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Fantasy Baseball Rookie Report - Prospect Risers and Fallers for Week 3

Jeremy Pena fantasy baseball rankings rookies prospects shortstop draft sleepers

The 2022 season is underway and MLB rookies are already making headlines — for all the right reasons and also for the wrong ones. Teams were much more aggressive in promoting top prospects to the majors to begin the season — with notably less Triple-A experience under their belts than in past years.

So far, 24 rookie hitters have received 20 or more at-bats, with 10 players producing a 100 wRC+ or better. This excludes Seiya Suzuki, whom I do not qualify as a true rookie. And while we’ve seen some encouraging offensive performances so far, strikeouts have been a significant issue for rookies. 12 of the 24 rookies have a strikeout rate of 25% or higher — with eight surpassing 30%. Top young hitters like Julio Rodriguez, Bobby Witt Jr., and C.J. Abrams have struggled while less known prospects Steven Kwan, Seth Beer, and Jeremy Pena have quickly impressed.

We’re obviously still dealing with small sample sizes — even more so with the young pitching — but we can still make some recommendations on how to approach the fantasy baseball prospects and rookies class of 2022 in your redraft leagues.

Be sure to check all of our preseason fantasy baseball rankings for Roto, Points, H2H, dynasty, best ball, prospects and more:

 

C.J. Abrams, SS/OF, San Diego Padres

I honestly didn’t think there was any chance Abrams would open the year in San Diego given his lost development time over the past two years. But the Padres are desperate to try anything and everything to win so here he is. So far, the results have not been encouraging — although a speedster like this is not going to produce a BABIP below .100 for long.

Luck will no doubt help Abrams turn things around to a degree but he needs consistent at-bats to build up his confidence. He has yet to show he can hit anything but fastballs. With just 76 games of pro experience, a trip back to the minors will likely be necessary at some point and I really don’t think he’s going to be relevant in redraft leagues in 2022 — except perhaps for the stolen bases.

Recommendation: In redraft leagues, Abrams is better saved for 2023 unless you’re desperate for steals.

 

Julio Rodriguez, OF, Seattle Mariners

There is a reason why I previously predicted Rodriguez wouldn’t be in the majors until May — spring stats are notoriously unreliable and he has just 46 games of experience above A-ball. As hot as this young hitter was in March, he was equally ice-cold to start off April. The biggest thing that sticks out is the nearly-50% strikeout rate. That’s just ugly. The second issue is that Rodriguez is mostly being thrown breaking balls and he’s struggling mightily.

A trip to Triple-A to being 2022 would have given Rodriguez a healthy dose of better breaking balls than he saw in the lower minors. Unfortunately, Seattle has handled young hitters very poorly in recent years with Jarred Kelenic and Taylor Trammell as recent examples of promising prospects that have struggled in The Show. Although he's been picking things up a bit recently, Rodriguez may need a three-to-four week trip down to Triple-A at some point.

Recommendation: Rodriguez will figure things out to a degree but he’s more 2023 relevant.

 

Joey Bart, C, San Francisco Giants

Adley Rutschman was all the rage heading into 2022 but an injury has held him back and allowed other impressive young catchers to get a head start on the season, including Keibert Ruiz and Bart. The Giants’ young catcher has a worrisome strikeout rate (60%) but he’s done a nice job of seeing more pitches and boosting his walks presence to go with his plus power.

He’s crushing everything he gets his bat on — including both fastballs and breaking balls. If he keeps up the improved approach — easier said than done — then he could end up as the top offensive rookie catcher this year. Being out of the shadow of Buster Posey appears to have lifted some of the pressure.

Recommendation: Snag him for the power but be prepared for a .210-.220 batting average.

 

Seth Beer, DH/1B, Arizona Diamondbacks

Beer is off to a solid start and has so far justified my prediction that he would be one of the better rookies in 2022 due to his skillset and strong track record. The young hitter is batting .341 through his first 15 games and has been making consistent contact. He’s produced consistently-good at-bats while showing some power — with more to come as his shoulder continues to get stronger.

If Cooper Hummel continues to struggle, Beer should receive even more playing time, which is exactly what should be happening on a rebuilding club because his ceiling is higher. Beer’s advanced metrics suggest he’s been lucky but I expect him to continue to get more confident and start barrelling up the ball more consistently.

Recommendation: Buy Beer now while you still can.

 

Jeremy Pena, SS, Houston Astros

Pena is another player I didn’t expect to be up yet but the club has a lot of confidence in this young player who missed most of the 2021 season and has just 30 games of experience above A-ball. This middle infielder is an aggressive hitter, which could eventually hurt him once his scouting report makes its way around the league and pitchers start to offer him more off-speed stuff.

Pena slugged 10 home runs in 30 games at the Triple-A level in 2021, but the ball seemed to have quite a bit of extra juice at that level last year so I’m hesitant to say he’s a 20+ homer guy this year. Although he’s been stinging the ball so far, and you never know what games MLB is going to play with the baseball. Pena is a player that I want to see a full month’s worth of results/data before I buy into him as a redraft-relevant contributor in 2022.

Recommendation: Buy now but temper your enthusiasm until we have three to four weeks of data.

 

Brock Burke, RP, Texas Rangers

Burke was a top-pitching prospect a couple of years ago before he shredded his shoulder. Now pitching in relief, he’s looked excellent so far and has been dominating with his two best pitches (four-seam fastball and slider). In a relief role, he should continue to throw those two offerings the majority of the time.

On the downside, Burke is allowing a lot of hard-hit balls and a lot of balls in the air and on the line — a discouraging trend if it continues because he’s not going to continue to strike out big league hitters at a 55% clip. I see some upside in Burke as a reliever but if the always-pitching-needy Rangers get desperate and put him in the starting rotation, avoid him.

Recommendation: A solid, cheap option for strikeouts but with long-ball risk.

 

Jhoan Duran, RP, Minnesota Twins

I’ve been a big Duran fan for a few years and have long supported the idea of shifting him to the bullpen full-time, which the Twins have finally done. Duran has big-time velocity — he’s averaged ~100 mph on his heater so far — and gets a ton of ground balls on his splitter, which helps him avoid big innings.

On the down side, he doesn’t miss as many bats as he should because his command is iffy and his splitter is designed to be (weakly) put in play. With a questionable bullpen in Minnesota, I can easily envision Duran taking over the closer’s role in the second half of the year — if not sooner.

Recommendation: Buy Duran while you still can.

 

MacKenzie Gore, SP, San Diego Padres

After two tough years, Gore made his MLB debut on April 15th and was solid. He lacked command of his secondaries but his fastball was very good and averaged 96 mph. The fact he held his own despite unreliable secondary stuff bodes well for the future; with the debut jitters out of the way, we should see those secondaries start to shine.

On April 20th, Gore had an even better game, with seven strikeouts versus two walks, allowing just four hits and zero earned runs. The Padres still have a deep rotation even after the trade of Chris Paddack but injuries are always an issue so Gore should be able to stick around if he keeps throwing well.

Recommendation: Buy now for the high upside but expected inconsistency.



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