Tout Table: Rating the Rookies

This week, the Touts were polled on the recent cascade of call-ups, here’s what they have to say.

Which of the recent call-ups will have the greatest impact? Who are you handling with care? Who could surprise?

Alex Chamberlain (Rotofraphs, @DolphHauldhagen): This is probably a less-popular pick, given the marquee names called up this week, but my big FAAB target this week is Nicky Lopez. I’m always one to favor hitters with above-average plate discipline and/or contact skills; Lopez put on an absolute clinic at AAA (four times as many walks as strikeouts???) while running a good deal (9 SB in 12 attempts in 138 PA). His kind of polish, on a team hurting for impact players (outside of a select few), could make him a fantasy mainstay. I am treading most carefully re: Keston Hiura and Brendan Rodgers; I think Hiura might be a better real-life hitter than fantasy hitter right now, and I think we’re far from seeing the last of Travis Shaw. Rodgers, well… let’s just say the Rockies are not exactly adept in their handling of young talent. Oh, right, and a surprise… Willie Calhoun *truly* looks better than ever, Danny Santana is not a feasible long-term option, and the Rangers seem content for now with handling their outfield in timeshare fashion.

Anthony Aniano (Rotoballer, @AAnianoFantasy): People will trip over themselves trying add the Rileys,Hiura and Rodgers but Nicky Lopez of Kansas City is the player for me. Whit Merrifields ability to play the OF opens up second base for Lopez and his hit tools will play at the big league level. Any player who walks 14% of the time compared with only a 4% strikeout rate has the mature approach to handle big league pitching. Mix in just enough power/speed and Lopez will be a longterm middle infield add for this season. I’ll be treading lightly on Keston Hiura. That Brewers infield is already crowded once Shaw is fully healthy and unless Hiura is scorching hot he could easily be sent to AAA for more seasoning. Oscar Mercado can be a pleasant surprise if he viewed for what he is, a stolen base play. If you add him and keep expectations low in terms of power and batting average he could provide what he’s best at, stolen bases.

Jon Hegglund (Baseball Prospectus, @JonHegglund): I like Austin Riley to have across the board impact, but he’ll be getting plenty of attention in FAAB this weekend. Like Alex and Anthony, and probably many who will respond below, I like Nicky Lopez to be sneaky good. Remember what Jeff McNeil did last year? I think Lopez could have a similar under-the-radar impact–hitting second everyday in a surprisingly potent Royals lineup (at least the top half), he could make a difference in runs and average (and OBP, especially). Also, as a huge Willie Calhoun guy last year, I am contractually obligated to remind you not to sleep on him, now that he’s back. I’m less bullish on Hiura and Mercado, the former because he needs to hit right away to keep the “injured” Travis Shaw at bay, and the latter because it seems like Cleveland just has a bad vibe this year. Mercado will help in steals, but probably not as much as you hope.

Michael Stein (Fantasy Judgment, @FantasyJudgment): Of all the recent call-ups I am most excited about Austin Riley. I like his offensive prowess and the opportunities he will have hitting in a good lineup. While he may have some struggles in the outfield, I think the Braves will continue finding at bats for him. I even foresee him sticking around and sending Ender Inciarte to the bench when he comes off the injured list. I can also foresee the Braves giving Riley some time at third base to spell Josh Donaldson who has not been overly productive and is clearly not part of the Braves long-term plans.

Steve Gardner (USAToday Fantasy Sports, @SteveAGardner): I’ll join the Austin Riley chorus, partly because he’s been mashing in the minors and there is more than one pathway to playing time now that he’s seen some reps in the outfield. The Braves have a solid offense and Riley won’t face too much pressure to produce right away — even though he did.

Mike Gianella (Baseball Prospectus, @MikeGianella): I like all these players but I’m going to go with Riley based on the power potential and the idea that he’ll play someone on that team. I love Hiura as a player irl but in Roto formats I’m not as enthused as I am about these other names. No one mentioned in this article is going to slip under the radar among serious players but Shaun Anderson has the advantage of a great park and is a solid option who is unlikely to garner the FAAB budget-busting bids that some of these “bigger” names.

