At the risk of sounding like a grandpa, today’s fantasy baseball’s expectations just aren’t as reasonable as they used to be. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have done mythical things on the baseball field at an absurdly early age. A side effect has been that they have perhaps skewed the expectations of what should be expected for a rookie on your fantasy baseball team.
The hype machine raises the roof on what a rookie can accomplish, meaning the ceilings we’re placing on several rookies are entirely unrealistic. For the next 450 words I’ll talk about 2 highly hyped rookies of myth and legend, one pitcher and one hitter, but give you are realistic comparison for the production of the rookie in their prime.
Let’s start with Jackie Bradley, the 20-year-old outfielder for the Boston Red Sox who hit the cover off the ball in Spring Training, only to struggle in the Majors and get shipped back to Triple A. He was a trendy pickup to begin the season and I heard for gaudy expectations thrown around. But what can we expect from Bradley when he rights the ship and is eventually called back to The Show for good.
The first comp that pops to mind is Norichika Aoki. Despite his slow start, I’m a fan of Aoki and have written about him before. He’ll strike about right around the same rate that he walks which is something we’ll ultimately see out of Bradley. That’s makes them great for OBP leagues.
Second, Aoki will swipe 20+ bases, which is a fair over/under for Bradley. Not blazers, but smart on the basepaths. Bradley might have a bit more upside in the power department, but is you bank on 12 you won’t be disappointed.
Over a full season of at bats from the leadoff position and you are looking at a 80 12 50 22 .280 line. Both player’s best seasons will see an uptick in a couple of the categories, but on average you are looking at a fine 3rd or 4th fantasy outfielder, also known as Denard Span. Helpful, but nothing to build a team around, so reset those expectations accordingly.
Jose Fernandez is a 20-year-old Cuban defector who once jumped off a raft to save his mom from drowning is being hyped and compared to Doc Gooden. I should be clear that the comparison is not Cuban raft hopping, but the fact that Doc pitched a 24 W / 3 L, 1.53 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 268 K line in 276 innings as a 20-year-old. Dear Lord, I really sound like a grandpa, but they simply don’t make pitchers like they used to.
Step back from Doc Gooden comparison as it won’t happen this year for Fernandez. But what is a reasonable expectation in Jose’s prime? First, no pitcher in baseball will get 276 innings this season, much less the Miami Marlins youngster. But other 20-year-olds have pitched nearly 200, including CC Sabathia, Fernando Valenzuela, Felix Hernandez, Rick Ankiel (remember that, kids?), and Rick Porcello. Drop to around 150 innings and you get Bret Saberhagen and Zack Greinke, lofty company.
A quick peek at that list and you can see why Jose Fernandez is as hyped as he is! Well, he’ll be better than Rick Porcello even this season. Based upon strikeout and walk rates and I think Fernandez will put up numbers similar to Sabathia, minus the Wins. But that’s two years from now, assuming he doesn’t develop Sabathia’s body type (he won’t). Fernandez is a star in the making.
So there you have a realistic comparable for two hyped rookies. One is a player to stash because his prime years could make him one of fantasy baseball’s best pitchers, while the other could make a fine 3rd outfielder. Sorry neither will reach mythic status this season.
Are you interested in comparables for other rookies? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.