The following rookies are all in spots where the door is open for them to produce, meaning a few hiccups shouldn’t mean a trip back to the bench or the Minors. They aren’t the top of the 2017 crop but they’re all Fantasy relevant with an upside that should pay off in the long run. They’re also the best options for their real-life managers and will thus get every opportunity to produce for Fantasy owners.
Even though rookies are a tough nut to crack, these waiver wire grabs can and will make you look smart in the coming weeks and months.
Ring the Bell for Bucs 1B
Josh Bell finally started to hit this past week. The first baseman hit safely in all five of his starts and smacked his first two homers of the season. This sort of production is something Fantasy owners should expect moving forward, and for the 24-year-old’s stock to continue to rise.
Just look at his .237 BABIP through his first 50 at-bats (18 games) this season. That explains his .220 batting average, and that’s bound to course correct. Once it does, Bell’s numbers will align with his career .303 batting average in five Minor League seasons, and the .273 average he put up in 45 games last season.
With the Bucs letting the Top 50 prospect get his seasoning in the Majors, Bell is a buy low, high ceiling player that I expect him to build on his promising debut. Plus, since Starling Marte‘s suspension, he’s batted second multiple times. If that becomes a trend, hitting in the top third of the Pirates lineup will be an added perk for Fantasy owners. Bank on Bell to continue heating up as the weather gets warmer and add him in both NL-only and mixed leagues.
Grab Gurriel as Corner Infield Option
Another MLB rookie who has a clear path to at-bats is the Astros Yuli Gurriel. Houston has him locked in at first base, and he’s already batting over .300 this year. His counting stats haven’t caught up to his on-base skills just yet, but the Astros lineup is completely stacked, meaning that Gurriel can and will produce despite hitting in the bottom-third.
The Cuban import is good for 70 runs and RBIs along with at least 10 homers and a batting average that will only help your squad. He’s a rookie only in name with a veteran’s pedigree and looks locked in right now — 10 hits in 21 ABs with a 1.284 OPS. Make a move for the corner infielder in mixed leagues before another owner beats you to the punch.
Astros Starter Should Show Gains
On the other side of the ball for Astros is starter Joe Musgrove. The right-hander is off to a less than appetizing start with a 5.91 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and 13 strikeouts in 21-plus innings, making him a buy-low candidate if I’ve ever seen one.
While that may not look like a pitcher you want on your Fantasy team, Musgrove will be in the rotation in Houston — a first-place team with the aforementioned-stacked lineup. He also struck out nearly a batter an inning (55) over 62 innings last season, while walking just 16. The former first-round pick has had a bit of bad luck across the board this season with a .300 BABIP and an xFIP (a great predictor of future pitching success) of more than a full run below his current ERA.
Musgrove will have more good than bad outings, and, with that lineup, he should eek out an extra few wins, even on off days. His last start was the epitome of that — he gave up four runs in the first, pitched through six, and the Astros came back to win the game 6-4 in extra innings. This all adds up to making Musgrove a solid streamer in AL-only and mixed leagues.
Make Montgomery A Must Add
Jordan Montgomery was my favorite two-start pitcher on the waiver wire last week. And in those two outings he logged two quality starts, nine strikeouts and a win. He actually pitched well enough to notch two victories, but took a tough-luck loss in a 2-1 game versus the Pirates on Sunday.
He’s going to be part of the Yankees rotation for the foreseeable future, and the strikeout per inning he’s averaging is right in line with his Minor League stats from last season. Across three levels in 2016, all Montgomery did was put up 2.13 ERA and 134/45 K/BB ratio over 139.1 innings.
Maybe it’s that I’m a Yankees fan, or it could be that I’ve actually watched all of his starts, but Montgomery is the real deal and should be added in AL-only and mixed leagues across the board.
Altherr Excelling As Injury Replacement
A late add to this week’s column, but an important add nonetheless, Aaron Altherr is fully taking advantage of the opportunity that arose from Howie Kendrick’s oblique injury. Altherr has been a top prospect for the Phillies for a few years now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned into a Wally Pipp situation.
Since being inserted into Philadelphia’s lineup, the big outfielder is batting .429 with seven runs scored, four RBIs, one homer, and two stolen bases. Plus, Altherr is batting second, and he is definitely talented enough to keep the job.
Sure, the Phillies spent good money on Kendrick and Michael Saunders this offseason, but Altherr provides something more than those guys do in an everyday role. In his first trip to The Show in 2015, he had 20 extra-base hits (11 doubles, four triples, and five homers) in 161 plate appearances, making him an intriguing five-tool player. If he keeps this up, and I think he will, Kendrick will be pushed into a utility role, which would make Altherr a mixed league must add.
Rookies continue to be a tough group to predict, but it looks like the time is now to make a move for this group of underrated options.