Here is a prospect question that applies to those of us who play in redraft, keeper, and dynasty leagues: Which rookie hitter will be the most valuable fantasy player in 2021?

The season isn’t yet a week old, and already there’s going to be some movement on the hitter side of the rookie ladder. Also, we’ve had a number of exciting hitter debuts in 2021 already. I’ll break down all the debutants as well as updates on the rookie ladder:

PlayerTeamPos
Randy ArozarenaTBROF
Ke'Bryan HayesPIT3B
Dylan CarlsonSTLOF
Nick MadrigalCWS2B
Bobby DalbecBOS1B
Pavin SmithARI1B
Taylor TrammellSEAOF
Ryan MountcastleBAL1B
Andrew VaughnCWS1B/LF
Wander FrancoTBRSS
Jarred KelenicSEAOF
Jazz ChisholmMIASS
Kyle IsbelKCROF
Jonathan IndiaCIN3B
Tyler StephensonCINC
Cristian PacheATLOF
Yermin MercedesCWS1B/DH
Ha-seong KimSDPSS
Luis CampusanoSDPC
Alex KirilloffMIN1B
Geraldo PerdomoARISS
Tucupita MarcanoSDPSS
Julio RodriguezSEAOF
Nolan JonesCLE3B
Joey BartSFGC
Vidal BrujanTBR2B
Akil BaddooDETOF
Ka'ai TomOAKOF
Oneil CruzPITSS
Miguel AmayaCHCC
Lewin DiazMIA1B
Seth BeerARI1B
William ContrerasATLC
Drew WatersATLOF
Bobby BradleyCLE1B
Adley RutschmanBALC
Josh JungTEX3B
JJ BledayMIAOF
Bobby Witt Jr.KCRSS

 

News and Notes

 

Ke’Bryan Hayes started the year off with a bang, homering in his first at-bat. Then, he suffered a wrist injury swinging the bat. Fortunately, the team has reported that his wrist x-ray came back negative and that he only suffered a sprain. Hayes is currently on the 10-day IL but is unlikely to miss much more time.

Alex Kirilloff didn’t make the cut for the Twins opening day roster. Gotta admit that this one surprised me, I thought he would definitely make the cut and possibly feature as the team’s starting left fielder all season. The team has been using Jake Cave and Brent Rooker in LF thus far, but neither hitter has done much yet. And Kirilloff can really hit. Keep him on your radar.

Nick Madrigal has made a couple of costly errors and baserunning blunders already this season. Is he just pressing too much to make things happen instead of letting the game come to him? Madrigal won a minor league Gold Glove at 2B in 2019 and posted one of the highest range factors in all of the minors that year, so he can play at a plus defensive level in MLB.

Bobby Dalbec is 0-for-10 with 5 Ks so far. He got a day off yesterday.

Pavin Smith has appeared in every game and made a pretty nice defensive play in RF over the weekend. He should continue to get opportunities.

My initial hitter piece came out before Eloy Jimenez’s injury, so I had Andrew Vaughn buried pretty low down the list. He jumps up into the Top-10 now with an increased chance at playing time with the team’s commitment to at least trying Vaughn out in left field. But his playing time has been spotty thus far and there’s a good chance that Tony La Russa just isn’t going to trust him to play every day.

Why is Vaughn not getting as much playing time? Well, fellow White Sox corner bat Yermin Mercedes has looked like the second coming of Ted Williams so far. “The Yerminator” started the season with eight consecutive hits and grabbed the first AL Player of the Week award of the season. White Sox fans are rooting for this cult hero to continue this form, but you have to believe some regression is coming, possibly soon.

Cristian Pache was the Braves opening day centerfielder, but we’re still waiting for something to click for him at the plate. He’s 1-for-10 with a 40% K-rate so far.

Ha-seong Kim could be in line for more playing time after Fernando Tatis Jr.’s unfortunate shoulder injury swinging the bat last night. The team is calling Tatis’s injury a shoulder subluxation at the moment, and that’s just an injury with a wide range of outcomes. He’s a special athlete, so hopefully, it will be a short time on the shelf for Fernando. Kim has only garnered one start thus far, but look for that to change this week.

Jazz Chisholm is the Marlins starting 2B and getting regular PAs early on. He’s been electric:

Padres catcher Luis Campusano has already made two starts this season. With Austin Nola injured, look for Campusano to split time with Victor Caratini behind the dish. Campusano also got some good news this week as prosecutors in Georgia dropped pending felony marijuana possession charges against him. I didn’t realize we were charging people with that in 2021, but then again Georgia seems to be stuck in 1951.

