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?

We are now one month into the season now and will continue to see plenty of movement on the ladder in the coming months as players move around and new players hop on the bottom rungs. I’ll break down all the debutants as well as updates on the rookie ladder below!

PlayerTeamPos
Randy ArozarenaTBROF
Ke'Bryan HayesPIT3B
Dylan CarlsonSTLOF
Nick MadrigalCWS2B
Jazz ChisholmMIASS
Pavin SmithARI1B
Yermin MercedesCWS1B/DH
Andrew VaughnCWS1B/LF
Bobby DalbecBOS1B
Taylor TrammellSEAOF
Zack McKinstryLAD2B/OF
Ryan MountcastleBAL1B
Wander FrancoTBRSS
Jarred KelenicSEAOF
Alex KirilloffMIN1B
Jonathan IndiaCIN3B
Kyle IsbelKCROF
Akil BaddooDETOF
Tyler StephensonCINC
Cristian PacheATLOF
Ha-seong KimSDPSS
Luis CampusanoSDPC
Geraldo PerdomoARISS
Tucupita MarcanoSDPSS
Julio RodriguezSEAOF
Nolan JonesCLE3B
Joey BartSFGC
Vidal BrujanTBR2B
Ka'ai TomOAKOF
Oneil CruzPITSS
Miguel AmayaCHCC
Lewin DiazMIA1B
Seth BeerARI1B
William ContrerasATLC
Drew WatersATLOF
Luke RaleyLADOF
Bobby BradleyCLE1B
Adley RutschmanBALC
Josh JungTEX3B
JJ BledayMIAOF
Bobby Witt Jr.KCRSS
Josh PalaciosTOROF
Alan TrejoCOLSS
Nick MatonPHISS
Jose DeversMIA2B/3B

News and Notes

 

Randy Arozarena has been just fine for fantasy, contributing three home runs, four stolen bases, and 28 Runs+RBI so far in 2021. For real-life purposes, he’s struggling a bit relative to his 2020 performance, especially in driving the ball for extra bases. One thing sticking out is that he’s really having difficulty making contact in the zone, with a 65.2% zone contact rate which is well below the MLB average (82.1%). He also swings at stuff over the plate a little less frequently than your average MLBer. Generally speaking, his patient approach at the dish is fine. If he can fix his timing and get after the pitches he’s seeing in the zone, his power numbers should rebound some more as well.

Ke’Bryan Hayes should be nearing a return over the next couple of weeks. He faced off against live pitching earlier this week and the team said that his injured wrist was looking strong.

Dylan Carlson continues to have a nice season. His OPS through one month sits above .800, and he’s been playing some solid defense in centerfield. Look for him to chip in a handful of stolen bases this season as well, as he’s getting on base plenty and has the speed to be able to swipe a few (75th percentile sprint speed in 2021).

Nick Madrigal is a .330 hitter through 200 MLB PAs. He’s a great batting average buddy for your fantasy squad, and has chipped in 28 Runs+RBI so far this year. Similar to Carlson, look for him to start chipping in a few more stolen bases as the season wears on as well.

Jazz Chisholm landed on the IL with a hamstring injury. He’s just now getting back to “light baseball activities”, so it might be some time still before he’s fully back with the Marlins. He should still be held in all formats as he bounces back from his hamstring injury.

Bobby Dalbec continues to struggle to make contact, but the contact he is making is solid (.507 xwOBAcon). Howeve, he is hitless in his last five games, so Dalbec owners have to hope that his “off days” don’t morph into a stint at the alternate site to “work on some things”.

Pavin Smith keeps batting leadoff for the D’backs. He’s hit the ball hard this season (88th percentile hard-hit rate) while also making a good amount of contact (17.6% strikeout rate), and he’s even stolen a base this year. He’s sliding above Dalbec for the time being.

Taylor Trammell has really struggled to make contact both inside and outside of the zone. He’ll take his walks, hit some dingers, and steal some bags, but it seems increasingly likely that he’s going to have a stint down at Triple-A Tacoma this summer.

Yermin Mercedes was the AL Rookie of the Month in April. He’s bound to cool off some (.426 BABIP from a dude built like a NFL fullback), but his 15% K-rate and .230 ISO so far in 2021 are some real skills that you can bank on. He’s moving up above Dalbec and Trammell this week.

