Rookies tend to be some of the most controversial players in Fantasy Baseball draft discussions. Some analysts and players swear they won't touch them, while others will pound the table telling you they are the kind of bets you need to be making if you want to win your league. 

On one side of the debate, you've got the skeptics, who point to the lack of track record for rookies and oft-middling projections as a reason to be skeptical about making them a big part of your Draft Day strategy. Jackson Chourio, Scott White's No. 2 Fantasy prospect and a consensus top-10 prospect in real-life rankings, has the following projection from the ATC projection system: 

.253 average, 17 homers, 61 runs, 63 RBI, and 21 steals. That's good for a $4.8 value from the FanGraphs Auction Calculator tool, and a top-150 ranking; a useful player, but not exactly a star outcome. 

Of course, the other side of the debate will tell you there's something those projections simply can't capture: Upside. That side will cite success stories like Corbin Carroll and Gunnar Henderson last season (among others) to make the case that, for the best prospects out there, there's clearly something those projections systems are missing. 

But cherry-picked anecdotes are no way to build an argument, and you certainly shouldn't draft based on them. So let's look into the data and see what history tells us. I compiled the top-101 prospects list from for every year from 2014 through 2023 (with the exception of 2020, because that short season is going to lead to even noisier results than usual), compared it to historical NFBC draft ADP for every season, and then used the FanGraphs Auction Calculator to see what each players was worth in their rookie seasons

Now, obviously, every player is different, and the history of a specific player type is not proof one way or another about how the likes of Evan Carter, Wyatt Langford, or Jackson Chourio are going to fare in 2024. They are their own players, with their own development paths, and their results will be their own. But what can history tell us about taking the leap on these big name prospects? And should you be the one in your league to make the investment?

Let's take a look at what history tells us, starting with players drafted inside of the top 100 in ADP. But first, here are the 10 most expensive prospects in this year's drafts based on NFBC ADP, for some context: 

Prospect Rank per BPPlayerTeamPositionCurrent ADP
4Evan CarterTEXOF126.02
2Wyatt LangfordTEXOF157.49
6Jackson ChourioMILOF157.68
25Noelvi MarteCINSS/3B162.39
1Jackson HollidayBALSS202.82
3Junior CamineroTB3B228.36
44Kyle HarrisonSFGLHP276.82
14Jordan LawlarARISS351.3
9Paul SkenesPITRHP390.37
37Kyle ManzardoCLE1B395.2

Top prospects in the top-100 in ADP

Over the nine years we are discussing here, nine top prospects cracked the top-100 in ADP in their rookie seasons, with none going higher than 51.06. Let's see what their results looked like: 




Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 2019


$ (0.79)

Randy Arozarena 2021


$ 19.12

Corey Seager 2016


$ 18.70

Billy Hamilton 2014


$ 15.41

Corbin Carroll 2023


$ 35.47

Bobby Witt Jr. 2022


$ 22.21

Kris Bryant 2015


$ 23.55

Gunnar Henderson 2023


$ 19.02

Victor Robles 2019


$ 12.54

The thing to keep in mind with a lot of these guys is, most of them brought five-category skill sets to the table as rookies, which always helps your Fantasy value – even if the bat isn't ready, you can always swipe your way to a few extra bucks in value. 

The exceptions to that were Guerrero and Seager, who had very different rookie seasons. Seager was an almost immediate sensation, dropping into the top of the Dodgers lineup to hit .308/.365/.512 with 105 runs and 26 homers, more than making up for what he lacked in speed (three steals). Guerrero, on the other hand, was basically a replacement-level Fantasy option in his first season, hitting .272 with 15 homers, and just 121 combined runs and RBI in 123 games. He wasn't a bad hitter, especially for a 20-year-old with no MLB experience (his 106 OPS+ was above-average), but because he didn't steal a single base, he brought very little to the table as a Fantasy player as a rookie (and wasn't much more valuable in his second season, either). 

It's not a great sign that the most expensive rookie in Fantasy drafts over the past decade (at least!) was such a big flop, but the rest of this group bodes very, very well. Not only did eight of the nine provide at least $12 in value, but they actually collectively outperformed other players drafted between 50 and 100 in that time frame: 

  • Average of rookies: $18.36
  • Average of all players: $7.3

Chalk on up for the believers! This group's well-rounded skill sets served them well, and are a pretty good sign for the Fantasy Baseball community's ability to identify difference making rookies. If a rookie pushes his way into the top 100 in ADP, you should be pretty confident that they'll be a very good player. That's very good news!

Let's see if that good news continues the further we go down draft boards. 

Between 100-150 in ADP




Ian Anderson 2021


$ (2.79)

Ronald Acuna Jr. 2018


$ 18.22

Jorge Soler 2015


$ (4.99)

Eloy Jimenez 2019


$ 8.61

Steven Matz 2016


$ 2.3

Andrew Benintendi 2017


$ 18.12

Ke'Bryan Hayes 2021


$ (5.97)

Sixto Sanchez 2021



Keibert Ruiz 2022


$ 2.74

Alright, well … not so much. Though, I will point out that the two biggest busts in this group – by far – were both pitchers. Anderson had an incredible first season (in the shortened 2020), striking out 67 batters across 50 innings, including the playoffs. Many, including myself, had him pegged for stardom after that, but he was middling in his true rookie season – 3.58 ERA, 1.231 WHIP, 8.7 K/9 – and things have only gotten worse for him since. 