 

NEW DEBUTS

 

Akil Baddoo – OF – Detroit Tigers

 

Akil Baddoo was a Rule 5 selection by the Tigers this offseason. This means he really has a solid path to playing time as the Tigers have to keep Baddoo on the active roster for the duration of the 2020 season if they intend to keep him. And based on his performance thus far, they might intend to!

Baddo had an excellent 50 PAs this spring (.325/.460/.750). Then on Monday, he hit a grand slam and stole a base while starting in left field for the Tigers in their 15-6 blowout loss to Minnesota:

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Baddoo can handle centerfield defensively, so look for him to get his fare share of chances in the Tigers outfield this year. He’s probably just a 4th OF at the moment, but in the event that JaCoby Jones or Victor Reyes really struggle, Baddoo could easily work his way into additional playing time.

 

Jonathan India – 2B – Cincinnati Reds

 

Cincinnati’s roster crunch early this season has opened up a starting 2B job for Jonathan India. He’s responded well, picking up five hits over the course of three games. I would not be surprised to see India hold onto a near-everyday role for the Reds going forward.

India skyrocketed up draft boards following a strong junior season at the University of Florida in 2018. He’s a player who does a little bit of everything well. He carries a good enough glove to play multiple positions, has a patient approach at the plate, makes a lot of contact, and can drive mistakes with good pull-side flyball power.

 

Kyle Isbel – OF – Kansas City Royals

 

Kyle Isbel was a shock addition to the Royals Opening Day roster, and it looks like he might have the inside track on the team’s right field job for 2021. Isbel has picked up five hits and stolen a bag in three games so far this season.

Isbel is a smart, instinctual, and hard-working ballplayer. He was a popular sleeper prospect coming out of the 2018 draft from UNLV. His glove and arm can play all over the field, but the Royals have been grooming him for an OF spot since the draft. He’s already pushed Whit Merrifield back to second base.

No particular tool stands out for Isbel, but they all play up given his instincts and athleticism. He presents a real power/speed combo that could be a fantastic find for fantasy owners in deeper leagues in 2021.

 

Tucupita Marcano – 3B – San Diego Padres

 

Tucupita Marcano was a surprise addition to the Padres Opening Day roster. With the potential that Fernando Tatis Jr. could be sidelined for some time with a shoulder injury, there’s now a chance that Marcano gets some extra run beyond pinch-hitting and defensive replacement duties.

Marcano was excellent in the Cactus League this year. He’s a lefty bat with a high-contact, high-walk, high-OBP approach. He’s got way more slash and dash than pop in his swing, but he can still drive the ball to the gaps and take advantage of his speed to stretch hits for extra bases. His glove is good enough for MLB-level utility man, and he has the arm to be able to make the necessary throws from third base at the big league level.

 

Geraldo Perdomo – SS – Arizona Diamondbacks

 

With Nick Ahmed on the IL, Arizona called up their shortstop of the future, Geraldo Perdomo. While his call-up is likely to be temporary (for now), Perdomo has already shown us what he can do with the glove at the Big League level:

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Because of his ability to add value with the leather, there’s a non-zero chance that Perdomo sticks around long enough to let his bat heat up. He’s a switch hitter with an immensely patient approach. He also displays great hand-eye coordination, making contact and spoiling pitches late in counts. While he might lack the power to be an all-around offensive force, you can see his overall offensive approach is by far a net positive if you look at his minor league wRC+ by each stop in his career: 122, 198, 145, 149, 128, 128.

He might be a better “real life” player than fantasy one, but guys like Perdomo have a great ability to work their way into lineups and become compilers. He’s also still very young (21 years old) and has a frame that could continue to add strength. He’s a guy to keep your eyeballs on, especially if he earns an everyday gig.

 

Ka’ai Tom – OF/DH – Oakland Athletics

 

A Rule 5 selection by Oakland this offseason, Ka’ai Tom might find his way into some additional playing time in Oakland’s lineup with Chad Pinder’s left knee injury. Tom provides Oakland with left-handed hitting depth and is able to cover every outfield spot. Heck, he can even pitch a little bit:

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Don’t be fooled by his 5’9” frame, Tom packs some pop in his bat. He found the barrel at a solid clip in the Cleveland system in 2019, slugging .532 between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s probably only relevant in the deepest of leagues, but he’s worth keeping an eye on depending on how Oakland’s roster crunch develops during the season.