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Rocking Rookies — 2014 Edition

Cuban-born stars José Fernandez and Yasiel Puig set the National League ablaze last season, coming in first and second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, respectively. Their electricity on the field revitalized their teams’ fan bases and, in Puig’s case, he catapulted his team from last place in the NL West standings to first. In the Junior Circuit this year, two foreign-born players were neck-and-neck in the AL ROY race, before one of them went down with a rather unfortunate elbow injury. However, in this blog post, we will honor his efforts, as well as those of the rest of the Rookie Class of 2014.

Leading Off: Billy Hamilton (CIN-OF)

Billy Hamilton in his natural habitat, the basepaths. Credit: Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Shin-Soo Choo’s replacement in center, Billy Hamilton has given the Reds all they could have ever asked for in his first full season. The speed demon leads NL Rookies in hits, RBI’s, runs scored, and stolen bases, and he has been a spark plug at the top of Cincinnati’s lineup.

Batting Second: Gregory Polanco (PIT-OF)

Gregory Polanco has finally arrived. Credit: Peter Diana/Post-Gazette

Marte. McCutchen. Polanco. Three young, dynamic outfielders that Pirates fans will have the pleasure of watching roam the PNC Park grass for the years to come. Polanco, a legitimate five-tool threat, has the potential to supersede the talents of his outfield partners and become the best player on the Buccos. “El Coffee” already has set the team record for the longest hit streak to begin a career (nine games) and will likely set many more over the course of his time in the Steel City.

Batting Third: George Springer (HOU-OF)

Enjoy that ice bath Mr. Springer, it certainly won’t be your last. Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Called up on April 16 from Triple-A Oklahoma City to bolster a sagging Houston offense that ranked last in Batting Average, OPS, and Runs Per Game prior to his promotion, the 24-year-old Springer has been a dynamo in right for the Astros this season. Following a 2013 minor-league campaign in which he hit 37 homers and 108 RBI’s and also stole 45 bases between Double-A and Triple-A, Springer has carried that power-speed combination to the majors this year, hitting 20 homers and stealing five bases in 78 games thus far. Were it not for the cleanup hitter in this year’s “Rocking Rookies” starting lineup, he would certainly be under serious consideration for the AL ROY.

Hitting Cleanup: José Abreu

José Abreu crushing one of his 30 home runs for the White Sox this year. Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY

For $68 million over six years, the Chicago White Sox made arguably the best free-agent pickup of the offseason in signing José Dariel Abreu, a feared power slugger who set first-half rookie records in both home runs (29) and total bases (203) this season. He is currently on pace to match Mark McGwire’s rookie single-season home run record (49) and been a source of hope for White Sox fans in an otherwise lost season.

Today’s Pitching Matchup is Between Masahiro Tanaka and Marcus Stroman

Tanaka had been lights-out since joining the Yankees this season. Credit: AP

vs.

Stroman started out slow, but has since found his groove. Credit: Getty Images / Tom Szczerbowski

In today’s classic matchup of AL East young studs, Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees takes on Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays. Prior to suffering a partially torn UCL injury, Tanaka posted a 12-4 record with a 2.51 ERA, single-handedly carrying the Yankees through the first half and placing himself in serious consideration for the AL ROY. The Blue Jays’ 2012 first-round draft pick, Stroman initially was called up on May 4 as a reliever, but after several poor outings, he was sent back down to AAA Las Vegas ten days later. On May 31, he returned to the big leagues as a starter and recorded his second career victory, pitching six innings of one-run ball against the Kansas City Royals. During his stay in the rotation, he has lowered his ERA to a mere 3.21, throwing quality starts in eight out of his ten outings. Despite standing at a less than imposing 5’9″, Marcus Stroman has demonstrated that “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart,” or “HDMH,” which is the clothing brand name that Stroman himself trademarked. (His merchandise can be purchased here).

Honorable Mentions

1. Brock Holt (BOS-UT) — Aside from pitcher and catcher, Brock Holt has played each position on a baseball field for at least three games this season. To top that impressive feat, as of July 23, he was leading the Majors in hits since May 20 with 83, and he currently holds a .316 BA.

