AL Outfielder: Rookies

Years ago, I bought a nice set of knives for my wife and I was extremely excited to give it to her. She had been complaining about ours and these were a nice professional set. As Christmas approached, I began to pat myself on the back for nailing the gift. She had expressed a need for them, we had set a dollar amount limit on what we could spend for each other and I had gotten them for an amazing deal. Christmas day came and she opened up her present. She looked me squarely in the eye and said “Why?” That’s how I feel about the Rangers signing Ian Desmond.

One of the best parts of playing in deeper leagues is getting to speculate on emerging talent. Nothing feels better than when you invest in a young player and he hits big for you. So, as I was prepping this article on potential rookies that could have impact for fantasy this season, of course Ian Desmond signed with the Rangers and put a damper on multiple guys on this list. However, we must move forward and hopefully find a better present.

Here are some of the potential outfield gifts for fantasy owners in deeper leagues, but I understand if you want to return some of them:

Byron Buxton, Min (NFBC ADP 173.52): He barely makes the cut off for this list. I don’t know if Buxton ever becomes the superstar that people pegged him as, but there is no doubting his prevailing skill, speed. He stole 24 bases between three levels last season and I could easily see him getting close to 30, if not more. The Twins traded away former top prospect Aaron Hicks, opening the door for Buxton to hold down the centerfield position this year. At worst his speed should pay for his depressed value, but if things click together for him this season and he begins to show any power, you could be looking at a future top 25 pick in fantasy. ETA: Already here

Hyun-soo Kim, Bal (NFBC ADP 294.27): Let’s be honest, Kim is a total crapshoot. I don’t know what to expect from him having only seen small clips of him on YouTube and Vines. However, what appears to be a consistent evaluation is that he controls the strike zone well and has enough power and speed to be an AL only contributor with maybe a bit more upside. Spring training games will be an important evaluation tool to determine whether he can handle Major League pitching, but he is currently projected to bat leadoff for Baltimore in front of Manny Machado, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones. At that price, I will take the gamble that he is going to offer pretty great value. ETA: Opening day

Max Kepler, Min: Things came together for Kepler in 2015. He hit .322/.416/.531 in AA and was reward with a cup of coffee with the big league club in September. The power has yet to fully develop, but his frame and swing project at least 20 homer power. The 18 stolen bases seem a bit out of nowhere, but he does have good speed. His defense should keep him in the starting lineup once he arrives and the Twins don’t seem enamoured with either Oswaldo Arcia or Eddie Rosario. He hasn’t received the notoriety of other emerging prospects until now, but could be on the fast track to the Majors. He will most likely start the year in AAA because the Twins are cheap and hate our fantasy teams, but he should be up in shortorder. ETA: May 2016

Joey Gallo, Tex (NFBC ADP 337.23): The Rangers have no one to man left field so (I hate you Ian Desmond), if you are going to buy in on Gallo, now is the time. His stock has been tarnished by his awful numbers last season, but if any rookie is going to show elite power this year it is him. Sure he strikes out too much and doesn’t make enough contact, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a usable fantasy commodity. Miguel Sano is going as a top 70 pick and are their profiles that much different? The arrival of Desmond, definitely puts a damper on Gallo’s stock, but he needed a bit more seasoning in AAA anyways. One way or another, if he shows any improvement in his approach, he will be up and playing. ETA: Late May 2016

Bradley Zimmer, Cle (NFBC ADP 605.54): I will admit to being a bit biased here. I got to watch Zimmer play at USF and fell in love with his talent. He performed well in his first three levels before hitting a small wall at AA. The power has yet to show, but it is in there. He has plus speed and could stick in centerfield. He has good recognition of the strike zone. When the power does arrive, I believe he will be a 20/30 guy with good on base skills and a decent average. The projected opening day lineup for the Indians has Will Venable, Rajai Davis, and Lonnie Chisenhall starting in their outfield. If Zimmer comes out of the gate quickly in AA, he could force Cleveland’s hand. ETA: Early Summer 2016

Nomar Mazara, Tex (NFBC ADP 439.30): He is young but but he has performed well against older competition. If Gallo isn’t the answer in left, can we really expect Josh Hamilton to be the answer there? Mazara is my pick for AL Rookie of the Year (Ian Desmond, I hate you, I hate, I hate you!) At some point, he will be a 25-30 home run threat with a good triple slash (hit .296/366/.443 between two levels last season.) He has drawn praise for improving multiple aspects in his game, including an improved approach and defense. Mazara is a future All-Star, but the question is when does he arrive? I am going to bet on his skills and ignore the fact there is no longer a clear path to playing time. If he mashes in AAA, then the Rangers will figure out a spot for him. ETA Summer 2016

Aaron Judge, NYY (NFBC ADP 482.80): Judge is my favorite type of prospect to target. The shine has rubbed off and people are not nearly as high on him as before. He has the kind of frame that suggests he will develop more power than what he has shown so far. His defense is good enough that I am not worried that he could get relegated to DH. The Yankees were unwilling to move Judge for an upgrade during their playoff run last season, which suggests they are still high on him. Couple that with the rumors that they were willing to move Brett Gardner in the fall for starting pitching and you have an eventual path to playing time, unless you believe that Carlos Beltran is some huge obstacle. Judge could provide a nice source of mid to late season power in deeper leagues. ETA: Summer 2016

Lewis Brinson, Tex (NFBC ADP 565.60): Brinson’s path to playing time is much easier as a centerfielder. All he need is Delino DeShields to play his way out of a job, which is entirely possible. DeShields, in my estimation, is better suited for a fourth outfielder/utility role anyhow. Brinson needs to work a bit on his plate discipline, but either way he has an elite power/speed combination that will make him a top 20 outfielder (if not a top 20 player) at some point in fantasy. He may end up spending most of 2016 in the minors, but could be a valuable pick up for H2H playoffs or in the home stretch of keeper leagues. The Rangers are also in win now mode and could decide that all hands are needed on deck for the stretch run anyhow. ETA: Mid-Late August 2016

Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep Sleepers

Reymond Fuentes, KC (NFBC ADP 626.14): Fuentes is a speedy outfielder that knows how to take a walk. He plays good defense and fits the Royals mold of a fourth outfielder. Even in a part time role, he could steal enough bags to warrant being an AL only reserve pick. ETA: Opening Day

Joey Rickard, Bal (NFBC ADP N/A): Rickard is a Rule 5 pick from Tampa Bay that is very similar to Fuentes. Plays good defense, has speed, and can take a walk. Works perfectly as a fourth outfielder for most teams, but let’s be honest, Mark Trumbo does not belong in the outfield. Rickard could easily find himself with some platoon at bats if Kim or Jimmy Paredes struggle versus left-handed pitching or if the O’s want to improve their outfield defense by moving Trumbo to DH. Rickard is so under the radar, I could not even find an ADP for him. ETA: Opening Day

We hoped you liked reading AL Outfielder: Rookies by Justin Mason!

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Justin is the co-host on The Sleeper and The Bust Podcast and writes for Rotographs covering the Roto Riteup as well as random topics that float into his juvenile brain. In addition to his work at Rotographs, Justin is the lead fantasy writer/analyst and co-owner for FriendswithFantasyBenefits.com, owner of The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, and a fantasy football and baseball writer for Fantasy Alarm. He is also a certified addiction treatment counselor. Follow Justin on Twitter @JustinMasonFWFB.

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