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Keep an eye on these rookies

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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Chipper Jones did it in 1995. Albert Pujols did it in 2001. Freddie Freeman joined the fraternity in 2011.

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Want more? Join the discussion on our Facebook page and Google+ and follow us on Twitter for additional insight while interacting with a community geared toward Fantasy Baseball.

To become a full-time starter in the majors is an accomplishment every budding prospect dreams about. And when they arrive to The Show, Fantasy owners go to great lengths to find out about the next potential superstar.

Not every player develops into a Jones or Pujols, but they still have an impact in Fantasy Baseball and the 2012 season brings us a new crop of emerging players who might pop up on your radar.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona
CBSSports.com projections:
.260 average, .344 on-base percentage, .476 slugging percentage, 23 home runs, 27 doubles, 72 RBI and 122 strikeouts in 470 at-bats
Analysis: Gone are Juan Miranda and Xavier Nady, so the path is clear for Goldschmidt, who made 41 starts in 2011, to take over as the Diamondbacks' full-time first baseman. Goldschmidt made a name for himself in the minors by emerging as a premier power hitter (.620 slugging percentage and 1.026 OPS in 315 games). However, he was never touted as an elite prospect because of his questionable defense and high strikeout rate. Still, the Diamondbacks thought enough of him to promote the 24-year-old slugger without taking a Triple-A at-bat. That is obviously a major concern. Can Goldschmidt stick in the majors despite skipping Triple-A? The good news for Goldschmidt is that the addition of Jason Kubel likely means he can hit lower in the lineup, taking the pressure off him to be an immediate key cog in Arizona's lineup. Goldschmidt hit .308 batting sixth and .355 batting seventh last season, as opposed to hitting .236 or worse in every other spot he hit. Another positive is that Chase Field is an above average park for right-handed home run hitters. He will have a little less value in Head-to-Head formats for what we expect will be a high strikeout rate, but Goldschmidt could end up as a cheap source of power in the late rounds for Fantasy owners.

Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland
CBSSports.com projections:
.257 average, .313 on-base percentage, .430 slugging percentage, seven triples, 16 homers, 32 doubles, 63 RBI, 71 runs, 13 stolen bases and 130 strikeouts in 540 at-bats
Analysis: The Indians finally brought Kipnis up late last season for a taste of the majors, and his performance in 36 games is leaving Fantasy owners wanting more. Kipnis had a .507 slugging percentage and .841 OPS. Those numbers weren't far off from his career numbers in the minors (.486, .863), signaling that Kipnis late-season surge might not be an aberration. Although, his home-run rate might be a little misleading since Kipnis is more of a ground-ball and line-drive hitter. He still has decent pop for a middle infielder, but expecting 20 homers in 2012 could be a bit of a stretch. Still, Jacobs Field is an above average park for left-handed home run and doubles hitters, which should benefit Kipnis. Second base has become a little deeper of a position where you can find players like Rickie Weeks, Dustin Ackley, Chase Utley and Howard Kendrick as low-end starting options in mixed leagues. However, Kipnis is right up there with Jemile Weeks as top sleepers at the position.

Tyler Pastornicky, SS, Atlanta
CBSSports.com projections:
.256 average, .314 on-base percentage, .321 slugging percentage, three home runs, 16 doubles, 40 RBI, 52 runs and 18 stolen bases in 480 at-bats
Analysis: The Braves aren't short on shortstop prospects. The talent pool is so deep that the organization is already moving prospects Matthew Lipka and Edward Salcedo to new positions and is eagerly awaiting the development of Andrelton Simmons. However, Pastronicky received the nod late in spring to be the starter, and he is no slouch of a prospect. He is ranked as the Braves' seventh-best prospect by Baseball America. The former Blue Jays farmhand improved in all facets of the game in 2011, including posting a career-best .314 batting average. He is more of a line-drive hitter and isn't projected to provide Atlanta with a ton of home-run power. Pastronicky is likely to hit in the eighth spot in front of the pitcher, which would hurt his greatest asset -- his stolen-base potential. Pastornicky should be left for mostly NL-only Fantasy formats.

Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Baltimore
CBSSports.com projections:
11-11, 3.98 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 187 hits allowed, 134 strikeouts and 62 walks in 185 innings (32 starts)
Analysis: Knowing their rotation is a mess, the Orioles opened the checkbook this offseason to sign international product Chen for three years, $11.3 million. He technically has to pitch his way into a job, but it's believed that Chen has a rotation spot to lose. The left-handed hurler comes to the U.S. after pitching four years in Japan. Chen compiled a 36-30 record with 2.48 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 631 1/3 innings (88 starts). He also had 13 complete games (eight shutouts) and struck out 7.1 batters per nine innings in his career. Chen's fastball sits in the low 90s, while he is lauded for outstanding command and uses a slurve-like breaking ball for his out pitch. Unfortunately, like every other Orioles starter, the wins could be tough to come by for a team that isn't expected to contend.

Bryan LaHair, OF, Chicago Cubs
CBSSports.com projections:
.263 average, .342 on-base percentage, .470 slugging percentage, 14 home runs, 20 doubles, 45 RBI and 90 strikeouts in 300 at-bats
Analysis: Everyone's initial thought when the Cubs traded for Anthony Rizzo is that the burgeoning prospect would replace Carlos Pena as the team's everyday first baseman. However, the Cubs said Rizzo might be the future, but LaHair is the immediate. Not only will LaHair being manning first base, but the Cubs are consider using him as their cleanup hitter, immediately thrusting the 29-year-old career minor leaguer into the Fantasy mix. LaHair has traveled a long, arduous road since being selected in the 39th round of the 2002 MLB draft. He hit .244 as a first-time, 20-year-old pro, but progressed to being a career .295 hitter in 970 minor-league games. He also posted a .362 on-base percentage, .503 slugging percentage and .865 OPS down on the farm. He had at least 25 homers and 80 RBI the last three seasons in the minors, with 2011 being a banner year when he hit .331 with 38 homers, 38 doubles and 109 RBI in 129 games at Triple-A. It's not hard to understand why the Cubs want LaHair batting cleanup. Left-handed home run hitters thrive at Wrigley Field, and it's also an above average park for left-handed doubles hitters. However, some scouts consider LaHair a Quadruple-A player -- too good for the minors, not good enough for the majors. He might end up as a platoon option if he doesn't improve his presence against left-handed hurlers. LaHair is at best a late-round flier in deeper Fantasy formats.

Dayan Viciedo, OF, Chicago White Sox
CBSSports.com projections:
.270 average, .317 on-base percentage, .439 slugging percentage, 21 home runs, 28 doubles, 65 runs, 76 RBI and 124 strikeouts in 540 at-bats
Analysis: With Ozzie Guillen no longer calling the shots on the bench, Viciedo will finally get his chance to play every day on the major-league level. The White Sox cleared a spot for him in the outfield by trading slugger Carlos Quentin to San Diego. Viciedo was a hit as a 21-year-old when he arrived in the majors in 2010, batting .308 with five homers, seven doubles and 13 RBI in 38 games. Unfortunately, his 2011 season started slow because of injury and when he finally made it back to the majors, big-league pitchers exploited his lack of plate discipline. Viciedo hit just .255 with one homer and six RBI in 29 games. Viciedo's patience is going to have to improve if he wants to reach his full potential in the majors, but the scouts rave about his game-changing power because of his bat speed and strength. His power should play nicely in one of the majors' top parks for right-handed home-run hitters. Viciedo projects as a late-round Fantasy sleeper in mixed leagues.

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Zack Cozart, SS, Cincinnati Reds
CBSSports.com projections:
.268 average, .317 on-base percentage, .409 slugging percentage, 12 home runs, 31 doubles, 58 RBI, 68 runs, 95 strikeouts and 14 stolen bases in 530 at-bats
Analysis: Cozart's promising 2011 season was cut short by elbow surgery, but now that he is healthy, the Reds are turning over the everyday shortstop job to the 2007 second-round pick. Reds fans are counting down the days until shortstop prospect Billy Hamilton arrives in the majors, but in the meantime Cozart has the chance to delay Hamilton's ETA. Cozart heads into 2012 as a top 100 prospect, according to Baseball America, so there still should be excitement brewing in Cincinnati. Cozart made his bones because of his flashy defensive skills. The scouts wondered if he could hit as a pro, and the 26-year-old middle infielder has surprisingly silenced the critics. Being able to get his legs more involved in his swing, Cozart has added surprising pop for a middle infielder, belting 10 or more homers in three of his last four minor-league seasons and having 26-plus doubles in four straight seasons. Also, while he doesn't have blazing speed, Cozart's ability to read pitchers could make him a 20-30 stolen-base threat at the MLB level. The scouts have doubted if Cozart could hit for average or post a respectable OBP in the majors, but he hit .310 with a .357 OBP at Triple-A and hit .324 in 11 MLB games before getting hurt last season, so it seems Cozart isn't done developing. Cozart's upside puts him into the tier of Fantasy shortstops that include Stephen Drew, Marco Scutaro, Yunel Escobar, J.J. Hardy, Dee Gordon, Alcides Escobar, Rafael Furcal, Ian Desmond and Jed Lowrie.

Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati
CBSSports.com projections:
.268 average, .331 on-base percentage, .465 slugging percentage, 15 home runs, 24 doubles, 51 runs and 55 RBI in 370 at-bats
Analysis: The Reds are doing their best to avoid putting pressure on the 23-year-old rookie catcher by not anointing him the team's starter, but even the Cincinnati brass realizes it might just be a matter of time before the 2007 first-round pick ascends to the top spot behind the plate. He will initially platoon with Ryan Hanigan, who has a big fan in manager Dusty Baker. However, Hanigan doesn't have the offensive potential Mesoraco possesses. Mesoraco slugged .587 and hit 26 homers in 113 games in 2010, and returned in 2011 to bat .289 with 15 homers, 36 doubles and 71 RBI in 120 games at Triple-A. It's just that Fantasy owners need to be aware that rookie catchers tend to take a little longer to develop offensively because their priority upon arrival to the majors is to focus on defense. Managers are more much concerned about their development behind the plate rather than at it. Most rookie backstops are tasked with learning how to handle a pitching staff, but once they master that, then the offensive part gets easier. Put Mesoraco in the late-round Fantasy sleeper group. You can't draft him as your starter, but you hope by season's end he could emerge as a reliable option.

Lorenzo Cain, OF, Kansas City
CBSSports.com projections:
.298 average, .343 on-base percentage, .441 slugging percentage, 12 home runs, 27 doubles, 56 RBI, 65 runs and 19 stolen bases in 510 at-bats
Analysis: The Royals were able to cash in on Melky Cabrera's career season in 2011 by flipping him to the Giants for much-needed rotation help in left-hander Jonathan Sanchez. However, the Royals made the trade with confidence knowing Cain was ready for his first chance to play every day in the majors. Cain, who arrived in the Zack Greinke trade with Milwaukee in December 2010, impressed in his first season in the Royals organization, batting .312 with a .380 on-base percentage, .497 slugging percentage and .877 OPS at Triple-A. Cain is more of a line-drive and ground-ball hitter, so he is going to have moderate home run power. He could also be a guy that falls in the 20-30 stolen-base range. But his greatest asset might be his ability as a contact hitter. Cain isn't a guy worth reaching for on Draft Day, but if you are considering drafting outfielders like J.D. Martinez, Peter Bourjos or Colby Rasmus in the late rounds, then Cain falls into that group.

Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City
CBSSports.com projections:
.288 average, .316 on-base percentage, .417 slugging percentage, six home runs, 13 doubles, 31 runs, 35 RBI and 29 strikeouts in 240 at-bats
Analysis: You want to know why the Royals moved prospect Wil Myers from catcher to the outfield? We give you Perez. Already considered an elite defender, Perez's offense started to mature in the minors and the Royals soon realized he was the future behind the plate. They then let the baseball world know it by signing him to an unprecedented multi-year contract this spring after just 39 games in 2011. It was an impressive stretch as Perez hit .331 with a .361 OBP, .473 slugging percentage and .834 OPS. Although, we do have to warn Fantasy owners that Perez had a .362 BABIP last season, which is well above the norm, so it would be hard to expect him to keep his 2011 pace this season. Perez's line-drive rate was also an astounding 29.2 percent last season, which should also drop with a full season. Although, he is definitely in a home ballpark that has an above average rate for line-drive hitters, so Perez has that working in his favor. Perez's strength is still his defense, but you can expect a decent batting average and moderate power numbers from the 21-year-old backstop. It's just unfortunate we won't see Perez until later this summer after he needed March knee surgery. Here is now just a draft-and-stash option.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Michael Hurcomb at @CBSHurc . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Reds' Marquis happy with way he is throwing baseball post-surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:30 pm ET) Reds starting pitcher Jason Marquis hasn't made a start in the majors since 2013 while working his way back from Tommy John surgery. But the 36-year-old pitcher has had a career resurgence this spring and is on track to open the season in the Reds' rotation.

