Like fine wine, some Rookies are simply better with age. Now I am not talking about Rooke of the Year winners such as Jose Abreu or Ichiro Suzuki, who dominated upon their arrival to the MLB at a more advanced age. Those guys had a leg up as stars in the native leagues prior to taking the MLB by storm. No, we are talking about the guys like Jose Martinez, Shane Spencer or Ryan Shimpf who took the league by storm after, sometimes well after, their 25th birthday. Sometimes they come out of nowhere as their MLB team can simply no longer deny their production or they find their way into a lineup due to injury or trade. Either way, these guys can be jolts to our fantasy lineup as the season comes to a close. This week, we dive into two different rookies to see if they are aging like a fine wine or more of a moldy cheese.
A Miami Marlins 8th round pick in 2014, Stone has spent the last two seasons in the Diamondbacks upper minor league systems. While he showed limited power and speed tools after entering the minors as an 18-year old, he has put up back to back 25+ homer and 15+ steals seasons the last two years. As a youngster, he certainly struggled with strikeouts with rates consistently above 30% and very limited ability to get on base via the walk. While still a struggle, that has also improved the last few years as he adapted to the upper minors.
Since his call-up in mid-August, 26-year old Stone started to play sporadically until the last week when he has been starting regularly hitting in the middle of the lineup. Through his first seven games, he has two long balls, a steal, and decent counting stats. Sure, the .407 average is not going to stick with a minuscule sample size, but he has shown the ability to hit .270-.280 in the minors. So, can we expect great things the rest of the way? Well, the playing time should be available as Arizona tries to see what they have. At the same time, this type of profile provides a decent floor through a combination of speed and power. He certainly has put quality contact with higher barrel and hard hit rates. The biggest red flag here is a relatively swing-happy profile which will be prone to streakiness at times. I would be willing to invest here with the low cost of entry and owners will likely be surprised with the production the rest of the year.
At age 30, Joey Meneses is certainly well aged for a rookie. He came up through the minors with the Braves between 2011 and 2017 before a brief stop with the Phillies. Jo-Me, then spent some time in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league before getting suspended for a year due to testing positive for a banned substance. So, he was pretty much on a Fernando Tatis Jr. projection at that point in his career. The last few years have included playing with the Mexican National team and then the Boston and Washington organizations. This season in AAA, he launched 20 long balls in under 100 games while hitting .286 for the Nationals.
Thanks to the Nationals lack of competitiveness this year, Joey has had an opportunity in RF and 1B since the beginning of August. Since that call-up, he has had a hit in 22 of his 25 games while leaving the park seven times. With that Baseball Savant’s algorithms have compared Meneses closely to Vladimir Guerrero, which seems like a slight oversell. With above-average contact quality in the last month, Jo-Me (yes, I made up a nickname) has been producing. At the same time, his flyball rates are merely league average with some HR/FB luck propping up his power numbers. If we look at other Savant comparisons such as Emanuel Rivera or AJ Pollock, we might have more realistic expectations for the rest of the season. If I am prioritizing my free agents, I would be looking elsewhere than this Meneses.