Fantasy Baseball Edge: The Greatest Rookie Seasons Ever
By Moe Koltun, Matt Cott and Matthew Schwimmer of RotoAnalysis.com
Mike Trout’s rookie season is historically unprecedented. In just 111 games, or about 20% less games than most top players this season, Trout is leading the Player Rater by a full 3.45 ‘points,’ good for more than 25% better than any other player in baseball. Trout already has 107 runs which leads the majors by 17, and his 42 steals are also good for first in the league. Being first in two categories as a rookie would be enough to make Trout special, but he is also third in the league value-wise with his batting average, top 25 in homers and top 40 in RBI’s. The phrase gets thrown around a lot, but Trout is showing how fantastic a true five-category performance can be. We are witnessing greatness with Trout’s 2012 campaign, and it makes me shiver to think of what the rest of his career could look like. Let’s take a look at some of the other best rookies in MLB history and their fantasy seasons.
2000’s: Albert Pujols (2001)
Before 2001, Pujols was ranked as the 42nd best prospect by Baseball America and while he was not seen as irrelevant, expectations were middling. However, he rose up the system from low A to AA in 2000 and came up in 2001 with an absolutely incredible year. He played in left field and right field, first base and third base; it didn’t matter where they put him, they just needed his bat in the lineup. A .329 average to go with his 37 homers and 130 RBIs made Pujols the kind of pickup Trout was this year, singlehandedly changing every fantasy league. This strong season started off a streak of consistency nearly unmatched in the modern era, and made it a rookie year for the ages. I can only imagine that keeper league players still reaping the benefits are pretty happy.
1990’s: Mike Piazza (1993)
The 90’s was a strong decade for rookies as 5 recorded over 30 homers and another 17 knocked between 20 and 30 longballs, but Mike Piazza’s 35 homer season still lead the way. A .318 average with 35 homers and 112 RBI’s are always going to be huge assets in fantasy, but Piazza did it from behind the plate in a season where only 3 catchers recorded over 3 WAR. Piazza and his 7.6 WAR season had no competition offensively behind the plate in the four main offensive categories. While Mickey Tettleton only hit 3 less homers that Piazza, his average was over 70 points lower while Chris Hoiles had 40 less RBI’s despite an average only 8 points lower. Although Piazza probably didn’t have the most impressive season in 1993 as Barry Bonds was one steal away from the 46/30 club, he was likely the most valuable pick in any fantasy draft.
1980’s: Mark McGwire (1987)
Before steroid allegations tainted his career, Mark McGwire burst onto the scene in 1987 as a 23-year old who lead the league with 49 long balls. Not only did McGwire lead the league in homeruns that year, he still has the rookie record by 12 homers or 32%. It’s amazing to think that McGwire’s rookie home run totals stood as his career high for him until 1996. In addition, his 118 RBI’s ranked third all-time amongst rookies and fifth amongst all players in 1987. The 5.4 WAR season was good enough to leave McGwire 7th in MVP voting and was certainly a huge spark to any fantasy team.
1970’s: Fred Lynn (1975)
While Fred Lynn’s performance in 1975 was nowhere near as good as Mike Trout’s in 2012, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a phenomenal rookie year. Lynn hit for a .331 average good for top 4 in the majors to go with a top 5 finish in runs and 6th in RBI’s. Sure, his homers weren’t great, but Lynn was still top 25 in the majors. Obviously Fred Lynn’s biggest flaw was his speed, but even there he managed 10 steals which is at least something. Fred Lynn won the MVP with those numbers in a nearly full season (143 games) in a much more friendly offensive era. It just makes me realize more and more how amazing Trout’s season really is.
1960’s: Tommie Agee (1966)
Agee’s rookie outburst won him ROY honors and gave him one of the strongest fantasy seasons of any outfielder that season. While he was a hero of the ’86 Mets, his rookie year may have been his best. His 22 homers and 44 steals offered prototypical elite outfielder stats, and his 98 runs helped out the cause. He had batted under .180 in 4 previous years with stints in the majors, so he was another huge pick-up that would have shaken up many a rotisserie league in the past.
Agree? Disagree? Questions? Tweet @RotoAnalysis and be sure to follow Moe @MoeProblems and Matt @KidCotti21. Check out their work on RotoAnalysis.com, as well as The RotoAnalysis Fantasy Sports Podcast.