Adam Cohen's Impact Rookies for 2009
I will list 5 hitters and 5 pitchers which I believe will have a major impact on your fantasy baseball season.
1. Matt Wieters, C, BAL
It seems like the Orioles will do with Wieters what the Rays did with Evan Longoria. They will leave him in the minors for the first two weeks so that they can push back arbitration. All off season the Orioles have made moves to create room and support a move to the majors for this kid. They dealt Ramon Hernandez, and have spent the rest of the time looking for a veteran catcher who is willing to sign to be a back up and mentor Wieters. In his first year in the minor leagues across two levels (A+ and AA), he finished with a combined line of .355/.454/.600, not to mention the 27 homeruns he hit over that span. This guy shows the tools to be a middle of the lineup hitter from the catcher position and could eventually provide Mike Piazza type numbers. He will not be that good this season and I’d look for him to end up as more of a Bengie Molina when it comes to his final line. Baltimore really lacks true middle of the lineup bats, and if Wieters can show he is ready early, he will be plugged into the middle of the lineup. Look for a fantasy line of 80-21-85-.280.
2. Matt LaPorta, 1B/OF, CLE
Here is another guy who might start the season in the minors. However with the power that he shows I find it hard to believe that Cleveland will keep him down very long and he should win the 1b job out of spring training. Simply put Ryan Garko is nothing special on either side of the ball and should not hold back a guy like LaPorta. He has middle of the lineup power and it won’t be long until he is there for the Indians. More likely that he hits in the 6 or 7 spot to start his career as they do have other productive hitters who can take the pressure off of LaPorta. He could probably use a little seasoning in the minors to become more of a complete hitter, however with Cleveland struggling on offense last year, LaPorta’s pure power may be needed sooner rather than later. If he were to play a full season you could expect a Pat Burrell type year. 30 or so home runs with a pedestrian .250 batting average.
3. Cameron Maybin, OF, FLA
This guy should be the starting center fielder in Florida. Simply put, this guy is a 5-tool player, and could contribute in all 5 categories as early as this season. In AA last year he finished with 13 HR and 21 SB while hitting .277, not to mention his 15 doubles and 8 triples. This guy has the speed right now to make a major contribution. Given a full season’s worth of at bats he could end up north of 50 stolen bases. With a line of .277/.375/.456 it’s clear to see that he has the ability to contribute now. I think a more realistic line of Carlos Gomez for this season. Something around .255-90-11-50-30, I figure he might get thrown into the lead off role in order to move Ramirez into the 3 hole. That should lead to a high number of runs scored despite his less than stellar batting average, along with a fairly low RBI total since he won’t be given many opportunities for those. He strikes out a ton, but can hit the ball hard when he makes contact so I think he is a good bet for double digit homeruns and I think a 30 steal prediction is modest.
4. Travis Snider, OF, TOR
Snider in my opinion will be the most productive rookie on this list and should be the front runner as far as offensive players are concerned. He had a brief stint in the majors in September for the Blue Jays and totaled 78 at bats. In that limited time he his over .300 and slugged .466 which included 6 doubles and 2 homeruns. This guy has true gap to gap power and could show that this year at the major league level. Snider jumped 4 levels last year including the previously mentioned trip to the majors; in the minors he had a line of .275/.358/.481, and something very similar at the MLB level. Snider has a chance to bat in the middle of this lineup, and as such could see a line similar to Vernon Wells last year. Something in the range of .270-80-25-90.
5. Taylor Teagarden, C, TEX
As of now Teagarden is penciled in as the starting catcher for the Rangers. His defense is what puts him in there over Saltalamaccia. I believe they may try and showcase Blalock for a trade later in the season at which time they would move Chris Davis to 3b and Salty to 1b. Until then I think Teagarden and Salty will be platoonning the catcher job, with Teagarden getting the bulk of the at bats. He is another one of the new crop of power hitting catchers coming through the minors, however last year he struggled in the high minors to hit for power. He also struggled to hit for average last year in the minors. During his short stint in the majors however, he hit well over .300 and showed he could likely handle some type of major league role. Being in Texas will help his offense blossom earlier than expected, although don’t put too much stock in him yet. If he struggles early he might be sent back to the minors, my hunch says he stays in the pros all year. Fact is, he is still a catcher and catchers just don’t produce as much as other positions, with that said I’ll predict a .250 avg with 50 runs, 14 hr, and 50 RBI which is very respectable for a catcher.
