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Week 1 Rookie Report: Play Ball!

Week 1 Rookie Report
Photo Credit: Eric Kilby

Welcome to the SCFE Rookie Report!

Every Fantasy owner studies and analyzes (agonizes?) the upcoming rookie group of hitters and pitchers. Who will be the next Aaron Judge? Cody Bellinger? Kris Bryant? Having the rookie breakout performers on your roster could be the difference between winning and waiting until next season.

I am here to help. I present to Fantasy owners, the Rookie Report. This weekly report will review and analyze MLB rookies who are currently in the majors (In the Show). It will identify the players worth buying in on and have the potential to make an immediate Fantasy impact.

In addition, this report will also showcase players that are On The Brink.  Prospects who are likely to get the call to the majors based on current performance in the minors and their long-term potential and Fantasy effect.

Enough of the intro lets get to the Week 1 Report.

Week 1 Rookie Report

In The Show

Scott Kingery 2B/3B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies

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The Phillies’ top prospect opened up a lot of Fantasy eyes this Spring Training. The 23-year-old went 23-for-56 (.411) with five homers and four stolen bases. In addition to the on-the-field news, Kingery made news off the field when the Phillies signed Scott Kingery to a six-year contract through the 2023 season this Spring. His contract gives him the most guaranteed money ever for an amateur drafted player who has never played in the major leagues.

Kingery primarily has played second base in the minors but has been used at third base and in the outfield this spring for the Phillies. The 23-year-old played in Double-A and Triple-A in 2017. He hit a combined .304/.359/.530 to go along with 26 homers and 29 stolen bases in 132 games.

Kingery made the Opening Day roster and started the Phillies’ previous three games-twice at third base, once at shortstop- and should be in store for a quasi-everyday role at multiple positions without having a permanent position. He started the season with four hits in his first 13 at-bats in the majors.

The power/speed combo is legit, and this is what Fantasy owners dream about. The only question is where and how often Kingery will be on the field. He is too good to be sitting on the bench. Scott Kingery should be on all Fantasy rosters and start in all but very shallow formats.

Jack Flaherty, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

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Veteran right-hander Adam Wainwright’s injury gave Flaherty an early shot at the starting rotation. Flaherty proceeded to show why the front office is putting an off-limits tag on his right arm. He struck out nine batters and walked only one in five innings. Flaherty struck out eight of the first 12 batters he faced.  He scattered six hits and allowed just one run.  He was in line for his first big-league victory before the bullpen allowed two runs over the last two innings.

Flaherty generated a 6.33 ERA over 21.2 innings with the Cardinals in 2017 and followed that up with 24 strikeouts and a 4.60 ERA over 15.2 innings this spring (four home runs allowed). With Adam Wainwright due to come off the DL, Flaherty was optioned to Triple-A. He will likely be the first pitcher called back to the majors if another injury strikes again to the big-league rotation.

Flaherty went 14-4 in the high minors last season, producing excellent ratios (2.18 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) and striking out 147 batters in 148.2 innings. He issued just 35 walks in the minors in 2017, so the command was not an issue. In fact, Flaherty got batters to swing and miss at 28.7 percent of the sliders he offered them. In the second half of last season, no major league pitcher threw a slider as effectively, not even Clayton Kershaw. Jack Flaherty clearly has the stuff to be a mixed league Fantasy asset. He should be owned in all Fantasy formats.

Lewis Brinson, OF, Miami Marlins

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Lewis Brinson has been a top prospect for several years now. Brinson came over to the Marlins in an offseason trade with the Brewers and he will not face a logjam for at-bats in the outfield.  He is finally getting his shot and on top of the Marlins’ lineup at the leadoff position!

The 23-year-old slashed .331/.400/.562 with 13 homers and 11 steals in 76 games in Triple-A last season. However, his numbers in the big leagues were decidedly not impressed. He hit only .106/.236/.277  while hitting two home runs and driving in just three runs with the Brewers last season. He also struck out 17 times over that span which puts him on a pace of 131 strikeouts.

