Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Rookie rankings: Shelby Miller No. 1
By Jim Bowden
With a month of the season in the books, rookies are making impacts on their teams across the majors. For some, their arrivals and performances were expected; others have been pleasant surprises.
I’ll be keeping track of this season’s rookie class in this regular rookie report, monitoring their performances and possible trade stock for when the July 31 trade deadline approaches. So here are the top 15 rookies in the major leagues right now based on how they are performing this year, as well as the next 15 ranked in chart form below.
1. Shelby Miller | RHP | Stock: Up Miller is pitching up to the expectations of a first-round pick (picked 19th in 2009). After earning a spot in the rotation out of spring training, he has posted a 3-1 record with an ERA of 1.44 and a WHIP of 0.84. Miller is a strikeout/ground ball machine. He pounds the strike zone with a 91-95 mph fastball with nasty sink and provides plenty of ground ball outs. He consistently gets ahead of batters, which sets up a devastating 12-6 curveball. He’s the early front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year.
2. Jim Henderson | RHP | Stock: Up Henderson took over the Brewers’ closer role for a second time after briefly replacing John Axford last season. This time, he’s pitching as if he’s never going to give it back. He is 6-for-6 in save opportunities with a 0.82 ERA and 14 strikeouts and just three walks in 11 innings. His 94-97 mph fastball and late-breaking slider have solidified his status as the Brewers' closer.
3. Tony Cingrani | LHP | Stock: Up Cingrani was called up on April 17 to fill in for injured Johnny Cueto and has made such an impression that it’s doubtful he'll get sent down when Cueto is healthy again. Cingrani’s fastball is anywhere between 88 and 95 mph, and he locates it really well to both sides of the plate. He is an expert at finishing hitters high in the strike zone. When he needs a little extra velocity, he can go get it. If he continues to develop at this pace, the Reds could end up with the best starting rotation in the league.
4. Hyun-Jin Ryu | LHP | Stock: No change After netting a six-year, $36 million contract, the Korean left-hander has paid quick dividends. His contract stipulated he couldn’t be sent to the minors, and all Ryu has done is kept the Dodgers in every game he has started, including racking up 12 strikeouts Tuesday night against the Rockies. Ryu has a solid fastball, sitting mostly 89-91 mph with command on both sides of the plate. He has good deception to his delivery, and his changeup is his out pitch. His slider is better than advertised, and Ryu will get even better as it gets more consistent.
5. Evan Gattis | C | Stock: Up Gattis is one of the best rookie stories in baseball this year. Originally, Gerald Laird was signed to back up starter Brian McCann. But Gattis tore up spring camp, making the team after hitting .357 with six homers. In the season’s first month, he’s been baseball’s best rookie catcher. He’ll soon be in a reduced role with McCann’s return, but Gattis certainly has played well enough to not only stay on the major league squad but be one of the first players off the bench.
6. Justin Grimm | RHP | Stock: Up Grimm was given a chance in the Rangers’ rotation when Matt Harrison went on the disabled list. The former Georgia Bulldog has not allowed more than two runs in any of his three starts, striking out 15 and walking just four in 17 innings. A sturdy 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, Grimm has a good deceptive delivery. He’ll work his fastball in the 92-96 mph range with sinking-late life.
7. Nick Tepesch | RHP | Stock: Up Tepesch features a heavy fastball, which means a lot of sinkers at the knees. All these ground balls allow him to take advantage of having slick fielders Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus on the left side of the infield. His slider is his best secondary pitch. He also can throw his curveball and his changeup for strikes. He’s a very poised and mature kid who keeps his cool on the mound.
8. Stephen Pryor | RHR | Stock: Up Pryor is a power arm whose fastball velocity sits anywhere between 95 and 99 mph. He’s a big strong kid who was really emerging as an effective setup reliever before pulling a lat muscle and landing on the DL. Fortunately, he’s a very diligent and hard worker, so he is making good progress on his return.
9. Matt Adams | 1B | Stock: Up Adams can flat-out rake. The left-handed hitter has a short and powerful swing with the ability to hit to all fields with power. However, he needs playing time. He’s good enough to be an impact middle-of-the-order bat, but with Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday on the corners, there is just no place to play him. He’s on the DL right now with an oblique injury but is set to start a rehab assignment this week. He could end up being a valuable asset at the trade deadline.
10. Didi Gregorius | SS | Stock: Up Gregorius is a plus defender with a plus arm and above-average range to both sides. He owns great instincts around the diamond. Offensively, he has a quick bat and will work the count but needs to work on approach against lefties. He already has won two games with his baserunning, twice taking second on a single when an outfielder either laid back or was on his heels. Gregorius is a great kid who speaks four languages, but he will be out until early May after suffering a concussion on April 26.
11. Jose Fernandez | RHP | Stock: Up Fernandez has the best raw stuff of any pitcher in this rookie class. He boasts a 94-97 mph fastball with a late-breaking curveball. He also possesses a hard slider, and his change is developing. Ideally, he should still be in the minor leagues learning how to change speeds and locate. The Marlins did option him out two weeks before the end of spring training, but injuries forced their hand. His potential is unlimited, and, in the long run, he could be the best player in this rookie class.
12. Jedd Gyorko | 2B | Stock: Down Gyorko was expected to be the Padres’ every-day second baseman after converting from third base. However, when Chase Headley went on the DL, they used Gyorko at second and at third. Gyorko has soft hands and a good enough arm for both positions, and he can spray line drives all over the field. He’s off to a slow start with the bat, but I expect him to climb this list rapidly; the bat is too good.
13. A.J. Pollock | OF | Stock: Up Pollock got his shot at starting when Adam Eaton, my spring training pick for NL Rookie of the Year, went on the DL. Pollock has made the most of his opportunity, holding his own with the bat and amassing nine doubles and three homers as well as playing solid defense.
14. Nolan Arenado | 3B | Stock: Up Arenado made his major league debut Sunday, and it shouldn’t be long before he’s entrenched as the long-term third-base solution for the Colorado Rockies. I won’t be surprised if he ends the season as the NL Rookie of the Year. He’s a line-drive hitter who will love the gaps at Coors Field and will belt his share of home runs. Although he’ll start the season toward the bottom of the lineup, it shouldn’t take him long to develop into a middle-of-the-order run producer.
15. Trevor Rosenthal | RHP | Stock: Down Rosenthal boasts a 96-100 mph fastball, a hard curve, a cutter/slider and a changeup. He has the stuff to be a dominant closer, but he started the season struggling with his command and control. Thus, manager Mike Matheny gave Mitchell Boggs and Edward Mujica opportunities to replace injured closer Jason Motte. Don’t be surprised if, by season’s end, Rosenthal is closing and moves up this list rapidly.