Last year Major League Baseball saw a major impact made by rookies. Kris Bryant made a great impact for the fantasy teams alike, as well as the Chicago Cubs. Carlos Correa’s impact was arguably more valuable to the Houston Astros. What about on the mound? Eduardo Rodriguez came up big for a Red Sox rotation that struggled mightily. There’s no questioning his arrival will have been long awaited when he makes his 2016 debut. My personal favorite was Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna. I’ve never been one to reach for closers and being able to draft him in the later rounds made my life a lot easier. He managed 20 saves in his rookie campaign while striking out 75 batters in 69.2 innings pitched. Now, I want to breakdown the top rookie hitters and pitchers, through four weeks. These are players that should be owned.
Aledmys Diaz, SS, St. Louis Cardinals
There’s no questioning the impact Diaz has made in MLB and in fantasy baseball. He’s currently slashing .405/436/.703. Diaz has absolutely hammered pitchers since making his season debut. What makes him special is his patience at the place. In 74 at-bats Diaz has a strikeout percentage (K%) of 6.4% and walk percentage (BB%) of 5.1%. His K% sees him second in MLB just behind Andrelton Simmons’ 5.1%. Although a rookie in terms of MLB, Diaz has had the plate discipline of a seasoned veteran. On the season Diaz has had 21.7% (LD%), 44.9% (GB%), and 33.3% (FB%). His line drive percentage (LD%) has him with some of the best hitters in baseball. The Cardinals shortstop has a hard contact percentage (Hard%) of 43.5% which sees him 11th in MLB. The league leader is Michael Conforto at 50.0%. It’s easy to see why Diaz has made such a huge impact early on.
Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies
Through the first week of baseball there was no bigger STORY than Trevor Story. The shortstop hit six home runs through his first four games. Through six games he amassed seven. Story had arguably the greatest start to a Major League career. However, striking out was always a concern and he’s had his fair share (39). His K% sits at 36.4% (3rd in MLB) and it’s the highest since his 2014 AA season of 34.6%. He sits second in MLB with 10 HR, second to teammate Nolan Arenado’s 11. It’s easy to see why his 50.8 FB% is 11th in MLB and his 41.9 Hard% sits him in 14th. If you can live with the fact that he’s tied for the Major League lead in strikeouts, you will be handsomely rewarded with home runs and RBI. There’s no questioning he has the ability, especially playing in Coors Field, to hit 25+ HR as a rookie. I’m happy to say I own Story in both Major League Fantasy Sports leagues that I’m in.
Joey Rickard, OF, Baltimore Orioles
Easily the biggest surprise has been Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard. He’s second in hits, second in at-bats, tied for fourth in runs scored, and tied for third in doubles among rookies. He’s been able to manage his strikeouts to 20 in 97 at-bats which sees his K% at 19.2%. This is right around his career average and his identical to his K% while at Tampa’s AAA farmhand. While more of a line-drive hitter, Rickard’s 64.6 Med% is third-best in MLB. If you’re looking for cheap, outfield help Rickard is a solid target.
Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers
Nearly a week past his 21st birthday, Mazara is one of those special players that are hard to find. He currently sits third in average, second in OBP, eighth in SLG, and sixth in OPS among rookies. He’s made a fast impact with the Rangers and I’m going to go out on a limb and say the rest of his career will be spent in the Major Leagues. He’s currently tied for 20th in MLB with a .364 BABIP. Martin Prado leads the way with a .451 BABIP. His 56.1 Med% is about as good as it gets as anything ranked above 45% is excellent. There’s no question that Mazara can easily lead rookies in all hitting categories and will easily end up in the top-3 in WAR. If you’re in keeper leagues, Mazara is up there with the top players, under 25 years-old, that you want to own.
Jeremy Hazelbaker, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Two Cardinals are in my top-5 this early into the season. This is another reason why the Cardinals are such a great organization. They always find, and develop, talent. Hazelbaker is another great story. Just when he thought his dream could be coming to a close, he caught on with the Cardinals organization in 2015. He would up earning an outfield job out of Spring Training. Hazelbaker is second in home runs, tied for third in RBI, and tied for third in extra-base hits on the Cardinals. His K% is a lot higher than his minor league career-average at 31.9%. Hazelbaker’s .395 BABIP is just behind Aledmys Diaz’s team-leading .400. His 57.1 GB% leads the Cardinals and he’s near the team lead with a 38.6 Hard%. He can come cheap, and with his recent struggles he may be available on the waiver wire.
