When it comes to rookies we all known the top 100 prospects, and the guys outside the rankings with all the helium, but more often than not it’s the unheralded prospects that can make all the difference in deeper leagues and dynasty’s. Ask the 2014 Charlie Blackmon owner, the 2015 Delino Deshields owner, or the guy that picked up Travis Shaw down the stretch. They’ll tell you that when everyone else was blinded by minor leagues stats, or top 100 hyperboles, they took a shot on a guy who had something more important than hype; playing time. When it comes down to it, no matter the format, or scoring system everything starts and ends with playing time opportunity. So, with that said, for the next two posts I’m going to take a look at players that have a chance of breaking camp with their clubs, and reaping the benefits of that most important thing. Today we focus on the hitters and Wednesday we’ll move onto the pitchers. These won’t be your heralded guys like A.J. Reed or Jose Peraza, but those less sexy “rooks” that toe the line of JAG, and sleeper. Behold, Dr. Lifshitz’s Sleeper Rookies for 2016 Fantasy Baseball!
Keon Broxton, OF | MIL: All I hear is Keon this and Keon that, Keon beat that azz with a baseball bat! Y’all remember Da Band? Yeah, they were awful. Hopefully the buzzy outsider of Brewers camp has a more successful run at the big time than those cats. After putting up a 10 homer/40 steal season in 2015 across AA and AAA with the Pirates, Broxton earned a late season callup where he saw two at bats. He was then moved in December to the Brewers for Jason Rodgers. Though it’s a trade that didn’t attract much fanfare, it’s safe to say Broxton has the potential to be a low risk steal for Milwaukee. He combines good speed, some pop, and quality defense that will keep him in the lineup even when his bat is slumping. Now there are negatives too, as he strikes out too much, and is pretty old (26) to finally be getting his chance.
Conclusion: A last round flier type for some quality SAGNOF upside.
Trevor Story, SS | COL: Okay, so maybe I’ve been sleeping a little bit too hard on Story, but in the early part of camp all reports were he was behind utility types Christian Adames and Daniel Descalso. With Descalso now on the shelf, and Adames uninspiring at his best at the plate, Story looks to be the guy to own of the trio. The uncertainty of Jose Reyes, paired with his power/speed combo, make Story a dark horse contender for NL rookie of the year. So far this spring he’s hitting .321 with the 4 homers and 10 rbis. I’m willing to admit I was wrong about Story.
Conclusion: Keep an eye on who gets the job out of camp. Might be worth a reach if you have bench space for a stash or an NA or minors spot in your re-draft. Definitely has the chance to make an impact.
Travis Jankowski, OF | SD: I don’t know if Jankowski has a nickname but, it should be the flying kielbasa. **google searches Travis Jankowski nickname** Turns out his nickname is Fred because he loves Mister Rodgers. Alrighty then!! The pride of the SUNY Stony Brook, (R.A the Rugged Man’s hometown). He possess double plus speed and excellent defense, but gives you zero pop, as he’s more likely to lay down a mean squeeze, than homer.
Conclusion: TJ can fly, and you’re probably looking at a SAGNOF type, problem is Jon Jay looks like the soon to be anointed leadoff hitter and centerfielder for the Friars.
Tyler Naquin, OF | CLE: So every so often I talk to J-FOH. Not because I like the guy, (I mean how could you?), but because he’s full of good information and random stories that involve muscle cars. (See! Not all bad) One such piece of information, was that Rudy, while down in Arizona for Spring Training with the rest of the Razzball high priests, was keenly interested in checking out Naquin. I was familiar with Naquin as a former first round pick that had been hampered with injuries. He’s always had the ability to produce, no matter the level when on the field. It’s been the staying of the field part that’s been tricky. His minor leagues numbers speak for themselves, as he flashes batting average, on base skills, power, and speed. So far in camp Naquin is winning the interim-centerfield job handily over Colin Cowgill and Will Venable, who are a combined 3-49! Then there’s Joey Butler and Robbie Grossman, neither of which pose much of a threat. His defense is also that of a starting caliber major leaguer, maybe a tick better.
Conclusion: If he’s given some serious playing time in April, don’t be surprised if he’s widely owned by May 1st.
Socrates Brito, OF | ARI: The Philosopher is hitting .400, and earning a lot of buzz down in Arizona. Over the past few years Brito has established himself as a legitimate power/speed threat. Last year in AA Mobile he hit .300 with 9 homers, 41 extra base hits, and 20 steals in 26 attempts. I’m not going to go on and on, Google his name, he’s the most mentioned “sleeper rookie” of spring training.
