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Hot Fantasy Prospects To Watch For Week 2

So how are you all feeling after Opening Weekend? I mean we all expected Baltimore to sweep Boston right? And the White Sox would lose two of three to the Angels? And Detroit would be tied at the top of the AL Central and the Nationals will still not have started their season by Tuesday?

But in the midst of all these team storylines, we've also had a lot of good individual performances — including one historic performance — among the rookies that made the Opening Day roster. We're still a month away from the start of the minor league season, so until then we'll continue to focus on the prospects on the major league rosters.

We've got prospects hitting bombs and one who looks like he's won the closer role for his team. Let's dive in to Week 2 and see who you should be watching.

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Akil Baddoo - OF, Detroit Tigers

4% Rostered
2021 stats: 2 G, 3-for-7, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R, 1 SB

Talk about making a splash in your debut. Baddoo took the first pitch of his major league career and slammed it into the left field bullpen for a solo home run, and then the next day he launched a two-out grand slam in the ninth inning of a 15-6 Tigers loss. He has looked like a solid prospect for some time in the Minnesota system, and now he's getting a shot in Detroit after being selected in the Rule 5 Draft this past offseason. As a 19-year-old at Single-A in 2018, Baddoo showed speed and power as he hit 22 doubles, 11 triples, 11 home runs and stole 24 bases. He followed that up with three doubles, three triples, four homers and six steals in 29 games in 2019, before his season came to an abrupt halt due to Tommy John surgery.

Now healthy, Baddoo is making some noise two games into his major league career. And this shouldn't be too much of a surprise to those who have been paying attention, as Baddoo had slashed .325/.460/.750 with five home runs, four steals and a 14:10 K:BB ratio in 21 games during Spring Training. There's going to be some jockeying for playing time in Detroit's outfield, as they have Robbie Grossman, JaCoby Jones, Nomar Mazara and Victor Reyes on the roster as well. But managers should keep Baddoo in their sights as a waiver-wire target. Yeah it's only two games, but he could very well end up being one of the best rookie outfielders in fantasy in 2021.

 

Zach McKinstry - 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers

1% Rostered
2021 stats: 3 G, 3-for-7, 2 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R

Another rookie off to a hot start, all three of McKinstry's first hits of the season have gone for extra bases. He's showed off the wheels as well, as his first career homer was of the inside-the-park variety. McKinstry has shown good numbers throughout his minor league career with a .270/.357/.416 triple-slash line over four seasons, and he had a solid Spring Training this year, slashing .286/.318/.381 with one home run and one steal in 19 games. The big key though is that McKinstry has consistently shown improvement from year to year as he climbed through the Dodgers' system, culminating in a 2019 campaign in which he set career-highs with 19 home runs, eight steals, a .300 average and .882 OPS.

McKinstry has spent the majority of his career splitting time between second base and third base, but he has been getting playing time elsewhere as well, as he got the start Monday night in left field for his second appearance in the outfield in four games. That positional flexibility will lead to a good chunk of playing time this season, as he should be able to fairly regularly slot into the Dodgers lineup somewhere. Conservatively pencil him in for 10 to 12 home runs, with the potential to touch 20, but managers in deeper OBP formats should make sure to target McKinstry, who has never posted an OBP below .330 in a single season and boasts a career 10.5 percent walk rate in the minors.

 

Yermin Mercedes - DH, Chicago White Sox

44% Rostered
2021 stats: 3 G, 9-for-14, 2 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 R

So let's get into the big rookie storyline of Opening Weekend. Mercedes opened up the season 8-for-8 at the plate before flying out to center in the top of the eighth inning on Saturday for his first hitless at-bat of 2021. Mercedes has shown promise for some time in the minors, hitting 14 home runs with a .289 average and .840 OPS in Chicago's system in 2018, and following that up with 23 homers, a .317 average and a .968 OPS in 2019. Including his one plate appearance in 2020, Mercedes is now 9-for-15 to start his major league career, but he has been able to consistently put the ball in play so far as he only has two career strikeouts.

Obviously, Mercedes wasn't going to maintain a 1.000 batting average throughout the year, but it was fun to watch while it lasted. But what he has shown in the minors is that he can hit for a high average (career .302 average) and he can get on base at a good clip (career .366 OBP). Add in some late-developing power, where he's averaged over 18 home runs a year in the minors from 2016 to 2019, and you've got what looks to be a potential fantasy stud at catcher. Unfortunately for managers, that crazy 8-for-8 start has drawn a lot of attention to Mercedes, so managers will have to act sooner than later on trying to add him to their rosters. We've seen plenty of rookies get off to a hot start and then later flame out, and that could very well happen with Mercedes. But right now he looks like he could be worth taking that risk.

 

Julian Merryweather - RP, Toronto Blue Jays

31% Rostered
2021 stats: 2 G, 2 IP, 2 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP, 5 K

When Spring Training started, it looked like Kirby Yates was set to be the closer in Toronto. Then when it was announced he would undergo Tommy John surgery and miss all of 2021, it seemed like closing duties would fall to either Jordan Romano or Rafael Dolis — each of whom grabbed some saves in 2020. But no, it has been Merryweather who has risen to the top in Toronto's bullpen, as he is 2-for-2 in save opportunities and has struck out five of the six batters he has faced this year. And this start has been somewhat surprising, as Merryweather didn't look this good during Spring Training, in which he allowed two walks with one strikeout in two innings of work. And Merryweather has only pitched 21 innings now since 2018, as he missed all of 2018 and most of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery. But in spite of all that, Merryweather has shown throughout his career that he can limit the walks (5.6% career walk rate in minors) and he can rack up the strikeouts (21.5% career strikeout rate).

In the world of closers, managers are going to have to jump on them quickly once "the guy" becomes apparent. But in this case, while Merryweather appears to be the guy, managers are taking a risk because he's somewhat of an unknown after barely pitching the last four years. Last year, Merryweather allowed six runs on 11 hits and six walks over 13 innings, while also striking out 15 in that span. Don't break the bank trying to grab him off the waiver wire, but Merryweather is definitely the first guy on this week's list that managers should be targeting right now.



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