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Fantasy Fix: Year Of The Rookie

Cubs fans may feel they have the market cornered on rookie fantasy studs, what with Kris Bryant and Addison Russell in the same lineup, and Bryant already a top 40 fantasy value and Russell a near must-start at a shallow position.

However, 2015 is quickly becoming the Year of the Rookie. Fantasy team owners in recent years have become more aggressive scouting and picking up top prospects before they see much MLB playing time - often before they see any. But, this year in particular, those early birds are getting . . . lots of worms. (Sorry, trying not to break my metaphor.)

Though Bryant has done extremely well since his April 17 call-up, notching seven HRs, 33 RBI, 5 SBs and a .284 average, he is no slam dunk for National League Rookie of the Year even if he keeps up that pace. Not with Joc Pederson, OF, LAD, around. Pederson hit his 15th and 16th HRs of the season this week, to go along with 30 RBI, and an OPS over .930.

In the American League, there's Devon Travis, 2B, TOR, who was a top 20 fantasy player before he went on the 15-day DL last month, and Steven Souza, OF, TB, who has managed 10 HRs, 22 RBI and seven SBs. And don't forget Carlos Rodon, SP, White Sox, who hasn't exactly been lights-out, but is gradually building his fantasy case start by start.

This week comes another young giant: Joey Gallo, 3B, TEX, who at 21, has been mashing HRs through the minors in Bryant-like fashion. Gallo made the jump from AA level this week to fill in for injured Rangers 3B Adrian Beltre. Maybe it's that big jump or Gallo's relative youth (two years younger than Bryant) or the fact he struck out 115 times in 250 AA at-bats in 2014, but a lot of fantasy team owners stayed in the dugout for this one. On Monday, news of his call-up drove his ownership in Yahoo! leagues from about 5% to near 40%, but as of Tuesday night he was not owned in more than half of Yahoo! leagues.

It's also quite possible Gallo only has a short stay at the major league level this time around, destined to be sent back down when Beltre returns.

That is, unless he plays himself into a much longer stay. Gallo started his MLB career 3-for-3 against Sox starter Jeff Samardzija on Tuesday night, with a two-run single, two-run HR and a double, in that order. He struck out with the bases loaded against reliever Dan Jennings, but we were already printing the legend. A hell of a start for the latest rookie to join the party.

Expert Wire
* Innings Eaters exemplifies the predominant fantasy attitude about Gallo - that he's certainly worth a shot if you have a need, but that you might not want to make a long-term commitment. We'll see. Even if Gallo goes back to the minors, a solid stretch of two or three weeks could make him a keeper for fantasy teams going into next season.

* Rotoworld highlights the career-high 11-strikeout performance of Jason Hammel, SP, Cubs, who has been rising up the fantasy SP ranks over the last month. Could his four wins, 69 strikeouts, 2.82 ERA and a stellar 0.90 WHIP get him traded away from the Cubs for the second year in a row? That will depend on how good the Cubs are over the next eight weeks, and Hammel has been much better as a Cub than he has been with any other team.

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Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.

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