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We were blessed with two huge fantasy baseball stars emerging from the rookie class in 2017. Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger burst onto the scene and owned the AL and NL, respectively, Rookie of the Year honors.

Now, it’s time to examine the 2017 rookies and determine who will learn from their inaugural campaign and shine in their sophomore season. I’m already ruling out Judge and Bellinger. I’m also excluding Andrew Benintendi, since he was the only rookie to hit 20 home runs, deliver 100 RBI, and steal 20 bases.

Here are some sophomores ready to shine in 2018.

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Second-Year Players Ready for Stardom

Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia fans are still celebrating their city’s Super Bowl victory and now the excitement should carry over into baseball season in anticipation for Rhys Hoskins to become the new face of the franchise. Last year, if you removed the qualifying plate appearances tag, Hoskins finished third among all hitters with a .359 ISO (212 PA). Hoskins walked 17.5 percent of the time and struck out 21.7 percent of his AB.

When looking at more of his advanced metrics, Hoskins continued to impress. His .417 wOBA was fifth among all hitters (behind Mike Trout, J.D. Martinez, Aaron Judge, and Joey Votto).

Hoskins didn’t begin playing in the bigs until August 10th. With a full season on the horizon, Hoskins is poised to become a household name in the fantasy baseball world. Remember, it’s pronounced “Reece.”

 

Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics

As I did in the writeup for Hoskins, if you removed the qualifying plate appearances tag, there sits a surprising name at the top of the ISO list from 2017, Matt Olson. In 216 plate appearances, Olson produced a .261 ISO against lefties and a staggering .434 ISO against right-handed pitchers.

The biggest concern I have for Olson is that he attempts to replicate his nearly improbable home run stats from last season. He blasted 24 homers in 59 games. We had 83 players hit at least 24 home runs last season and the second-lowest number of AB was Ian Happ, another rookie, with 364 AB. Olson did it with 189 AB.

 

Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox

The quote, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from swinging,” is contributed to Babe Ruth, but it could be applied to Devers’ approach to the plate, too. In his rookie season, Devers swung at 50.7 percent of the pitches he saw at the dish. Devers also swung at 36.1 percent of the pitches that would be considered a “ball” by the umpire.

In comparison, Pablo Sandoval (a name Boston fans are very familiar with), led all third basemen last year with a 57.5 percentage of swings and 43 percent swing rate outside of the zone.

So, while Devers’ numbers aren’t astronomical, they could still be improved. With a year under his belt, and the confidence of manager Alex Cora, Devers could breakthrough in 2018 and become a bargain for a fantasy owner.

 

Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox

Well, we already have one reason to like Moncada going into the 2018 season, he’s been named as the leadoff hitter for the White Sox.

Last year, Moncada was fourth among second basemen with a 32 percent strikeout rate. However, he was also seventh in the same group with a 12.6 walk percentage. Compact all those numbers with the fact that 39 percent of Moncada’s hits in 2017 were for extra-bases and you get the enigma who is Yoan Moncada.

Now, as we get ready for his sophomore season, what can we expect from Moncada? The role of the leadoff hitter is to see pitches and get on base. Moncada can do both of those things. Stealing bases is also in the realm of possibility. Though Moncada only swiped three bags in 2017 for the MLB club, he stole at least 45 bases in back-to-back seasons in the minors (2015 and 2016).

 

Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals

After a phenomenal 2017 rookie season, it seems as though people are forgetting about DeJong in their fantasy drafts.

When looking at all shortstops last season, only one finished with more home runs than DeJong (25 HR), Francisco Lindor (Didi Gregorius tied DeJong). The Cardinals shortstop played in 51 fewer games than Lindor, yet hit only eight fewer home runs (28 fewer games than Gregorius).

St. Louis rewarded DeJong by signing him to a six-year, $26 million extension. Fantasy baseball fans have rewarded him by… drafting DeJong as the 13th shortstop in NFBC leagues (151st overall).

While I would still recommend drafting the SS studs (Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Lindor, Alex Bregman, and Corey Seager) over DeJong, he should at least crack the Top 10. DeJong produced a .247 ISO in 2017. Though he didn’t qualify for enough plate appearances, DeJong trailed only Zack Cozart (.251 ISO) among shortstops. Regression shouldn't be a big enough concern to avoid this young power-hitting middle infielder.

 

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