Everyone loves rookies. 

There’s no better feeling in fantasy baseball than nailing that late-round Greenie that puts your team on his back. More often than not, however, players’ careers begin with more of a whimper than a bang.

Mike Trout, for example, surfaced briefly in mid-2011. What did he do in his first stint? The Amazing Mike Trout slashed a lowly .220/.281/.390 over his first 135 PA. For this very reason, you won’t find en vogue names like Byron Buxton, Joey Gallo, Miguel Sano or Addison Russell on my preseason top 10. On draft day, the most important factor is opportunity. Opportunity is how we get our Collin McHughs, our Jacob deGroms, our Corey Klubers. Guys emerge, year-in and year-out, like clockwork. 

The list below pertains to 2015 value. Barring catastrophic injury, none of the aforementioned über prospects will sniff the majors until late-June, at the earliest. The category boxes should serve as a guide to help you target players for your format's perameters. In later posts, we’ll dig into the deep and dark crevices of the low minors, but for now we’ll stay geared towards standard leagues. You will also notice I didn’t include Cuban free agents Hector Olivera, Yoan Moncada or Yasmany Tomas. That’s because they’re free agents -- although Moncada will qualify as a “prospect” for our purposes once he signs. 

Without further ado, here are my Top-10 rookies for 2015:

1. Kris Bryant3BChicago CubsAge: 23 
2014 MiLB Stats (AAA): .345/.427/.577, 18 HR, 26 SB (100 games)    
ETA: Opening Day         

Who else would it be?

You know the skills -- 40-homer power, discerning eye at the plate, sneaky speed. He’s a roto-beast in the making. Although, points league owners beware. Bryant may be among the league leaders in strikeouts. Heading into Spring Training, Bryant’s competition for reps at the hot corner is putrid—Christian Villanueva, Tommy La Stella and Mike Olt. In the words of ESPN’s Keith Law, “if he's not the Cubs' Opening Day third baseman, I'm calling service time #shenanigans.”

The Cubbies could hold their wunderkind down a few weeks to ensure they get an extra option on him. Teams typically offer extensions during Spring Training. Given precedent the Astros set with Jon Singleton last season, it wouldn’t be out of the question for the Cubs to extend Bryant, paying him up front for his years of team control. The problem with the theory, of course, is Scott Boras—Bryant’s obstinate super agent. 

2. Steven SouzaOFTampa Bay RaysAge: 26 
2014 MiLB Stats (AAA): .345/.427/.577, 18 HR, 26 SB (100 games)    
ETA: Opening Day         

I’m going to apologize in advance for blowing the lid off your big sleeper—you big savvy person you.

So, why the hype?

Souza went out and had himself a ridiculous 2014. He led the International league (AAA) in batting average (.350), on-base percentage (.432), slugging (.590) and -- of course -- OPS (1.022). If you’re not drooling, he also sprinkled on 26 steals. This offseason, Souza was the centerpiece of the return the Rays pulled in from the Wil Myers trade. There is a catch, however. Souza’s been in the minor leagues since 2007, and his name’s the only one here to never grace an industry top-100 list. Why? He’s old (for a prospect); and, if we’re scouting Triple-A statlines alone, Jesus Aguilar (.906 OPS) and Andy Wilkins (.895) ought be prospects by extension. Forget those names immediately because they’re not worth knowing.

The moral of the story is this: minor league numbers are misleading. And, to that point, Souza batted just .130/.231/.391 in 26 major league plate appearances. It’s an incredibly small sample, but it’s worth noting regardless. With the above caveat in place, Souza makes for a great OF4 target in standard leagues, offering George Springer-lite upside, at a fraction of the cost. Plus, he’s going to play everyday and has a long leash.

3. Joc PedersonOFL.A. DodgersAge: 23
2014 MiLB Stats (AAA): .303/.435/.582, 33 HR, 30 SB (121 games)
ETA: Opening Day/End of April        

After Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo, Pederson probably had the next most impressive season in minor league baseball in 2014. There’s no questioning his numbers were aided by the hitter-friendly environs of Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, NM. The stadium allows an absurd amount of extra base hits – 25-percent more home runs and 63-percent more triples than other PCL Parks (LHH only).

What folks don’t realize, however, is that Dodger Stadium is actually one of the better parks in baseball for left-handed power. Pederson probably isn’t as much of a power hitter as his 2014 numbers suggest, but even still, he’s more than capable of threatening for 20 home runs in a full slate of at-bats. Not to mention, 20-plus steals as well.

The new brain trust in L.A. is chock full of penny-pinchers, yet it’s hard to believe any contending team would waste time with Andre Ethier when a talent like Pederson is waiting in the wings. 

4. Dalton PompeyOFToronto Blue JaysAge: 22 
2014 MiLB Stats (A+, AA, AAA): .315/.390/.467, 9 HR, 42 SB (112 games) 
ETA: Opening Day         

Center field in Toronto is up for grabs. Colby Rasmus is in Houston and his heir apparent is Dalton Pompey, a switch-hitting Canadian speedster with an excellent glove. Most of us don’t count defense in our fantasy leagues, but I’m here to tell you it’s important. It’s what will keep him on the field and out of the Buffalo Greyhound station.

If the skillset spelled by the category boxes above looks familiar, it could be that it’s not dissimilar from Pompey’s teammate, Jose Reyes. Pompey is still raw, however, and, while he shows advanced pitch recognition and strike zone feel, his batting average in 2015 could be more akin to Coco Crisp than Reyes.

Unless he falls flat on his face this spring, he’s should get the job. But, if the Blue Jays want to play service-time games, it could be June before we see him.

