Thursday, April 4, 2013
Ranking MLB's Top 10 rookies
By Jim Bowden
Among this year’s crop of top prospects, some of the bigger, more well-known names are starting the season in the minor leagues. By now Oscar Taveras, Wil Myers and Jurickson Profar are no longer anonymous farmhands but familiar names. Reasons why they didn’t break camp with their big league clubs vary and include economics, being blocked by All-Star talent and overall readiness. But eventually this trio of prospects will get the call this season and could factor into the Rookie of the Year races.
However, what about the prospects who did make their big league clubs? Here is my Top 10 list for the class of rookies currently in the big leagues, based on how I think they will fare this year.
Gyorko can flat-out rake. He has a short stroke with a direct path to the ball. He has above-average power with consistent sweet-spot contact and tremendous plate coverage. He’s playing both second and third right now but will be the Padres’ full-time second baseman when Chase Headley returns from injury. If Headley is moved at the trade deadline, Gyorko will become the Padres’ long-term solution at third. His defense is average at second, but his bat plays and he’s my choice for NL Rookie of the Year.
2. Julio Teheran | RHP | Atlanta Braves
Braves general manager Frank Wren told me just before spring training he felt this would be the year when Teheran finally lives up to the hype as one of the game’s top pitching prospects. The command and control of his fastball and secondary pitches arrived in winter ball, and he dominated in spring training. A mechanical change in his delivery involving his back leg is credited for the improved command. His fastball is at 92-96 mph and he has an above-average changeup. His curveball continues to improve, which will be the key if this really becomes his breakout year.
There is no reason Rosenthal can’t become the third-best closer in the National League behind Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman. Rosenthal’s overpowering fastball, nasty hard curve and solid changeup give him the profile of a dominant closer. Rosenthal started the year as the Cardinals' third reliever, but after Jason Motte's injury he became the setup man for Mitchell Boggs. Don’t be surprised if Rosenthal wins the closer's job by the All-Star break if Motte is unable to return to form.
I was at the Dodgers’ game Tuesday night and sat behind home plate to scout Ryu first-hand. His fastball was mostly 89-91 mph, but he touched 93. His changeup was his best secondary pitch, but he also threw some nasty hard sliders. His curve was below average -- a slow looping curve that got hit hard. He had a consistent release point with all of his pitches, hiding the ball well with deception. His arm speed and release point were the same on all pitches. Besides the curve, the other glaring weakness was he didn’t get off the mound well for bunts on multiple occasions, and that could become a problem in one-run games. He looks like a solid midrotation workhorse.
The Cardinals said goodbye to Kyle Lohse this offseason because they felt the time had come to give the ball to Miller and let him develop into a 15-game winner. He is also cost-effective since he won’t be arbitration-eligible for three years. Miller’s fastball sits 93-96 mph with late heavy movement. He has an above-average curveball and average changeup. He should develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter for the Cards down the road.
Last season was his best as a professional as he hit .286 with 45 extra-base hits and 31 stolen bases in Double-A. The switch-hitting center fielder has a much better swing from the right side. He has great range in the outfield and his most impressive tool is his throwing arm, as he is a former pitcher who used to throw in the mid-90s in high school. Hitting leadoff, he will be helped by Joe Mauer behind him. The Twins were expecting Hicks to play at Triple-A this year, but an impressive spring won him the every-day center-field job. He’s my choice for AL Rookie of the Year.
While most baseball people continue to drool over the Mariners’ bevy of top starting pitching prospects, somehow Maurer slipped through the cracks. He might end up being the second-best of them all. Maurer has four average or above-average pitches; his best two pitches are a fastball that sits 92-96 mph and a wipeout slider. His curveball has improved and he has greater confidence in his changeup, so he’s throwing it with increasing frequency. He has great poise on the mound and already looks like he belongs. Not bad for a 23rd-round pick in 2008.
On the 20-80 scouting scale, Bradley scores an 80 on makeup and character. Ask anyone who has met or played with him. He made the Red Sox out of spring training partly because of the injury to David Ortiz and partly because he blew up the Grapefruit League. He’s an athletic outfielder who was named the organization's best defensive player in 2012. He has tremendous plate discipline for his age and really knows how to work a count. He hits line drives to all fields and should develop 15-home run power in time. He’s a well above-average runner with slightly above-average speed. He’s an intellectual competitor with great baseball instincts. If he gets off to a great start, it’s doubtful he'll get optioned out when Ortiz returns.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound right-hander earned his way into the A’s starting rotation last summer after Bartolo Colon tested positive for PEDs. Straily led all minor leaguers last season with 190 strikeouts in 152 innings before being summoned to the majors in August. Straily has a four-pitch mix, though none of his offerings will blow you away. However, he does have command and control of all four pitches; his fastball sits at 89-92 mph. His best two secondary pitches are an average slider and changeup, which is his out pitch against left-handed hitters. He uses the slider to punch out right-handed hitters. He might not be a front-line pitcher, but as a fifth starter he has the ability to keep his team in games.
Martin was one of the most improved players that I saw in spring training. He is competing with Craig Gentry for the Rangers’ center-field job, but don’t be surprised if Martin wins the job outright by season’s end. The Rangers signed Martin out of Cuba in 2011, and it’s taken him some time to adjust to the culture of the United States as well as the pitching. Martin has good strike-zone awareness and a solid level swing. He’s more of a future table setter, perhaps eventually settling in the No. 2 hole. He could develop into a .280 hitter with 15 home runs annually. His instincts and baseball intellect continue to improve, though injuries have delayed his development.