50 MLB Players with the Most to Prove in 2012

Robert Knapel@@RobertKnapel_BRCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2012

50 MLB Players with the Most to Prove in 2012

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    The 2012 season will give a number of MLB players the chance to prove themselves. Some will be trying to prove that 2011 was a down year. Others will be trying to prove that the great numbers they put up in 2011 were not a fluke. Players returning from injuries will be trying to prove that they can play at the level they did before they were hurts.

    There will be a new beginning for all of these players, and they need to make the most of the opportunities that they are given. Some players on this list will play well enough to cast off an doubts about them while others may end up losing their jobs if they struggle.

Adam Dunn

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    A list like this needs to start with Adam Dunn. He had a laughably bad year in 2011 and did not come close to living up to the contract that he signed with the Chicago White Sox.

    Dunn was brought in to be a big bat in the middle of the White Sox’s lineup. Instead, the South Siders got a player who hit 41 points below the Mendoza line and who only drove 11 baseballs out of the park.

Johan Santana

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    The New York Mets will certainly be a different team from the one that they put on the field in 2011. Johan Santana will be welcomed back with open arms.

    New York is hoping that Santana can return to ace that he was when they acquired him. Santana is returning from shoulder surgery, and the Mets need a big season from him if they have any chance of contending this year.

Jason Bay

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    Jason Bay has been one of the more disappointing free agent signings that has been made over the past few years. Bay does not look like the player that the New York Mets thought they were signing.

    Over the past two seasons, Bay has hit 18 home runs and drove in 104 runners in 218 games. These numbers are below Bay’s statistics from the 2009 season when he hit 36 long balls and drove in 119 runners in 151 games with the Boston Red Sox.

Yu Darvish

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    Whenever an international superstar is on his way to the United States, there is a lot of hype surrounding him. Yu Darvish is supposed to be a star, and the Texas Rangers are betting on it.

    Japanese pitchers have struggled after coming to the United States, and that is often cited in conversations about Darvish. He has to prove that he can be a top-of-the-rotation starter in the U.S.

Jason Heyward

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    As a 20-year-old, Jason Heyward had an outstanding rookie year in 2010. He put up a .277/.393/.456 triple slash with 18 home runs and 72 runs batted in on his way to an All-Star Game appearance.

    Heyward then hit the dreaded sophomore slump in 2011. He had a much less impressive .227/.319/.389 line. It will be interesting to see which Heyward shows up in 2012.

Neftali Feliz

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    Neftali Feliz was one of the best closers in the game of baseball, but he has the potential to be an outstanding starter, which is why the Texas Rangers are moving him to the rotation.

    Feliz will need to prove that he can handle the much heavier workload that comes with being a starting pitcher. The Rangers will look bad if Feliz struggles in his new role.

Chris Sale

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    Chris Sale was a top draft pick of the Chicago White Sox. He was a starter at Florida Gulf Coast University, but the team decided to convert him into a reliever.

    Sale will now be going back to being a starter in 2012. The White Sox hope that Sale will be able to handle his new role and that he can become an important piece of their rotation.

Jayson Werth

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    The Washington Nationals opened up the checkbook to bring in Jayson Werth, and they hoped that he would become an important part of their future. Washington did not get what they hoped for.

    Werth struggled during his first year in the nation’s capital and he only hit .232, 32 points below his career average. He did manage to hit 20 home runs, but Werth only drove in 58 runs.

Erik Bedard

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    The last time that Erik Bedard made more than 25 starts in a season, George W. Bush was still in office. After missing the 2010 season Bedard came back strong in 2011.

    The Pittsburgh Pirates decided that signing Bedard would be a good way to bolster their rotation. They are hoping that he can stay healthy for the whole season.

Edwin Jackson

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    Edwin Jackson was one of the best pitchers that became a free agent following the 2011 season. He is looking for big money and a deal has not yet materialized.

    When Jackson does sign somewhere, he will have to live up to his big contract. Jackson has bounced around from team to team and he has struggled to find consistency during his time in the majors.

J.P. Arencibia

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    J.P. Arencibia is a power-hitting catcher, but he may have problems holding on to the starting job in Toronto. The Blue Jays have one of the best catching prospects in all of baseball.

    Travis D’Arnaud does not have the same offensive abilities that Arencibia has, but he is better behind the plate. Arencibia will need to put together a good season if he wants to hold on to his job in Toronto.

Josh Johnson

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    Josh Johnson saw his 2011 season cut short by injuries. He was a key part of the Miami Marlins pitching staff, and they need him to be healthy if they are going to have a shot at winning the NL East.

    The Marlins made a number of improvements over the winter, but one of the biggest additions that they will get for the 2012 season will be the return of Johnson to their rotation.

Bryce Harper

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    There have been few baseball players, or even athletes in general that have had the same amount of hype as Bryce Harper. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was just 16 years old.

    Harper will likely reach the major leagues in 2012 and he will certainly need to prove that he belongs to be there. The media attention surrounding his debut will be massive, and he will need to show that he is worthy of all of the praise that he has received.

Mike Trout

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    When a player shows enough talent to reach the major leagues before his 20th birthday, there are very high expectations for him. This is the case for Mike Trout.

