. Cody Ross and Gerardo Parra lack the true center fielder’s glove that Eaton sports, along with his ability to get on base and pilfer bags at a great rate. The team said all four outfielders will get significant playing time, but if Eaton’s defense separates from the pack, he might get the most.

3. Aaron Hicks: As with Oswaldo Arcia above, Hicks stands to receive big league playing time in 2013 thanks to the outfield depth in Minnesota. I’m as big a Darin Mastroianni that you’ll find but he’s a stretch as an everyday guy in center field, so Hicks should be in the majors by mid-season.

4. Brett Jackson: Jackson offers power and speed but high strikeout totals drag down his ability to hit for average. Currently, he’ll either hold down the fourth outfielder spot or head back to triple-a to begin 2013. With Nate Schierholtz somewhat of a question mark in right field and Alfonso Soriano on the trading block, the rookie could see regular playing time before long.

5. Billy Hamilton: If you haven’t heard about Hamilton, you’ve probably been living under a rock. The speedster nabbed 155 bases in 2012, breaking the century mark for the second straight minor league season. This past off-season, he was moved from shortstop to center field so his defensive development could slow down his MLB arrival, as could the acquisition of Shin-Soo Choo.

6. Jackie Bradley: A defensive whiz in center, Bradley does more than enough to help fantasy managers. He has solid speed and also hits for average. He could eventually find himself at the top of the Red Sox order — at least once he wrestles the job away from Jacoby Ellsbury.

7. Brian Goodwin: A raw but gifted prospect, Goodwin will return to Double-A in 2013 but a fast start could help put pressure on the big league trio of Bryce Harper, Denard Span, and Jayson Werth. His best hope, though, may be a trade out of Washington.

Right-Handed Starting Pitchers

1. Shelby Miller: After falling out of favor a bit with the front office, Miller redeemed himself with a strong half of the 2012 season and even pitched at the big league level. If injuries allow the right-hander to open the year on the major league roster, expect a healthy number of strikeouts.

2. Zack Wheeler: Wheeler doesn’t get the hype that he deserves but he could pair with Matt Harvey in New York for an exciting, young one-two punch that could anchor the Mets rotation for years to come. The trade of the reigning CY Young award winner, R.A. Dickey, gives Wheeler an even better shot of breaking camp with the big league club.

3. Dylan Bundy: Just 20, the 2011 first rounder has already pitched in the majors but he should open 2013 in the Triple-A but he may not be down for long. Bundy has about eight starting pitchers ahead of him of the depth chart but may be better than any of them.

4. Wily Peralta: I’ve never been a huge Peralta fan but he should provide innings along with a lot of strikeouts, ground balls and, unfortunately, walks. With no further free agents additions, the Dominican right-hander could end up as the Brewers’ No. 3 or 4 starter.

5. Trevor Bauer: A trade from Arizona to Cleveland this past off-season could end up being the best thing for Bauer’s career after he failed to gel with his original organization. If Cleveland’s coaching staff can help unlock the rookie’s potential, then the Indians could have a huge steal on their hands.

6. Casey Kelly: Kelly is a solid pitching prospect in his own right but playing half his games at home in San Diego should give his numbers a boost. San Diego’s inability to attract any key free agent arms means that Kelly has a good shot at starting a significant number of games at the big league level in 2013.

7. Kyle Gibson: Minnesota has almost entirely remade its big league starting rotation from 2012 but none of the arms have huge ceilings and all come with question marks. That could make Gibson a key contributor in the second half of the 2013 season as he continues his return from 2011 Tommy John surgery.

8. Chris Archer: Archer received a brief call-up in 2012 and showed off the electric stuff that he possesses — but he also has below-average control at this point. He may end breaking into the big leagues in the bullpen but he has a very high upside once he wades through Tampa Bay’s pitching depth..

9. Julio Teheran: It was a lost season for Teheran who struggled with his fastball command and, in turn, his consistency. He still has a strong future but some of the enthusiasm has been tempered. He has a good shot at breaking camp with as the Braves’ number five starter, especially after the Justin Upton trade sent Randall Delgado to Arizona.

10. Gerrit Cole: The first overall selection of the 2011 amateur draft, Cole’s talent is undeniable but he’s still learning to sharpen his command. He should open 2013 in Triple-A but Pittsburgh’s pitching depth is far from enviable so he has a chance to impact the big league club in the coming season..

