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Top 5 Pitchers: MLB Prospects & Impact Rookies for 2015

It's All About Youth

The key to sustained success in keeper and dynasty leagues is identifying and acquiring the right young players. This much is clear, and obvious. In redraft leagues, however, cultivating this skill is also important and often overlooked.

Much is made of the value of minimizing risk. It's true that boring veterans often win leagues and that many prospects simply don't pan out. But we also see injury or ineffectiveness befall known quantities every season, while the high-risk hotshot yields even higher rewards. And though one of my guiding principles in fantasy is to prioritize logic over emotion, it's important to remember that what we are ultimately doing is playing a game. It's supposed to be fun! There is nothing more exciting than a gamble paying off, than seeing the prospect or rookie or post-hype sleeper you've championed exceed your wildest expectations.

To that end, here's the first in RotoBaller's series on the best MLB prospect and rookie bets for the 2015 fantasy baseball season. We begin as the game does: On the mound.

Carlos Rodon, SP, Chicago White Sox

The third overall pick in last year's amateur draft, Carlos Rodon made a mere seven appearances (five starts) in the minors but is a candidate for the final spot in the major league rotation. His competition? Brad Penny. Yes, he's still in the league. He's also 37 and hasn't pitched a full season with an ERA below 4.88 since Dubya was The Decider.

The White Sox have been aggressive with promotions in recent years with players like Chris Sale and Gordon Beckham and are clearly looking to contend after a busy offseason. Rodon has the tools and the build (6'3", 235), but teammates have also been impressed with his maturity. He may open the season in the minors or in the bullpen, but he figures to get a shot sooner rather than later. Rodon's cameo in the minors was marked by gaudy strikeout totals and a high walk rate. The latter is concerning, but Don Cooper is basically God as far as pitching coaches go. He'll fix it.

 

Noah Syndergaard, SP, New York Mets

Nobody seems particularly concerned with Noah Syndergaard's struggles in Triple-A last year, and they shouldn't be. The inflated ERA and WHIP were a product of lousy luck, as Syndergaard was saddled with a .378 BABIP and a 67.2 LOB%. He still struck out over a batter per inning and posted solid walk and home run rates.

Even with the news that Zack Wheeler will need Tommy John surgery, the Mets plan to have Syndergaard start the season in the minors. They have sneaky wild card potential, though, and they haven't made the playoffs in nearly a decade. So they might want to give the kid a shot rather than toss Dillon Gee out there every fifth day. When you consider that Matt Harvey will likely have his innings capped coming off his own TJ and that Bartolo Colon bears more than a passing resemblance to Pizza the Hutt, it seems like only a matter of time before Syndergaard gets the chance to challenge major leaguers with his triple digit heat.

 

Taijuan Walker, SP, Seattle Mariners

Taijuan Walker appears to be running away with the final spot in the Mariners' rotation, which is not unexpected. Though his walk rate was a bit worrisome, Walker also missed bats at a solid clip in his truncated 2014. Reports have him ditching his borderline-useless cutter for a slider that's drawing rave reviews. Yeah, spring training and small samples and all those fun little caveats apply. Assuming this is a tangible improvement to his repertoire, Seattle will have one of the better fifth starters in baseball this season.

 

Aaron Sanchez, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

Marcus Stroman's injury was a huge bummer, but it also created an opportunity for Aaron Sanchez to make his mark in the rotation. As a reliever last season, Sanchez posted a sparkling 1.09 ERA (2.80 FIP) in 33 innings. Granted, that .157 BABIP has nowhere to go but up, yet his 64.9 GB% bodes well in that department. Perhaps the most encouraging sign in Sanchez's first taste of big league action was that he flashed drastically improved command.  He'll need to maintain that profile to fulfill his top of the rotation potential, but with three plus pitches including a fastball that touches 98, he's got the arsenal to get there.

 

Andrew Heaney, SP, Los Angeles Angels

Andrew Heaney struggled in his debut last season - enough that the Marlins sent him back to the minors. It wasn't all bad, though. His walk rate remained excellent, and he induced a good amount of grounders and pop-ups. Now with the Angels after a pair of trades this winter, Heaney appears to have a firm grip on a spot in the rotation. Based on his top-10 pick pedigree and impressive track record in the minors, expecting more strikeouts and way fewer home runs this time around is reasonable. Heaney doesn't have the ceiling of the other guys on this list but still figures to be an asset.

 

Check back throughout the remainder of this month for more young guns to keep an eye on this season. Next on the docket: Corner infielders. You'll never guess who's ranked first!

 




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