With opening day less than a month away, let’s take a look at 10 Rookies who will most likely make an impact at some point this year:
1. David Price p Tampa Bay
The 23 year old Price proved his mettle during last year’s playoffs coming in and blowing away hitters like he’d been in the majors for 10 years. This year he moves into the rotation and will quickly pass James Shields and Scott Kazmir to become the ace. The Rays have a young rotation similar to the Twins and are the envy of all AL East rivals. Yes even the Red Sox and Yankees would probably love to have two or three of them.
2. Matt Wieters c Baltimore
Most scouts say the time is now for switch-hitting Wieters. The Orioles are anxiously cautious about putting too much pressure on him. Only 22, he has star written all over him. After an All-America career at Georgia Tech, Wieters, who wasn’t drafted out of high school, tore apart two minor leagues last year, hitting .350 with 27 HR and 91 RBI.
Gregg Zaun will caddy for him until the club thinks he ready to take over (probably by May).
3. James McDonald p Los Angeles Dodgers
McDonald, 23, displayed a hint of what he can do late last year when he pitched six innings of scoreless ball followed up by an impressive showing in the playoffs.
He’ll be part of a revamped Dodger rotation this year joining another youngster, Clayton Kershaw.
4. Cameron Maybin of Florida Marlins
A key part of last year’s Dontrell Willis, Miguel Cabrera trade, Maybin will most likely be the Marlins starting center fielder. He’ll turn 22 next month and scouts rave about his skills. Says Baseball America: “Maybin has 5-tool ability. His quick hands give him lightning bat speed which combined with his raw strength should allow him to hit for plus power to go with his plus plus speed.”
5. Pablo Sandoval 3b San Francisco Giants
Originally signed as a catcher, Sandoval, 22, has enough versatility and talent that the Giants will make him their opening third baseman. He proved he can hit major league pitching by hitting .345 in 41 games last year. The Giants are so positive of his ability,that they are planning on having him hit in the critical third position in the lineup.
6. Travis Snyder of Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are hoping he has an eye popping spring so they can carry him on their opening day roster. Snyder just turned 21 but the club feels he can handle major league pitching. He hit .301 in 24 late season games for the Blue Jays.
Right now Adam Lind is penciled in for LF, but Snyder will get his chance if Lind doesn’t produce.
7. Alcides Escobar ss Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers have backed away from making an obvious move, switching JJ Hardy to second or third and giving the ss slot to Escobar. He possesses the best range in the organization but still must prove he can hit major league pitching. The Brewers say they are set at second and third for now, but Rickey Weeks is running out of time to be the player the club thought he was when they made him a first round draft pick in 2003. Meanwhile, Mike Lamb is a stopgap at third. Moving Hardy and starting Escobar at short is only a matter of time.
8. Colby Rasmus of St Louis Cardinals
I thought Rasmus ,23, was ready last year but the Cards decided to let him get some more experience. He moved up three notches last year finishing at AAA Memphis.
According to Baseball America: “The Cardinals will make room for Rasmus the minute he shows he’s ready.”, which will probably necessitate a trade since Ship Schumaker, Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwig are pretty entrenched in the of.
9. Dexter Fowler of Colorado Rockies
Fowler turns 23 this week and there is an outfield slot waiting for him. If he has a good spring, expect to see him at the top of the lineup in cf. He hit .335 at Class AA in 2008 and possesses exceptional speed and range with an ability to drive the ball.
Even though the Rockies lost two everyday outfielders from last year (Matt Holliday and Willy Tavares) they seem set with Seth Smith in lf and Ryan Spilborghs in cf. Neither has played everyday in the majors, so a slow start could open the door for Fowler.
10 . Jeff Larish 1b/3b Detroit Tigers
Originally a first baseman, Larish, 26, will move to third since there is no way he’ll unseat Miguel Cabrera at first. In 42 games last year he hit .262 for the Tigers who like his versatility. While he may not be on the opening day roster, if Brandon Inge gets off to another terrible start, Larish will get his chance.
5 More to Watch…
Brett Anderson p Oakland Athletics
Trevor Cahill p Oakland Athletics
Neftali Feliz p Texas Rangers
Tommy Hanson p Atlanta Braves
Matt LaPorta of Cleveland Indians