Breaking Down The Top 5 AL Fantasy Rookie of the Year Candidates

by Ray Kuhn

New is more exciting than old. That is true in many facets of life, and fantasy baseball is one of them.  What is the thrill in drafting a dependable, veteran outfield option with a track record like Melky Cabrera or Alex Rios when for essentially the same investment at draft day you can acquire the potential of Steven Souza or Joc Pederson?

Yes the new, shiny player is more exciting, and this article hits on five of them, but fantasy baseball is all about value. While each of the below players have value this season, and beyond if you are in a keeper league, be careful not to overdraft them.

I am also aware that I completed this list without either of the Minnesota Twins’ prospects. Had Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton not had injury issues last season, they would, at a minimum, have two of these five spots. For me, it is just an issue of projected Major League at bats in 2015 and the fact that both players, especially Buxton, have something to prove.

Joey Gallo is another prospect that I like, and we cannot dispute his power, but again I don’t think 2015 is the year for him. However 2016 will be a different story, especially if he can harness the strikeouts.

Five other names that I considered and who should be on your radar this season in no exact order were:

  • Mark Appel – SP – Houston Astros
  • Andrew Heaney – SP – Los Angeles Angels
  • Nick Tropeano – SP Los Angeles Angels
  • James McCann – C – Detroit Tigers
  • Alex Meyer – SP – Minnesota Twins

With that being said, here are my picks for 2015 American League Fantasy Rookie of the Year:

5. Dylan Bundy – SP – Baltimore Orioles
If Bundy did not have Tommy John surgery in 2013, then he would not be on this list or at very least, he would be higher. The injury cost him essentially all of the past two seasons (an injury to his lat muscle left him with just 41.1 minor league innings in 2014). We know all about his talent, but he is still young, 22, and needs some polishing. Thanks to Baltimore’s brilliant signing of Ubaldo Jimenez a rotation spot is not clearly open, so it also wouldn’t surprise me to see Bundy spend some time in the bullpen upon his promotion. With just 144 minor league innings under his belt, he owns an impressive 156 strikeouts, you could call this a flier pick but he could make his presence felt this season even just from the bullpen.

4. Kendall Graveman – SP- Oakland A’s
Going from Bundy to Graveman is not going to excite anyone. To say that Billy Beane shuffled around his roster this off-season would be an understatement, and it is conceivable that Graveman fell through the cracks. As Jesse Chavez showed last season, you should not be surprised to see pitchers emerge seemingly out of nowhere for the A’s and the 24-year old Graveman is poised to be that guy in 2015. He had just a brief cup of coffee in the big leagues last season, four innings, after starting the season in A-ball. Of his four minor league stops the highest ERA the right-hander had was 2.23 in 16 starts at High-A and combined Graveman walked 31 batters in 166 minor league innings. The only bad thing is that he only struck out 115 batters, but that is outweighed by his other success. The fact that Graveman pitched 170 innings last season means that workload should not be an issue this season and you have to like Oakland’s home park.

3. Dalton Pompey – OF – Toronto Blue Jays
Especially after the trade of Anthony Gose, all signs point to Pompey opening the season as the starter in centerfield. Pompey moved through the Blue Jays’ system last season spending time at four levels; he began in High-A and ended in Toronto. I wouldn’t be concerned about him batting ninth, essentially in front of Jose Reyes, as he will serve as a second leadoff hitter with the only downside being the lack of at bats. I wouldn’t look too deeply at his .231 batting average in the Majors, as you have to allow for some adjustment. He has showed some power in the minor leagues, and batting average will eventually be an asset (although I wouldn’t expect to see him hit much higher than .265 this season). You are really buying Pompey for his likely floor of 30 stolen bases and all the runs he can subsequently score. A line of .265/10 HR/75 R/55 RBI/30 SB looks pretty good to me based on his likely draft slot.

2. Steven Souza – OF – Tampa Bay Rays
Souza has already received a lot of attention and there is considerable buzz surrounding the outfielder for 2015. I am not putting much weight on his struggles last season at the big league level (2 hits and 7 strikeouts in 23 at bats), but his 22.3% strikeout level since 2011 has to be a concern. There is a nice power/speed combination, and 15/15 is his floor, as both skills are real.  Just don’t expect him to immediately build on the 18 home runs and 28 stolen bases he had last season. The main issue here is the strikeouts, not only what they will do to his batting average (no more than .250), but the impact they will have on his counting stats. Regardless though, it is hard to beat Souza’s tool box, even if he is 25. Just don’t over pay and be prepared to deal with some April growing pains.

1.  Rusney Castillo – OF – Boston Red Sox
Other than 40 plate appearances in September, we don’t have much of a track record to go on. For starters, let’s make it clear that you should not be expecting him to perform like any of the other Cuban imports. He is more of a well-balanced, polished option. He will hit some home runs, no more than 15 at this point, but with that the 27-year old could very easily add 25-35 stolen bases depending on where he is slotted in the batting order. There is some batting average value here, as well RBI upside if the batting average works to his advantage. There is a log jam in Boston’s outfield, but they also did not give Castillo $70 million for him not to play everyday.

Make sure to check out all of our 2015 rankings:

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  1. thomas c says:

    How about Aaron Sanchez or Rodon, thats if he is brought up and sees enough time, which i think he should……thanks

    • Ray Kuhn says:

      I don’t think Rodon will be up long enough to make as much of an impact as the others. But he is on my radar for keeper leagues.

      My issue with Sanchez, is what role will he be in and what type of innings cap will ultimately be on him. I think he between the rotation and the bullpen which could hinder his fantasy value, but I believe in his talent so it is a situation to watch.


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