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Fantasy Baseball: Top prospects to keep an eye on 

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We are only a week into the new season, so the dreaded disclaimer must be posted: there is a small sample size of data to evaluate. With that prerequisite accomplished, let’s get down to what this article is about: If you don’t act early, then you just might miss an opportunity.

The first few waiver wire periods of the Fantasy Football season are crucial and often decide a championship. Fantasy Baseball has larger rosters and (in my humble opinion) takes more skill and strategy to win, so waiver wire claims don’t play as essential a part of a title run as it can in football, but it matters. If you claim a player who turns out to be a full-time starter or one of your 10 best players, that can be the difference between a strong second place finish and a celebratory victory with the CBS Bobblehead.

In the RotoExperts.com Draft Package, I speculatively ranked the Top 25 prospects that will impact this season. It’s been a week and we have some, and I emphasize some, data to look at. We have something to help us determine who is going to receive playing time and who isn’t; who is hitting their way to a larger role or more opportunities and in some cases, who hasn’t changed their situation one bit.

Entering the draft season, I thought Yulieski Gurriel had the skill set and maturity to hit the ground running in a powerful Astros lineup. After a first week in which he is 2 for 18 without an extra base hit, it’s safe to say that he tripped and fell on his face right out of the box. I would call him a buy low but even I find that to be a bad joke. Andrew Benintendi of the Red Sox did launch an Opening Day home run, but he and Dansby Swanson of the Braves haven’t started that much better. A week of poor numbers after 15-20 at-bats isn’t a reason to change any of your draft prep evaluations (small sample size, remember) but there are a few prospects whose outlook has changed in a meaningful way after just one week.

Manuel Margot, OF, Padres

2017 Top 25 Rookie Rankings: #8

Margot should hit for a good enough batting average to not hurt your chances in the category, while he also has the potential for double-digit home runs. But what buoys his value and why I ranked him eighth is that he will steal 30 bases if he plays full-time and that’s a very nice floor to rely on. It has only been a week, but if I were to re-rank my 2017 rookies for the Draft Kit, Margot would probably be in the top three.

The question for me entering this season was Margot’s playing time. The Padres are a rebuilding organization and have a lot of players they can audition for playing time. Travis Jankowski had a good season in 2016, while Jabari Blash had a strong Spring Training. Margot is their best centerfielder, but that didn’t guarantee that he would receive full-time status beginning on Opening Day. In the first week he has played in six games and has had 23 at bats. With those opportunities, he has two home runs and a stolen base while batting .304.

The first weeks of playing time indicate that Margot will be the Padres primary centerfielder, making a 10 homer/30 stolen base season a real possibility. In points leagues he has been a Top 10 scoring outfielder, while in category leagues he has contributed to the big three (HRs/SBs/Batting Average). In deeper leagues, I have consistently invested late round picks in Leonys Martin because nobody else can stand him even though he is going to provide at least 10 home runs and 20-25 stolen bases. Margot will hit for a better batting average and steal more bases. He is owned in 44 percent of Yahoo and 45.9 percent of ESPN leagues.

Margot should be a more productive all-around player than late round veteran picks like Brett Gardner, Kole Calhoun and Jay Bruce. While he won’t hit more home runs than A.J. Pollock, he could steal enough bases to be more valuable than dark horse darling Christian Yelich. The larger point is that Margot needs to be owned and now is the time to claim him.

Fantasy Baseball: Top prospects to keep an eye on 

Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres

2017 Top 25 Rookie Ranking: #10

Renfroe has the offensive pop and the defensive chops to be a full-time player as a rookie, even on a non-contender like the Padres. The reason he ranked 10th was largely because he doesn’t steal bases and it wasn’t a guarantee at the time of publishing the draft rankings that he would break camp with the Padres.

Renfroe is 7 for 24 with two doubles and a home run, and he even tossed in a stolen base is like a cherry on the sundae. He is owned in 60 percent of Yahoo leagues and 29.9 percent on ESPN. If there is a red flag to a strong first week, it is that he hasn’t earned a walk yet. He only walked 121 times in 1,716 at bats in 438 minor league games, so free passes aren’t as big a part of his game as we would like to see from a slugger, but we knew that coming in. He is currently a Top 50 outfielder after Week 1 (Top 40 in points leagues), and at worst I expect him to be a Top 100 outfielder all season. The batting average and home runs should be there to justify starting him in standard five-outfielder leagues. The upside justifies owning him rather than veterans trying to make 2017 their last successful Fantasy season. He can be as good if not better than Adam Duvall was last season, and now is the time that you need to claim him.

Joey Gallo, 3B, Rangers

2017 Top 25 Rookie Ranking: #12

I am typically a conservative ranker/projector, but I ranked Gallo aggressively during the preseason because of his potential to be an impact Fantasy player. The problem Fantasy owners have with Gallo is that he can be extremely inconsistent because of his significant swing and miss issues and because all indications are that the Rangers do not plan to provide him an opportunity for full time plate appearances.

I am writing up Joey Gallo this week as a cautionary tale rather than a recommendation. Adrian Beltre’s injury has given Gallo’s prodigious home run potential a stage to be seen, but when Beltre is back, Gallo will be baffling us in batting practice if not swinging and missing at Triple-A. The at-bats aren’t going to be there even if he performs well in the short term.

The Rangers signed Mike Napoli during the offseason, decided to start Delino DeShields in left field in spring training and already had a difficult task finding at bats for Jurickson Profar, Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Gomez. If the Rangers believed Gallo could be relied on to consistently produce, they would find a place for him. I would love to be able to recommend him because he is an exciting attraction every time he steps to the plate, but it is impossible to see a path to playing time.

Fantasy owners should check in from time to time on the monstrous power source, but don’t be distracted by anything he does while Beltre is on the shelf. For now, Gallo is a mirage and owners shouldn’t be fooled into drinking.

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