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As the New Year has finally come, and fantasy football is over, at last, fantasy baseball draft season is right around the corner. With that comes mock drafts, draft previews, ADP analysis, and of course, player recommendations. This article will help owners get ready by looking to the National League All-Star team of rookies to target in 2019 redraft leagues. These players will have cheap ADPs, but reward owners with valuable returns.

A few notes about drafting rookies before jumping into the players themselves: first, with every rookie that has high upside, teams will be ready to stash those players in the minors until they can add an additional year of service time. This means that for every rookie drafted, owners should make sure that they add a cheap cover option for the position until May or June. Second, with every rookie, the fact that they have option years means regular trips to the minors might happen. This primarily affects pitchers but has been a growing trend with hitters as well. Not only should owners already have a cover, hence recommendation one, but also should not be motivated to drop players right away. They can be back within a week or two, and often are.

With that, read along and add these players to draft lists and targets. With rookies comes great upside but also a significant risk, but that is how owners win titles.

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C - Francisco Mejia (C, SD)

The main question surrounding Mejia entering 2019 is “where will he play?” Currently, and for the sake of fantasy drafts, he is listed as a catcher, but might also pick up some eligibility in the outfield and infield as things progress. Where he plays will also affect how much he has to produce, as staying at catcher reduces the hitting floor a bit and might make him a more valuable piece.

In his limited time in the majors, he has not played all that well, and last season, only slashed .179/.258/.375 in 21 games. The minor league numbers are much better, and most expect him to at least hit about .280 with the Padres as the low end of the outcomes. Petco Park is a definite negative for the profile as well. While he does rate as having plus contact, the power is perhaps average, and with the park factors, will play out below average.

Owners looking at Mejia might have to wait for him to take over the starting role, but he should play in the field enough to get close to his ADP value at 239. Keep an eye on Spring Training for more news, but draft Mejia as, at worst, a timeshare behind the plate.

 

1B - Peter Alonso (1B, NYM)

Alonso has quickly moved up prospect rankings, and owners who were lucky enough to jump in early are excited for what they have on their hands. With the “bust” of Dominic Smith, Alonso seems to be in line for a real shot at the position this year, as currently Jeff McNeil is listed as the starting first baseman.

While McNeil should be on the field, his best spot is as a utility player for the rest of the infield, opening first for the surging Alonso once he can avoid service time issues. Last year, across two levels, Alonso smashed 36 homers in 132 games and added 92 runs and 119 RBI. While the batting line dropped a bit at Triple-A, down to .260/.355/.585, the overall production makes it look like he is ready for the promotion to New York.

Alonso does not rate all that well with the glove, so he will need to stay at first with no DH in the National League. Currently, he is going at pick 245, so he is cheap enough to wait out the promotion, but expect the power to play up when he does. Thirty-five plus homers in a full season should be the expectation once he hits his peak.

 

2B - Nick Senzel (2B/3B, CIN)

After injuries took away most of his 2018 campaign, Senzel looks to be a key player in Cincinnati's plans this year. While most have him listed as an infielder, there has been some talk that he might shift to the outfield as needed, but with recent trades for Yasiel Puig, that seems to be diminishing a bit. Still, long thought of as one of the best prospects in the game, this should be the year that Senzel gets a chance to perform, and the hit tool seems to be ready for that test.

In 44 games last year at Triple-A, Senzel slashed .310/.378/.509 with six homers and eight steals, showing the multi-category production that most can expect. Some have rated the hit tool as a 65 plus, and this demonstrates how respected he is around the industry. The 225 ADP is a steal if he hits, and there is a good chance of that if he is starting right away this year.

 

3B - Ke'Bryan Hayes (3B, PIT)

Coming into the offseason, this spot would have been Atlanta’s Austin Riley, but with the signing of Josh Donaldson, owners can expect him to stay down at Triple-A for most of the year. At least that is, unless the aging vet gets hurt. Therefore, moving to the player without the $23 million blocker, Hayes seems to be the best of the Triple-A third basemen for fantasy baseball. Even with Colin Moran ahead of him, Hayes looks to be at least the equal concerning contact and should offer a bit more in the way of power.

Hayes put in a full year at Double-A in 2018, and in 117 games slashed .293/.375/.444 with seven homers and 12 steals. The walk rate was up at 11.2%, and the K rate was a healthy 16.5%. The defense is what should sell owners, as this will keep him at third even without more power. Hayes, when he debuts, will be a plus contact batter who can run into enough power to make this a steal at the current 717 ADP. Moran might not have long to hold the position if Hayes surges and shows off his new found power.

 

SS - Luis Urias (SS, SD)

Urias has been one of the top prospects in the San Diego system for a few years and finally made it to the team last year for 12 games. Even with little time under his belt, he is currently slotted in as the starting shortstop with the departure of Freddy Galvis to free agency.

During his time in the minors, Urias has been a high contact, plus glove player who offers a bit of speed and power to boot. While he will not steal 20 bases or hit more than six to eight homers a year, the glove will keep him in the starting lineup for the long term. There was some concern with the signing of Ian Kinsler that Urias might see less playing time, but the organization seems to have no problem moving him over to shortstop.

This helps his fantasy value and makes him easy to draft and start from day one. Still, it might take 20 games or so for him to gain shortstop eligibility, so be aware when constructing a team. While the ceiling is not high on Urias, the hit tool will carry him, and at the very least, will make him a pivotal contributor to team average in roto.

