While this year’s rookie hitters pail in comparison to last year’s rookie hitters, there still are some worth keeping or at least considering keeping. As of right now there’s just a small top tier worth keeping in most if not all leagues, while there are several more with value in deeper leagues. Let’s dive in.
- Wil Myers – Myers has been pretty much all that we expected he’d be, and maybe even more. Only recently has he began to struggle, hitting .133/.176/.133 in the last seven days. But on the season he has a .877 OPS against righties and a .839 OPS against lefties. His 8.3 walk percentage is just a couple points lower than his last three minor league stops, and his 22 percent strikeout rate is equal or better than his last three minor league stops. He probably won’t maintain an average as high as .318, but it shouldn’t come down too far and everything else seems very repeatable.
- Yasiel Puig – He just won’t quit. Take a look at his splits page at Baseball Reference and you’ll see what I’m talking about. He has a .457 OBP post-All Star break, and it’s an insane .537 in August. Even in July when he “struggled” he still put up a .789 OPS. Puig seems to be the game’s next superstar.
- Jurickson Profar – Profar arguably has more skill than anyone below him on this list, and even though his role isn’t as certain as maybe some others’ are he’s still worth holding onto in most leagues. At just 20 Profar is hitting .245/.310/.342 in 221 plate appearances in 2013. Even though he’s been unimpressive so far, Profar raised his walk rate and lowered his strikeout rate in each month from May through July. Conversely his BABIP actually went down in each of those months, and while his BABIP has rebounded in August his walk and strikeout rates have regressed, but small sample size. Profar is immensely talented and should be a steady contributor to your fantasy team very soon.
- Jedd Gyorko – Unlike Profar Gyorko should have a position locked up long-term with his current team. While I was a little harsh on Gyorko earlier in the year, the 24-year-old has put up a 107 OPS+ even with a bad July after coming off the DL. Gyorko had a .907 OPS in May, .924 OPS in June and a .950 OPS in August so far with four homers. Gyorko may struggle to get on base consistently, with a 6 percent walk rate and 22 percent strikeout rate, but the power and lineup spot are real.
- Nick Franklin – Franklin has played in 62 games this season, compiling 265 plate
appearances. If you prorate that out to a full season, Franklin’s 10 homers and five steals would equal 26 homers and 13 steals in 162 games. Of all second basemen only Aaron Hill met or exceeded both numbers in 2012, so what Franklin’s doing is pretty extraordinary. He’s also hitting a good amount of doubles and walking at a decent 9 percent rate. Looking at his minor league numbers it’s a definite possibility that his walk, strikeout and BABIP numbers improve, which will lead to more fantasy success.
- Matt Adams – Adams’s future is uncertain, as the lefty absolutely belongs in a lineup every day. But until the NL adopts the DH to avoid disasters like last night’s Pirates/Cardinals game Adams will continue to ride the pine most days of the week. The 24-year-old has nine home runs in just 204 plate appearances and should be able to hit for a decent average when he’s playing every day. Carlos Beltran’s contract ends after this season, but the Cardinals do have top prospect Oscar Taveras, whose bat is big-league ready, waiting in the minors. So Adams could be bench or trade fodder again next season. But if he earns everyday playing time in St. Louis or somewhere else he’s going to mash.
- Brad Miller – Miller is doing about just as well as his teammate Franklin. The 23-year-old is slashing .261/.329/.439 in his first 173 plate appearances in Seattle, and he’s shown some very good extra-base hitting ability, too. He has eight doubles, four triples and four home runs, which equates to 33, 17 and 17, respectively, over a 162-game span. He’s walking at a 9 percent rate, striking out at just a 16 percent rate and his .178 ISO ranks sixth among all shortstops. His 2012 and 2013 minor league ISO numbers were .179 and .202, so his MLB performance is no fluke.
- Leonys Martin – Martin has arguably the most present skill on this list – speed. The 25-year-old stole a base once every 20.8 plate appearances in the minors, and he’s bettered that rate this year in the majors: once every 13.1 plate appearances. Now, his eight times caught stealing is second worst in the AL, but he does have 27 steals, which is good for 10th overall. He did improve his power hitting the past two years in the minors, and while he’s not hitting too many home runs now his speed has always helped him with triples (five in 353 PAs this year). He should be a cheap source of steals for the next few years.
- Nolan Arenado – Arenado has been underwhelming for most of the year considering he plays his home games at Coors Field. But since July 21 Arenado has been raking: .375/.393/.525. The one redeeming quality from Arenado’s rookie year is his plate discipline. He struck out in 9.7 percent of his minor league plate appearances, and that number has only risen to 12.2 percent in the majors. His minor league walk rate was just 7.4 percent, while his walk rate in Colorado is right at 5. So it’s not like he’s struggling with his plate discipline or has changed his approach and been negatively affected by it. As the 22-year-old matures he should be able to hit for more power like his minor league numbers suggest. It also doesn’t hurt that he plays in Colorado.