Sanchez was similarly brilliant in his rookie season, but he hasn't thrown a pitch in the majors since then. It's hard to account for injuries, but there were plenty of red flags in his profile that might have scared us off. 

Matz, on the other hand, was fine as a rookie, finishing sixth in NL Rookie of the Year voting with a 3.40 ERA, nine wins, and 129 strikeouts in 132.1 innings. Things would generally never be quite as fine for him again, but Matz is at least evidence that you don't need to just completely avoid rookie pitchers in the middle rounds. 

The hitters were a decidedly mixed bag as well. Acuna was a huge hit, obviously, and almost certainly would have been pushed closer to that Vlad Jr. range if the Braves weren't playing service time games with him. Those fears are likely what is keeping prices relatively low for most of this year's rookie class, and as spring training gets underway, I bet we'll see prices climb for Chourio, Wyatt Langford, and Jackson Holliday if it looks like they're going to be on the Opening Day roster. It might even be enough to push them into that top-100 conversation. But, as you can see here, the track record for hitters taken in the first 10 rounds as rookies still tends to be pretty good, with Jorge Soler the only really big miss – he struggled to consistently tap into his power and missed time with injuries, both of which would continue to be recurring issues for him. 

Still, on the whole, rookies taken in this range still tended to outperform the field, though by a significantly smaller margin than with the prior group. 

  • Average of rookies: $3.55
  • Average of all players: $2.59

There were a few big hits, a few small wins, and a couple of relatively big misses, but even then, this group outperformed the average in this range. So far, 

Between 150-200 in ADP




Ryan Mountcastle 2021



Dylan Carlson 2021



Joc Pederson 2015



Xander Bogaerts 2014



Shane Baz 2022



Jordan Walker 2023



Byron Buxton 2016



Garrett Hampson 2019



Dansby Swanson 2017



Danny Jansen 2019



Will Smith 2019



Nick Madrigal 2021



Grayson Rodriguez 2023



This is where the rookies start to fall apart. We've got one big hit and another decent outcome, and that they came from the highest drafted among this group does suggest there is still some signal here – if the Fantasy Baseball community pushes a player up the draft boards toward the top 150, that has tended to be a pretty good sign for that player's chances of hitting.

The thing to keep in mind here is, once you hit this range of the draft, you're typically not looking at big profits anyway, which means you can still very much justify rolling the dice on rookies, even if history suggests they aren't likely to contribute much at all to your team's chances of winning. Because the veterans you draft in this range probably won't, either. Just look:

  • Average of rookies: $-1.33
  • Average of all players: $0.46

So, yeah, the rookies aren't great bets here, but I think you can still justify chasing them here, on the off chance you stumble into one of those Ryan Mountcastle 2021-type seasons. It's not likely, but you probably aren't passing up on any sure things with upside, either. 

Which is all to say … yeah, I think chasing rookies is probably a pretty smart strategy. Or, at least, it has been. That doesn't mean that this year's rookie class is going to be chock full of superstars. But, betting on top prospects over the past decade has paid off pretty reliably, and there's an awful lot to like about this year's rookie class, too. 

Just for fun, here are the top prospects drafted outside of the top-200 in ADP who returned at least $5 in value that season. It comes out to about three per year, and are a good reminder that these should be some of your later-round dart throws: 




Aaron Judge 2017


$ 41.11

Julio Rodriguez 2022


$ 28.42

Pete Alonso 2019


$ 26.17

Cody Bellinger 2017


$ 23.20

Spencer Strider 2022


$ 15.56

Walker Buehler 2018


$ 15.52

Adley Rutschman 2022


$ 11.64

Jeremy Pena 2022


$ 11.41

Chris Paddack 2019


$ 11.39

Trea Turner 2016


$ 10.96

Carlos Correa 2015


$ 10.87

Kyle Schwarber 2015


$ 10.07

MJ Melendez 2022


$ 9.35

Fernando Tatis Jr. 2019


$ 9.20

Noah Syndergaard 2015


$ 9.15

Gary Sanchez 2016


$ 8.92

Josh Jung 2023


$ 8.40

Ezequiel Tovar 2023


$ 8.36

Gleyber Torres 2018


$ 8.19

Francisco Alvarez 2023


$ 8.06

Yordan Alvarez 2019


$ 7.99

Trevor Rogers 2021


$ 7.66

Francisco Lindor 2015


$ 7.12

Triston Casas 2023


$ 6.72

Josh Bell 2017


$ 6.57

Jack Flaherty 2018


$ 6.30

Tanner Bibee 2023


$ 5.99

Ian Happ 2017


$ 5.77

Blake Swihart 2015


$ 5.42

Elly De La Cruz 2023


$ 5.28

Josh Hader 2017


$ 5.17