|Fantasy Baseball: Rookies to Watch in 2006 — Part 2||| Print |||Send|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on February 22, 2006
The best fantasy baseball experts know Major League players forwards and backwards; they also have knowledge of all the young players and rookies. Most of the time, leagues are won in the middle and late rounds, when the Johan Santana and Albert Pujols are long gone. This is when you need to know the right players to take. Why overspend for someone like Matt Clement when there’s a rookie who will produce the same stats and will come so much cheaper? Why blow dollars on Reggie Sanders as a backup outfielder when guys fresh from the minors can produce at a fraction of the price? A team full of young players probably won’t do well, but having a few of them might mean the difference between second place and the glory of finishing first.
Kenji Johjima, Seattle Mariners – He’s not really a rookie, but he fits the category of unknown quantity. In Japan, Johjima constantly hit 20+ homers with a good number of RBIs. However, this isn’t Japan, so we can expect a fair decline in his power numbers. A .260-.270 batting average with 12-15 bombs wouldn’t be an unreasonable expectation for this import. Draft him for less than Bengie Molina, but get the same production out of him.
Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves – McCann filled in admirably for the Braves after Johnny Estrada went down, playing in 59 games with five homers. He may be better known around your fantasy colleagues, but expect him to hit .270 with 15 homers -- quite similar to Johjima, I know. The Braves’ catcher will probably cost you a bit, but he’ll be worth it, especially with the dearth of talent after Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek. You don’t want someone like Brad Ausmus behind the plate, do you?
Craig Hansen, Boston Red Sox – Closer Keith Foulke should be all right after surgery on both of his knees. They key word in that previous sentence is “should.” We can expect Hansen to be the closer in future years, but he has a shot to finish off a few games if Foulke needs extended time to get his groove back. Don’t expect more than a few vulture saves.
Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins – There has been a lot of fanfare surrounding this southpaw, and for legitimate reason. In 167.2 career minor league innings, he struck out 204, while he K’ed 33 in 23.1 innings at the Major League level. His fastball rides in the upper 90’s and he throws an awesome slider. He draws comparisons to that other left-hander in the Twins’ rotation. Expect lots of K’s if he gets the everyday job.
Jonathon Papelbon, Boston Red Sox – The Sawx will probably put Paps in the bullpen for the time being, which should force him to work on control of his slider and splitter. His fastball is fast enough to dominate Major League hitters, but a trade of David Wells or injury/ineffectiveness from Matt Clement, Curt Schilling, or Josh Beckett will be needed for him to get in the rotation. He stands first in line, so he’ll have a chance.
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers – The Tigers are feeling a lot of pressure to call this guy up the Major Leagues and give him an every fifth day job. He has two plus pitches -- a hard curve and good changeup -- and a blistering high 90’s fastball. However, he’s only 22 and hasn’t pitched but 9 games above A ball. Don’t expect too much from him if he gets a full season of work in Detroit.
Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants – With seven starts down the stretch last year in which he actually outperformed Felix “The King” Hernandez, Cain drew a lot of attention. He throws a mid 90’s sinker and a good curveball; the only drawback is that he will only be 21 next year, so there will be some growing pains. Draft him in NL-Only leagues, and ones that are deep.
Paul Maholm, Pittsburgh Pirates – The southpaw-leaning staff in the Steel City brought up Maholm last season. I don’t think too highly of him for this upcoming season, because of the tremendous jump he made (from A ball to Majors) and that he doesn’t have an offering that stands out. He relies on control, an average fastball, and a plus curve. There’s not much room for error, but he can go on extended streaks of quality, as last season can attest.
Brandon McCarthy, Chicago White Sox – The White Sox have six starters, meaning one of them is the odd man out. That guy would be Brandon McCarthy. It seems that a return to norm for Jon Garland or Jose Contreras or an injury to someone might give him a spot, but look to your draft thinking that McCarthy won’t get that many starts and is too far down the depth chart to get any saves, but maybe a few wins.
Anthony Reyes, St. Louis Cardinals – In thirteen late-season innings with the big club, Reyes struck out twelve hitters versus six hits. He figures to compete with Sidney Ponson for the fifth spot in the rotation in spring training this year, and if he wins it, he can strike out a plethora of hitters and perhaps get some W’s for the best team in the National League.