Opening day rosters are in the process of being finalized and with that, a crop of rookies are receiving some of those final slots. Let’s get to know some of these players a bit better.
Aaron Judge will be the Yankees opening day right fielder and there is a lot about him that screams “prototypical right fielder”. Judge has the requisite range and arm to be an upgrade at the position over the aging Matt Holliday. He also has excellent raw power that may allow him to reach and exceed the 30 home run mark multiple times over his career. The question mark here is the approach and his handedness. He’s a right-handed, all or nothing hitter capable of drawing walks 10% or more of the time, but has also struck out around a quarter or more of the time in the minors and during his trials in the majors has struck out over 40%. Judge has worked to shorten his swing, moving away from a leg kick, but will always remain a right-handed hitter who strikes out at least semi-frequently. Expectations beyond much over a .240s batting average should be held in check until he shows improved contact-making skills. He’ll have greater utility in OBP leagues where he could hit .220 and still produce an OBP in excess of .300.
Staying in the outfield we move over to Detroit where JaCoby Jones has earned at least a platoon role (vs. lefties) in centerfield. Jones is a good tools player who has yet to really impress over an extended period at any one level of the minor leagues. The former third round pick, for example, struck out 30% of the time over 324 plate appearances while posting a .243/.309/.356 batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage slash line. Jones has plenty of raw power and speed and does have 20-20 potential has not shown the former talent in-game on a consistent basis since A-ball where hit 23 home runs and stole 17 bases. Jones earned the job through an excellent spring training performance, showing off his power and speed potential as well as his plus defense. In a full-time role, he looks like he would be overmatched and quickly dispatched back to the minors, but he might hang on for a while in a more specialized role. The opportunity and speed make him worthy of a pickup in most AL-only formats.
Adalberto Mejia defeated Jose Berrios and Nick Tepesch in the quest for the Twin’s fifth starter job. The 23-year old left-hander came over in a deal with the Giants for Eduardo Nunez. Mejia is not a high-profile arm but is a fairly finished project who throws four pitches for strikes and gets swings and misses with a plus changeup and a decent slider. His skills may actually profile better as a left-handed specialist in the long run, but he has a deep enough arsenal to be a competent back of the rotation starter and inning eater. I would put him on my AL-only watch list or reserve roster at most at the moment.
Koda Glover was a 2015 8th round pick by the Nationals. A reliever, he flew through the minors, pitching at three levels in 2015 and three more again, including the Majors, last year and ended up in this spring’s closer competition, ultimately having to settle for a middle relief role. At 6’5”, 225 pounds, Glover throws hard, regularly hitting the mid to upper nineties on his fastball and has a filthy slider to go along with it. Put him on your saves sleeper list though there are a few names ahead of him currently on the depth chart.
One of the more exciting rookies to earn an everyday job to begin 2017 is the Pirates’ Josh Bell. The 24-year old, former second-round pick had a dismal spring training which hopefully can be ignored. The switch-hitter with his plus bat-speed and tremendous approach, drawing walks at equal or in excess of his strikeouts should allow him to make an impact in the batting average and OBP department immediately. Bell’s also hit 17 home runs between two levels of play last year and that power is still emerging. A mid to high-teens home run out put showing with a .280s batting average and .350-plus OBP are well within his reach for the coming season.