By Rob Leibowitz
One week into the season, we no longer have to guess who the Opening Day rookies are. We know who they are, and we know where to find them (no, that's not a threat, just a fact).
PT will fuel Pastornicky
Quite a number of National League rookies are catchers. In particular, the Reds' Devin Mesoraco and Colorado's Wilin Rosario are their teams' #2 catchers. Ahead of them are Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez, respectively, so this is nothing more than a stop-gap/apprenticeship situation for both. I am a bigger fan of Mesoraco, who has an advanced approach at the plate that combines patience, contact hitting, and 20+ HR potential. Rosario has similar, if not superior, power potential, but has a very aggressive approach that makes me think of Miguel Olivo.
Some other newbie catchers are the Cubs' Steve Clevenger, San Francisco's Hector Sanchez, and the Cardinals' Tony Cruz. Journeyman Clevenger has an approach reminiscent of Paul Lo Duca and Josh Thole, but has superior defensive prowess to either and could impress if the stars align correctly. Sanchez plays in a heavy catching organization and is not going to get much playing time as long as Buster Posey remains behind the plate. I actually like the switch-hitter quite a bit as a solid defender with gap power and a good history for making contact. Cruz is a defense-only guy with a cannon arm and not worth your notice for fantasy purposes.
The shortstop spot contains a pair of starters in Tyler Pastornicky and Zack Cozart. Cozart only retained his rookie status due to requiring Tommy John surgery last year. The 26-year-old provides solid defense, double-digit home run power, contact hitting, and good base-running smarts that could result in double-digit steals. On the downside, he's a bit too aggressive and is right-handed, limiting his batting average and OBP potential. Pastornicky has only single-digit-per-season home run potential, but is an above average defender with legitimate 20-stolen-base-per-season speed. Combine that with the righty's above-average plate discipline and you have a possible .280 to .300 hitter.
Other rookie middle infielders include Steve Lombardozzi, Yamaico Navarro, Freddy Galvis and Marwin Gonzalez. Lombardozzi makes consistent contact, has a tick above average speed, gap power, and plays solid defense. Nothing special, but could hit .260 to .280 with 15 to 20 steals given an opportunity. Gonzalez, a Rule 5 draft pick, is a good glove guy with good control of the strike zone, but lacks power or blazing speed to take advantage of it. In other words, he's a utility player. Navarro is also a utility player. The righty has better offensive tools than Gonzalez, including pop, but even though Navarro is listed sometimes as a shortstop, it is not his best position at all. Finally, Galvis is seeing regular playing time with Chase Utley disabled. The switch-hitter offers little fantasy potential as an aggressive contact hitter with limited speed, though good base-stealing instincts and gap power. The switch hitter's main calling cards are tremendous range and soft hands. That should keep Galvis in the Majors for awhile.
The corner is headlined by Yonder Alonso, but also includes intriguing journeymen Brett Pill and Matt Carpenter. The left-handed Alonso had a rough spring, but has demonstrated repeatedly in his minor league career 20+ HR potential and excellent plate discipline that should allow him to hit for average as well as power. PETCO Park may limit the latter skill. Pill hit 27 homers combined at two stops in 2011, yet he is on the Giants' bench after Brandon Belt won the first base job. At 27 the righty bat has peaked as an above-average contact hitter with 20+ HR power. It is hard to see Pill gaining regular playing time in San Francisco unless there is an injury, but should an opportunity arise, get him. Carpenter's situation is similar as a 26-year-old at his ceiling. Unlike Pill, Carpenter only has modest power, but is a lefty with a very advanced plate approach and solid 3B defense. Carpenter is blocked by David Freese, but Freese's skill set screams “right-handed platoon player” which could eventually provide an opportunity for Carpenter.
In the outfield for the Mets is Kirk Nieuwenhuis, a player with modest talents and skills. The lefty profiles as a platoon player with 15-15 skills and solid OBP abilities. While he can play center field, he is best suited to a corner and his bat is too lacking to be a starter there.
Randall Delgado is filling in for the injured Tim Hudson and has upper-end-of-the-rotation potential with an electric fastball, plus curve, and average change. The 22-year-old's command and consistency, on the other hand, are still works in progress.
Lance Lynn was a prominent part of the Cardinals' bullpen last season but is a starter again. As a reliever, Lynn hit the upper-nineties and used a fastball and curve combination. As a starter the righty uses four solid pitches, gets groundballs, and has decent control. He is worth owning regardless of his role.
In the bullpen we have raw throwers in the Cubs' Rafael Dolis and the Astros' Rhiner Cruz. Both can reach the mid to upper nineties and have high ceilings, but have suspect command. Wade Miley is Arizona's long man. I like the lefty's deep repertoire, pitchability, and groundball skills, but his talent suggests back-end-of-the-rotation type. Josh Lindblom, Dodgers, has a good fastball-slider combo and solid control. The righty can throw in a curve and change to mix things up from his days as starter. Former first-round pick Joe Savery is now 27 years old and has new life as left-handed specialist reliever for the Phillies. Finally, Anthony Bass and Brad Brach made the Padres' bullpen, and Bass will actually get a chance at a rotation spot given San Diego's SP injuries. Bass was a fifth-round pick, Brach a 42nd. Bass has the better raw stuff, but Brach has added velocity and much better command, but lacks a plus quality second pitch. Bass has secondary pitches, but has command issues.