    Billed as a five-tool player, Trout showed off some of his skills during his first stint in the majors. Trout should get a much longer look in 2012, and there will be high expectations for him.

Gordon Beckham

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    Gordon Beckham was the eighth overall pick of the 2008 MLB draft and he reached the major leagues the following season. Beckham impressed during his first year in the majors.

    In the two years since his rookie season, Beckham has failed to match his home run, runs batted in, walk or double total despite playing in at least 28 more games each season. His average has also dropped each year. Beckham will need to prove that he can be the budding star that he was when he began his career.

Doug Fister

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    Doug Fister was putting together the best season of his career when he was with the Seattle Mariners, and he managed to get even better once he was dealt to the Detroit Tigers.

    Fister was once thought of as a middle or back end of the rotation pitcher, but he looked like a No. 2 in 2011.  The Tigers are counting on having Fister continue to pitch like a top starter in 2012.

Alfonso Soriano

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    Alfonso Soriano is not the player that he was when the Cubs signed him during the 2007 offseason. He has declined year after year since joining the team. 

    Adding to the issues that Soriano has had on the field is the burden that the Cubs face as a result of his big contract. He will have to try to live up to his salary in 2012, but it won’t be easy.

Pedro Alvarez

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans have to be frustrated about Pedro Alvarez. He flashes moments of brilliance, but he has had a number of problems in his two years in the majors.

    Alvarez is still young at 24 years old, but there are issues that he needs to work out. He was expected to be the Pirates third baseman of the future, but he was sent down to the minors during the 2011 season.

C.J. Wilson

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    Signing C.J. Wilson was one of the two big splashes that the Los Angeles Angels made in this offseason’s free agent market. They will be expecting big things from him.

    Wilson will have to try to live up to the five-year, $77.5 million contract that he signed. He has only been a starter for two seasons, but the Angles will hope that he can continue the success that he has had.

Colby Rasmus

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    Colby Rasmus has the potential to become one of the better young outfielders in the major leagues. He showed what he could do during his first two years with the St. Louis Cardinals.

    Rasmus was dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays before the 2011 trade deadline, and he struggled once he joined his new team. Rasmus will need to prove himself after a down year in 2011.  

Carl Crawford

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    The season that Carl Crawford put together in 2011 was certainly not what the Boston Red Sox were expecting from him after they signed him.

    Crawford struggled mightily and had an on-base-plus-slugging-plus rate of 85. He did not even reach the 20 stolen base mark last season. The Red Sox have to be hoping that he can justify the contract they gave him with a much better 2012 season.

Ichiro Suzuki

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    During his first 10 seasons in the MLB, Ichiro Suzuki had at least 200 hits, and his lowest batting average was .303. 2011 was the first season that Suzuki did not reach those statistics.

    Ichiro had just 184 hits and a .272 batting average. This could be the beginning of Ichiro’s decline, or it could have just been a down season. 2012 will be a good indicator of what it is.

Michael Pineda

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    The New York Yankees made a huge move by trading Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Pineda. After an outstanding rookie year, Pineda will have a tough time following up his performance this season.

    Pineda will be moving to the American League East and will have to face much better lineups than he did the previous season. This could cause his numbers to be worse than they were during his rookie year. 

Jesus Montero

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    Jesus Montero enters the 2012 season as one of the best prospects in baseball. After being traded to the Seattle Mariners, he should begin the year as their starting catcher.

    There are some lofty expectations for Montero following his impressive short stint in the major leagues last season.

Yoennis Cespedes

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    There will be a lot of uncertainty about what Yoennis Cespedes will be able to do in the major leagues. He is supposed to be a potential five-tool player.

    Cespedes is a Cuban defector who performed well in his own country. His game should translate to the majors, but it won’t be known until he steps out onto the field.

Adam Wainwright

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    One of the most impressive things about the St. Louis Cardinals’ run to the World Series title was the fact that they were able to do it while one of the better pitchers in the majors was on the disabled list.

    Adam Wainwright missed the 2011 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Without Albert Pujols, pitching will be more important for the Cardinals, and they will need Wainwright to be on his game when he returns.

Drew Stubbs

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    There is no denying that Drew Stubbs has a lot of talent. However, there are some issues in his game that are keeping him from reaching the next level.

    Stubbs has a great combination of power and speed, but he also strikes out too much. He led the NL in strikeouts in 2011, and that hurt his game. Stubbs needs to show more discipline when he is at the plate.

Jose Reyes

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    Going to Miami along with Jose Reyes will be a set of high expectations. Reyes wanted a $100 million deal, and he was able to get it from the Marlins.

    Now, Reyes must be able to stay on the field. Reyes has had injury issues in the past, and he needs to stay healthy all season to live up to the big contract that he just signed.

David Wright

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    Ever since the New York Mets have moved to Citi Field, David Wright has been on a bit of a decline. He hit 10 home runs during the teams first year in the new stadium, 29 the next, and then he went back down to 14 in 2011.

    Wright's batting average has also dropped off since the team moved to their new home. The Mets want to see what Wright can do this year with the new dimensions at Citi Field.

