The Rookie of the Year Awards were released yesterday. Buster Posey and Neftali feliz won the award for their respective leagues, you know this. But does their publicity change their fantasy value? We’ll go down the list and look at some fantasy impact notes for each player that received votes.
1. Neftali Feliz CL TEX
– The young fireballer finished 2010 with a 2.73 ERA, 71 strikeouts in 69.1 innings and 40 saves. There have already been some debates
over whether the Rangers will try Feliz in the rotation — he was a starter in the minors — or keep him in his current role where he dominated. This puts keeper league owners in a bit of a bind. As a starter in the minors, Feliz struggled with consistent control. If he does move to the rotation, he will inevitably lose some velocity and he’d have to throw his changeup more than 3.2 percent of the time. It would be a riskier move, albeit one with more upside in real life value. My guess is that the Rangers keep him in the pen for now, but keep a keen eye on whether or not the Rangers look to sign any big-name relievers this offseason.
2. Austin Jackson OF DET – Since 2007 only six players have finished the season with a BABIP of over .390 with 300 or more plate appearances. None of the six repeated the feat the following season. Needless to say it is very unlikely that Austin Jackson finds similar success with regard to his balls in play next season, even with a high line drive rate. While he has the skills to be a solid .285-.295 hitter with a few home runs and 20-plus steals, there is risk in a strikeout rate over 25 percent for a non-power hitter. Buyer beware.
3. Danny Valencia 3B MIN – This speaks more to the fact that the AL rookie class was not all that great. Valencia finished third in the voting despite having only 322 plate appearances with the Twins. He did hit .311 with seven home runs, but that AVG was helped by a high .345 BABIP. Valencia has never hit for much power in the minors, so he may top out at 15 or so over a full major league season. With a contact oriented approach, he could see some .300 AVG seasons in the majors, but he won’t help fantasy owners much in the run producing departments.
4. Wade Davis SP TB – A strong finish got Davis’s ERA down to 4.07, but his FIP (4.79) is more indicative of how he struggled for most of the year. Davis held a so-so 3.32 BB/9, but only struck out 113 in 168 innings while allowing 24 home runs. Davis’s strikeout rates fell a bit as he reached the higher minor league levels and his highest K/9 in a month last season (7.49) came in September, when regulars give way to call-ups, fatigue and injuries. While I wouldn’t rule out an improvement in 2010, he’s not a pitcher you’ll need to target on draft day.
4. John Jaso C TB – Jaso made an immediate fantasy impact in 2010 hitting for a decent AVG while scoring 54 runs (only five fewer than Brian McCann) and driving in 44 runs. With excellent plate discipline, he shouldn’t hurt fantasy teams in the AVG department. He should, however, be a nice late round catcher to have in OBP leagues. There isn’t a whole lot of power upside in his ganme, but 10 home runs wouldn’t be out of the question. The bottom line is that Jaso is good, not great, which still makes him fantasy relevant given the scarcity of the catching position.
5. Brennan Boesch OF DET – It was only a matter of time before Boesch’s scorching hot start would fizzle. Boesch’s first 243 BABIP aided at-bats led to a .342/.397/.593 line with 12 home runs an 49 RBI, miles away from anything he had ever done in the minor leagues. In his final 221 at-bats, Boesch hit .163/.237/.222 with only two long balls and 18 RBI. He showed good power at Double-A in 2009, but with poor plate discipline and consistently low AVG’s throughout his minor league career. He may end up hitting 18-20 home runs one day, but he won’t deliver much else for fantasy GM’s.
6. Brian Matusz SP BAL – After starting out the seasons strong — 3.11 FIP, 2.9 K/BB rate in April — Matusz ran into more than a few rookie stumbling blocks. However, when all was said and done, there were more than a few bright spots to help project a better 2011. Matusz struck out 7.33 per nine, while walking 3.23 per nine, which was right around the league average. That walk rate included 7.2 BB/9 in July, which was by far his highest walk rate of any month. Look for his walk rate to improve in 2011 and result in an ERA under 4.00 with upside to end up around 3.50. As long as he can limit his home run damage, he’ll end up being a nice late round/$1-3 option on draft day 2011.
2. Jason Heyward OF ATL – Think of the damage Heyward would have done if not for missing time to injury. His five WAR led all ROY candidates and he has room to improve in 2011. With tremendous plate discipline, Heyward put up a .393 OBP even with a 24.6 percent strikeout rate, which has a good chance of improving in the coming years. There are few baseball players with Heyward’s kind of upside.
3. Jamie Garcia SP STL – There were a lot of things that Garcia did well in 2010, like post a 56 percent ground ball rate, a league average K/9 and limit the opposition to only nine home runs in 163.1 inning pitched. However, Garcia did struggle to find consistency with his command ending with a 3.53 BB/9 and 1.32 WHIP. His 2.70 ERA in 2010 is highly unlikely repeated in 2011 as, other than his ground ball rate, his ratio stats all grade out to roughly league average. He can still be a good pitcher going forward, but I’d bet my money on an ERA in the mid-to-upper three’s rather than something close to what he did last season.
4. Gabby Sanchez 1B FLA – Not a bad showing for a rookie without a lot of fanfare. Before the season, it was Marlins prospect Logan Morrison that was getting all the praise as the first baseman of the future. All Sanchez did was post a solid line of .273/.341/.448 with 19 home runs an 85 RBI. Not great numbers for a first baseman, but very valuable to anyone who grabbed him in deep leagues in 2010. Given Sanchez’s good plate discipline, he has room to improve in almost every category in 2011. He’s not going to slam 30 home runs, but something around 20 is a good baseline for the foreseeable future. First base is a deep fantasy position, so his value will once again be relegated to part time standard league action.
6. Starlin Castro SS CHC – There has been a lot of debate about Castro’s ultimate ceiling, but what we found out in 2010 was that he has terrific pure hitter skills. I’m not as concerned about his .346 BABIP as I would be if he were a different type of hitter. Castro has good speed, hits line drives and ground balls at a high rate. All of those factors should lead to some higher-than-normal BABIP’s throughout his career. There is a very good chance that, as long as his skill set doesn’t change, Castro can be a perennial .300 hitter. The problem lies in the fact that he doesn’t show much power potential, at least not yet. His speed is good, but not great. 20 stolen bases in 2011 would be a high-end projection. What happens to the Cubs lineup this offseason could have a big affect on Castro’s value next season.
7. Ike Davis 1B NYM – For his first go-around against big league pitching, 23-year-old Ike Davis had a very good season. The big lefty hit .264/.351/.440 with 19 home runs and 71 RBI in 601 plate appearances. The downside to his game is his long swing, which generates plenty of swings and misses and doesn’t result in a high number of line drives. Much like the situation with Gabby Sanchez, first base is a deep fantasy position and Davis isn’t likely to join the ranks of the top two tiers in 2011. Still, he has the potential to blast 25 or so home runs while driving in 80-plus runs, but his AVG won’t likely do fantasy GM’s any favors.