5. Jorge SolerOFChicago CubsAge: 23 
2014 MiLB Stats (AA, AAA, ROK): .340/.432/.700, 15 HR, 0 SB (62 games) 
ETA: Opening Day         

Soler was an animal during his first cup of big league joe, slashing an other-worldly .462/.500/1.000 with three monstrous home runs over his first 28 PA (seven games). However, it didn't take long for pitchers to learn how to exploit his agressive approach. Over his last seven games, or 29 PA, he tallied just four hits (.137). The overall performance looks like this: .292/.330/.573. An early storyline to follow is whether or not Soler adjusts back and harnesses the more selective approach he showed in the minors (14% BB in MiLB in 2014). 

Power is Soler's biggest asset, and he was thought of as a speed threat once as well. However, after a couple of hamstring injuries and some serious time in the gym harvesting muscle, his wheels have become less of an advantage. My problem with Soler is that he’s managed to play in just 151 games since making his stateside debut in 2012. I’m also worried about how his approach at the plate. An aggressive approach isn’t always a bad one, but the adjustment period may not be as smooth as we'd hope. Soler plays with extreme passion – sometimes bordering on rage. Soler served a five-game suspension in 2013 for approaching an opposing dugout in A-Ball “wielding a bat” –- like… he was going to hit someone with it.

If that doesn’t spell #want, I’m not sure what does. 

6. Andrew HeaneySP L.A.A Angels  Age: 24 
2014 MiLB Stats (AAA): 137.1 IP, 3.28 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 143/36 SO/BB      
ETA: Opening Day       

Heaney has the holy trinity of talent, opportunity and ballpark working in his favor.

He struggled against major league hitters in four starts in 2014, allowing 15 earned runs in just 20.2 innings with a measly 13/6 strikeout-walk ratio. The good news is he logged 137.1 innings and should be able to pile another 50 or so on top of that total in 2015. Angels Stadium isn’t the pitcher’s paradise that Marlins Park is, but it’s still one of the better pitcher’s parks in the AL.

He boasts three above-average major league pitches (fastball, slider, change-up), and throws each of them for strikes. He doesn’t have ace-upside, but his slider gets enough whiffs for him to be a four-category contributor. He should begin the season in the Angels’ rotation

7. Noah SyndergaardSPNew York Mets Age: 22
2014 MiLB Stats (AAA): 133 IP, 4.60 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 145/43 SO/BB     
ETA: Late April- Early September       

I sympathize with owners distraught over the way the Mets do business. They hit a new low when they began to charge their own players to attend mandatory offseason workouts. Most of us thought Syndergaard would be up after the Super 2 deadline passed in late-June, and we patiently waited well into August, as reports surfaced the team was considering promoting him. He was never promoted.

If not for Jacob deGrom and Bartolo Colon, the man known as Thor would rank four spots higher on this list. Like Thor, one of Syndergaard’s best weapons is his hammer. For accuracy’s sake, let’s call it his Mjölnir. It’s one of the best breaking pitches around, and it’s unfair that he pairs it with a fastball that regularly flirts with triple-digits. If the hero has a weakness it’s his command. He tends to get too much of the plate.

8. Aaron SanchezSP/RP Toronto Blue Jays Age: 22
2014 MiLB Stats (AAA): 100.1 IP, 4.04 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 84/57 SO/BB      
ETA: Opening Day        

Sanchez’s role heading into 2015 is up in the air. He reached the majors in 2014, but pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. He was excellent -- in 33 innings, he allowed just 14 hits and four earned runs (1.09 ERA). He came through the Blue Jays system as a starter, and while he possesses the body and stuff of a starter, he struggles to repeat his delivery and fastball command is still a big issue. 

His main weapon is a hard, mid 90’s sinker that makes hitters look defenseless. He pairs it with a nasty power curve that should allow him to accumulate swings and misses. With system-mate Daniel Norris ready for big-league action and the back-end of the Blue Jays bullpen in flux, Sanchez could find himself in the closer role sooner rather than later.

9. Francisco LindorSSCleveland IndiansAge: 21 
2014 Stats (AA, AAA): .276/.339/.389, 11 HR, 28 SB (126 games) 
ETA: Late April-Mid June         

Lindor has the misfortune of being known more for his glove than his bat. Contrary to popular belief, the young shortstop is not a zero with the stick. In fact, he hit double-digit home runs (11) as a 20-year old in the upper minors. Let me emphasize -- he’s a shortstop. It goes without saying that the offensive bar he must clear is incredibly low. At peak, he could hit between .280 and .300 with 10-12 home runs and 25-30 stolen bases. That would make him a perennial top-10 option at the position.

10. Maikel Franco3BPhiladelphia PhilliesAge: 22
2014 MiLB Stats (AAA): .257/.299/.428, 16 HR, 3 SB (133 games)
ETA: Opening Day/Late April         

Maikel Franco struggled terribly in 2014. There was a groundswell of hype following his impressive age-20 campaign in 2013, wherein he slashed .320/.356/.569 with 31 home runs. This past season, however, was a nightmare. Checkout his month-by-month OPS: .487 in April, .803 in May, .434 in June, .967 in July and .883 in August. Do you see a trend?

My relatively aggressive ranking of Franco presumes that the adjustments he made towards the end of the season will carry over enough to make him relevant in 2015. I’m not saying he’s going to light the world on fire, but the only real competition at the hot corner is Cody Asche, who profiles more as a bench player than a regular. If Franco exits spring training with a job, he could be a nice corner infield play in deeper formats.

Part 2 coming next week! Questions? Shout me a holler on the tweet box @wordsmithsilva