There's nothing like the exciting young talent of Major League Baseball and how the stars of today compete against the stars of tomorrow.
Players such as Mark Trumbo, Eric Hosmer, Craig Kimbrel and Jeremy Hellickson lead the gifted rookie class last year. Just like last season, 2012 should have some impressive rookies across the league.
Although we are still far from the long-awaited start of baseball, here is a list rookies I believe will have breakout seasons in 2012.
First baseman Yonder Alonso has been ready to burst into a MLB star for a while now. There was only one thing holding him back, and his name was Joey Votto.
Being a first baseman, Alonso couldn't find himself a good amount of playing time in Cincinnati. Unfortunately for Alonso, the Reds' former MVP Votto also happened to be a first baseman.
However, one of baseball's top hitting prospects won't have to worry about that any longer. Last month, Alonso was traded to the San Diego Padres in a five-player deal. With a guaranteed spot in the Padres' starting lineup next season, Alonso will finally get his chance to prove himself.
Last year, the 24-year-old Cuban native played 47 games for Cincinnati. In his 88 at-bats, Alonso batted .330 with 29 hits and five home runs. In AAA Louisville, where Alonso spent most of the 2011 season, he batted .296 with with 56 RBI through 91 games played.
The stats show it, and the scouts know it: Alonso can simply rake the baseball. His excellent power and veteran-like plate discipline are just a couple of things that will make the Padres fall in love with this guy. It probably won't too long before Alonso makes a name for himself in Sad Diego.
The Atlanta Braves have themselves one of baseball's top pitching prospects in Julio Teheran.
Last year, Teheran had a terrific minor league season, pitching in the AAA Gwinnett rotation, where he spent most of his time in 2011. Teheran started 24 games for Gwinnett, going 15-3 with a sparkling 2.55 ERA.
He ended up starting only two games for the Braves last season, going 1-1 with an ERA a tad over 5.0. It may seem a bit icky at first glance, but it was actually just one good start and one rough one.
Teheran isn't exactly a big guy—standing at about six feet and 170-175 pounds—but he sure does have electric stuff. He's not really an overpowering pitcher, but he features a solid low-to-mid fastball with great movement. Teheran completes his impressive arsenal with a sharp curveball, as well as an effective changeup, which also keeps opposing hitters off-balance.
Incredibly, the Colombian native Teheran is just 20 years of age. He has a great future ahead of him if he can stay healthy, and he is definitely a valuable piece for the Braves' future as well.
With Derek Lowe already gone and Jiar Jurrjens possibly leaving soon, don't be surprised to see Teheran get a good amount of big league starts in 2012. Chances are, Atlanta is going to be seeking for starting pitching help at some point in their 2012 season.
When the Braves come knocking, it may very well be the beginning of a great career for Teheran.
If anybody's ready for The Show, it's Tampa Bay Rays' phenom pitcher Matt Moore.
It's very rare to discover any young baseball player with the talent like Moore; the kid's an absolute natural.
Moore features some wicked wicked stuff in his arsenal, which is a nightmare for hitters. The young flamethrower lives off of his outstanding fastball, which effortlessly reaches blazing speeds in the upper 90s. He also features a nasty curveball, along with a plus curveball.
As expected, the 22-year-old lefty enjoyed success in his first Major League season. After pitching ridiculously well during his 27 starts for AAA Durham (12 wins, 1.92 ERA, and 210 Ks), Moore finally got his chance to shine on the big stage. And shine he did, in most of his 19.1 cumulative innings of his 2011 experience.
Moore really made his mark when the playoffs started, though. He had an unbelievable outing in Arlington after being called on to start Game 1 of the ALDS (just his second MLB start). He was looking like the ace of the Rays' rotation, dominating Texas' big bats by shutting them out through seven strong innings.
Moore would finish his brief 2011 season with a combined ERA (including postseason and regular season) of 2.09 with 23 strikeouts.
If Moore is able to stay healthy, he'll be the future ace of an already-great Rays rotation, which includes David Price, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson. Moore gives the Rays every reason to believe that their contract extension decision with him was a no-brainer, and will be well worth it.
Moore has a lot of pressure on him, and I'm sure he'll respond positively, just as he did last October.
It looks like the Rays are possibly on their way to a second straight Rookie of the Year Award winner.
New York Yankees' catcher Jesus Montero is the real deal.
After two successful seasons in Triple-A, baseball's top catching prospect made a splash as a September call-up for the Yankees in 2011. During his brief 18 games with Yankees last season, Montero batted .328 and belted four homers. He also went 2-2 in his single playoff game.
Montero's big-time talent is highlighted by his big bat, which includes home run power and high-average hitting. His combined Triple-A stats included a .289 average, 142 RBI and 39 homers.
Surprisingly, Montero's name has come up in numerous trade rumors throughout the offseason. New York would be straight-out foolish to trade away their top prospect.
Montero fits perfectly with the Yankees. With Posada now gone, Montero will be crucial to fill in the catcher role along with Russell Martin. Also, his opposite field power should work great for him in the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium.
I'm confident that Montero will reassure everyone in 2012 what a top-notch ballplayer he is.
The Tampa Bay Rays' loaded young talent doesn't stop at Matt Moore.
He may not be in the same phenom category as Moore, but Desmond Jennings is clearly a player the Rays should be excited about. The 25-year-old outfielder can hit, field and run like the wind (if not faster).
Last season, Jennings impressed everyone in Tampa Bay, collecting 64 hits, smashing 10 dingers, stealing 20 bases and batting .259 through his 63 games for the Rays.
The stats are good, but they really don't describe how good Jennings played. Numbers don't truly show clutch hitting and highlight-reel defense.
What was most surprising about Jennings last year was his explosive power, which seemed to come out of nowhere. It wasn't any secret that Jennings had some pop in his bat, but most people looked at him as a speedy contact hitter. With the kind of home run-hitting ability that Jennings displayed in 2011, he could become a serious offensive machine for Tampa Bay.
As the Rays are in need of offensive help, Jennings will be vital for the franchise in the years to come. The Rays need to take his talent seriously, and a contract extension should be in future discussion.
Desmond Jennings will absolutely be one of baseball's most exciting rookies in 2012, as well as the sport's most fun players to watch overall.
It may be a while before Mike Trout explodes into a baseball superstar, but it's definitely bound to happen. There's a reason why this guy was rated baseball's No.1 prospect by both MLB.com and ESPN.
Trout, who just turned 20 in August, played three unbelievable seasons of minor league baseball straight out of high school. He never batted under under .326 in those three seasons, displaying talent in pretty much every part of the game. This five-tool outfielder simply does it all.
Trout is certainly going to see more MLB playing time in 2012 after playing just 40 games as a late-season call-up last year. Still, odds are that the Angels are not going to want to give him a lot of playing time at all. The outfield is already pretty stacked with Peter Bourjos, Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter. Also, they will probably not want to rush things with their very young prospect. The crowded outfield is a perfect opportunity to give Trout a developmental season in Triple-A, which he hasn't experienced yet.
Next year, whenever Trout does get his chance to play in Anaheim, he'll most likely make a case for being one of baseball's top rookies in 2012.