"The ball is coming out of my hand in a way it hasn't the last five years," Marquis said, per MLB.com. "I've gotten some velocity back, but that's not the big thing. There's just more life on the ball.

"I'm throwing the ball instead of pushing it, guiding it. I think maybe I developed bad habits over those years to protect the elbow so I can pitch. More than anything, that's what I'm happiest with."

Marquis is 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA in five spring starts.


Swihart could be Opening Day catcher if Vazquez remains sidelined
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:28 pm ET) Though he was optioned to Triple-A last week, Red Sox manager John Farrell indicated that he would be open to going with catching prospect Blake Swihart if Christian Vazquez remains sidelined with an elbow issue, according to the Boston Herald. Farrell will likely wait a little over a week before he decides on his Opening Day catcher.

"Anybody in our uniform is always under consideration," Farrell said. "We'll see how things play out in the next eight or nine days."


Bridich: Rockies' Gray's arbitration timeline won't impact decision
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:20 pm ET) Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said starting pitcher prospect Jonathan Gray's arbitration timeline will be a "non-factor" in deciding when the highly touted prospect will make his MLB debut, per The Denver Post.

"That is not part of our consideration," he said. "Jon has pitched very well, but there still are a lot of things to consider, but the decision will not be based on (arbitration)."

Gray, who is competing for the final spot in the rotation with Christian Bergman and Eddie Butler, is 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA in five spring outings (two starts). He has nine strikeouts to one walk in 13 innings.


MRI on White Sox P Jake Petricka's elbow comes back clean
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:15 pm ET) White Sox pitcher Jake Petricka underwent an MRI on his sore elbow, which came back clean, according to the ESPN. Petricka was recently shut down a few days and told reporters he underwent an MRI "just to be safe." He's expected to resume throwing on Saturday.

Twins' Phil Hughes strikes out seven Class A batters Friday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:50 am ET) Twins starting pitcher Phil Hughes made a minor-league start Friday against Rays' Class A players, per MLB.com. The right-hander allowed three runs on five hits (one home run) in six innings, while throwing 69 pitches and recording seven strikeouts.

Hughes is 2-0 with a 6.35 ERA in four spring starts. He has allowed eight runs on 13 hits (two home runs) and five walks, while striking out 10 in 11 1/3 innings.


Orioles' Kevin Gausman to pitch five innings on Tuesday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:29 am ET) Although Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman could be in line to start the season in the bullpen, manager Buck Showalter told reporters he'll make another start on Tuesday, per MLB.com. Gausman is tentatively scheduled to pitch five innings against the Rays. He has allowed two runs in four innings this spring.

If a game gets rained out from Friday until his next start, Gausman could be bumped Tuesday in favor of Ubaldo Jimenez, according to the Baltimore Sun.


Red Sox's Joe Kelly pitches three innings in intrasquad game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:24 am ET) Red Sox starting pitcher Joe Kelly (biceps) pitched three innings in a minor-league intrasquad games, according to Comcast SportsNet Northeast. He allowed one run on two hits and two walks while striking out five. Of his 53 pitches, 31 were strikes.

Indians OF Nick Swisher tests injured knees in minor-league game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:16 am ET) Indians outfielder Nick Swisher took part in sliding drills to test his injured knees before playing in a minor-league game on Thursday, according to the Plain Dealer.

"He slid on the mat," said Francona. "He needed to do that. You can't let a guy get in a game without being able to slide because you never know what can happen."


Angels OF Kole Calhoun (triceps) held out of Friday's lineup
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:12 am ET) Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun was not in the lineup for Friday's game against the Diamondbacks, according to the Los Angeles Times. Calhoun was removed from Thursday's game in the second inning because of a right triceps contusion. He is 12 for 41 with one double and three walks in Cactus League play.

Tigers remove Victor Martinez from lineup due to rain in forecast
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:08 am ET) Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez was removed from the starting lineup, and is no longer on the travel roster for Friday's game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin.

Martinez said following a 6-4 win over Baltimore on Thursday that he's experiencing some soreness in his surgically-repaired left knee. The team announced he was scratched due to rain in the forecast, per MLive.com. He remains in Detroit's tentative lineup for Saturday's home game against the Cardinals.


 
 
 
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