Zack McKinstry is still rehabbing from his oblique injury, and the Dodgers’ offense is kind of missing his bat at the moment. Look for him to regain a starting role when healthy.

Ryan Mountcastle has stolen three bags despite his .241 OBP.

Andrew Vaughn should be in line for more playing time with Luis Robert’s unfortunate injury. It’s not exactly certain how Tony La Russa will handle the outfield hole caused by Robert being out for multiple months, but Vaughn should at least see some extra PAs, even if he’s not moved into a full-time starting role.

Wander Franco went 3-for-5 and stole a bag in his Triple-A debut. If Willy Adames continues to scuffle, there’s a shot we see Franco up with the Rays relatively soon.

Jarred Kelenic is starting at Triple-A while Sam Haggerty is getting outfield looks for Seattle. The team just doesn’t appear to be in a rush to call him up.

Jonathan India has crashed back to earth after his hot start. Kyle Isbel has as well, getting sent back down to the alternate site as the Kansas City Royals look unexpectedly competitive early on this year. Akil Baddoo is hitless in his last five games.

Cristian Pache hit a grand slam against the Blue Jays over the weekend. He’s still struggling to identify MLB pitching, chasing a lot of pitches out of the zone and failing at making contact on them. This isn’t planned aggression, this is a young hitter that’s just a little lost at the dish right now.

Alex Kirilloff has had an eventful couple of weeks. He finally got a shot as an everyday player for the struggling Twins, splitting time between 1B and LF. He hit four homers over the course of three games against the Royals, flashing the high-upside potential his bat has as a four-category contributor. Then, Kirilloff re-aggravated an old wrist injury and is scheduled to see a hand specialist this week. If he can come back healthy, he’s got Top-5 rookie ladder potential. However, if he has to undergo surgery for the wrist issue, then he’s going to miss an extended period of time.

New Debuts

 

Jose Devers – 2B/3B – Miami Marlins

This 21-year-old utility infielder was unexpectedly called up by Miami to give the team some infield depth while Jazz Chisholm is out. He’s still very young and lacks professional experience above High-A ball. The team is showing some faith in his ability to tread water against MLB pitching while playing solid defense at a couple of positions of need for the club. He’s likely ticketed back to Triple-A once the team’s health situation is sorted out, however.

Devers profiles primarily as a slash-and-dash utility infielder. He’s always made a lot of contact but also shows a patient approach at the dish. The two skills should combine to give him a good OBP floor, and should also make him a batting average buoy in traditional leagues. Devers has the ability to steal bags as well, but has seemed to already slow down a step since his rookie-ball days where he posted several elite-level speed scores (7.0+).

 

Corey Ray – OF – Milwaukee Brewers

Corey Ray made a brief three-plate appearance cameo with the Brewers on April 24 before he was sent back down to the alternate site. There’s a chance he sees some playing time again with the big club this summer though, especially if Christian Yelich is out for an extended period of time.

Ray has the range and defensive ability to cover all three outfield spots, so that gives the team some versatility in the event they want to carry him as an extra outfielder. He’s also displayed some fantastic power+speed upside in the minor leagues, making him a name that dynasty owners at least want to keep their eye on. In 2018, he hit 27 home runs and stole 37 bags at Double-A Biloxi. Those are impact-level fantasy tools in the event he gets the chance to showcase them.

Jason Vosler – 3B/1B – San Francisco Giants

A former notable prospect in the Chicago Cubs system, Jason Vosler has been riding the alternate site shuttle back and forth early on in 2021. He’s appeared in five games for the Giants so far, as the team has dealt with a number of injuries to left-handed bats so far this year. Vosler is a lefty with some defensive versatility, so having him on the bench in a pinch provides the club with some cover.

Skills-wise, this is a 27-year-old utility man and is probably not much to get excited about for fantasy. He slugged .523 at Triple-A in 2019, but then again everyone was pounding the MLB ball in the hitter-friendly environs of the Pacific Coast League that year. He will work the count and draw walks, and flash some occasional pop from the left-hand side, maybe making him a platoon bat option in very deep leagues.