Get ready for your season with theScore's 2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit.
Last season featured two of the best all-time rookies in Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger taking MLB, and fantasy, by storm. (A year later, both are going within the first three rounds of fantasy drafts.) The summer months then saw the emergence of two more rookie sluggers on home run tears in Rhys Hoskins and Matt Olson.
The question is, then, who is most likely to hit the ground running in 2018?
This is hardly an exact science, but one of the best ways to measure expectations is by looking at prospective paths to playing time. Colorado Rockies infield prospect Brendan Rodgers needs too much to happen for him to become a lock, and Cleveland Indians catcher Francisco Mejia has two players to leap on the depth chart. Chicago White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez remains a bit of a mystery. Jimenez could supplant someone, but the team could use 2018 for added minor-league seasoning.
When it comes to rookies/prospects in fantasy: most are not going to be worth selecting in redraft formats on draft day, and are best left on the wire until rumblings of a call-up surface. Keeper leagues with designated stash slots are a different matter, and all of the following players should be rostered in those formats.
Here are 10 rookies (not counting Shohei Ohtani because he's only kind of a rookie) in the best positions to play and provide fantasy value in 2018.
Acuna is one of the few rookies who will be drafted without fail. He's projected to open the season as the Braves' starting left fielder, and even if plans change he's bound to crack the pro roster at some point. He's raked at every level throughout the minors, rapidly ascending since his 2015 debut. He hit .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs, 82 RBIs, and 44 stolen bases in 139 games across three minor-league levels in 2017.
Brinson got a brief taste of the show in 2017, appearing in 21 games with the Milwaukee Brewers. While he struggled, his numbers sparkled in Triple-A. He hit .331/.400/.562 with 13 homers and 11 stolen bases in 76 games. Now with the Marlins, Brinson is in line to be on the big-league roster on Opening Day. That access to playing time makes him an intriguing option late in drafts.
The Yankees never did replace Starlin Castro, and though Torres isn't a lock to break camp on the big-league roster, he's not far away. He's returning from Tommy John surgery, so his arrival could be delayed, but Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes blocking his path shouldn't be enough to cause hesitation if you have an open roster spot and can afford to stash a minor leaguer. However, If Miguel Andujar's impressive spring translates into a full-time job, look in his direction instead.
Winker barely held onto rookie status after making 121 at-bats in 2017. He made the most of his small sample size by smoking seven homers while posting a .904 OPS. The Reds' outfield is somewhat crowded, but he's already shown an ability to succeed at the MLB-level (which gives him a slight fantasy edge over Nick Senzel) and if Scott Schebler stumbles, Winker should get the nod even with Ben Revere lurking.
Kopech is destined to be a midseason call-up, which suppresses his fantasy value a bit. Place him on your watch list, and feel free to stash him. His fastball hits 100 mph, which should result in excellent strikeout totals - you can't hit what you can't see, after all. With a rookie pitcher, even one as touted as Kopech, there are bound to be bumps along the way. You can't count on him as one of the cornerstones of your roster in redraft formats just yet.
Robles might not have to do much to get a shot in the bigs. None of the Nationals' bench options should be enough to convince management to hold him down, but incumbent center fielder Michael Taylor is coming off a quietly effective season when he hit 19 homers and stole 17 bases. Robles will probably open the season at Triple-A Syracuse, but his day should come soon.
The worry about Kingery is his lack of plate discipline. He hacks. The good news, so far, has been his ability to limit strikeouts. Kingery makes a ton of contact, and showcased power and speed in nearly equal measure last season. Between Double- and Triple-A, Kingery posted an OPS of .889 with 26 home runs and 29 stolen bases in 132 games. His access to playing time may be limited with Cesar Hernandez and fellow rookie J.P. Crawford locking down the middle of the infield. If third baseman Maikel Franco continues to struggle, however, Kingery could get a look at the hot corner.
Reyes is a fringe option in fantasy due to questions surrounding his recovery from Tommy John surgery and what his role with the Cardinals will be. There is a possibility that he joins the team in May, but gets used exclusively out of the bullpen. As a reliever, his value will be limited unless he takes over the closer's role from - checks depth chart - Luke Gregerson, apparently. He's also barely still considered a rookie after appearing in 46 innings in 2016, posting an electric 1.57 ERA with a 10.17 K/9.
McMahon's positional versatility may help him gain favor at the MLB level ahead of the more highly touted Rodgers. McMahon can fill in for third baseman Nolan Arenado, second baseman DJ LeMahieu, and take the bulk of his reps at first if Ian Desmond moves to the outfield. Gerardo Parra's health could help tip the scales if his recovery is slow.
Adames is seen as an ace defender with across-the-board offensive skills. In other words: he's the total package. The Rays' infield is currently projected to include Matt Duffy, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Brad Miller, any of whom Adames could supplant if they struggle. He could also be used as a fill-in in case Hechavarria's or Miller's spring injuries linger.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)