Others: Tyler Thornburg (Milwaukee), Jake Odorizzi (Tampa Bay), Dan Staily (Oakland), Matt Barnes (Boston), Jose Fernandez (Miami), Jameson Taillon (Pittsburgh), Daniel Corcino (Cincinnati), Allen Webster (Boston), Taijuan Walker (Seattle), Jarred Cosart (Houston), Cody Buckel (Texas), Erik Johnson (Chicago AL)

Left-Handed Starting Pitchers

1. Tyler Skaggs: Arizona has one of the best collections of young starting pitchers in the National League and Skaggs could have the highest ceiling of the bunch. After bringing in veteran Brandon McCarthy as a free agent, the Diamondbacks have pushed the left-handed prospect down the depth chart and he should now open 2013 in Triple-A.

2. Martin Perez: The Rangers did not exactly have the most successful off-season which means Perez could end up playing a key role in the 2013 season. His command with help dictate his success — or lack thereof — in 2013.

3. Hyun-Jin Ryu: A wildcard, Ryu was a big (bodied) ticket signing out of South Korea but it remains to be seen how well the lefty’s changeup will baffle big league hitters. He has a four-pitch repertoire and could end up more of an innings-eater than a top-of-the-rotation starter.

4. Robbie Erlin: Erlin isn’t flashy but he’s a southpaw with plus control and some deception in his delivery. Add in the fact that he’ll pitch half his games at home in San Diego and you have an intriguing pitcher for the 2013 season.

5. Tony Cingrani: Talent evaluators are split in their assessments of Cingrani — who could end up as either a starter or reliever at the big league level. You can’t argue with the results he’s had to date, though, and the lefty has some established pitchers to push aside before he gets his shot.

Others: Danny Hultzen (Seattle), Adam Morgan (Philadelphia), James Paxton (Seattle), Casey Crosby (Detroit), Edwar Cabrera (Colorado)

Relief Pitchers
*Potential Future Starters

1. Kyuji Fujikawa: One of the best relievers in Japan over the past eight seasons, Fujikawa settled on Chicago and has a good opportunity to wrestle the closer job away from the Carlos Marmol and his wild ways. Already 32, though, it remains to be seen how much more Fujikawa has in the tank.

2. Jim Henderson: After years of bouncing around organizations, the hard-throwing Canadian finally harnessed his fastball and positioned himself to set-up closer John Axford — another Canadian with a similar backstory — in 2013, while also compiling some saves of his own.

3. Trevor Rosenthal*: The hard-throwing right-hander saw his stuff take a huge step forward in 2012 with a move to the bullpen but there has been some talk of moving him back to the starting rotation. The strong pitching depth in the Cardinals system and the win-now mentality should help keep Rosenthal in the bullpen.

4. Carter Capps: The Mariners organization has some impressive arms in the big league rotation but current closer Tom Wilhelmsen doesn’t have a strong track record so Capps will be waiting in the weeds for an opportunity to collect some saves. Even as a middle reliever or set-up man, though, he should provide a healthy number of strikeouts.

5. Bruce Rondon: There has been a lot of talk that Rondon could open 2013 as the Tigers’ closer but there are a couple things working against him. 1) Despite his ability to hit triple-digits with his fastball, his control and command are both fringe-average at best, and 2) Detroit is in a win-now phase and not likely to trust such an important role to an inexperienced arm like Rondon.

Others: Stephen Pryor (Seattle), Heath Hembree (San Francisco), Mark Montgomery (New York AL), Onelki Garcia* (LA NL), Jeurys Familia* (New York NL), Carlos Martinez* (St. Louis), Arodys Vizcaino* (Chicago NL), Phillippe Aumont (Philadelphia), Christian Garcia* (Washington), Josh Fields (Houston), Justin De Fratus (Philadelphia)




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.
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bigbart
Member
bigbart

Why no write up and only a mention on Hultzen? Do you not think he has a chance to make a significant impact this season?

par016
Member
par016

“…unless the organization makes a trade for Justin Upton…”

“Eaton may be in line for the undisputed starting gig in center field now that Justin Upton has left town.”

I love how the top 2 entries in Center Field were clearly written at different times: #1 before the Upton trade and #2 after.

goateesonly
Member
Member
goateesonly

@bigbart

looks like Hultzen was his #6 lefty. I’m not too surprised he dropped, Hultzen struggled with command last year, and that’s kind of his main skill.

airhad
Member
airhad
danksforallthefish
Member
danksforallthefish

I appreciate the advanced notice on d’Arnaud’s upcoming injury…”but missed the second half of 2013 after injuring his knee.”

Put him on your list of players to trade before the second half.

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