Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper, center, Trea Turner (7), Wilmer Difo (1), Michael Taylor, second from right, and Juan Soto, right, celebrate after a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, early Monday, June 25, 2018, in Washington. The Nationals won 8-6. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

FANTAYS PLAYS: Being realistic on rookies in any sport

June 27, 2018 - 6:06 pm
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Regardless of sport, fantasy players become giddy dreamers when it comes to discussing the potential of rookies.

The expectations are rarely realistic. It's more fun to imagine Giants running back Saquon Barkley piling up 1,850 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns, or Suns center Deandre Ayton averaging 19 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks than to consider the practical implications of adjusting from dominating in college sports to the pro game.

Several rookies have already had strong fantasy showings this summer in baseball, including Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. and Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler (although Acuna and Buehler are currently on the disabled list). Pirates outfielder Austin Meadows and Braves pitcher Mike Soroka have flashed the potential to emerge as productive stalwarts for years to come.

With most teams using July to either press forward or chart a new course, the next batch of coming attractions will have fantasy baseballers waiting to either luck out on their waiver wire order or go all-in with their remaining FAAB bucks:

Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., 3B, Blue Jays: Couldn't have a list without him, right? He'll return to action in mid-July after a strained patellar tendon put him on the shelf, but there's no question he'll arrive in Toronto at some point. At 19, his bat can still be a difference maker.

Eloy Jimenez, OF, White Sox: Currently in Triple-A, Jimenez has the upside to become a .320 hitter with 40-home run power. The only question is when, not if, he's called up between now and the end of the season.

Kyle Tucker, OF, Astros: A legit five-tool talent, Tucker has mauled Triple-A pitching over the past two weeks and only needs an opening to appear in the crowded Houston outfield.

Francisco Mejia, C/OF, Indians: Had a brief appearance in the bigs earlier this season and while Yan Gomes has a grip on catching duties in Cleveland, the Indians will find a way to get Mejia's bat into the lineup once he's recalled.

Justus Sheffield, P, Yankees: He'll be up, even if not with New York, who could use Sheffield as trade bait to add a veteran arm to the rotation before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

GALLUP ROLE

Cowboys rookie receiver Michael Gallup is a strong deep sleeper candidate who has a great chance to become a Week 1 starter. Allen Hurns has never been a featured wideout, Terrance Williams has a broken foot and Cole Beasley was a major disappointment last season, making it likely that Gallup, a third-round pick, could seize a prominent role.

Gallup's value will only rise as more fantasy leagues begin. He's got late-stage value right now, but if he thrives during the preseason he will be a solid WR3/flex with strong WR2 upside.

A DENVER NUGGET?

Concerns about his back led to Michael Porter, Jr., falling to 14th in last week's NBA draft, where he was selected by the Nuggets. Whether he can contribute this season remains a question, but if Porter is healthy, fantasy players could see why he's drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant.

No one in last week's draft has as much upside as the 6-foot-10 Porter, who could pair with top 10 fantasy talent Nikola Jokic and give the Nuggets another big man who can fill up the stat sheet on a nightly basis.

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This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com

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