Jake Ciely (The Athletic, @allinkid): I know the Rockies have been pretty nonsensical with call-ups and rookies vs. veterans in the past (and still with Ian Desmond), but I’ll take Brendan Rodgers. Do the Braves (fool themselves) and try to get some trade value by playing Ender Inciarte once he’s back, and we see a possible demotion like Carter Kieboom if Riley’s defense is woeful in the outfield and he struggles at the plate? Speaking of defense, that’s a big concern with Keston Hiura. Willie Calhoun looks better, but neither Calhoun nor Oscar Mercado excite me offensively the way those three do, so going back to them, I’ll take Rodgers in Colorado and believing he’s here to stay. As an aside, I think Nicky Lopez is the underrated/overlooked add, as his playing time might be the safest.

Michael Florio (NFL Network, @MichaelFFlorio): I believe that Brendan Rodgers, Austin Riley and Keston Hiura have the highest upside of the recent prospects. Rodgers will get to play in Coors and join a good lineup. I also believe he will have a long leash at second base, as both Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson have been disastrious this season. The Rockies have gotten a .199 average from their second basemen this year. Riley and Hiura both join strong lineups as well, but both will have stronger competition breathing down their neck in Travis Shaw and Ender Inciarte. I believe if both hit, they will stick, but if they struggle their clubs have big league ready options. Calhoun is the perfect combo of opportunity and ability, if he can finally put it together at the MLB level. So far, so good though. Nicky Lopez is definitely the name that can surprise.He has shown great plate discepline in his minor league career, has a spot at second and consistently has hit in the two hole since getting the call. Mercado is the one I am most handling with care. He brings great stolen base ability to the table, but other than that he does not stand out nearly as much as these other prospects. With so many being called up, put in a bid on each. I missed out on the top tier guys, but got Nicky Lopez for $5 out of $100 and Mercado for $3 in leagues where FAAB has ran already. The others each went for $20+.

Ariel Cohen (CBS Sports, @ATCNY): If the Rockies mishandling of prospects scares owners, then great! I’m going with Rodgers as the prospect who could have the greatest impact. He will play SS in the short term, and if it goes well, could take over the 2B job long term. Plus, Coors Field I’ve heard is a nice ballpark for hitters to play in. Hiura to me is another Kieboom situation … meaning that he’s great long term, but I feel this is a short stint until Shaw returns. The Brewers also have little margin for error to play with. As for surprise – if you liked Jeff McNeil, you might like Nicky Lopez. KC should be able to give him more leash than some of the other call-ups this week. Riley might have the highest upside, and the power should play well in Atlanta’s home ballpark.

Howard Bender (Fantasy Alarm, @RotobuzzGuy): I really want to hop onto the Austin Riley bandwagon as the power is spectacular and a comp of Troy Glaus isn’t too far off. I’m just concerned as to where he plays once Ender Inciarte returns. I would prefer to see Riley over Markakis in the corner outfield or over Josh Donaldson at third, but I think the Braves need to make a deal or two before space opens up for him. So I’m in for the guy who probably has the best chance at regular at-bats between now and the end of the season and that’s Nicky Lopez of the Royals. They’ve got Whit Merrifield in the outfield full-time to keep second base oopen for Lopez and he’s got a nice blend of some power, some speed, but a solid average/OBP. He blends nicely with the Royals who are clearly built for speed and not comfort and should hopefully stay put all season. Of course, I probably also said similar things about Carlos Febles and Angel Berroa, so maybe I’m just sadly addicted to Royals middle infield mediocrity. Sigh.

Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): I like Oscar Mercado and FAABed him for a buck a couple of weeks ago. Good speed potential, but more importantly a clear path to PT in a CLE OF that has a .295 OBP. Mercado had a .396 OBP in AAA before his callup. Of the who-don’t-ya-trust candidates, I’ll take Hiura, for the opposite reason: MIL is stacked with experienced, successful hitters, and it isn’t like his glove is going to keep him in the lineup.

Lenny Melnick (LennyMelnickFantasySports, @LennyMelnick): Nicky Lopez can impact the SB catagory ..Most others are good complementary players..