It looks like Brinson will have an opportunity to have a bigger role than he did last year at the Major League level. He’s projected to be the starting center fielder for the Marlins who enter year one of their rebuild. He has the upside to produce a 20-20 season. Brinson now has two multiple-hit performances in his last four games and is hitting .280 through his first 25 at-bats. Brinson is a great stash at the end of your bench without making a significant investment.

Ryan McMahon, 1B, Colorado Rockies

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It was up in the air whether or not McMahon would start the season in the minors, but he hit .328/.375/.537 in 29 games this spring to force the issue. McMahon did make the Opening Day Rockies roster, but his exact role isn’t exactly clear.

After being the front-runner for the starting first base job through the first three weeks of Spring Training, his candidacy became complicated when the Rockies re-signed Carlos Gonzalez. His return pushed Gerardo Parra to left field and then Ian Desmond into more direct competition at first base. McMahon has moved around the diamond at first base, third base, and even designated hitter in order to provide him some at-bats.

Ryan McMahon did not start a game until game four this season. Did he make the big league roster to sit on the bench?  Currently, he is just a role player coming off the bench, while getting the occasional start. With Ian Desmond starting off hot so far this season, the Rockies need to continue to get him in the lineup.

After hitting a combined .355 between Double- (.326) and Triple-A (.374) last season, including 20 home runs and 88 RBI. McMahon does not have anything more to prove in the minors. He is definitely worth an add in deeper leagues, but in shallow formats, he will be hard to trust due to the Rockies’ logjam at first base and outfield.


On The Brink

Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves

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Ronald Acuna, who is widely considered baseball’s top overall prospect, hit .432/.529/.727 with four home runs in 16 Spring Training games. However, he will start this season in the minor leagues. The Braves will need to keep in the minors until April 13 in order to limit his service time for 2018. This action will prevent Acuna from becoming a free agent until 2024.

Ronald Acuna was named Baseball America’s minor league Player of the Year after hitting a combined .325 with a .374 OBP, .522 slugging percentage, 60 extra-base hits (21 homers) and 44 stolen bases in 139 games. He was the youngest-ever MVP of the Arizona Fall League after hitting .325 with seven homers and a 1.053 OPS in 23 games in a prospect league. He played better at each level despite being the youngest player in Double-A and again in Triple-A, where he hit .344 with 25 extra-base hits (nine homers) and a .940 OPS in 54 games.

Acuna, 20, is a true five-tool player, a superb athlete with what many scouts consider Gold Glove-caliber defensive skills in the outfield. Furthermore, he has an extremely strong throwing arm to go with his combination of speed, power, and high-average and on-base skills.  With Acuna “developing” in the minors to start the season, he will likely only miss approximately 12 games. Please note, that Kris Bryant and Cody Bellinger both missed the first weeks of their rookie seasons in 2015 and 2017, respectively, and both won Rookie of the Year Awards with their outstanding Fantasy seasons. If he is somehow available in your league, can I get in your league next season? Ronald Acuna will be the 2018 Rookie of the Year and the next MLB superstar!

Willie Calhoun, OF, Texas Rangers

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Willie Calhoun was one of three prospects the Texas Rangers received from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the trade involving Yu Darvish last season. In 128 Triple-A games last season, Calhoun had a .300 batting average with over 30 home runs and 90 plus RBI. Additionally, he walked 42 times with just 61 strikeouts during his time in the minors. Once September rolled around, he was brought up the big leagues and made a modest impact in limited opportunities: hitting .265 with a homer and 8 RBI in 13 games for the Rangers.

Calhoun continues to prove that he can hit but the issue with him is that he doesn’t really have a position. He is currently a liability in the field. Calhoun has shown progress defensively and was considered to be in the lead for the Rangers’ left field job in Spring Training. In a somewhat surprising move, he was optioned back to Triple-A Round Rock. This could be simply a service-time issue, as the team can keep Calhoun for an extra year if he remains in the minors for approximately a month.

Currently, the Rangers have Ryan Rua in left field, who has a good skill level and a good defender. Rua can’t come close to equal the production of Calhoun at the plate. He will need to be improved on defense by the time he gets promoted again. I still see Calhoun making an impact this year in Fantasy leagues. However, it will be just a little later than most of us originally hoped.  If he is available in your league, pick him up and watch him collect hits immediately.

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