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Collette Calls: Reviewing Rookie Impact

Jason Collette

Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. He covers the Tampa Bay Rays at You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Towers of Power Baseball Hour Podcast on iTunes. He was selected as the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year by FSWA in 2013.

Now that the season is over, we can finally start looking at stats that aren't changing by the time you read the article. Offseason writing is one of my favorite things to do because the numbers do not shift around and we can talk about how players can help in the 2012 season instead of the ever-shrinking smaller impact players can have on your team as free-agent pickups during the season. During any season, rookies get more attention from fantasy owners because they are the new shiny toys with the pretty minor league stats and their unknown over the known numbers from the same guys that we turned our noses up at draft day.

Since rookies are so enticing to us as free agent pickups, it behooves us to look back and see just how productive they were this season in the scoring categories. This allows us to temper our expectations moving forward so we can see just how helpful the kids are in their first season in the big leagues in each of the scoring categories for fantasy baseball.
Home Runs: Just 14 rookies hit at least 10 home runs in 2011 and it took Brent Morel's hot finish to get that 14th member in the fold. The group was led by Mark Trumbo's 29 home runs for the Angels but also saw Danny Espinosa, J.P. Arencibia, and Freddie Freeman get to 20 home runs as full-season rookies. Eric Hosmer played in 128 games and fell just one home run shy of joining that group. Casper Wells and John Mayberry both had under 300 plate appearances and joined the double-digit home-run group with Mayberry hitting 15 in just 296 plate appearances as he and Allen Craig had the highest Isolated Power scores in the group at .240. 46 rookies had at least 200 plate appearances this season and just 14 of them made it to double-digit home runs

Runs Batted In: This is always a tough category for rookies to help out in because so few are entrusted with spots in the middle of the batting order. Just eight rookies drove in at least 50 runs with Mark Trumbo once again leading the pack with 87. He was joined by Hosmer, Arencibia, Freeman, Espinosa, Wilson Ramos, Justin Turner, and Lucas Duda. Jesus Guzman's surprise run in the second half led to a very productive 44 RBI in just 271 plate appearances which was more than what Morel drove in over 444 plate appearances or Eric Thames did in 394 plate appearances.

Runs: This too is a tough category for full season rookies since many lack the plate discipline to hit at the top of the order. Espinosa led all rookies with 72 runs scored and he was the only rookie to score more than 70 runs on the season. Only eight scored as many as 50 runs this season and that group includes Freeman, Darwin Barney, Hosmer, Trumbo, Thames, Ben Revere, and Jemile Weeks. Thames' 394 plate appearances was the lowest total of that group. Even Eduardo Nunez, who stole 22 bases for the Yankees in a high-powered offense, only scored 38 runs in 338 plate appearances and pinch-running experiences.

Steals: This is one area where rookies can come up and make a difference and no rookie was more impactful in steals than Ben Revere who swiped 34 bases in 117 games for the Twins. Dee Gordon played in just 56 games and yet finished second in steals with 24 while hitting a surprising .304 for the Dodgers. Weeks, Nunez, and Desmond Jennings were the only other rookies to steal 20 bases in 2011 while part-time players Mike McCoy and Ezequiel Carrera were able to steal ten or more bases in limited playing time.

Batting Average: Allen Craig led all rookies with a .315 average this season for rookies with at least 200 plate appearances while Jemile Weeks was the only rookie with at least 400 plate appearances that hit over .300. Just nine rookies hit at least .280 in 2011 and that group includes Craig, Guzman, Gordon, Weeks, Alex Presley, Hosmer, Duda, Freeman, and Josh Reddick.

On the pitching side of the ledger, contributions are a bit more spread around.

Wins: Nine different pitchers won at least eight games in 2011 including one reliever who also saved 20 games in Mark Melancon. Ivan Nova led all rookies with one win thanks to fantastic run support with Alexi Ogando, Jeremy Hellickson, Dillon Gee, Vance Worley, Zach Britton, and Josh Collmenter joining him in the double-digit win crew. As great as Michael Pineda was this season, the awful Seattle offense limited him to just nine wins while the equally struggling offense in Oakland did not help Guillermo Moscoso get more than eight wins. None of the rookies started 30 games in 2011 and Moscoso and Worley won their games in just 21 starts.

Saves: It was a special year for rookie closers as five different rookies piled up at least 20 saves but nobody else got more than eight. Craig Kimbrel, Jordan Walden, Fernando Salas, Javy Guerra, and Melancon all saved 20 or more games with Kimbrel outpacing everyone with 46 saves. Just 23 rookies picked up as much as one save and only eight of them had as many as five saves. It should also be noted that Salas was the only closer from a playoff team that had double-digit saves.

Strikeouts: Nine rookies struck out at least 100 batters in 2011 with Pineda leading the pack at 173. Brandon Beachy, in 30 fewer innings, was just four strikeouts behind him and Cory Luebke, Ogando, Worley, Hellickson, Gee, Josh Collmenter, and Kimbrel being a godsend striking out 127 in a relief role. If we lower the benchmark down to 75 strikeouts, we still have less than 20 rookies that qualify. What was rather impressive is that relievers Kenley Jansen (former AFL pitcher), Marco Estrada, Vinnie Pestano, Chris Sale, and Ernesto Frieri made that cut despite working as relievers.

ERA: 19 rookies had an ERA of 3.00 that pitched at least 40 innings last season with Anthony Bass pacing everyone with a 1.68 ERA. He, Greg Holland, and Al Alburquerque joined him in the sub-2.00 ERA group and four of the five rookie closers were in the overall group of 19. Holland's work is most impressive as people try to figure out who will replace Joakim Soria once the Royals move on from his reign as closer and Holland has certainly put himself right at the forefront of that conversation. ERA fluctuates from year to year and can be quite volatile for relievers, but the rookies did their job in helping fantasy teams keep the team ERA's in check.

WHIP: 29 pitchers came in with a WHIP of 1.25 or better, including nine starting pitchers. Those starters were Luebke, Collmenter, Moscoso, Pineda, Henderson Alvarez, Ogando, Hellickson, Beachy, and Blake Beaven. That's 29 pitchers out of 71 rookies that pitched at least 40 innings this season.
Overall, the larger totals came from the ratio categories while the counting categories saw lesser impactful contributors to the final totals in those standings. After all, Jesus Montero was taken in the regular rounds of many drafts and yet Mike Carp, who was taken by nobody in any draft, out-earned him this year. Prospects continue to be not only high-risk and high-reward for the organizations that own them but also for the fantasy players that draft them counting on more production than they typically provide.