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Fantasy Baseball Rookie Risers/Fallers (Week 23)

Well, the Major League season nearly 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.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!


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.


Sam Hilliard (OF, COL)

Entering the year as the ninth-ranked prospect in Colorado's system, Hilliard has finally found an opportunity with roster expansion. While the Rockies need young talent, and soon, the outfield is about as full as it can get. David Dahl will take left, Charlie Blackmon right, and, when healthy, Ramiel Tapia will patrol center. Grading out as a plus power and speed player Hilliard is exciting but does have some questions on his overall hit tool. Assuming some regression in the Majors, Hilliard is a true value .240 bat. Still, even a sub-par batting line will play up in Coors, and there is 30 homer power in the bat to make up for any loss.

Through his first eight games with the Rockies, Hilliard is slashing .250/.348/.650 with two homers and three runs. Before a tough series with the Dodgers, Hilliard he was batting .313, and any hitter can struggle in Los Angeles. A few hitless games have seen the rate drop, but owners need to consider who he was playing against before rushing to judgment.  Stock is up as the Rockies are looking to find him playing time, added to what that bat can do at Coors. While the year is done, in terms of being a competitive team, the field and team context are not bad for Hilliard. For fantasy owners, this is an easy cheap add.


T.J. Zeuch (SP, TOR)

The 19th best prospect in the Toronto system to enter the year, Zeuch is all that fantasy owners hate in pitching prospects. For one, his fastball is slower than his sinker, and both sit around 91. Even more, while not having great stuff, he also only grades out as average on the command. He walked 100 batting in 343 minors league innings, which is not a red flag, but also not typical for a soft tosser. The other concern is that Zeuch does give up a ton of hard contact. While only one start, his opponent’s Hard Hit line sits at 54.5%. 

Even with all of that, owners should be buying. For one, Zeuch allowed only six homers in 78 innings at Triple-A. This kept up as he did not allow a bomb in his first four innings with the Jays. While he did give up two runs, he also struck out four. A clear pitch-to-contact arm, Zeuch only averaged 4 K per nine innings in the minors, and owners should not expect that to change. While the counting numbers will not be there, the pitch-mix has proved effective with the changing offensive landscape. The only concern is his role on the team. Stock is up with the early returns on his pitch mix, and even with a potential pitch cap, the overall package will factor. 


Rookie Debuts - Stock Down

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

Sheldon Neuse (3B, OAK)

Drafted by the Nationals, and dealt to the Athletics for Sean Doolittle, Neuse, much like Hilliard, is only up due to roster expansion. Matt Chapman is not going anywhere, and even first seems to be covered for the long term. Neuse has not played at all in the outfield, so designated hitter appears to be his best chance. The good news is that he has been raking at Triple-A this year. Through 126 games Neuse was slashing .317/.389/.550 with 27 homers and 31 doubles. Add in the 99 runs, and he was one of the best hitters in all of the minors this last campaign.

And yet, when looking to his start with the Athletics, the numbers are not good. Through his first five games, Neuse only has three hits and has only made contact on 12 pitches. After he only batted .263 and fit five homers in 136 games at Triple-A in 2018, the ball seems to be a key factor in his 2019 emergence. Not only did Neuse see a sudden spike in his power output, but put together his best season in pro ball. While owners should not write off Neuse for 2020 and beyond, the stock is down this year. Even with a .253 xBA, the ceiling is still too low based on this start.


Willi Castro (SS, DET)

Traded by Cleveland for Leonys Martin, Castro has always been known as a great fielder. The only reason, according to reports around the deal last summer, that Castro was even on the move was the organization’s existing depth up the middle. Francisco Lindor was never going to move, and second is taken by either Tyler Freeman or Jason Kipnis next year. This meant that Castro was expendable, but Cleveland also did not see him emerging at the plate. A career .263 batter before be reached Triple-A, Castro was developing as a singles-heavy utility player. Once he got to Triple-A, Castro hit .301 and even started to show some power. A change in scenery leading to a sudden emergence is not unheard of, but the track record needs to factor into roster decisions. 

As even more evidence to avoid, once he has gotten to Detroit, the hot bat has cooled off fast. Not only is he batting .200 through 12 games, but he has also walked once compared to 18 Ks. With an xBA of .183, there is not much hope for fantasy owners with this Tiger prospect. The ball is leaving the bat 18% below league average, and he has only batted 28 of the 185 pitches he has seen. The stock is down based on a disappointing first two weeks.  

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