This year, we're finding out that baseball just isn't as easy for rookies as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper made it look last year. It just has been monotonous waiting for some minor leaguers to put up numbers worthy of a fantasy roster. As baseball's best prospects struggle to make an impact in the minor leagues -- we're looking at you, Wil Myers -- we decided it would be a good time to evaluate the impact rookies we do have in this week's Prospect Watch. Here are the fantasy's current rookie leaders and their projection for the rest of the season.
(Early sophomore statistical monsters Matt Harvey, Jean Segura, Manny Machado, Starling Marte and Jeff Locke just missed qualifying as rookies, by the way.)
1. SP Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals
The 22-year-old right-hander has easily been the star of the show, going 5-3 with a 1.74 ERA, 0.930 WHIP and 62 strikeouts in 57 innings. Owners now have to wonder what to expect from him going forward, because he sure looks like a top 20 fantasy ace? His teammate Lance Lynn is an ideal statistical comparison: he went 8-1 with a 2.54 ERA through May last year, before slumping in June (5.67) and having a devilish August (6.66). Miller is the better long term prospect, but he is not going win 18 games like Lynn did last year. If you have Miller, now is a good time to sell for a veteran ace, like a Matt Cain.
2. SP Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
Amid that big budget mess in Los Angeles, Ryu has been a bright spot. He has quietly stalked Miller's rookie pace and has a good chance to catch him for the NL Rookie of the Year award. Ryu, 26, is 5-2 with a 3.30 ERA, 1.261 WHIP and 60 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings, and, unlike Miller, has already pitched multiple seasons where he surpassed 200 innings as a pro in Korea. While Miller might slow around 180 innings, Ryu should remain on par for fantasy owners down the stretch. This makes him less of a sell-high rookie pitcher than most, even if he will wear down in the summer like fellow import Yu Darvish did a year ago.
3. RP Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers
We are just as surprised as you to see that the 30-year-old current Brewers closer still qualifies as a rookie. He has neither gone over the 45 days (on a non-25-man roster) service time, nor the 50 innings. With nine saves, a 0.95 ERA, 0.790 WHIP and 23 strikeouts in 19 innings, he looks plenty capable of keeping the closer's job for awhile. Ousted closer John Axford has pitched better of late, but he has a 6.00 ERA and a .316 batting-average against in save opportunities this season. Because of his role, Henderson might be the most valuable rookie in fantasy going forward.
4. C/OF Evan Gattis, Atlanta Braves
He is a man without a position now that Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann and Jason Heyward are all off the DL, but he is still popping homers even if he gets one pinch-hit at-bat a game. He has three homers in his past four games, during which he has started just once. For the season, he is hitting .256 with 10 homers, 27 RBI and 17 runs. He is blowing away all rookie hitters in homers and RBI and he isn't even an everyday player any more. With catcher eligibility, he can still be productive enough to start in deeper mixed leagues.
5. 2B/3B Jedd Gyorko, San Diego Padres
While most of these rookies are cooling down after starting hot, Gyorko is the opposite -- he's scorching after starting slowly. In May, he's hit .333, smacking all five of his homers, and has attained dual eligibility in all leagues between second and third base. His full-season numbers of .284-5-16-23 (.350-.451) would slot him as a top-10 fantasy second baseman by year's end if he can continue this pace, and his talent suggests he can even pick up the pace. He is a must-have fantasy player in mixed leagues now.
6. SP Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
Because he pitches before empty seats in South Florida, Fernandez has flown under the radar among rookies. But, seriously, the 20-year-old Cuban defector has a higher ceiling than anyone on this list. His fantasy value is stunted by pitch counts; he's been held to mostly around 80 pitches in most of his starts, coming close to 100 only once (99 on May 16), and he'll be limited to 180 innings this season. In all their incompetence, the Marlins are managing this future fantasy ace perfectly, although it is easier to do when the results don't matter to anyone.
7. SP Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati Reds (currently, Louisville Bats)
Cingrani was a gem of a find for the Reds, but they decided to keep Mike Leake in their rotation and sent the 23-year-old left-hander back down to Triple-A this week. Cingrani pitched like a fantasy ace with a 3.27 ERA, 1.030 WHIP and 41 strikeouts in 33 innings in the majors, and he also upped his scoreless streak in the minor leagues to 19 1/3 innings in his past start. The Reds are going to need a sixth starter again this season, so Cingrani rates as arguably the most important minor leaguer to keep stashed right now.
8. SP Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves
As everyone awaits Brandon Beachy's (elbow) mid-June return, owners should pay close attention to Teheran's progress. After posting a 7.31 ERA through three starts, Teheran has found his dominant spring training form, going 3-1 with a 2.41 ERA and 1.158 WHIP with just two walks in 33 2/3 innings in his past five starts. He's making the Braves' decision to demote him or move him to the bullpen a lot harder. Heck, Kris Medlen (1-5) right now looks like the starter that belongs in the bullpen once Beachy returns. For now, enjoy Teheran's run in your starting lineup in all leagues.
9. SP Justin Grimm, Texas Rangers
It is downright shocking that we had to wait this long for the first AL rookie to make our top fantasy rookies list. And, to be honest, we had to stretch to put any AL player on this list. Grimm's teammate Nick Tepesch has about an equal case to be the top AL rookie to date, but we go with Grimm, who's gone 3-3 with a 4.02 ERA this season. If you throw out Grimm's only two subpar starts where he allowed five runs in five innings back-to-back, he would have a 2.37 ERA in five starts. He has mostly been a mixed-league-worthy fringe starter, but as it is, he is the best rookie to have right now in AL-only formats. We are really longing for the Rays' Myers or Rangers' Jurickson Profar to catch fire.
10. OF A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks
With the news that Adam Eaton will be out about another month, Pollack gets reprieve on the roster even if he sits behind Jason Kubel, Cody Ross and Gerardo Parra on many occasions. With four homers, five steals and 20 runs scored, Pollock has done enough to make the top 10 rookies to date. He is a player that might project to be a 10-homer, 30-steal fringe fantasy option in rotisserie leagues long term.