2. Nick Castellanos (DET-3B) — Castellanos’s biggest impact on the Tigers’ season thus far may actually have come before Opening Day even arrived, for Detroit dealt first baseman Prince Fielder to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler knowing this back-to-back AL MVP Miguel Cabrera would be able to slide over to first base with Castellanos waiting in the wings at third. Although his counting stats have been average (.268/.314/.405), he has been holding down the fort well at third for the Tigers and could follow a similar development pattern to Rockies’ third baseman Nolan Arenado.

3. Yordano Ventura (KC-SP) — Lights-out to begin the season, Ventura’s production has tapered off in recent months, but he has still proven to be very worthy of a spot in the Royals’ rotation. To go along with his height of 5’11”, Ventura features an overpowering fastball that hums in the high-90s, aptly drawing comparisons to his fellow countryman Pedro Martinez.

4. Kolten Wong (STL-2B) — After being nailed at first by a Koji Uehara pick-off move to end Game 4 of the 2013 World Series, Wong had nowhere to go but up this year for the Cards. The Hawaii native has provided speed (14 SB) and power (6 HR) to St. Louis in his inaugural campaign, and several 20-20 seasons certainly appear to be in his future.

5. Dellin Betances (NYY-RP) — Though the Yankees brought in three noteworthy names in their Free Agent shopping spree last offseason, one of the biggest reasons they are still in the race has been the emergence of AL All-Star Dellin Betances. With a 1.43 ERA and 93 strikeouts, Betances has established himself as one of the premier setup men in all of baseball this season.

6. Xander Bogaerts (BOS-3B/SS) — In the offseason, he was touted by many analysts as the Red Sox’s top prospect and a potential AL ROY candidate. However, after posting a .304 BA as recently as June 3 and living up to the massive hype bestowed upon him, he has seemingly fallen off a statistical cliff the past two months, for his average has fallen more than 65 points (.237), and he has only four extra-base hits since that point. Though he still possesses a number of tools that made him an elite prospect for Boston, the team needs him to improve his offensive production to help prevent it from sputtering to a last-place finish in the AL East after winning the World Series just one year prior.

7. Jacob deGrom (NYM-SP) — His fiery mane of hair and overbearing physical appearance resembles that of Angels’ starter Jered Weaver, and in recent months, deGrom’s outings have resembled those of the Los Angeles of Anaheim ace as well. He holds a 1.37 ERA over his last seven starts and has put together a compelling NL ROY case for the Mets this season, recording 83 strikeouts and a 2.79 ERA in 87 innings.

8. Kevin Kiermaier (TB-OF) — A “heart and hustle” type player, Kiermaier has solidified the right field spot for the Rays, coupling his dynamic defense with an above average hit tool (.311 BA). Should he continue his strong rookie year performance, he could resemble a David Murphy type player for Tampa in the years to come.

9. Tommy La Stella (ATL-2B) — Following the abrupt demise of Dan Uggla’s ability to play baseball, La Stella has been a “stella” replacement for him at second base this year for the Braves. His style of play is reminiscent to that of Darwin Barney when he first broke the big leagues with the Cubs, as La Stella has hit for a solid average (.289) and posted sound defensive numbers (.989 FLD %) in his 60 games with Atlanta.

10. David Peralta (ARI-OF) — Peralta’s outstanding offense since his call-up on June 1 actually led to the narrow-exclusion of his Arizona rookie teammate, shortstop Chris Owings, from this list. Peralta has gotten on base at a .354 clip this season while also sporting a .832 OPS, and his emergence enabled the Diamondbacks to deal Gerardo Perra to the Brewers to strengthen their Minor League system.

The future is bright for teams loaded with young talent, such as the Astros. Credit: Sports Illustrated

The professional development of prospects into rookies has the unparalleled ability to give fans of their organizations hope for the future, even when the teams on the Major League level are struggling. Just look at the Cubs and Astros, two perennial contenders for last-place in their respective divisions. Despite their lack of success, the upper management for each team has provided its fan base with a promise that the future will be brighter, citing the developments of top prospects as examples. As a Cubs fan, how could you not be excited about the possibility of an Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Addison Russell, and Kris Bryant infield? From an Astros fan’s perspective, a potential rotation of Mark Appel, Mike Foltynewicz, and Lance McCullers, coupled with the heavy-hitting bats of Springer, Jon Singleton, Carlos Correa, and Domingo Santana sure does seem promising. Though an organization’s future potential shouldn’t serve as an excuse for the shortcomings of a big league club, it does certainly lessen the pains of a fan base when it seems that a team has a plan in place, such as the Cubs and Astros, as opposed to being seemingly content with dwelling in a middle-ground purgatory with an aging roster (see: Philadelphia Phillies). With that in mind, I’m calling Astros over the Cubs in 6 for the 2017 World Series.