1. David Price, SP, TB
This guy showed last year in the post season that he was ready to be in the front of a rotation right now. His ceiling is easily to be a #1 and truly one of the aces of the major leagues. For now he will slide into the #4 spot in the Tampa Bay rotation. With that in mind he will likely avoid many tough match ups against other team’s aces, and could lead to more wins in his rookie season than one might expect. Pitching in 3 different levels across the minors last year Price posted an ERA of 2.31 and a WHIP of 1.14. He struck out nearly a batter per inning (109 Ks in 109.2 IP). Then he got a call to the majors where he pitched mostly out of the pen for 14 innings. During that limited time he posted a 1.93 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP while striking out 12. I think this season he could compare to his teammate James Shields. 15+ wins, an ERA around 3.60, a WHIP around 1.20, and about 160 K, though I think he’ll be limited in IP and will only reach around 170 at most.
2. James McDonald, SP, LAD
McDonald will be at the back of the Dodgers rotation this year, and is the reason they were able to let Lowe and Penny go without getting involved in the free agent pitcher market. At the two highest levels of the minors last year he earned a 3.26 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP while striking out one per inning pitched. He too made a September debut however only totaled 6 innings pitched and failed to surrender a run during that time. He should be plugged into the 4th or 5th spot in this rotation and should be a good bet for double digit wins and an ERA around 4.00. His whip shouldn’t be much higher than 1.30 and will contribute in strikeouts while posting a k/9 of something like 7+. Something similar to what Carlos Zambrano put up last year wouldn’t surprise me.
3. Gio Gonzalez, SP, OAK
Gio has been among the league leaders in strikeouts in the minors for the past few years. Last season averaged one more walk per nine innings than he is used to and it translated into more runs given up, his 4.24 ERA in the minors last year was higher than many expected. Yet he still earned a trip to the majors, while there he did far from impress. Looking through his minor league history it seems to take him two seasons at one level to really hit his stride. I don’t think Oakland can afford to give him that time right now; they will need to count on him this season, and although I do not think he will be a major fantasy contributor like the guys above could be, but will have his uses. Pitching in Oakland will help his cause as well. He may not reach double digits in wins, however I still consider him a guy who will contribute in strikeouts in a big way. I’d say his strike out rate ends up around 8 per 9 innings. My gut feeling tells me this guy will end up with around 11 wins and 150 strikeouts. The down side to him is that he will likely carry an ERA over 4.50 and a WHIP above 1.40.
4. JA Happ, SP, PHI
Happ is the guy I figure to fill in the #5 spot in the Philadelphia rotation. He has been a quality strikeout pitcher throughout his minor leaguer career never going below 8.7 k/9 in any stop he pitched more than one game. During his brief time in a Phillies uniform last season he put up the type of numbers I will be expecting this season. His ERA was about 3.70; I’ll guess it goes up a bit too around 4.00 the more he is exposed to major league hitters. He also struck out 26 batters in nearly 32 innings pitched. He will be a factor this season in strikeouts. With this team having great offensive firepower I’d look for him to get some wins he probably shouldn’t and give him a win total in the double digits. He’ll also be a guy who you can count on for around 130-140 strikeouts and draft very late in a draft. His ERA and WHIP likely won’t help you win either of those categories but they aren’t likely to kill you either.
5. Nick Adenhart, SP, LAA
With the terrible showing he had last season in the pros and the fallout that occurred in the minors after his demotion, Adenhart is likely to start the season in the minors again. This guy truly has top of the rotation stuff and believe his time in the majors will arrive this season. Currently the Angels have penciled in Moseley as their 5th starter. Moseley simply isn’t good enough to keep the job throughout the season and as soon as Adenhart shows he is back to his old self he will get the call up. Once Adenhart gets the call he won’t look back this time. I think he could do something similar to what Jered Weaver did when he first made the jump. I do not predict the exact same as Weaver was a bonafide ace down the stretch of that season. However I do envision something like a 3.60 ERA with a 1.25 WHIP, while striking out nearly 1 per inning. This team is built on defense and a strong bullpen. They will not require Adenhart to push himself into later innings because they don’t have a trustworthy bullpen. Adenhart will benefit from the defense and bullpen the Angels have to support him and could end up around 12 wins given the proper amount of starts.