Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Youth Movement: 10 Prospects Set to Star

By Jim Callis / MLB.com
If you're seeking fantasy pitching help, look away from the 2017 rookie crop.
Counting on first-year pitchers in any case is difficult enough, because they often try to do too much and suffer for it in their introduction to the big leagues. But even if you're tempted to trust rookies arms this year, they're just not out there.
Just one of our top 10 recommended rookies does his work on the mound, and he stands as a good example of the volatility of young hurlers. After all, he cracked last year's version of this list but was unable to make a sizable impact. The current fantasy Top 10 parallels MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, which features just eight hurlers among the first 40 phenoms listed.
Bear in mind, however, that the rankings below are based solely on projected 2017 fantasy production, while the Top 100 reflects long-term all-around value.
1. Andrew Benintendi, OF, Red Sox (No. 1 on Top 100)
As with Corey Seager a year ago, baseball's top prospect doubles as the best rookie for fantasy baseball. A gifted hitter whose quick hands give him surprising power to go with his solid speed, Benintendi has 20-20 potential. Moreover, he will benefit from batting in one of the game's most productive offenses. Benintendi gave a glimpse of things to come by posting a .295/.359/.476 slash line in 34 games with Boston last season.
2. Dansby Swanson, SS, Braves (No. 4)
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 Draft, Swanson needed barely a year in the Minors to ascend to the big leagues -- where he batted .302/.361/.442 in 38 contests. Nabbed in the Shelby Miller trade with the D-backs, Swanson can provide a solid average with gap power and some steals as well. Guaranteed a starting job, the youngster has a high floor for a rookie as he prepares to follow in the footsteps of some of the game's other terrific young shortstops.
3. Yoan Moncada, 3B, White Sox (No. 2)
Brett Lawrie's unexpected release removed the biggest obstacle between Moncada and the Majors, as Tyler Saladino and Yolmer Sanchez aren't going to stand in the way for long. The prize of the Chris Sale deal with the Red Sox, Moncada has Robinson Cano-with-more-speed upside. Though he needs some time in Triple-A, he nonetheless could post a better combination of homers and steals than any rookie in 2017.
4. Josh Bell, 1B/OF, Pirates (No. 27)
Despite February knee surgery, Bell should be able to crack the Pirates' Opening Day roster and show why the club paid him a $5 million bonus as a second-rounder in 2011. A .280 average with 15-20 homers isn't out of the question for the first baseman, who is a switch-hitter with tremendous plate skills and developing power.
5. Manuel Margot, OF, Padres (No. 23)
Yet another trade acquisition, Margot came from the Red Sox as the headliner in the Craig Kimbrel deal. Fantasy owners don't need to worry about spacious Petco Park with Margot, as power isn't his calling card anyway. Rather, he has made consistent line-drive contact against older competition and displayed top-notch speed throughout his career. Even if he doesn't begin the year with the Padres, Margot has a good chance to top National League rookies in steals.
6. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres (No. 42)
Unlike fellow Padre Margot, Renfroe's game does center around power. The good news is that it's so prodigious, Petco Park won't be able to contain him. Renfroe probably won't hit for a high average, but he has the bat speed, leverage, strength and aggressive nature to provide 20-plus homers in a full season after going deep four times in 11 games with San Diego last September.
7. Yulieski Gurriel, 3B, Astros (not eligible for Top 100)
MLB Pipeline doesn't consider Gurriel a prospect because he was a 32-year-old with substantial professional experience when he signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract last July, but he's definitely a rookie worth owning. The longtime Cuban star didn't tear up the big leagues in his debut -- batting .262/.292/.385 in 36 games -- but he was understandably rusty after his defection and layoff. Gurriel has the tools to hit for average and power, and he should do both now that he's acclimated to the Majors.
8. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates (No. 8)
The lone pitcher on this list, Glasnow comes with the same scouting report he did a year ago. The right-hander possess an untouchable fastball, a nasty curveball and an improving changeup, but he's still figuring out his control and command. Bypassed by Jameson Taillon a year ago, Glasnow has little left to prove in Triple-A and can dominate Major League hitters with better location of his pitches. Expect some growing pains, but he's still an easy choice to lead rookie hurlers in strikeouts.
9. Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees (No. 45)
After displaying impressive discipline in the lower Minors, Judge has developed a more aggressive approach that boosts his home run ceiling (25 or more per season) but reduces his ability to make contact. He struck out in 44 percent of his plate appearances with the Yankees last year, so he comes with some risk. However, the physically imposing outfielder also has huge raw power, which he flashed in New York late last season by homering in his first big league at-bat and four times in 27 games. 
10. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Dodgers (No. 12)
Though Los Angeles has Adrian Gonzalez at first base and a surplus in the outfield, Bellinger is too talented to keep down on the farm for much longer. The game's best power prospect is a polished hitter who could force his way into the lineup by midseason. If he had a big league job waiting for him on Opening Day, he'd rank No. 2 on this list.

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