Ryan Bloomfield (BaseballHQ, @RyanBHQ): Will Brendan Rodgers stay up once Trevor Story returns? Will Austin Riley stay up once Ender Inciarte returns? Will Keston Hiura stay up once Travis Shaw returns? Will … ok, you get the point. All the focus right now is on how immensely talented these guys are—and for good reason—but what if their MLB stay is just a week or two? My pick for greatest impact: Nicky Lopez. He should have a relatively long leash, he’s shown solid plate/contact skills at Triple-A, and he comes with immediate SB impact. Guessing bid amounts is a fools errand, but I’ll hedge that Lopez won’t burn as large of a hole in FAAB wallets this weekend. I’m also on board with Michael Florio’s comment that Willie Calhoun might have the best combo of playing time safety + impact skills, but with the start he’s having, you’ll have to pay full freight.

Dr. Roto (Scout Fantasy, @DrRoto): Keston Hiura can flat out rake. There will always be a spot in a lineup for a hitter of that quality. Nicky Lopez is batting 2nd behind Merrifield and in front of Mondesi. He’s going to see a lot of fastballs and steal plenty of bases

Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): I threw money at all of ’em and we’ll see what happens. But the guy I want most is Hiura. I think he will hit more than the others–including Lopez, although Lopez has the best floor and least risk bc of clear PT on a bad team.

Glenn Colton (Fantasy Alarm, @GlennColton1): who to target depends on your team situation. Do you have a big positional or category need. If you are desperate for swipes, Mercado jumps to the head of the line. That said, I think people are sleeping on Willie Calhoun who may be that hackneyed post-hype sleeper

Charlie Wiegert (CDM Sports, @GFFantasySports): Depends what you are looking for! If you’re looking for AB’s and rs, Nick Senzel will produce the most from now till season end, with Nicky Lopez not far behind both appear to have a clear path to playing time and hitting at the top of the order. Austin Riley will produce the most HR’s and RBI’s if he stays n the Braves lineup Willie Calhoun will not be far behindI

Ryan Hallam (Fighting Chance Fantasy, @FightingChance): I’m really hopefully for Willie Calhoun. If you heard me on Sirius/XM back in March I made my pick of Willie Calhoun live on the air with Todd Zola and Jeff Erickson. Now, I am hoping that this pick pays off. I like Brendan Rodgers, but always worry about the depth in Colorado. I have grabbed Oscar Mercado in a few leagues, and like others I also like Nicky Lopez. The reason I am targeting him is because I always seem to build my teams around power, at the expense of speed. Mercado (if he sticks) and Lopez are my chance to right the wrongs of my March drafts and get my lineups some much needed speed. That being said, all of these young kids have fantasy potential and if you are able to get any of them they should help your team.

Phil Hertz (BaseballHQ, @prhz50): I need more information . Is it a keeper situation? Am I in contention? The guys I like the most long term are Hiura and Rogers, but I’m not sure they’re the best choices for the rest of

Tim McCullough (Baseball Prospectus, @TimsTenz): It’s Austin Riley for me. He’s mashed against both Double-A and Triple-A pitching the last two seasons and is clearly ready for MLB. His power in that lineup will generate some nice counting numbers. I think people will be surprised by Red Sox second baseman Michael Chavis. He’ll have some adjustments to make at the plate to cover a couple of holes in his swing but he’s shown the ability to adjust before and will take over at second (sorry Dustin Pedroia). Chavis has excellent OBP skills and will produce solid numbers across four fantasy categories. I’m handling Jesus Luzardo with care.

Larry Schechter (Winning Fantasy Baseball, @LarrySchechter): While everyone is focused on the callups, if you need a starting pitcher, grab Daniel Mengden, who is probably available and definitely worthy of a spot in your mixed league. Of the call-ups, Nicky Lopez is by far the safest bet to get full-time AB’s the rest of the year. However he’s probably only going to be an upgrade for your roster if you’re in a 15-team mixed league and have a weak middle infielder to replace. IMO none of these call-ups are going to be big roster upgrades for anyone unless you’re in a mono-league. Mercado played against a LHP and then sat two games against RHP. He’ll have no mixed-league value playing only against LHP.

