Rising Rookies

Early on in this 2021 season, we have seen a handful of rookies already making big impressions with their Major League opportunities. Some of these names already had big expectations while others are just bursting onto the scene. Either way, these players are starting things off on the right foot and are worth keeping an eye on moving forward.

Akil Baddoo – OF

.313/.353/.813 , 2 R , 2 HR , 7 RBI , 1 SB

Baddoo has been one of the players that have quickly made his name known early in this 2021 season. A former 2nd round pick, Baddoo was left unprotected in this year’s Rule 5 Draft by the Twins and the Tigers chose to select him in the Major League phase and give him an opportunity. After performing well this spring, he has now started the season hitting a ridiculous .455 and slugging over 1.000 and has already paved out a way to more regular at-bats with the rebuilding Tigers. The power and speed combination is likely what lured the Tigers to him initially and it could also help fantasy managers who took a flier on him early in the season if he continues his impressive play and locks up an everyday role in the Tigers outfield.

Jonathan India – 2B, 3B

.379/.394/.483 , 4 R , 0 HR , 11 RBI , 0 SB

India is a much more known prospect than Baddoo, but similarly to Badoo, the former 5th overall pick has been swinging a hot bat early on in the season for a blazing hot Red’s offense. The Reds have tried all kinds of different defensive alignments and ultimately, India found his way to the second base job coming out of spring training. While he has shown a great feel to hit throughout his career, he lacks the standout tool that many fantasy managers look for, and without a move up the lineup, it is hard for me to see him producing a significant amount of counting stats. He should be a solid overall player who does not necessarily hurt managers in any given category, but if league mates are reading too much into the early RBI totals definitely don’t be afraid to shop him around.

Michael Kopech – SP

6.1 IP, 11 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.474 WHIP, 1 W, 0 SV

Kopech has been given a multi-inning reliever role early into the season, but he has been more than impressive and could quickly find himself in the mix for a rotation spot once he builds up his workload. Kopech has been a top pitching prospect for years, but he has slid down some lists after a lost 2019 season from Tommy John surgery and a decision to opt-out for 2020. The upside remains as high as almost any pitcher and if he is able to continue pitching like he is right now, he should be a strong value for ratios alone until he is given an opportunity to claim a spot in the White Sox rotation.

Nate Lowe – 1B

.235/.297/.529 , 4 R , 3 HR , 14 RBI , 1 SB

It seems like Lowe was knocking on the door in Tampa for multiple seasons, but he just could not find enough success to convince the Rays to commit to him over others on the roster. He was acquired by the Rangers this offseason for a package of prospects and he has immediately made the most of his early opportunities with his new club. Lowe has showcased his big power potential and ability to be a legitimate force in the middle of a lineup, but he has also continued to strike out a ton and it will be interesting to see if he is able to consistently produce numbers for fantasy managers when pitchers start to have a more complete plan of attack against him. Lowe is actually a good player to sell high on in leagues as the name recognition might cause league mates to be more convinced of a break out than the likes of Baddoo and others who have just recently burst onto the scene.

Ryan Weathers – SP, RP

6.0 IP, 7 K, 1.50 ERA, 0.667 WHIP, 1 W, 1 SV

Not dissimilar to Kopech, Weathers is currently being utilized as a multi-inning reliever and pitching extremely well. Weathers may not have the same pedigree as Kopech, but he might be in a better position to seize a rotation spot. The continued struggles of Chris Paddack already had Weathers on my radar, but now with the injury to Adrian Morejon, the door of opportunity has swung wide open. While the baseball community will undoubtedly be clamoring for the debut of top of pitching prospect, MacKenzie Gore, do not sleep on Weathers after he clearly outpitched Gore in spring training to earn an Opening Day spot and has done nothing but impress thus far into the 2021 season.

Yermin Mercedes – DH, C

.536/.594/.857 5 R , 2 HR , 7 RBI, 0 SB

The aforementioned players have no doubt started the year off well, but none have thrown themselves onto the national stage more than Yermin Mercedes who started his season going a perfect 8 for 8. Mercedes has been a bat-first player without a clear defensive home for some time now, but with Edwin Encarnacion becoming and free agent, and Eloy Jimenez going down to injury, Mercedes has been given a spot in the strong White Sox lineup. In leagues where Mercedes is listed as Catcher eligible, there is reason to be especially excited about him. While the bat is certainly going to cool down, Mercedes is a solid hitter with a real feel for the barrel and as long as he is getting opportunities, he could continually produce for fantasy managers.