…And Appel strikes out Bryant to end the ball game! Credit: http://parkhub.wordpress.com

Gotta love baseball.

The Manoman

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Rocking Rookies — 2013 Edition

Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado all dominated in their rookie seasons last year, setting the bar high for the Rookie Class of 2013. Though none of this year’s rookies have been able to replicate the extreme success that any of those three experienced last season, there have been notable performances this season from the group that are certainly worth mentioning. Here are a few of the standout rookies from this season:

Leading Off: Yasiel Puig (LAD-OF)

Image

Puig-mania started off with a bang in 2013, as he batted .474 with five homeruns and 11 R.B.I.’s in his first fifteen games and capped off his first big league game with a cannon to first to double up the runner and end the game. He revitalized a Dodgers squad that as recently as three weeks ago was in last place in the NL West and has now made them a first place team.

Batting Second: José Iglesias (BOS-3B/SS)

Jose Iglesias Detroit Tigers

Although the 23-year old shortstop has posted a .323 batting average thus far (albeit with a .374 BABIP), Iglesias’s value lies primarily in his glove. He has provided a tremendous boost to the Tigers’ defense up-the-middle since he was acquired on July 30 and his impressive range has saved numerous baseballs that would have eluded the grasp of the now-suspended Johnny Peralta. Think Ozzie Smith or Omar Vizquel with a little less pop.

Batting Third: Nolan Arenado (COL-3B)

Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks

Though Mr. Arenado currently “only” holds a .264 batting average and nine homeruns, he has driven in 42 Rockies this season and has helped to solidify a struggling third-base position for the team; it being one that previously was “anchored” by Chris Nelson and Reid Brignac. Once all of his tools start clicking, Rockies fans can look forward to a fearsome 3-4-5 consisting of Troy Tulowitzki, Arenado, and Wilin Rosario. In fact, I felt that upon his call-up to the bigs, Arenado would resemble the 22-year old rookie slugger of 2008 that drove his team to a World Series berth, some guy by the name of Evan Longoria. Well, the saying that history repeats itself is proving to hold true, as I’d like to introduce you to Evan Longoria 2.0.

Hitting Cleanup: Wil Myers (TB-OF)

Wil Myers Tampa Bay Rays

I’m going to post this here now, on the record (not that anything I post here is off the record, but just saying :)). Wil Myers will finish what Evan Longoria started in 2008.

Wil Myers will lead the Tampa Bay Rays to a World Series title.

Today’s Pitching Matchup is Between José Fernandez and Shelby Miller

Jose Fernandez Miami Marlins

vs.

Milwaukee Brewers vs St. Louis Cardinals

Allow me to give you some comparables to this matchup of NL ROY hopefuls.

Gooden vs. Verlander

Valenzuela vs. Wainwright

Joel Zumaya vs. Mark Prior

What you guys didn’t like that last one? 😉 Both of these guys are studs, plain and simple, and should go on to have dominant careers similar to those experienced by the aforementioned players. Just threw that last comparable in there as a “worst-case scenario” and to serve as a testament to how vulnerable the arms of MLB pitchers can be. No worries though Marlins and Cards fans, everything is going to be alright. Just ask Dylan Bundy.

Honorable Mentions

1. Jedd Gyorko (SD-2B) – I was tempted to slot Gyorko into the three-hole of the lineup, as he puts up a compelling case with his 14 homeruns and 37 RBI’s. Gyorko is San Diego’s second baseman of the present and future, and you can look forward to more than a few All-Star Game berths from him when he hits his prime.

2. Oswaldo Arcia (MIN-OF) – Move over M&M boys, part one of Minnesota’s fearsome threesome has arrived, and he’s here to stay. He will most likely develop into a .270, 30 homer, 90 RBI type of bat, similar to the type of numbers that Torii Hunter produced over his career.

3. Chris Archer (TB-SP) – Acquired by the Rays way back when in the Matt Garza deal, Archer has put up a significant competition to Wil Myers in the AL ROY. With his 6-5 record and 2.95 E.R.A., Archer is dominating the AL and should be a key cog in the Rays postseason push.