D.J. Short (Rotoworld, @djshort): I love Austin Riley and Keston Hiura for the long-term, but there’s at least enough playing time concerns there that I could see Brendan Rodgers coming out on top here. Second base has been a black hole for the Rockies this year, so here’s hoping he gets a real shot. Playing half of his games in Coors Field gives him a big edge here. And he’s been a lot better during his second stint in Triple-A. Granted, I don’t know what to make of any Triple-A numbers this year, especially in the PCL. Still, I’d rather see him putting up those sort numbers than not. Like others have said, Nicky Lopez might be the safest even if he doesn’t excite as much as the others in terms of counting stats.

Peter Kreutzer (Ask Rotoman, Fantasy Baseball Guide, @kroyte): I don’t think any of these really exciting prospects are bust-the-bank sure things this year, so moderation is advised, but if you have holes you really want to take your shot at those that might improve you. Since I’m not sure what exact roster of hopefuls we’re talking about, I’ll note that Willie Calhoun and Nicky Lopez seem to have the clearest path to regular playing time. Keston Hiura and Brendan Rodgers are probably the biggest talents, and could force their way into playing time. Austin Riley has power and the Braves need some punch, so who knows there. Oscar Mercado steps into a good situation, since Cleveland needs offense. My point is that you should target the guys who fix your problems, and bid strongly, but don’t make any of them your last shot at improving. While any of them could be great the rest of the way, in all likelihood, you’re going to need more, so hold onto a bullet to use later.

Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): Greatest impact assuming the playing time is there has to be Brendan Rodgers because of the Coors boost. Although I like Oscar Mercado’s fantasy potential, I expect him to be sent back down once Tyler Naquin is activated from the DL. So far, he has only started against lefties, so it doesn’t appear that the Indians have any intention of giving him a full-time job now, and if not now, then it’s probably because he’s not expected to be up for long. Nicky Lopez could surprise because of his elite minor league plate discipline and clear path to playing time. Though he might not be the strongest of fantasy contributors, he’s unlikely to flop, and he should hold a starting job the rest of the season.

Craig Mish (SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, @CraigMish): At this point Austin Riley has more than earned his time in the majors. He still has a few games to go hypothetically until Ender Inciarte comes back but no way they pull him from the lineup. Brendan Rodgers’ leash isn’t as long but he’s a Coors field hitter and Garrett Hampson isn’t coming back soon. Keston Hiura follows those two, his path to PT is clear but Travis Shaw isn’t going away. For me it’s Nicky Lopez after that followed by Willie Calhoun and Oscar Mercado. Yordan Alvarez in leagues he is available, probably best to take a pre emptive strike now. The Pirates will also look to P Mitch Keller soon, I don’t see them rolling with the opener the rest of the season.

Michael Rathburn (Rotowire, @FantasyRath): Austin Riley will have the biggest impact because of his power. They will find a way to get him at bats. I love what Willie Calhoun has done in AAA and gotten back to the majors and I think he could surprise only because people might have written him off after last year.

Ray Murphy (BaseballHQ, @RayHQ): I’m interested in Riley and Hiura, but operating under the assumption that they will be bid through the ceiling. Lopez and Mercado are almost must-bids if you need their particular skill set, as SB are so hard to find. In a vacuum, I may be most interested in Willie Calhoun, as I think he’s much closer to a finished product than the others, thanks to his high-minors experience. TEX is a bit logjammed in the OF, but at some point (soon), Calhoun is a part of their future and Hunter Pence is not.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): I wrote the question so I’ll scold myself for not answering it and answering something else. This is akin to the MLB trade deadline in AL/NL only leagues. In instances I don’t have the hammer, I’ll go just a little aggressive on the second-tier targets. For example, Jerad Walsh and Cole irvin. OK, since I don’t want to yell at myself, Riley is the upside play as Ender Inciarte isn’t going to block him. i think it’s dangerous to bag Mercado and assume you’ve fixed steals. I’d rather grab Mallex Smith if available. My surprise is Irvin. With everyone throwing 92-plus, his 88 mph not-so-fastball could be deceptive first time through the Senior Circuit.