Kenta Maeda, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
I know he’s playing professional in Japan, but he still qualifies as a rookie in MLB. Maeda has been everything the Dodgers could’ve hoped for and then some. He’s leading all rookies in the major pitching categories and I can’t say I’m surprised. Maeda currently sits 7th in MLB with a LOB% of 92.2. He’s just behind Carlos Carrasco’s league-leading 97.4%. Early on Maeda has a 21.3 Soft%, 56.2 Med%, and 22.5 Hard%. He’s near the top half, of starters, in regards to hitters not making the best of contact against him. Maeda has been talked about many times on our weekly radio shows, and you can see why Bryan Luhrs considered him a special pitcher coming out of Japan.
Steven Matz, SP, New York Mets
Still carrying rookie eligibility Matz had a rough first start giving up seven earned runs in 1.2 IP. Since, Matz has had three-straight starts giving up two or fewer runs. In two of the three he gave up zero earned runs. This season Matz has a 9.43 K/9 which is his highest since rookie and A ball in 2012/2013. Matz’s 22.6 Soft% is just shy of top-25 in MLB that would have him as the third Met along with Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard. I’d like to see Matz limit his walks as he’s at exactly 3.00 BB/9.
Seung-hwan Oh, RP, St. Louis Cardinals
Another rookie that has had professional experience overseas, Oh has been impressive for the Cardinals. Relievers carry great value in MLFS leagues and Oh has been one of the best in 2016. The righty currently sits ninth among qualified relievers with 13.17 K/9. Oh has given up nearly two walks per inning pitched, and this will haunt him if it progresses. He’s definitely established himself early on as a fly ball pitcher with a 53.8 FB%. Look for Oh to carry his veteran experience deep into the season and be one of the better relievers in baseball. If anything were happen to Trevor Rosenthal, Oh could be first up to get saves.
Ryan Dull, RP, Oakland Athletics
Dull has been solid through 14.0 IP. He owns a WHIP of 0.50 that is third-best for qualified relievers of 10+ IP. Hitters have really had trouble getting hits off Dull as hitters own a .121 BABIP. Through April Dull’s percentages are: 6.1 LD%, 36.4 GB%, 57.6 FB%, 32.4 Pull%, 32.4 Cent%, 35.3 Oppo%, 20.6 Soft%, 58.8 Med%, and 20.6 Hard%. If you’re in leagues that covet relievers feel free to take a look at Dull.
Christopher Devenski, P, Houston Astros
He’s both relieved and started. Through 18.2 IP Devenski has sported a 1.45 ERA. He’s been valuable to an Astros team that has had their fair share of pitching woes early on. Reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel has been mortal, and the Astros have to be regretting trading Vincent Velasquez for Ken Giles. The righty has only surrendered one home run, and has given up under 30 Hard% (27.5). His 91.4 LOB% sees him in the top-tier of Major League relievers. There’s no questioning the value of Devenski, and in MLFS leagues he can take up the one dedicated “P” spot while not eating up one of the SP or RP spots.
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly: Join Lou Landers and Kyle Amore live on Thursday May 5th, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #12 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly. This will run every Thursday as a live broadcast that will take live callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. Our Thursday night show will do some weekly recaps, player updates, and preview the coming week end games.
Our guest this week is Eric Paulen. Eric Paulen is an Emmy and Peabody Award winner with significant experience leading large film/video production projects spanning all genres of television with A&E, ESPN, HBO Sports, CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated, The Travel Channel, WWE Network, The NBA, NHL Productions, NFL Films, and NCAA.
You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join Corey D Roberts on Sunday May 8th, 2016 from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. We are a live call in radio show so we encourage callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. Every week we will do a quick recap of Fr-Sat games, and a forecast of Monday through Thursday’s games.
Our guest this week is Marc Foster. He is a former writer with MLFS, a two-time MLFB champ, and frequent guest on the shows this year.
“You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”