 

OF - Alex Verdugo (OF, LAD)

It remains to be seen if Verdugo will be with the Dodgers as the season starts, but if he is, he will compete for a starting spot during the spring. In 37 games with the Dodgers to end 2018, Verdugo slashed .260/.329/.377 with one homer and 11 runs. The minor league numbers are much more promising, with a .329/.391/.472 slash and ten homers at Triple-A.

While never known as a power threat, Verdugo will hit enough to keep a corner spot, even without the glove to stick in center. He does have an above-average arm, keeping him as a valuable defender compared to some of the other options in Los Angeles. His current ADP is 384, meaning that if he gets to his Steamer projected 133 games, he will be excellent value for the last man on the bench type draft slot. The other reason to be in on Verdugo is his plate discipline, with a 12.4% K rate at Triple-A. If there is a projectable skill that will let a fantasy asset play up, it is not making outs at the plate.

 

OF - Mike Tauchman (OF, COL)

Researching this piece, to see that Tauchman was still rookie eligible was a bit of a surprise, but as a player who was not really on radars, this could be the breakout year. Not only is the added offensive production at Coors nice, but Tauchman quietly has demonstrated the skills to fit and thrive in that environment.

In 112 games at Triple-A, Tauchman slashed .323/.408/.571 with 20 homers and 12 steals. He also posted a 0.86 BB:K ratio, showing the plate skills as well. Now, the short stint he had with the Rockies in 2018 was abysmal, which should scare other owners away, making this a sneaky pick.

What sells Tauchman is the average power that should play up at Coors, turning this into a 20-homer floor versus top pitching, and with the speed threat, could see him post a 20/20 season if given the shot to play often. Also, any hitter with excellent plate skills will drop in extra hits at the BABIP environment that is Coors Field.  For a player going at an ADP of 748, Tauchman has OF3 upside with playing time.

 

OF - Victor Robles (OF, WSH)

While at the time of writing this, Bryce Harper has not yet made a decision, fantasy baseball owners do know than Robles and Juan Soto will make up two-thirds of the Nationals outfield in 2019. Robles is a typical average and speed combo prospect, but well above average regarding the return that owners are expecting.

After suffering an injury early in the year, and perhaps leading indirectly to Juan Soto’s breakout, Robles did get back on the field and appeared in 21 games for Washington. In those games, he slashed .299/.348/.525 with three homers and three stolen bases. The speed was on display prior as well; in 40 minor league games at Triple-A, he stole 14 bags, a 36 steal pace.

The other good news for owners is that Robles grades out as an elite fielder, meaning that center looks to be his job to lose for the 2019 campaign. With the hype around Robles, owners will need to pay a bit extra, as his current ADP is 96, but if he can hit .280 with 30 steals and 12 homers, that price is well worth it.

 

P - Merrill Kelly (SP, ARI)

While Kelly is coming back to the States after time in Japan, he never broke into the majors during his time here prior. This means that there will be a ton of unknown about his value, and how accurate his numbers from previous seasons are in predicting his 2019 production. Some have made the comparison with Miles Mikolas, who is the same age as Kelly, but the latter seems to throw harder, giving him an even higher ceiling.

His last year with the Tampa Bay Rays was in 2014 when he posted an ERA of 2.76 and an 8.53 K/9 at Durham. Right now he is slated to start the year in the Diamondbacks’ rotation giving him a reasonably high floor compared to others on the list who will start in the minors. What owners do know is that Chase Field is now a better place to pitch, and while the team might not be a playoff team, they should be closer to .500 than last place. With an ADP of 560 and a starting place in the rotation to boot, this is an easy draft and hold as an SP5 with upside.

 

P - Caleb Ferguson (SP/RP, LAD)

Ferguson appeared with the Dodgers last year, mostly out of the bullpen, but flashed his upside when he got the chance to shine. In 29 games, he posted an ERA of 3.49 with seven wins and a 10.84 K/9. If Ferguson stays in the bullpen, this is a multi-inning option with elite stuff that can continue to steal some wins. The better option for fantasy owners is that he finds a spot in the crowded Dodger rotation, as he has the stuff to make that work.

As of right now, the hurler has four pitches. While he mostly throws fastball/curveball out of the pen, he has flashed a slider and change as well. What stands out about Ferguson is that opposing batters did not chase more than average, with only a 28.2% O-swing rate, but the stuff still played up, hinting that he is getting good calls from behind the plate. If this is the case, and those other pitches start to play up, then Ferguson is poised for the next step. And, at an ADP of 654, this is another dart worth throwing.

 

P - Mitch Keller (SP, PIT)

Keller’s draft stock and ultimate fantasy worth will depend on how competitive the Pirates are to start the year. If they find themselves hanging around in the hunt, the Keller might be that extra arm added to the pen, in a Corbin Burnes-style role. If not, and they are out of the hunt, which seems to be the more likely option, then Keller should be a given a chance to start this year, and show what he can do.

As a long time top pitching prospect in the game, Keller is perhaps a well-known name already, but the organization has taken their time moving him up the ladder. The 2019 campaign will be his sixth year in professional baseball, and other than his stint at Triple-A last year, he has not struggled once. Keller mixes in three pitches, with a plus fastball and curve, balanced by an average change-up.

The command rates out well, but the walks are still a bit of a red flag. At Double-A last year, he averaged 3.35 BB/9, and this jumped to 3.78 at Triple-A. This is not terrible, but clearly, something that is still in the works for the young pitcher. Keller will never be a fantasy ace but seems to have the floor of an SP3, and he should be there right from the start. Owners can get Keller at pick 485, so there is little reason to ignore him for the last spot on the bench.

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