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 even two weeks old, and already there’s going to be some movement on the pitcher side of the rookie ladder. Also, we’ve had a number of exciting pitcher debuts in 2021 already. I’ll break down all the debutants as well as updates on the rookie ladder below!

PlayerTeamRole
Ian AndersonATLSP3
Casey MizeDETSP5
Sixto SanchezMIASP5
Trevor RogersMIASP4
Triston McKenzieCLESP4
Tarik SkubalDETSP3
Dane DunningTEXSP5
Nate PearsonTORIL
Adbert AlzolayCHCSP5
Michael KopechCWSLR
Brent Honeywell Jr.TBROpener
Dean KramerBALSP3
Kohei AriharaTEXSP2
Garret CrochetCWSMR
Josh FlemingTBROpener
Chris RodriguezLAAMR
Spencer HowardPHIAAA
Nick LodoloCINAA
Daulton JeffriesOAKAAA
Luis PatinoTBRAAA
Mackenzie GoreSDPAAA
Deivi GarciaNYYAAA
Matt ManningDETAAA
Josiah GrayLADAAA
Brendan McKayTBRIL
Brailyn MarquezCHCAA
Adonis MedinaPHIAAA
Alex LangeDETRP
Wil CrowePITSP5

 

News and Notes

 

Ian Anderson has made two starts and his strikeout rate is 31.0%. Statcast initially read a number of sinkers in Anderson’s first start, but they’ve since re-coded to four-seam fastballs. I went thru the video of several and they appear to me to be four-seam fastballs where Anderson is actually missing his spot low in the zone. Fastball command is probably going to be the story of his season.

Casey Mize climbs to number two on the list. His four-seam fastball is up two ticks to 95.5 mph on average. The pitch also appears to be dropping less and carrying better up in the zone than in 2020 (16.4 inches of drop in 2020 vs 13.3 inches of drop thus far in 2021). And the split-finger is just a nasty pitch that is effective against both RHB and LHB. Buy if you still can.

Mize leapfrogs Sixto Sanchez, who has yet to resume full throwing following a shoulder issue. The Marlins reported this week he had progressed to throwing from 45 feet. He already had health concerns coming into the season as well. Early May is probably an optimistic timetable for his return to action.

Tarik Skubal has really struggled with command through two starts, and I worry about him getting shuttled to the bullpen. Dane Dunning is right behind Skubal on the ladder and Dunning has turned in two usable starts (identical Game Scores of 61). However, I’ll need to see Dunning work deeper into games if he’s going to climb higher than his present rank.

Garret Crochet is sliding down. I am concerned about his decreased fastball velocity early in the season and what it portends for his arm health:

 

We got some good news on Nate Pearson’s health this week. It sounds like he’s back to full health and is just working to build up innings to resume a starter’s workload. He should be back up soon.

Trevor Rogers is the darling of this list so far, and with good reason. He’s even making FaBIO wonder if Rogers should be ranked above Sixto among rookie hurlers:

I was a coward and was concerned about being a little too reactionary on that front. However, I’m totally comfortable moving Rogers above Skubal based on early returns.

Dean Kremer has been rough through two 3-inning outings. Daulton Jeffries didn’t make the rotation. Adbert Alzolay went at least five innings in both of his starts and boasts a K% of 25.6%. So Alzolay leapfrog both Kremer and Jeffries, with upside to move further up the list.

Kohei Arihara has shown little in terms of strikeout stuff thus far. The good news is that Statcast has tracked seven unique pitches from him thus far this season. The bad news is that he’s going to have to figure out which combination of them works against MLB hitters.

Michael Kopech already looks like a buzzsaw again. The team is going to let him work multi-inning relief appearances until he’s built back up to start. If the health remains, I think Kopech is in the rotation by the second half of the season. He could really be a difference-maker for this White Sox team if that happens.

The Yankees optioned Domingo German back to the minors and have yet to name a fifth starter. Deivi Garcia is a name that could pop up soon.

The Rays have recalled Josh Fleming from the alternate site. I had him on the initial ladder as I figured the team would use him to plug holes in a Ryan Yarborough-type role. He’s moving up the ladder as I have confidence that Fleming could succeed in medium-length stints.

Wil Crowe got optioned to the Pirates alternate site after 0.2 innings of work and an ERA of 13.50.

 

New debuts

 

I’m not going to make note of every relief pitching prospect that gets called up this season (there are going to be PLENTY of those guys). However, I will highlight some notable ones:

 

Ben Bowden and Jordan Sheffield RP – Colorado Rockies

 

I’ve got Bowden and Sheffield lumped together because their story is really fascinating. Both hurlers were part of the same incoming freshman class at Vanderbilt University. Both were drafted on the first day of the 2016 MLB draft. And both made their MLB debut on April 2, 2021 for the same team. How’s that for serendipity?

 

Brent Honeywell Jr. – SP – Tampa Bay Rays

 

An incredible story of perseverance, former top pitching prospect Brent Honeywell Jr. made his MLB debut in a start for the Tampa Bay Rays this past week. Honeywell hadn’t pitched in a competitive game for over three years and has undergone four surgeries on his throwing elbow. The fact that he was able to pitch competitively at all after that is a testament to his fortitude.

As far as the stuff goes, Honeywell looked really good in his brief debut against a tough Yankees lineup. His fastball averaged 94 mph in the outing and he commanded it well. He also mixed in a changeup which could be a perfect complement alongside his devastating screwball. The team sent him back to the alternate site following his debut and is sure to be cautious with him given his health history. But don’t be surprised if Honeywell is a factor in the team’s playoff push in the second half of the season. I’ve got him slotted in right behind Michael Kopech on the rookie ladder now.

 

Alex Lange – RP – Detroit Tigers

 

Alex Lange came over to Detroit in the trade which sent Nick Castellanos (briefly) to the Chicago Cubs. Lange was the Cubs’ first-round pick in the 2017 MLB draft out of Louisiana State University.

He’s a reliever, but Lange has the stuff to one day be an elite high leverage guy or closer. His four-seam fastball averaged 97.1 mph in his big league debut, and he posted a 62.5% whiff rate on the twelve sliders he threw. He might not be closing games yet, but I can foresee it happening for Lange sometime in the future.

 

Chris Rodriguez – RP – Los Angeles Angels

 

Similar to Brent Honeywell and Michael Kopech, Chris Rodriguez is another talented young arm that has dealt with a myriad of health issues throughout his professional career thus far. Rodriguez’s issue has been his back, but he has seemed to be able to keep it healthy in 2021 thus far.

Similar to Kopech, Rodriguez is likely to be deployed in a multi-inning relief role until the team figures out his best use in 2021. Unlike Kopech, there’s a very good chance that Rodriguez fits best in a multi-inning fireman role this season. This might also be the best fit for Rodriguez’s health as well, as hopefully lower reps of his high-intensity delivery will allow his back to hold up for a full season.

Rodriguez’s stuff has proven to be really good so far. Still only 22 years old, his fastball sits around 97 mph and touches 100 mph. He backs up the fastball with a wipeout curveball which comes in around 84 mph and features nasty two-plane break (vertical break 8 percentage points above MLB average, horizontal break 26 percentage points above). It’s the kind of stuff that could easily excel in high leverage spots right now. Hopefully, with good health, we can one day see how it plays out in an MLB rotation too.