Jason Collette (Rotowire, @jasoncollette): I’ve long been a fan of Austin Riley and was touting him after seeing him mash at the AFL in 2017. That said, for the price, give me Nicky Lopez. Excellent bat to ball skills and can scoot under a manager with a led foot.

Derek VanRiper (Rotowire, @DerekVanRiper): I think Austin Riley has slightly less playing time risk than Keston Hiura and Brendan Rodgers, and the output might be in line with Pete Alonso’s first 40+ games in the big leagues. Adjustments are key for hitters like that, of course, and since his hot week will likely drive prices north 25% of a FAAB budget in some rooms, I’m going to be somewhat careful with him. Rodgers, by virtue of playing half of his games in Coors *should* be the most impactful, but we’ve seen the Rockies go their own way with limiting the playing time of David Dahl, Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson in recent years. Value-wise the greatest impact might come from Nicky Lopez. The Royals have already installed him as their No. 2 hitter, they don’t have much to squeeze him off the roster talent-wise, and he’s got outstanding plate discipline with enough speed to be dangerous. Projections systems loved Willie Calhoun a year ago, and he’ll probably be cheaper than the “big three” this weekend, and the Rangers have no reason to send him back down to Triple-A at this point. Overall, throwing cost out the window, I think Calhoun is the best bet to make the greatest 2019 impact.

Mike Sheets (ESPN, @MikeASheets): If I’m going to heavily invest in one of these guys, it’s going to be Riley. We’re always looking for these prospects to come up and be difference-makers, and he has a good chance to be one. There is the concern about what happens when Inciarte comes back, but if Riley continues to rake, the Braves have to play him. While Rodgers also has the tools to be a difference-maker, I’m hesitant to get too excited. Based on how the Rockies have treated past prospects, I just don’t trust them to give him a long leash and let him play every day (he’s already on the bench on Sunday after starting his first two games). With so much attention going to Riley and Rodgers, Lopez has a chance to be a sneaky pick-up this week. His tools aren’t as loud as the others, but he has a good hit tool and can add value with his legs.

Clay Link (Rotowire, @claywlink): It’s between Hiura and Riley for me, but I’m going Riley. We now have minor-league batted ball data at RotoWire, and before Riley’s callup, he had a hard-hit rate north of 40 percent along with a sub-20% K-rate. Meanwhile, Hiura had a 34.4% hard-hit rate and a 27.2 K%. I’m a little worried about the swing and miss in Hiura’s game. Willie Calhoun has surprised in the days since his callup and I think he may continue to surprise. The Rangers need to evaluate what they have, and while Calhoun’s defensive deficiencies may cost him a full-time role, I think he will be in the lineup five days a week or so at the expense of veterans Hunter Pence and Shin-Soo Choo. I’m handling Oscar Mercado with care since it appears he’s going to be on the short side of a platoon, for now.

Jeff Boggis (Fantasy Football Empire, @JeffBoggis): Being that I live in Atlanta and follow the Braves, Austin Riley is the most exciting player to be called up that could make the greatest impact. He’s off to a blistering start with a .533 batting average, 2 home runs, and 4 RBI through his first 5 games in the major leagues. The batting average is unrealistic, but if the 22 year old keeps hitting for a decent average, he will stay up with the team.

Scott Swanay (FantasyBaseballSherpa, @fantasy_sherpa): I’m sure most will choose among Austin Riley, Keston Hiura, and Brendan Rodgers, but just to be contrarian, I’ll go in another direction. The first two of the three popular/obvious choices play for playoff contenders, which suggests they might not have the longest leashes on major league life if they get off to a slow start. The third figures to be fighting for at-bats w/ Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson, who is likely to be back in the majors soon. So I’ll look in the direction of two teams that aren’t going anywhere this season (Royals, Rangers), mention Nicky Lopez and Willie Calhoun as two players likely to see significant playing time going forward, and I’ll choose Calhoun based on his greater capacity for hitting baseballs over outfield fences.

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