Well, after last year's historically strong rookie class, it only makes sense that this year's class would leave a lot to be desired. We will see a lot of people going crazy and over-paying in this year's drafts for guys like Dominic Brown, Jeremy Hellickson, Mike Moustakis, Dustin Ackley and others. While all of these players, as well as other rookies, will get an opportunity to contribute on a major league stage this year, I would not expect any of them to be major players on the fantasy scene.
After last year, it is easy for fantasy owners to raise expectations for rookies. In the year of the pitcher, rookies shined through extremely bright as well. In 2010 we saw starring debuts by many young stars. Buster Posey, the NL ROY, almost single handedly carried the Giants offense. Jason Heyward showed flashes of brilliance, at age 20. Neftali Feliz, Jamie Garcia, Wade Davis and others shined all put together strong debuts on the mound. At times it looked as if Steven Strasburg was set to take his place as MLB's best pitcher, before a season ending Tommy John Surgery. Mike Stanton and Gabby Sanchez providing very strong debut seasons for the Marlins. I could really go on forever but I am sure you get the point by now. Last year was something special from a rookie standpoint.
It is important to realize what rookies were typically known for before last year when evaluating this years rookie class. While we have occasionally seen stars step right in and pretty much dominate from day one, it is not common to see multiple rookies do this in the same season. While there are some rookies that could really provide quality numbers this year, I don't see any one guy stepping up and dominating. This year's class should provide a return to normalcy with young stars that show flashes but over-all just struggle with consistency. So, with that said, here are some rookies (in no particular order) that I think will be worth a watch this year. I have also provided my projections.
1-Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Rays 181 innings, 12 wins, 4.13 era, 1.24 whip, 170 k's
2-Freddie Freeman, 1b, Braves 546 abs, 283 avg, 17 hrs, 80 rbi, 5 sbs, 72 runs
3-Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves 63 innings, 3 wins, 27 saves, 2.84 era, 1.14 whip, 71 k's
4-Jake McGee, RP, Rays 53 innings, 2 wins, 16 saves, 3.49 era, 1.26 whip, 51 k's
5-Aroldis Chapman, RP, Reds 62 innings, 4 wins, 14 saves, 2.63 era, 1.11 whip, 79 k's
6-Jesus Montero, C, Yankees 263 abs, 269 avg, 11 hrs, 41 rbi, 1 sb, 33 runs
7-J.P. Arencibia, C, Blue Jays 453 abs, 254 avg, 17 hrs, 58 rbi, 0 sbs, 47 runs
8-Mike Moustakis, 3b, Royals 292 abs, 271 avg, 14 hrs, 48 rbi, 3 sbs, 42 runs
9-Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies 416 abs, 261 avg, 17 hrs, 58 rbi, 14 sbs, 53 runs
10-Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays 337 abs, 273 avg, 5 hrs, 27 rbi, 21 sbs, 46 runs
11-Peter Borjous, OF, Angels 516 abs, 268 avg, 8 hrs, 48 rbi, 28 sbs, 71 runs
12-Kyle Drabek, SP, Blue Jays 178 innings, 11 wins, 4.36 era, 1.33 whip, 143 k's
13-Michael Pineda, SP, Mariners 104 innings, 6 wins, 4.11 era, 1.29 whip, 87 k's
14-Chris Sale, SP/RP, White Sox 142 innings, 12 wins, 3.64 era, 1.29 whip, 121 k's
15-Brandon Belt, 1b, Giants 261 abs, 284 avg, 11 hrs, 31 rbi, 2 sbs, 27 runs
It is important to note position battles to watch with some of these guys. The ones that seem to be locked into a major league job this year are Hellickson, Freeman, Kimbrel, Borjous, Drabek, Sale, Chapman and Arencipia. It is worth noting that I am expecting Kimbrel to close in Atlanta and I think that Chapman will take over that role in Cincy as well. Belt, Jennings, Moustakis and a few others could see more time in the majors with a strong showing in Spring Training.
There are some good keepers in this group but it just seems like it will take them longer to develop than last year's class. Long term, Brown, Hellickson, Sale, Montero, Moustakis, Freeman and Belt could develop into real fantasy stars. Also, there is a reason that Dustin Ackley was left off this list, while he is a top prospect, I just don't see him contributing a whole lot fantasy wise.