2016 All-Rookie Team
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And here’s my All-Rookie Team article:
Fantasy owners are always in search of the next big thing, especially when the next big thing comes at a minimal cost. This is why rookies are so highly coveted, as they can often be drafted in the late rounds or even added via the waiver wire during the season. The profit potential is significant, and choosing the right rookie could mean the difference between winning a fantasy title or falling just short. The challenge, however, is to make the correct choices, as your league mates will also be in pursuit of these much-hyped players. With only a few days remaining in the 2016 season, it is time to name the All-Rookie Team, and congrats to those of you who own one or more of these members.
Gary Sanchez, catcher: Despite playing in the Majors for only two months, Sanchez is a legitimate AL Rookie of the Year candidate. With 20 homers and 42 RBIs to go along with a .311 batting average through 50 games, the Yankees backstop has rewarded owners who grabbed him off the waiver wire with a level of run production that rivals any hitter in the game. At the very least, he’s already earned clear-cut top-5 catcher status heading into drafts next spring.
Tommy Joseph, first base: Despite being stuck in a timeshare with Ryan Howard at first base, Joseph has proven to be a solid fantasy asset this season for those in deeper mixed leagues or NL-only formats, recording 21 home runs through 310 at-bats. With Howard set to enter free agency this winter, Joseph could take over as the Phillies’ regular first sacker in 2017, and his strong September (.304 AVG, 4 HR, 13 RBI) suggests that the 25-year-old is up for the task. Assuming that Philadelphia names him their everyday first baseman coming out of spring training next season, Joseph is deserving of a late-round pick in standard mixed leagues thanks to his power upside.
Trea Turner, 2B/OF: Turner’s first extended big league opportunity came later in the season than many had expected, but the 23-year-old speedster wasted no time proving that he belongs in the Majors. Turner has provided his fantasy owners with an All-Star level stat line, including a .340 batting average, 29 swipes, 51 runs scored and 12 homers through 69 games. While his power output is surprising (Turner registered only 19 homers across 268 minor league games), his speed is legit (77 steals in the Minors). Add in his ability to deliver high-end numbers in both batting average and runs scored along with his youth, and Turner should be selected within the top 50 picks, and possibly sooner, in 2017 drafts.
Corey Seager, shortstop: The overwhelming favorite to capture NL Rookie of the Year honors, Seager ranks among the top three players at his position in home runs (26) and runs (104) while leading all shortstops in batting average (.311), OBP (.369) and OPS (.888). The 22-year-old doesn’t run much (three steals), but he is otherwise a reliable stat-filler who could get even better. Seager is already a top-40 fantasy option for 2017. Trevor Story also deserves a mention here, as his NL Rookie of the Year case rivaled that of Seager before a thumb injury ended his season prematurely in late-July.
Brandon Drury, 3B/2B/OF: Drury’s 2016 campaign has been one of ups and downs, but the 24-year-old is finishing off the season on a high note, batting .333 with five homers, 17 RBIs and 17 runs scored in September. Drury’s minor league stat line that includes a .285 batting average, 60 home runs and 363 RBIs in 641 games hints that he could be a quality fantasy contributor going forward. The fact that he is eligible at three different positions adds to his appeal, and playing his home games at hitter-friendly Chase Field should help him maximize his offensive potential. Drury makes for an intriguing late-round flier in mixed leagues next season.
Nomar Mazara, outfielder: Mazara played only three games in the Minors this season before getting promoted to the big club, and it soon became clear that the Rangers made the right decision. The Dominican native entered June sporting a .302 batting average to go along with nine homers and 24 RBIs, and after an underwhelming middle portion of the season, Mazara’s power stroke has returned in September (5 HR, 13 RBI). At 21 years of age, Mazara still has room to grow as a hitter, and fantasy owners have every reason to be excited about his offensive outlook heading into 2017 and beyond.
Max Kepler, outfielder: Although Kepler has struggled to maintain a solid batting average, the lefty-swinging 23-year-old has managed to slug 17 homers while collecting 62 RBIs in 384 at-bats this season, including eight home runs and 23 RBIs in July. Kepler’s minor league batting average of .281 suggests that he could improve in that area with additional big league experience. There’s profit potential in using a late-round pick to draft Kepler in 2017.
Travis Jankowski, outfielder: For owners in need of steals, Jankowski proved to be quite a find off the waiver wire. The 25-year-old’s most productive month was August, when he batted .308 with 11 swipes and 18 runs scored. September (.205 AVG, 1 SB, 8 R) has been a different story, and he’s lost at-bats of late to recent call-ups Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot. The playing time uncertainty heading into 2017 puts a damper on Jankowski’s fantasy value, but the speedster will be deserving of a late-round pick in deeper mixed formats should he emerge from spring training with a starting job.
Kenta Maeda, starter: As with any player coming to the Majors from overseas, it was unknown whether Maeda’s success in Japan would translate to the big leagues. As it turned out, the transition was not a problem at all for Maeda, who boasts a 3.28 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP through 31 starts to go along with 176 strikeouts across 173 innings. Even if he experiences some regression in 2017, the Dodgers righty should still post quality numbers, and there is little downside in drafting him as a fourth or fifth starter in 12-team mixed leagues.
Michael Fulmer, starter: The key piece acquired by the Tigers from the Mets in last summer’s Yoenis Cespedes trade, Fulmer enjoyed immediate success upon his late-April big league call-up, going 9-2 with a 2.11 ERA over his first 13 starts. The 23-year-old remained a steady presence in Detroit’s rotation all season, finishing off the 2016 campaign with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP across 26 starts. His 7.5 K/9 rate is somewhat disappointing, but Fulmer’s 8.7 K/9 rate in the Minors hints that a strikeout uptick in 2017 is likely. Mixed league owners should feel comfortable adding Fulmer to the back-end of their rotation in drafts next spring, and he could very well return a substantial profit.
Jameson Taillon, starter: For years, Taillon was billed as an elite prospect, but Tommy John surgery delayed his big league debut until this June. The 24-year-old righty found immediate success, and he closed out the season with a strong 3.38 ERA and 1.12 WHIP across 18 starts. Taillon is fully expected to fill a spot in the Pirates starting rotation next season and offers plenty of upside as a late-round pick in fantasy drafts.
Junior Guerra, starter: Among the biggest pitching surprises of 2016, Guerra has registered a stellar 2.81 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over his first 20 big league starts. Although his pedestrian 7.4 K/9 rate limits his fantasy value to deeper mixed leagues for now, Guerra’s ability to minimize hits (7.0 H/9) and home runs (0.7 HR/9) bodes well for his ERA and WHIP going forward.
Zach Davies, starter: Pitching in his first full big league season, Davies has posted a solid stat line this year, highlighted by an impressive 135-to-38 K/BB ratio. However, his 7.4 K/9 rate is far from elite, and he wasn’t a high-end strikeout pitcher in the Minors (7.8 K/9). Still just 23, Davies could develop into a reliable fantasy option in standard mixed leagues. But for now, he’s more of a deep-league asset.
Seung Hwan Oh, reliever: The surprising struggles of the once dominant Trevor Rosenthal opened the door for Oh to assume ninth inning duties for the Cardinals beginning in early-July. Oh’s success in the closer role along with Rosenthal’s subsequent shoulder injury solidified his hold on the job for the remainder of the season. Through 74 appearances, the South Korea native boasts a 1.85 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 11.6 K/9 rate to go along with 18 saves in 21 chances. Should he remain the Cardinals stopper in 2017, Oh could continue to establish himself as an upper-tier ninth inning man and would be well worth a mid-round selection on draft day.
Zach Steinhorn is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ZachMLB