While the American League rookie crop is not quite as strong as that of the National League, there are still a number of players that should be able to help you win your fantasy league.
Players that should get significant playing time
Shohei Ohtani (LAA, RHP) – Ohtani enters the season as the favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year. And why not. With an off-season feeding frenzy that had every team bidding on the services of the former NPB standout, the stars seem to be aligning. But before we hand over the hardware in March, there are concerns. First is a tear in his elbow ligament that was found as part of his medical evaluation. Second, is the six-man rotation that the Angels will use. How many innings will Ohtani pitch? It’s a concern. Also, will he get enough at-bats to make him much more than a replacement offensive player? Can he hit? Lots of questions with I’m afraid, few answers at this point. One thing is for sure though – he’s going to be fun to own, for the fascination alone.
Projected Line: 150 IP, 160 K’s, 13 wins, 3.55 ERA
Willie Calhoun (TEX, OF) – It might not be pretty in the outfield, but it won’t matter as Willie Calhoun can really hit. While there’s a chance he breaks camp, the odds are he stays down on the farm to give the Rangers seven years of team control. Remember, he has to make up time from his September call-up last year. Therefore, I’m thinking mid-May.
Playing Time: 425 AB, 20 HR, 5 SB, .280 BA
Gleybar Torres (NYY, 2B) – While Torres is a natural shortstop, he will likely be the Yankees full-time second baseman by mid-May. It’s all lined up for him and the only thing holding him back is some rust from not playing in the second half last year and possibly a service time play. Yes, even the Yankees will play the seven-year vs. six-year game with Torres.
Projected Line: 450 AB, 14 HR, 16 SB, .265 BA
Dustin Fowler (OAK, OF) – DON’T forget about Dustin Fowler. After a gruesome injury last season, assuming he’s healthy, he’ll get the bulk of the playing time in centerfield for the A’s. With a little speed and a little pop, he’s my sleeper for AL Rookie of the year.
Projected Line: 500 AB, 10 HRs, 23 SB, .260 BA
Austin Hays (BAL, OF) – The Orioles generally don’t play the service time game, so I think Hays breaks camp in late March. He could struggle early, but if the Orioles stay with him, a big if, I think he has a very nice season.
Projected Line: 450 AB, 19 HR, 3 SB, .265 BA
Francisco Mejia (CLE, C) – Mejia has the ceiling of a Top five catcher in fantasy baseball, perhaps even more. But, with zero time above Double-A and an Indians history of managing minor leaguers service time (Lindor played two months in the minors in 2015, and Zimmer six weeks last year), I think a late-May call-up will be as early as we see him. The good news…I think he’ll hit right out of the gate.
Projected Line: 300 AB, 13 HR, 5 SB, .290 BA
A.J. Puk (OAK, LHP) – If A.J. Puk were to break camp with the A’s, he might be their opening day starter. However, there’s almost no chance of that with the easy money on a mid-June call-up. The control is still not great, but the stuff misses bats.
Projected Line: 90 IP, 110 K’s, 5 wins, 4.05 ERA
Michael Kopech (CHW, RHP) – The success of Michael Kopech will be directly tied to his ability to throw strikes. If he does, he’ll be an impact performer from the time he is promoted, if not, he could easily have an up-and-down year with a 4.50 plus ERA. Long-term, the upside is a number one.
Projected Line: 100 IP, 115 K’s, 6 wins, 4.20 ERA
Willy Adames (TB, 2B) – Willy Adames is likely ready for the show, but unless he signs a team-friendly contract, he won’t see Tampa until mid-June. However, he can hit with some speed and pop, so once he’s promoted, he should help your fantasy team, and the best part, it will likely be at second.
Projected Line: 325 AB, 10 HR, 8 SB, .270 BA
Jake Bauers (TB, OF) – There are a lot of needs in Tampa and as soon as Jake Bauers has served his time in the minor leagues, he should be up. He has a plus hit-tool and some power. I’m not sure where the stolen bases came from last year, but the overall package should help fantasy owners.
Project Line: 325 AB, 10 HR, 5 SB, .275 BA
Franklin Barreto (OAK, SS) – While Barreto is currently blocked, I don’t think that last the entire season. Once he’s up, he has very friendly-fantasy tools
Projected Line: 350 AB, 7 HR, 16 SB, .270 BA
Jorge Mateo (OAK, OF) – Mateo will bring speed to the fantasy equation and should be up just when fantasy owners need a boost. As everyone else is drafting the more famous names, take a late round flyer on Mateo and thank me later.
Projected Line: 350 AB, 4 HR, 20 SB, .260 BA
Anthony Alford (TOR, OF) – Alford has always been a favorite of mine as the tools are extremely fantasy-friendly. However, he has a total 71 games above A-Ball, so the odds are very good he starts the year in the minors. Plus, the Blue Jays brought in Granderson and Gricuck as placeholders until Alford, Bichette, and oh yeah, some kid named Vlad Jr. are ready.
Projected Line: 300 AB, 6 HR, 18 SB, .250 BA
Players who might not yet be ready for one reason or another
Kyle Tucker (HOU, OF) – While I’m concerned about Kyle Tucker’s hitch in his swing, I’m more worried about his playing time in 2018. If Derek Fisher catches fire, I doubt we see much of him until 2019. If he doesn’t, he’ll be promoted in June. However, at this point, I’m going to say he’s a non-factor in 2018.
Eloy Jimenez (CHW, OF) – The White Sox are still a year away and with only 18 games above A-Ball, I don’t see Eloy Jimenez having an impact in 2018. I do believe the math changes in 2019.
Miguel Andujar (NYY, 3B) – With the signing of Brandon Drury, Miguel Andujar is now blocked. But, the skills are there and all he needs is a trade. I think that happens in the second half.
Hunter Dozier (KC, 1B/3B) – Somebody has got to play in Kansas City and while Hunter Dozier’s shine has taken a hit, he still has a little pop in the bat.
Ryan O’Hearn (KC, 1B) – See Hunter Dozier. Not as good of a player as Dozier but the rationale is the same. Unfortunately, Dozier might get moved to first blocking O’Hearn.
Hunter Harvey (BAL, RHP) – It might be in relief, but if Harvey is healthy, he will get an opportunity to pitch. For Dynasty League owners, use Dylan Bundy as your guide. Remember, he was pretty good last year, particularly closing out the season.