Fred Zinkie

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2018 All-Rookie Team

Sunday, September 16, 2018


The 2018 rookie class is not going to go down in fantasy lore as a memorable group. In fact, as readers start to review the initial picks on this list, they may wonder if I glossed over some key freshmen. Well … I didn’t! But as we move into the left side of the infield and then progress into the outfield, some stellar studs start to emerge. With a goal of detailing their rookie campaigns and looking ahead to their sophomore status, here is your 2018 All-Rookie Team.
 
Isiah Kiner-Falefa, C/2B/3B (Rangers): The rookie crop of catchers was an unremarkable group, with Kiner-Falefa edging out Mitch Garver and Jorge Alfaro for top spot. The 23-year-old was a complete afterthought in the deepest of leagues at the start of the season, but multiple injuries to starting players and his ability to field multiple positions allowed him to stay on the roster for most of the year. Kiner-Falefa will likely go undrafted in one-catcher leagues next spring, but his ability to post a respectable average and compile a few swipes could make him appealing in deep formats.
 
Niko Goodrum, 1B/2B/OF (Tigers): Goodrum surprisingly made the Opening Day roster for the rebuilding Tigers, but he didn’t gain any attention in fantasy leagues until he hit .275 with four homers, 11 RBIs and 11 runs scored in May. The second month proved to be his best one, but he remained valuable in deep formats by averaging three homers, nine RBIs, nine runs scored and one steal per month from June to August. The 26-year-old lacks the plate skills or speed to be drafted in most 2019 mixed leagues, but AL-only owners will appreciate his diverse contributions and multi-position eligibility.
 
Joey Wendle, 2B/OF (Rays): Wendle is the third straight unimpressive member of this team, as he has not made massive contributions in homers or steals. Still, he contributes a bit in both areas, and he has topped the 50-mark in both RBIs and runs scored, along with posting a helpful batting average. Like Goodrum, Wendle profiles as a career utilityman who regularly populates AL-only lineups but is more of a short-term injury replacement in mixed leagues.
 
Miguel Andujar, Third baseman (Yankees): Andujar was expected to spend most of 2018 in the Minors, but he got an early season opportunity when Brandon Drury went on the disabled list, and he never looked back. As we head into the final weeks of the season, the 23-year-old leads all rookies in RBIs and could easily finish in top spot in homers and runs scored. Still, there is nothing truly special in his batted-ball profile. His plate discipline (0.25 BB:K ratio) has been unremarkable, and he hasn’t posted lofty rates in the areas of hard contact, fly-ball rate or line-drive rate. Still, the youngster has arrived as a reliable fantasy asset and is likely poised for several solid seasons as part of a potent Yankees lineup.
 
Gleyber Torres, SS/2B (Yankees): Torres appeared in just nine games in April, but he took off in May by batting .325 with nine homers and 24 RBIs. However, his play leveled off after that point, as he has produced a sub-.800 OPS in each of the subsequent completed months. Still, the youngster is just 21 years old, and he could lead all rookies in long balls if it were not for a three-week DL stint in July. Looking ahead, there are plenty of reasons beyond his youth to expect Torres to go to another level next year, such as his lofty rates of hard contact (39.5 percent), fly balls (41.8 percent) and line drives (25.4 percent). Owners who speculate on a major jump may not be disappointed.
 
Ronald Acuna, Outfielder (Braves): With all due respect to everyone else on this list, Acuna is the fantasy headliner. The 20-year-old opened the season as the No. 1 prospect in most rating systems, but he was more hype than substance in the first half (.249 average, seven homers, .742 OPS). However, everything changed at the All-Star break, with Acuna catching fire (seven homers, 12 steals, .337 average, 1.134 OPS) and being one of the most valuable second-half assets. The sky is the limit for this five-category stud, as he has the plate skills to bat .300 with roughly 40 homers and the speed to swipe more than 20 bags. In fact, Acuna could be a top-30 pick in 2019 drafts.
 
Juan Soto, Outfielder (Nationals): Soto is the only member of this list who can challenge Acuna in terms of future optimism. Just 19 years old, he arrived to the Majors ahead of schedule and proceeded to set all sorts of teenage-related records while being one of the most dangerous hitters in a star-studded Nats lineup. In comparison to Acuna, Soto has superior plate discipline but lags behind in most of the batted-ball metrics and does not possess significant base-stealing skills. Heading into 2019, he is a candidate to hit .300 with 30 homers and triple-digit totals in RBIs and runs scored.
 
Brian Anderson, OF/3B (Marlins): Anderson is the volume play of this group, as he earned a spot on this list by being a six-month starter and leading all rookies in plate appearances. The freshman didn’t embarrass himself during a long stretch in an unproductive lineup, showing solid plate discipline and a knack for producing hard contact. Still, he lacks fleet feet and hasn’t yet learned how to produce fly balls at a rate that will result in a sizeable homer total. Likely to still be part of a poor lineup again next year, Anderson’s value is capped at 15-team leagues.
 
Shohei Ohtani, Designated Hitter (Angels): I normally wouldn’t include a designated hitter on an all-fantasy squad, but Ohtani’s rookie-year batting exploits have been too memorable to be omitted. The 24-year-old was drafted primarily as a hurler, but he was instead a dynamic offensive player who is heading into the final days of the season hitting .290 with 19 homers and nine steals across just 312 plate appearances. With news that he could be a full-time hitter who is sidelined from pitching for all of 2019, Ohtani could rank among the American League home run leaders next year.
 
Jack Flaherty, Starter (Cardinals): Flaherty is a great example of the long-standing fantasy theory of drafting skills over roles in the later rounds of drafts. The 22-year-old went opened the year without a stable rotation spot, but after riding the shuttle back and forth between Triple-A and the Majors throughout April, he earned a full-time gig the rest of the way. Overall, his control skills have been solid (3.2 K/9 rate), and his strikeout abilities (10.9 K/9 rate) have been even better than advertised. A .248 BABIP and an 83.5 percent strand rate have given him the good fortune to limit scoring (2.86 ERA, 3.76 FIP), but he has pitched well enough to be drafted as a low-end No. 2 starter in 2019 mixed leagues.
 
A.J. Minter, Reliever (Braves): Minter made a late push past Seranthony Dominguez to take the top spot in a relatively lackluster rookie reliever pool that does not include anyone with 20 saves. The left-hander came into the season hyped as a stud setup man, and although he has not delivered the eye-popping ratios that some owners expected, Minter successfully replaced closer Arodys Vizcaino as Atlanta’s ninth-inning man during a lengthy DL stint. Looking forward, Minter’s 2019 value will be heavily tied to the manner in which manager Brian Snitker chooses to arrange his relief corps.



Fred Zinkie is a baseball writer for Rotoworld and BaseballHQ. You can find him on Twitter @FredZinkieMLB.
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