Fantasy's top rookies show great potential

Fantasy's top rookies show great potential

Why do fantasy owners place a special importance on rookies? The key word is profit. Even highly touted rookies usually carry a reasonable price tag simply because they are unproven at the big league level. At worst, a late-round draft pick or a waiver claim is wasted. But the reward far outweighs the risk. Just ask the Aaron Judge or Cody Bellinger owner in your league.

While Judge and Bellinger are the obvious examples, several other rookies made a significant fantasy impact in 2017. With only a few days remaining in the season, it's time to unveil the All-Rookie team.

Zinkie's fantasy tip of the day

Manny Pina, catcher: Unlike last season, there was no clear-cut choice for this spot. But while Pina is no Gary Sanchez, the 30-year-old backstop has posted respectable numbers in his first extended big league opportunity, batting .279 with nine homers, 43 RBIs and 45 runs scored through 107 games. Still, Pina's modest offensive production over parts of 12 seasons in the Minors hints at his lack of upside. Pina offers minimal mixed-league appeal.

Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF: The undisputed choice for NL Rookie of the Year, Bellinger will also garner serious MVP consideration. The attention is well-deserved, as the lefty-swinging slugger heads into the final Wednesday of the season with 39 homers, 95 RBIs and 87 runs, this despite not making his big league debut until April 25. Bellinger figures to remain an elite fantasy force for years to come and is worth a top-30 pick on Draft Day 2018. Rhys Hoskins , who has launched 18 home runs while tallying 47 RBIs through his first 46 big league contests, surely warrants a mention. Also, don't forget about Cuban import Yuli Gurriel and his .296 batting average, 18 homers and 72 RBIs across 134 games. Matt Olsen has played an integral role in the A's offense, clubbing 24 home runs in just 59 games. Finally, Josh Bell has enjoyed a stellar first full season with the Pirates with 24 homers and 84 RBIs through 154 contests.

Zinkie's fantasy tip of the day

Ian Happ, second base: Happ has taken a step backwards in the plate discipline department since making his Cubs debut, seeing his strikeout-to-walk ratio rise from 1.9 K/BB in the Minors to 3.5 K/BB in the big leagues. But the 23-year-old's power (22 homers through 111 games) is legit, and he has also chipped in 63 RBIs, 58 runs and eight steals, providing the type of across-the-board contributions that fantasy owners crave.

Paul DeJong, shortstop: Like Happ, DeJong has managed to post impressive power numbers (24 homers in 103 games) despite poor plate discipline (121-to-20 K/BB ratio). While his free-swinging approach suggests that a repeat of this season's .280 batting average is unlikely, his 44 homers in 246 minor league games suggests that 25-30 home runs is attainable in 2018.

Rafael Devers, third base: Devers made quite the early impression upon joining the Red Sox in late-July, batting .406 with three homers, six RBIs and seven runs over his first eight games. Since then, the Dominican native has rewarded his fantasy owners with a steady dose of counting stats, including a stellar batting average that was expected considering his .296 AVG while in the Minors. The Red Sox third sacker will be just 21 on Opening Day 2018 and should already be viewed as a quality mid-round pick with plenty of upside.

Zinkie on breakout infielders

Aaron Judge, outfielder: Six months ago, Judge wasn't even guaranteed a spot on the Opening Day roster. But after putting together a phenomenal 2017 campaign in which he broke the all-time record for home runs by a rookie, the 25-year-old has earned a place in the MVP conversation. Judge is unlikely to fall beyond the top-25 in drafts next spring.

Andrew Benintendi, outfielder: Benintendi quickly emerged onto the fantasy radar last year when he posted a strong .295/.359/.476 slash line with 14 RBIs across 34 games. As for 2017, the talented 23-year-old is living up to expectations, reaching base at a .357 clip while collecting 20 homers, 89 RBIs, 82 runs and 19 steals through 147 games. Benintendi should deliver another well-rounded stat line next season.

Trey Mancini, outfielder: Mancini opened the 2017 season in a part-time role, but after posting a .342 average in May and hitting .340 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs in June, the 25-year-old earned everyday playing time. Through 143 games, the Orioles left fielder sports a .292 batting average to go along with 24 homers and 78 RBIs. Looking ahead to 2018, Mancini is a fine choice as a third or fourth outfielder in 12-team mixed leagues.

Luis Castillo, starter: Called up by the Reds in late-June, Castillo quickly became Cincinnati's most reliable starting pitcher, posting a 3.13 ERA over his first four outings to go along with 30 strikeouts in 23 frames. The 24-year-old righty finished the season with a 3.12 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and a 9.9 K/9 rate in 15 starts. Mixed league owners searching for a solid back-end of the rotation option with mid-rotation potential should strongly consider Castillo on Draft Day 2018.

Chad Green, RP/SP: Since he is not a closer, Green's masterful 2017 season has been largely overlooked. But even without any saves, the 26-year-old righty has earned a spot on many mixed league rosters thanks to his elite ratios. In 38 games this season (one start), Green boasts a 1.87 ERA and a 0.74 WHIP to go along with 102 strikeouts across 67 1/3 innings. Any fantasy owner would gladly accept those numbers.

Zach Steinhorn is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.