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AL Impact Rookies

AL Impact RookieProspect361.com is celebrating our 5-year anniversary and during that time, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about the talent graduating to the big leagues.  Sure, everyone knows about Vlad Jr, Forrest Whitely, and even Fernando Tatis Jr., but there is significant talent in both leagues that could play major roles for their team in 2019.

We have listed 14 players that we believe will get meaningful playing time throughout the year with two sleepers.  Candidly, the list could have easily pushed to 25 or more, but we wanted to keep the list short to highlight those players with the best shot.

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

The best of the best for 2019

Vlad Guerrero Jr. (Tor, 3B)

So much has been written about Vlad Jr. that I won’t bore you with more superlatives.  Assuming he’s healthy, he has the hit-tool to have immediate success in the big leagues.  I’m still not convinced that we will see the 30+ home run power in 2019, but it’s there.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 450 AB, 18 HRs, 2 SB, .290/.360 AVG/OBP

Eloy Jimenez (CHW, OF)

Eloy Jimenez is back in the minors working on well…something.  However, he should be one of the first call-ups in mid-April.  He’s got plus raw power and while I think there will be pressure on his batting average, long-term the hit-tool should be more than adequate to make him a perennial all-star.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 450 AB, 21 HRs, 3 SB, .255/.310 AVG/OBP

Jesus Luzardo (Oak, SP)

Jesus Luzardo could blow-up in 2019.  He has two plus pitches in his fastball and change-up and with some more work on his curveball, he has the arsenal to pitch at the top of the rotation. If healthy, he should see plenty of starts in Oakland.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 150 IP, 12 Wins, 3.45 ERA, 155 K’s.

Yusei Kikuchi (Sea, SP)

Yusei Kikuchi should be the odds-on favorite for the American League Rookie of the Year as he starts the year with the Mariners.  My problem is that I just don’t know how good he will be.  First, the Mariners will limit his innings and I’m projecting they limit him to about 160.  Secondly, and more importantly, his stuff is just average.  It’s good enough, and new to teams that he should start the season strong.  However, I believe the league catches up with him in the second half and consequewntly, he falls back to the number four, perhaps number three starter that his profile suggest.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 155 IP, 8 Wins, 3.75 ERA, 140 K’s.

Justus Sheffield (Sea, SP)

The Mariners will start Justus Sheffield in the minors to limit his service time.  Since he already has 13 days of major league service time, I’m projecting a May 1st Major League debut.  For me, he’s got better stuff than Kikuchi and I expect him to have an overall better year and a much better career.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 130 IP, 9 Wins, 3.60 ERA, 130 K’s.

Austin Hays (Bal, OF)

Austin Hays spent most of last season on the disabled list, but at least in Spring Training, he’s letting the league know he’s back.  There are plenty of opportunities in Baltimore and I expect Hays to take full advantage.  Don’t be surprised if he’s the surprise ROY candidate as we move in the second half.  One caution, if you play in an OBP League, Hays rarely walks.  In other words, plan accordingly.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 550 AB, 19 HRs, 9 SB, .270/.300 AVG/OBP

Christin Stewart (Det, OF)

Christin Stewart will be the left-fielder for the Tigers in 2019 and I think 20 home runs is doable.  In fact, he has the power to hit a lot more.  The swing is not great and he’ll strike out a ton, but his ability to work a walk will make him a better asset in OBP leagues than AVG leagues.  While not relevant this year, he’s not a good defender and at some point, the Tigers will need to think about a move to first base.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 550 AB, 25 HRs, .230/.320 AVG/OBP

Danny Jansen (Tor, C)

Russell Martin is gone, and Danny Jansen is penciled in as the starting catcher in Toronto.  I think he’ll have a fine season, but I don’t see a star.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 325 AB, 14 HRs, 2 SB, .260/.310 AVG/OBP

Brandon Lowe (TB, 2B)

After a terrific 2019 season, Brandon Lowe is poised to get considerable playing time in Tampa Bay in 2019.  He has a little bit of pop; a little bit of speed and his plate patience will make him a better player in OBP than AVG leagues.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 500 AB, 16 HRs, 12 SB, .260/.350 AVG/OBP

Jonathan Loaisiga (NYY, SP)

If Jonathan Loaisiga can stay healthy, he has the stuff and control to be effective pitcher for the Yankees.  The problem is he’s never stayed healthy.  I have taken that into consideration in his projection.  However, if he can solve that, there is big upside.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 90 IP, 7 Wins, 3.50 ERA, 100 K’s.

The next cut of players – playing time struggles

Richie Martin (Bal, SS)

I am still surprised that the Athletics did not protect Richie Martin, but their loss is the Orioles gain.  The good news is he must stay on the big-league roster or be returned.  While he’ll likely hit at the bottom of the order, his plus speed should give him value in deeper leagues.

Kyle Tucker (Hou, OF)

First, Kyle Tucker is better than AJ Reed and Derek Fisher, so I can’t imagine him ever being riding the Quad-4 bus.  But he needs something to happen in Houston to get a shot and my guess is that will be Josh Reddick.  I think you can expect him around July 1st and this time, I think he stays.

Forrest Whitley (Hou, SP)

I saw Forrest Whitley last Fall and again this Spring and the stuff is elite.  He’s got at my last count, five quality pitches that he’ll eventually need to pare down, but for now, it’s nasty stuff.  The problem for 2019 is how many innings will he pitch?  I’m expecting between 120 to 150, and that might be a stretch.  Count 20 to 30 innings before getting called up and another 20 to 30 in September and the postseason and you see the problem.  How much will he pitch for Houston in the regular season?

Bo Bichette (Tor, SS)

While all the love is being given to Vlad Jr., Bo Bichette has a chance to be an exceptional major league player as well.  Plus, with his speed, he might even be a better fantasy asset than Vlad Jr. over the long haul.  However, he needs more seasoning but expect to see him in the second half.

Sleepers

Oscar Mercado (Cle, OF)

Longtime readers of our site understand our affection for Oscar Mercado.  While we might have been early on the speedy outfielder, the Indians have got to be excited about what he has done this Spring.  Sure, they just signed Cargo and have HanRam in the stable, at some point, Mercado will get his shot and with his speed and growing power and hit-tool, he should open eyes quickly.

 

Luis Rengifo (LAA, 2B)

If you’re looking for speed Luis Rengifo could provide a source of cheap stolen bases at some point during the season for the Angels.  He’s also a tough out at the plate, walking as much as he struck out in 2018.  He needs David Fletcher to struggle, which doesn’t seem that out of line, and he could get a shot.

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