4. Julio Teheran (ATL-SP) – Coming into this season, Braves fans weren’t quite sure what to expect from Teheran. The former #1 rated prospect in their system had failed to live up to the enormous hype placed upon him during his short stint in the majors, posting a 1-1 record and a 5.03 E.R.A. However, the team hopes that the real Julio Teheran has finally arrived to stay, as he has racked up a 10-6 record with a 2.96 E.R.A. thus far this season.

5. Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD-SP) – Clayton Kershaw, Zack Grienke, Josh Beckett, and Ricky Nolasco. All four of those pitchers have had great seasons in years past (Kershaw’s has been legendary), but none have been as pivotal to the team’s success on the mound save Kershaw, as Ryu. With his 12-4 record and 2.95 E.R.A., Ryu has been a model of remarkable consistency and has kept the Dodgers afloat when various pitchers, including Grienke, Beckett, Chris Capuano, and Stephen Fife, went down with injuries.

6. Tony Cingrani (CIN-SP) – Wade Miley of 2012, meet Tony Cingrani of 2013. 6-3 record, 2.76 E.R.A., and 112 strikeouts in the books thus far for Cingrani, and those numbers should only improve as he heads down the final stretch.

7. Gerrit Cole (PIT-SP) – The 2011 #1 Overall Draft Pick broke onto the scene for the Buccos this year, posting a 6-6 record with a 3.86 E.R.A. His development has been instrumental to the Pirates success this season, as he has helped to solidify the back end of a Pirates rotation that has been living off of low BABIP’s and high strand rates.

8. Evan Gattis (ATL-C) – From high school janitor to major leaguer, Gattis has certainly paved a unique path to his big league career. With his 15 homeruns and 47 R.B.I.’s “El Oso Blanco” has been a major part of the Braves’ first-place standing in the NL East.

9. Zack Wheeler (NYM-SP) – Mets fans are currently salivating at the tremendous potential of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. While Wheeler hasn’t exactly posted the numbers of his 1-2 counterpart thus far, he does hold a 6-2 record with a 3.49 E.R.A., definitely not one to be ashamed of. Once Wheeler learns to control his 98 mph fastball, you can expect to see him right up there with Verlander and Harvey as one of the best in baseball.

10. Jim Henderson (MIL-CL) – Heading into this season, the Brewers had pegged “Ax-Man” John Axford as their closer after he saved 35 games for the club in 2012. However, there was a rapid role reversal after Axford began to falter in April, and Henderson took the closer job and hasn’t looked back since, converting 21 of his 24 save opportunities along with a 1.86 E.R.A.

Though many of these rookies look promising now, who knows what the future will hold for them. For every José Fernandez there is another Daniel Bard. For every Nolan Arenado there is another Ian Stewart. Baseball is a game of failure, and while there have been numerous success stories embedded within the history of our national pastime (see Evan Gattis, Ryan Vogelsong), the percentages are not in the players’ favor. However, let’s enjoy these rookies while they last now, and let’s hope Yasiel Puig keeps overthrowing that cutoff man.

Rookies to Watch For 2011

These are the rookies that are likely to perform extremely well this year and are potential                              Rookie of the Year candidates.

 American League

1. Michael Pineda

He reminds me greatly of current Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, and in the future they will probably form a dangerous 1-2 top of the rotation tandem that has the potential to terrorize opposing batters. Once Dustin Ackley comes up to the bigs and the Mariners acquire some offense, this team will be one to be feared.

2. Kyle Drabek

Kyle Drabek is the son of former All-Star pitcher Doug Drabek and has the talent to have a career, which surpasses that of his father. His arsenal is deadly and he was the key piece in the Roy Halladay for good reason, as in a couple of years look for him to take over as the Blue Jays ace.

Figured I’d throw this in for Drabek as well:

3. Jordan Walden

It seems as though the AL West is just filled with promising young closers as there was Neftali Feliz, and now there is Jordan Walden. He possesses electric stuff and will stay in the closer role as long as he keeps pitching well. He is a dark-horse to win the AL ROY this year.

National League

1. Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel has been dominant for the Braves thus far this year, emerging victorious from a platoon battle for the closing role with Johnny Venters. His K/9 ratio is extremely high and his composure for a rookie closer is tremendous, in some ways reminiscent of Neftali Feliz last year.

