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Fantasy Baseball Rookie Risers/Fallers (Week 16)

Well, the Major League season is already 47% of the way done. Some owners think that they are on their way to victory while others are patiently waiting for things to turn around. Still, while all the victory laps are being taken, the smart owner is looking forward to the rest of the year and finding what value can still be had. While the season always seems to move quickly, the dog days of summer are still upon us.

Now that we are rolling along, so too are the call-ups. This week, the Rotoballer team keeps tabs on all the new names and faces, with insight into their fantasy value to help any team. For owners looking for a cheap spark, look no further.

For redraft, dynasty, or general fantasy players knowing the new prospects is key to begin to plan out FAAB bids and waiver claims. Target or avoid these players to helps teams keep their competitive windows open.

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Rookie Debuts - Stock Up

These players helped their fantasy value with solid debut weeks for their respective team. If not on owners's radars, these players need to be.


Bubba Starling (OF, KC)

Season line: 20 ABs, six hits, five runs, and one steal

After featuring on last week’s AL-Only waiver primer, Starling got the call to Kansas City and is now the starting centerfielder for the foreseeable future. With Terrance Gore already DFA’d and Billy Hamilton sure to be moved at the deadline, Starling enters a team with clear needs in the outfield. A former first-round selection by the Royals, Starling has taken his time through the minors, and warts have appeared on what was a blue-chip stock on draft night. For one, the power has not been there, and while others are enjoying the new ball, Starling is at best the same from last year’s power output.

Still, the hit tool and glove/speed combo will make him a useful regular for the Royals. That is if he can keep hitting. A career .244 hitter in the minor, last year Starling posted a .257 batting line, and this year that was up to .310 before the call. The bat is key because there is a clear ceiling on his power and the speed has not been there. After posting 20-steal seasons in the low minors, Starling seems to be more of a 10-12 range option for fantasy owners. Expect Starling to be up the rest of the way, and hit for an average worthy of an OF3 play in mixed leagues. At the very least, the playing time floor makes him an asset to own.


Ian Gibaut (RP, TB)

Season line: 2.0 innings, two earned runs, and two Ks

Typically righty-specialists do not get two paragraphs for their debut, but Gibaut has elite stuff that he can bring to fantasy rosters. A former 11th-round selection by the Rays, Gibaut was added to the 40-man back in November. Flashing a plus fastball and slider combo, Gibaut also has a changeup that has received improved grades at each step up the ladder. While the Rays have been inconsistent with a closer role this year, if he can flash the same stuff, Gibaut is a clear candidate to open games or shut them down in the 8th.

While he has allowed two runs in his first two innings with the Rays, the numbers back at Triple-A were quite good. Over 10 innings he recorded 16 Ks and did not allow a homer. 2018 was his best season in professional ball, as he posted a 2.09 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Add in 75 Ks over 56 innings pitched, and he put together one of the better minor league seasons for a reliever. While the impact will be tied to a role, if there is an arm to bet on, Gibaut is the name in the second half.


Andres Munoz (RP, SD)

Season line: 4.1 innings, zero earned runs, and six Ks

Entering the year as a mid-20s prospect for the Padres, Munoz turned a red-hot start onto an earlier than expected call. In 37 games between Double-A and Triple-A this year, Munoz posted an ERA of 2.76 and a 1.20 WHIP. Add in the 58:18 K:BB ratio, and the ratios are not only the best of his career, but clearly in the range to matter in fantasy leagues. While concerns will remain on his ability to command the fastball, the floor is much higher than many expected coming into this year. In fact, over stretches he has allowed more walks than hits, showing that even with some wildness, he can still generate outs.

The carrying pitch is the fastball, which some scouts grade as an 80. After that, there is a sharp drop with an average slider and a developing changeup. While there are concerns that Munoz lacks a true outpitch, and might struggle with the new power environment in the Majors, at the end of the day, the stuff is real. In terms of the relievers on this list, Munoz might have the most extended stay in the Bigs and could be a multi-K reliever each appearance. The WHIP numbers might jump after the call, but for now, the arm is a real weapon after a decent start to his career.

Rookie Debuts - Stock Down

These players hurt their fantasy value during their first week of play.

Luis Escobar (RP, PIT)

Season line: 3.1 innings, zero earned runs, and one K

Another reliever making his debut in the past few weeks, Escobar entered the year just outside the top-10 on most Pirate prospect lists. The main tools are a plus 95-mph fastball, and plus curveball, with a 60/40 split during his time in the minors. While he has a changeup listed on the scouting report, he has had enough issues commanding the pitch that it will be a non-factor this season. If Escobar can spend time developing that pitch in the offseason, this is a different profile, but for now, a two-pitch reliever with velocity seems to be the fit.

The minor league numbers are excellent, with a 1.24 WHIP and 472 Ks in 479 total innings. The command improved with each step up the ladder, and overall, the tools are trending in the right direction. The ceiling is still reliant on the pitch-mix, and without a triple-digit fastball, Escobar is a middle-of-the-road arm with today’s league. Even with success so far in his career, his inability to put hitters away deep in the count will hurt him. For now the stock is down when compared to other arms as there is just not enough in the profile to allow him to stand out. Add in that he relies on the fastball, and expect the NL Central to punish him.

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