Conclusion: Yasmany Tomas better watch his sore left knee, because Brito could force his way into the lineup, after he makes the club out of camp as the 4th outfielder. #boldprediction #notthatbold
Hector Olivera, 3B/OF | ATL: There was a ton of hype a year ago boosting Olivera’s value, but where has it all gone? I’ve been routinely drafting Olivera in the late rounds of all different formats. As of writing this he leads not only the Braves (pfft big deal), but all of the NL in hits this spring. At (almost) 31 he’s a ready-made product that should start from the jump. He never hit below .315 in Cuba, and has flashed power, could be a sleeper with multi-position eligibility.
Conclusion: Will make the team out of camp and play every day. If he can carry his momentum along until April and beyond we could be looking at a universally owned player when all is said and done.
Joey Rickard, OF | BAL: Picked up by the Orioles via Tampa Bay in the rule 5 draft, Rickard has impressed in camp. So much so that many believe he deserves the starting left-field job over international signing Hyun-soo Kim. Rickard’s story is one of a long shot 9th rounder, that after early success (short season 2012 and full season A in 2013) was followed with struggles (AA in 2014) and ignored a bit by the prospect crowd. But after a strong 2015 that saw him shoot across three levels and slash .321/.421/.447, many thought he was a shoo-in for the Rays 40 man roster. Obviously that wasn’t the case and many Ray’s fans have a right to be mad after it looks like a very serviceable outfielder may have slipped through the cracks.
Conclusion: With a good hit tool, on base skills, and great wheels, Rickard looks to be a SAGNOF batty call that could see extended runs if there’s an injury in the O’s outfield.
Tyler Goedell, OF | PHI: Another outfielder plucked from Tampa in the rule 5 draft, the 23 year old Goedell looks like the opening day leftfielder for the Phils. He’s never played above AA, but he flashed good power/speed over his minor league career, slugging 31 homers while swiping 108 bases in 451 minor league games. Last season in AA Montgomery, Goedell slashed .279/.350/.433 with 12 homers and 28 steals.
Mikie Mahtook, OF | TB: You might remember Mahtook from his dynamic September that produced a .353/.397/.706 slash line with 11 XBH’s, but he spent much of 2015 shuttling back and forth between Durham and the major league club. Still below his limits (just barely 105 ab’s), Mahtook offers a power/speed toolset, but strikes out too much to ever be a contributor in batting average. Unfortunately Mahtook might have a tough time justifying his place on this list, with the Rays currently rostering Corey Dickerson, Desmond Jennings, Steven Souza, Kevin Kiermaier, and Brandon Guyer.
Conclusion: More than likely doesn’t make the team out of camp unless one of the aforementioned quintet suffers an injury. Still worth tabbing on your watch list and adding if a spot opens up.
Mac Williamson & Jarrett Parker OF | SF: Giants prospects rarely come with much hype lately. But no team is better at getting the most out of boring vets and fringe specs. Both Williamson and Parker are in competition for outfield spots in San Fran, but both projecting more as a depth guy than starter at least out of camp. Fear not! The trio of Cal Ripken’s in front of them (Pagan, Pence, and Span) has about as much of a chance of staying healthy, as I do of playing Beethoven’s 5th on the piano with my feet. Williamson offers potential 20 homer power with solid on base skills, while Parker offers power and speed with a low batting average and a lot of K’s.
Conclusion: Parker should make the team out of camp, while Williamson is on the fringe but could be up quickly. Either one is worth a late round flier in deep leagues (pssst like out Scout.com $88 leagues).
Tyler White, 1B/3B | HOU: In what has to be one of the most closely monitored position battles amongst fantasy managers; White has emerged as the dark horse candidate for the Astros opening day first base job. White has been pegged as a “Matt Adams” type throughout his minors career; over the past few seasons he has worked on his physique and hit tool, having slimmed down quite a bit. After having a legendary (and Kenny Powers-esque) showing in the Dominican Summer League that included out hitting Miguel Sano and Socrates Brito, earning the nickname “Blanco”, and chants of MVP. “Blanco” is ready to swoop in and crush the dreams of A.J. Reed, and Jon Singleton owners. He’s mostly shown mid-teen type power in the minors, but he’s a guy that can contribute to average and OBP.
Conclusion: The Astros system is so deep, that White was buried on a lot of top 30 lists somewhere in the mid-teens. The idea of White starting the season as the everyday first baseman, or Evan Gattis fill in if he’s not ready to go, is becoming increasingly more likely. With A.J. Reed, who could use more time in the minors, and Jon Singleton, who just plain…. sucks, as his main competition, my money is on “Blanco” for the job.