2. Danny Espinosa

Danny is an essential piece to the Nationals “rebuilding” movement. He is an extremely talented fielder and is an excellent double play partner to Ian Desmond. He also can be considered one of those rare power/speed type players which only enhances his value as a player.

3. Brandon Belt

Brandon Belt has been vastly considered to be the “next Buster Posey” by baseball analysts, and for good reason. Although he was recently demoted to Triple A Fresno to work out some struggles in his swing, he has true superstar potential and possesses great power as well as the ability to hit for a strong average. By the middle of the season he will be more acclimated to big league pitching and will be hitting the ball as well as he had in Triple A for the past couple of years.

Here is the link to a similar post to this that I made in 2009:

http://manoman.mlblogs.com/archives/2009/06/rocking_rookies.html

The Season is Still Young…..

The Manoman

Rocking Rookies

Some come out of nowhere. Some were destined for greatness while some were surprises from the start. Now what am I talking about? The Rooks. The New Kids on the Block. Each year there are standouts (see Longoria, Braun) and massive dissapointments (see Delmon Young, Rickie Weeks). The best part about rookie though is that they have that level of unpredictability (I don’t even know if that’s a word : ). Now lets see some of the newbie rookies right here: 

 

Leading off:

Our leadoff guy in this segment is Andrew McCutchen.

(mlb.com)

Here is a good player that has 5 tools. He is and excellent fielder, bolts around the bases and is a good hitter. He is the starting centerfielder for the Pirates now that they traded Nate McClouth and is the new lead off hitter. I actually thought his name was Andrew McClutchen because he was a such a good hitter.

McCutchen = McClutchen 

Batting Second:

Gordon Beckham

(mlb.com)

Beckham is currently the 3rd baseman for the White Sox and was only drafted LAST YEAR. It’s the Ryan Zimmerman the Second. I heard he was a solid hitter and has alot of talent so we’ll have to see…

 

 Batting Third: Mr. 5 Tools

Adam Jones

Jones is an amazing young player who is fast and knows how to hit the baseball.

 

Hitting Cleanup: Matt Wieters

Matt Wieters

You can love him, you can hate him, but what I know is that this guy has alot of skill and is gonna be a star in the future.

Today’s Pitching Matchup is Between Tommy Hanson and David Price

 

vs.

David Price

These guys are both pristine players that are both very talented. Hanson is on one of my fantasy teams and gets the job done each time. Price has been highly regarded for an extremely long time and price is just…er…um…right. Hah. Here are some honorable mentions:

Honorable Mentions 

  1. Mat Gamel – Mat is a good hitter and is like Ryan Braun (bad defense at 3rd, great power swing). Give him some time and he will succeed.
  2. Rick Porcello- He was dominating entering 2009 after his debut and looks to get 10 wins before the All Star Break. 
  3. Dexter Fowler – fast and once had 5 steals in a game this year!
  4.  Elvis Andrus -great defense and a good bat equals a good combo
  5.  Trevor Cahill- doing a great job pitching for the A’s
  6. *Omir Santos* (pretty sure he’s a rookie)- he came from practically nowhere to claim the Mets starting catcher job and has thrived since
  7. Nolan Reimold- hidden from the spotlight of Matt Wieters, Reimold has been an outstanding player this year and already has 9 homeruns
  8.  Ricky Romero- hey! hey! Ricky! Romero has been lights out since he returned from the DL and is making great contributions to a surprisingly dominant Toronto pitching staff 

9. Fernando Martinez- although F-Mart has had his struggles, and his face plants into the Citi Field grass, I still believe he will turn it around (anyone up for after the All-Star Break? Anyone?) 

 10. Andrew Bailey- Huston Street :traded; Joey Devine: season ending surgery; Brad Ziegler: ineffective; Bailey: sure I guess we’ll take him. Imagine if this what was running through A’s manager Bob Geren’s head as he was thinking about his closer. So far, this has been the right choice as Bailey has been lights out.  

                 So to end this post with a little more rookieness, do you think there will ever be rookies like Braun or Longoria again? Who do you think will win rookie of the year? Will Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg ever face off in the future???

Bryce Harper, Baseball, Las Vegas Wildcats

and

Fireballer Stephen Strasburg by mikezarrilli14.

The Battle is On.