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?

Trevor Rogers is the big story so far. I’ll break down where he fits in this year’s rookie landscape, along with news and notes from a number of top rookie hurlers. Also, we’ve had a number of exciting hitter debuts in 2021 already. So I’ll break down all the debutants as well as updates on the rookie ladder below!

PlayerTeamRole
Ian AndersonATLRotation
Trevor RogersMIARotation
Casey MizeDETRotation
Sixto SanchezMIAIL
Michael KopechCWSSwingman
Triston McKenzieCLERotation
Dane DunningTEXRotation
Tarik SkubalDETBullpen
Nate PearsonTORIL
Adbert AlzolayCHCRotation
Brent Honeywell Jr.TBRAlternate Site
Dean KramerBALRotation
Kohei AriharaTEXRotation
Garret CrochetCWSBullpen
Josh FlemingTBRBulk guy
Chris RodriguezLAABullpen
Luis PatinoTBROpener
J.B. BukauskasARIBullpen
Deivi GarciaNYYAlternate Site
Sam HentgesCLEBullpen
Spencer HowardPHIAlternate Site
Zac LowtherBALAlternate Site
Nick LodoloCINAA
Daulton JeffriesOAKAAA
Mackenzie GoreSDPAAA
Matt ManningDETAAA
Josiah GrayLADAAA
Brendan McKayTBRIL
Brailyn MarquezCHCAA
Adonis MedinaPHIAAA
Alex LangeDETRP
Wil CrowePITSP5

 

News and Notes

 

Ian Anderson hasn’t quite been shredding the competition like he was in his 2020 debut, but I’m still confident that he’s the top rookie pitcher in this class. He’s struggled with location, and Kevin Goldstein of FanGraphs recently posited that it might be related to a mechanical issue. If that’s the case, it’s even less cause for panic as there’s no reason that Anderson can’t get back to his release point that helped him dominate in 2020. And his HR/FB% isn’t going to remain at 25% either, so we might have seen the worst of his outings in 2021 already. He just needs to quit leaving his fastball belt-high so frequently:

Despite his fastball velocity jumping up two ticks this season, Casey Mize still isn’t striking anyone out. And it doesn’t matter if he’s touching 96 with his four-seamer if it’s coming in flat and high in the strike zone. His K-BB% of 7.7% is borderline unusable. His vaunted split-finger changeup hasn’t been an out pitch (a paltry 3.4% put-away rate). He’s got the talent to work through these issues, but this might continue to be a bumpy ride for him until he gets workable command of his pitch mix.

 

Sixto Sanchez is throwing from 60 feet without issue. Still going to be some time before he returns to action.

 

Trevor Rogers is moving above Mize this week. He’s just doing the damn thing! He squared off against Corbin Burnes in a head-to-head duel between the two most surprising arms of 2021, and he came out victorious. Milwaukee had been pummeling left-handers too. It matters not to Trevor Rogers, who is going to win some people some leagues this year.

 

The good news on Triston McKenzie is that he’s struck out 31.1% of batters he’s faced this year. The bad news is that he’s walked 18.9% of them.

 

Tarik Skubal has been moved to the bullpen. Dane Dunning got beat up by his old club the White Sox last week. But Dunning’s peripherals are still solid and he’s going to keep starting games for the Rangers. He’s moving ahead of Skubal.

 

Nate Pearson made a start against the Marlins at the alternate site over the weekend. He’s close to returning, and if Hyun-Jin Ryu misses some time with his glute strain there’s a rotation spot available for Pearson now.

 

Adbert Alzolay has been a bit unlucky, as his 3.32 xFIP is two runs below his 5.40 ERA. The peripherals still look good as well. He should be able to remain in the Cubs rotation.

 

Michael Kopech makes a big leap. The team has needed him with Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito dealing with minor injury issues. And Kopech has responded wonderfully. He has front-line starter’s stuff if he can stay healthy.

 

Brent Honeywell made a second start for Tampa and then was shuttled back down to the alternate site right after to make room for Luis Patino. I think anything over 50 MLB innings for Honeywell this year will be a good outcome.

 

Dean Kremer was recalled from the alternate site and will start against the Yankees today.

 

Kohei Arihara remains in the rotation for Texas. He’s going to have to cut down the free passes as he just doesn’t have the stuff to dominate MLB hitters with.

 

Garrett Crochet is dealing with a blister.

 

Josh Fleming has racked up 14.2 innings with a 1.23 ERA, but he’s also had some great luck (4.44 xFIP). A sneaky bulk inning guy for those of you playing in very deep leagues though.

 

Spencer Howard made three appearances out of the bullpen and then got shuttled back down to the alternate site.

 

Luis Patino got called up for the first time this season by the Rays. He was employed as an opener in front of Josh Fleming. Patino definitely has the stuff to flourish in an opener’s role right now. He’s moving up a few rungs on the ladder this week. The slider was particularly effective:

 

Deivi Garcia was recalled from the alternate site to make a spot start on Monday and then was immediately shuttled back down. He gave up two runs over four innings in the start. I’m still sliding Deivi up past Spencer Howard as the Yankees seem committed to letting him start games when he does get the call-up.

New debuts

 

Sam Hentges – RP – Cleveland

Hentges is a big (6-6, 245) imposing left-hander that Cleveland drafted in the 4th round in the 2014 draft. Cleveland has called him up to fill in out of the bullpen, and so far he’s performed well in limited appearances. He’s probably ticketed to remain in the bullpen this year but don’t be surprised if he makes a spot start at some point.

Unlike recent Cleveland homegrown pitching talent, Hentges is more of a power pitcher than a command and control guy. He’s really a two-pitch pitcher, throwing a fastball 60% of the time and a breaking ball the other 40% of the time so far this year. The fastball has good velocity, sitting around 96 mph, and Hentges is able to control it to his glove side, which makes it tough on both RH and LH bats. The curveball is his out pitch, and it’s displayed great depth and vertical drop so far.

 

J.B. Bukauskas – RP – Arizona

The “Lithuanian Assassin”, J.B. Bukauskas was a former first-round draft choice of the Houston Astros. He came over to Arizona in the trade deadline deal that sent Zack Greinke to Houston. He never quite lived up to his promise as a potential starting pitcher in his professional career so far, so the D’backs are going to try him out of the bullpen to see how he performs in short stints.

Based on Bukauskas’s stuff and delivery, using him in short bursts might pay real dividends. His delivery has always been a high-effort, funky affair. It’s a look that will make hitters uncomfortable but will also lead to control issues. The stuff can be very good though. His fastball is a four-seamer that sits 94 mph. It tunnels well with both his slider and changeup. The secondaries both have the potential to be above-average offerings at the MLB level. Look for him to work his way into some holds over the next few weeks.

 

Zac Lowther – SP – Baltimore

Zac Lowther was a comp round pick by the Orioles back in the 2017 MLB draft out of Xavier University. He’s performed very well for Baltimore as a starting pitcher in the minor leagues and was called up for some bullpen work this week. However, he was shipped back down to the alternate site after a single appearance.

Lowther is a left-handed command and control artist. He survives on a funky delivery, great extension down the mound, and a fastball that rides well at the top of the zone. Pairing with the fastball are his changeup and curveball, neither of which are above-average offerings on their own. However, his command and approach to pitching allow the whole package to play up enough to work in the back-end of an MLB rotation.