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10 Off The Radar Impact Rookies (2019 Fantasy Baseball)

by Bobby Sylvester | @bobbyfantasypro | Featured Writer
Feb 1, 2019

Mike Soroka is one of several rookie starters who could help the Braves

There are a handful of rookies every season who seemingly pop onto the radar without an introduction. Some of them have big seasons like Miles Mikolas and Juan Soto last year. The purpose of today’s article is to tell you about who those players are most likely to be in 2019. You surely don’t need to be told about rookie of the year favorites, Vlad Jr. or Harper’s replacement, Victor Robles, nor do you need a reminder that last year’s hyped rookies, Alex Reyes and Nick Senzel would have dominated had they been healthy. I’ll first remind you of those types of players before jumping into the meat of the article with ten off the radar impact rookies.

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Players who don’t need an introduction

Hitters

Austin Meadows (OF – TBR), ECR #178, ETA: April
The Pirates had him buried on their depth chart for what seemed like forever thanks to the presence of Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte. Now that he has been freed to Tampa Bay (with Tyler Glasnow) in the Chris Archer trade, we will finally get to see the kid shine. Meadows was once considered a future all-star, and while he likely won’t venture into that territory any time soon, if at all, we are looking at someone who, even as a rookie, should hold a mediocre batting average while contributing in all four of the other roto categories.
Fearless Prediction: .259 BA with 16 HR and 12 SB in 452 AB

Peter Alonso (1B – NYM), ECR #245, ETA: May
Like Vlad Jr. and Eloy above, Alonso’s true impact will depend on whether or not the big league club makes space for him. As it stands now, Todd Frazier is likely to play first base with Jed Lowrie manning the other corner. It is possible that Alonso pushes the envelope in the spring, forcing Lowrie to shortstop, but more than likely, we are looking at his arrival coming when the first infielder heads to the DL. With an older group of players, that may be sooner than later. When he arrives, he will come with a dangerous stick right away and could be one of the stronger second half rookies. In the minors last year, Alonso swatted 36 homers and drove in 119 runners in just 478 at-bats.
Fearless Prediction: .248 BA with 20 HR and 59 RBIs in 396 AB

Garrett Hampson (2B/SS – COL), ECR #252, ETA: June
The signing of Daniel Murphy should cause Hampson’s ECR to drop another 50 spots, as that transaction shifts Ryan McMahon over to second base. Like Alonso, Hampson could force the Rockies hands with a strong Spring, but more than likely, he won’t get the call until someone hits the DL. At that point, McMahon could slide over to first, third or the outfield. If it is Story that goes down, Hampson would fill the gap. He could eventually be a better version of D.J. LeMahieu offensively, posting a batting average near .300 with more power and speed. Right away, he will merely hold his own in the batting average department while contributing nearly 30 steals per 162 games.
Fearless Prediction: .270 BA with 8 HR and 18 SB in 339 AB

Francisco Mejia (C – SDP), ECR #268, ETA: May
Much of Mejia’s production will depend on where he plays this season. The Padres are among the front-runners to land J.T. Realmuto, which oddly enough, would help Mejia a great deal. As it is now, the catching prospect is stuck behind Austin Hedges, who is among the top defensive catchers in baseball, but a trade to Miami, or perhaps even Cleveland or Cincinnati, would make him a fringe top 12 fantasy catcher right away. Mejia has more pop than your average catcher already and could eventually hit around .290 as his approach matures.
Fearless Prediction: .247 BA with 12 HR and 44 RBI in 365 AB

Luis Urias (2B/SS – SDP), ECR: #321, ETA: April
Sticking with the Padres (you’ll see a ton of them in this article), we move over to Urias, who seems to be the favorite to start the season as the Padres’ primary shortstop. If he were playing in a different home park, we might be talking about him as a challenger to Victor Robles to win the NL Rookie of the Year award. Rather, his offensive production will most probably be limited to a replacement level fantasy player. With that said, he does have a much higher ceiling so make sure to keep an eye on him from the get-go.
Fearless Prediction: .256 BA with 12 HR and 12 SB in 491 AB

Pitchers

Josh James (SP – HOU), ECR #231, ETA: April
We’ve arrived at my favorite sleeper in fantasy baseball this year. Yes, the Astros just signed Wade Miley, and sure, Forrest Whitley is not only the Astros top pitching prospect, but the top in all of baseball. Still, James is almost certainly going to start the season in the rotation and should be great from day one. In fact, day one was last year when he stuck out 29 MLB hitters in 23 innings with a 2.35 ERA. This came after he shredded the minors to a tune of 12.9 K/9, a 1.120 WHIP and 3.23 ERA in 114 innings. James will almost definitely outproduce Dallas Keuchel while replacing his spot in the rotation this year.
Fearless Prediction: 3.42 ERA, 11 wins, 176 Ks in 158 IP

Yusei Kikuchi (SP – SEA), ECR #239, ETA: April
I wrote an extensive piece on Kikuchi when it was announced that he was coming over from Japan. He was a piece I’ve been monitoring for years as a future international import and Seattle is plus landing spot. His numbers translate to a pitcher similar to Zack Wheeler last year, and like Wheeler, Kikuchi’s arm could potentially blossom into much more to fantasy owners. He is by no means similar to Ohtani or Darvish before him, but 370 Ks and a 2.45 ERA in his last two seasons is nothing to sneeze at.
Fearless Prediction: 3.60 ERA, 10 wins, 163 Ks in 178 IP

Mike Soroka (SP – ATL), ECR #272, ETA: May
With five, yes FIVE, talented starting pitchers ready to make a rookie splash in Atlanta (see below), projection models aren’t too sure what to make of Soroka, but to me, he is clearly the most polished and I expect him to come out of Spring Training with a spot in the rotation. Soroka has premier command of his pitches, and while he isn’t a big strikeout guy, we could be looking at a Kyle Hendricks like fantasy asset. That is someone you’ll want to get your hands on if he emerges as the Braves #5 starter.
Fearless Prediction: 3.51 ERA, 9 wins, 108 Ks in 121 IP

Jesus Luzardo (SP – OAK), ECR #332, ETA: June
Oakland’s rotation is a total mystery. We may not see Luzardo until September, or he could even break camp as their ace. The fact of the matter is that this 21-year-old lefty will answer the bell when it is time. He was dominant last year in the minors, striking out 129 in 109 innings with a 2.88 ERA and 1.088 WHIP. It was enough to cause his stock to soar from fringe top 100 prospect to fringe top 10. If it wasn’t for Whitley in Houston, we’d be talking about Luzardo as perhaps the best pitcher in the minors.
Fearless Prediction: 3.95 ERA, 8 wins, 100 Ks in 97 IP

Merrill Kelly (SP – ARI), ECR: #382, ETA: April
Kelly is a real player, believe it or not. The reason you haven’t heard of him is because he has been playing in South Korea the last few years. You might not know it from looking, but his 3.60 ERA and 9.0 K/9 actually made him the most impressive pitcher in the KBO. The reason, of course, is that virtually every game in that league is played in a Coors Field like offensive environment. Kelly doesn’t quite have the control of a Miles Mikolas, but he has better strikeout stuff and could be every bit the surprise off the waiver wire in April.
Fearless Prediction: 4.02 ERA, 10 wins, 169 Ks in 168 IP

Others worth monitoring

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Bobby Sylvester is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Bobby, check out his archive and follow him @BobbyFantasyPro.

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