A rookie is more than just a prospect. It is someone with a major league roster spot.
That is a significant development when you're lining up the potential first-year surprises in Fantasy Baseball. Most rookies get nothing handed to them; they have to earn it in spring training, like Jason Heyward, for instance.
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We are learning this week which players will begin the season as rookies and which are minor league prospects. Out of the gate, Heyward certainly did plenty this spring. Bobby Cox couldn't stop gushing about him. Future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones said he undoubtedly belongs.
And the car of Braves' assistant GM Bruce Manno certainly was dented proof Heyward is ready to be a smash hit -- quite literally. The Braves installed a protective net beyond the right field fence because the 6-foot-5, 245-pound 20-year-old man-child was smashing cars with homers sent sailing into the parking lot during batting practice.
Despite all the hype and awe, Heyward isn't the top rookie pick in CBSSports.com's average draft position (Rotisserie). That honor belongs to speedy Brewers shortstop Alcides Escobar, who forced J.J. Hardy out of town and earned his major league job down the stretch last season. In the top 276, which constitutes all the active players in a standard, mixed Rotisserie league, there are eight rookies, capped by Giants backup (or Triple-A) catcher Buster Posey at No. 273.
Escobar retains rookie eligibility, like the O's Brian Matusz, because he didn't exceed 130 at-bats in the major leagues or 45 days of service time during the period of the 25-player limit (which excludes September). Matusz didn't exceed the service time or 50 innings, which is the limit for pitchers to maintain rookie status.
Escobar is a solid prospect this year and long term, but he isn't in the class of the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg or Heyward. Escobar does, however, have that all-important job security going into spring training -- unlike those future NL East stars. Our Fantasy drafters certainly are taking that into serious consideration.
How did we do the math?
One big-time prospect: major league minimum.
One bat: $75.
One ball: $6.
One smashed sun roof: $3,400.
One NL Rookie of the Year and immediate Fantasy superstar? Priceless.
That is spring training stuff of legend. It is the single reason we decided to line up with the crowd and pick Heyward over the ballyhooed Strasburg as Fantasy Baseball's No. 1 rookie to target on Draft Day.
Oh, and that little detail about having a more likely starting job on opening day.
Below are our Top 25 rookies to target on Draft Day. Unlike our static Top 100 prospects, this list is more about what they can do for you now as opposed to long term. Notice the top risers from our previous run are all job winners: Austin Jackson (won Tigers CF job), Ian Desmond (won Nats SS job), Jaime Garcia (named Cards' No. 5 starter), David Freese (won Cards 3B job) and Michael Brantley (won Indians LF job).
|RK||Player||POS||TM||AGE||2009 high||2010 start|
|The biggest noise-maker in early spring was denting cars beyond the RF fence in BP.|
|Nats really want him to start in the minors, but he could still give them no choice but to use him now.|
|We are assuming the Reds won't take long to give him a spot in their rotation this season.|
|Ignore the fact he stole just four bases down the stretch, he can be this year's Elvis Andrus find.|
|His dominance late last year makes him the Rays' No. 5 starter and capable of helping immediately.|
|If he was on a better team, we might consider him the best rookie pitcher on this list, perhaps.|
|A great spring earned him his job and he could be a potential sleeper to go 20-20 in his first season.|
|We didn't see him starting over Cristian Guzman, but Desmond's speed-and-pop is intriguing at SS.|
|The Cards picked him as their No. 5 starter and the Tommy John survivor could impact all leagues.|
|If he had won a spot in the Rangers' rotation, we would have ranked him much, much higher.|
|The departure of Placido Polanco clears the everyday 2B job for this future 20-20 candidate.|
|Jeff Clement and Kenji Johjima no longer block him, so consider him the M's catcher of the future.|
|He is currently atop the Cards depth chart and could be a huge 27-year-old breakout this year.|
|Burner won the everyday left fielder's job -- at least while Russell Branyan (back) -- opens on the DL.|
|If they didn't re-sign Bengie Molina, Posey might have been the first rookie picked in all leagues.|
|He gets far less pub, but he is just eight days older than the ballyhooed Braves outfielder Heyward.|
|It will be hard to keep Jennings from making an impact this season, so watch out for a June 1 call-up.|
|Masher has some questions about his weight and position, but there's no question about the bat.|
|He beat out Logan Morrison, but Sanchez is less likely to be the Marlins' long-term 1B solution.|
|By the end of the year, it is very likely no one will miss Victor Martinez much in Cleveland.|
|21||Chris C. Carter||1B||OAK||23||Triple-A||Triple-A|
|We would be inclined to rank him in the top 10, if not top five, if he would have made the team.|
|He is the leading candidate to fill the Mets' No. 5 starter's spot and could be useful in spurts.|
|Freddy An. Garcia can't be counted on at No. 5, so Hudson will at least be a June 1 call-up guy.|
|If the Marlins are in the race come June 1, we could see Stanton come up and make a huge impact.|
|The key piece of the Roy Halladay deal has already gotten one thing out of the way: elbow surgery.|
Regardless in changes in status and the winners of the position battles, these following two preseason teams will remain our picks. The All-Rookie Fantasy Team is comprised of the players we expect to make the most significant impact this year, while the All-Prospect Fantasy Team are the players we project to have the best long-term value.
| || |
|C||Adam Moore||SEA||C||Buster Posey||SF|
|1B||Logan Morrison||FLA||1B||Justin Smoak||TEX|
|2B||Scott Sizemore||DET||2B||Dustin Ackley||SEA|
|3B||David Freese||STL||3B||Pedro Alvarez||PIT|
|SS||Alcides Escobar||MIL||SS||Alcides Escobar||MIL|
|OF||Jason Heyward||ATL||OF||Jason Heyward||ATL|
|OF||Austin Jackson||DET||OF||Michael Stanton||FLA|
|OF||Chris Heisey||CIN||OF||Desmond Jennings||TB|
|DH||Chris C. Carter||OAK||DH||Jesus Montero||NYY|
|SP||Stephen Strasburg||WAS||SP||Stephen Strasburg||WAS|
|SP||Wade Davis||TB||SP||Neftali Feliz||TEX|
|SP||Brian Matusz||BAL||SP||Brian Matusz||BAL|
|SP||Madison Bumgarner||SF||SP||Madison Bumgarner||SF|
|SP||Daniel Hudson||CHW||SP||Jeremy Hellickson||TB|
|SP||Kyle Drabek||TOR||SP||Aroldis Chapman||CIN|
|RP||Neftali Feliz||TEX||RP||Casey Kelly||BOS|
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