Kendrys Morales

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    Kendrys Morales was looking like a star following his 2009 campaign, but then he broke his ankle while celebrating a home run the following season. Morales has not played since.

    The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim now have Albert Pujols at first and Mark Trumbo has proven that he can hit. Morales will begin the year as the Angels' designated hitter, and he needs to show that he can once again be a power hitter.

Edinson Volquez

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    In 2008, Edison Volquez went 17-6 with a 3.21 earned run average. The Cincinnati Reds were waiting for him to produce at a similar level, but injuries kept him from performing at a high level.

    Cincinnati grew tired with Volquez and he was dealt to the San Diego Padres in the deal that brought Mat Latos to the Reds. Perhaps playing in PETCO Park will be the boost that Volquez needs to return to being a top-of-the-rotation starter.

Raul Ibanez

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    Raul Ibanez has been on the decline for the past two seasons. He may no longer be able to be a starting outfielder in the major leagues.

    Ibanez will need to preform well in the beginning of the year, or else he could find himself on the bench of whatever team signs him.

Jay Bruce

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    Jay Bruce has gotten better and better during his time in the major leagues, but there are still parts of his game that may cause some to have some concern about it.

    Bruce has seen his strikeout totals rise over the years, and he whiffed 158 times in 2011. He had a .256 batting average and a .341 on-base percentage in 2011. The Reds would like to see him improve all of these stats in 2012 so that he can reach the next level.

Casey McGehee

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    Casey McGehee emerged on the scene in 2009 and finished fifth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. He followed up that season with another great year.

    2011 was different for McGehee. He struggled and saw his batting average fall to .224, and his on-base percentage was just .280. McGehee will need to prove that his performance last season was just a down year.

Travis Snider

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    It is hard to believe that Travis Snider has already played four seasons in the major leagues. He is just 23 years old, and he has the tools to become a great player.

    The problem is that Snider has not been able to use these tools properly. He has shown flashes of his potential, but he has struggled as well. Snider is going to need to show more than he has in the past.

Hanley Ramirez

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    Hanley Ramirez missed a good chunk of the 2011 season as a result of an injury. Even when Ramirez was on the field, his production was not at the level that is expected of him.

    Ramirez will need to pick up his performance while also learning to play a new position. If he can do this, then the Miami Marlins could be a playoff team in 2012.

Derek Jeter

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    Before the game that Derek Jeter collected hit number 3,000, he was batting just .257. Jeter also has begun to decline defensively as well.

    Jeter picked things up later in the season, but he still needs to prove that he can perform at a high level in 2012. This could be the beginning of the end for Jeter.

Carlos Beltran

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    The St. Louis Cardinals lost Albert Pujols to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim this winter, and they brought in Carlos Beltran to try to replace some of his production.

    Beltran is not only going to need to prove himself offensively, but defensively as well. He has a pair of bad knees that have impacted his play in the past. Beltran is going to need to stay on the field in 2012.

Ryan Howard

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    It is unknown how long Ryan Howard will be out to begin the 2012 season, but regardless of the length of time the Philadelphia Phillies will be missing him.

    The Achilles tendon injury that Howard suffered could have a big impact on his power. If Howard can't hit for power, the Phillies will be in trouble.

Alex Rios

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    After spending the 2010 season with the Chicago White Sox, it appeared as if Alex Rios was turning back into the 20/20 threat that the White Sox were hoping that he would be.

    Then, Rios struggled the following season and looked more like the player that the Toronto Blue Jays were happy to trade away. Chicago is hoping that Rios can once again be a 20/20 threat.

Ubaldo Jimenez

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    Ubaldo Jimenez finished in third place of the 2010 National League Cy Young voting, and it looked like he was going to become and ace. Then, Jimenez struggled the following season.

    Jimenez was eventually dealt to the Cleveland Indians, and he pitched worse once he was there. He had a 5.10 ERA in Cleveland. The Indians gave up a few of their top prospects for Jimenez last season, so they hope that he can once again finish in the top three of the Cy Young voting.

Brandon Morrow

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    There are times when Brandon Morrow looks really, really good, and yet his numbers for the year do not really reflect how well he pitches.

    Morrow did lead the American League with a 10.2 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate, but he also had a 4.72 earned run average. He did however have a 3.54 xFIP, which indicates that Morrow should have had better statistics in 2011.

Rick Porcello

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    Rick Porcello burst onto the scene when he was 20 years old. He went 14-9 with a 3.96 earned run average, and that allowed him to finish third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.

    In the two seasons since then Porcello has struggled. He had an earned run average-plus under 100 each of the past two seasons. Porcello needs to prove that he deserves to be a part of the Tigers' starting rotation again in 2012.

Mike Pelfrey

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    Mike Pelfrey has not lived up to the billing of being the No. 9 overall pick in the 2005 MLB draft. There have been starts where he has looked good, but there have been even more where he looks bad.

    Pelfrey has been incredibly inconsistent over the course of his career, and 2011 was one of his bad years. The New York Mets need Pelfrey to prove that he can be at least an average pitcher in the years ahead.

Fausto Carmona

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    Even after a season in which Fausto Carmona went 7-15 with a 5.25 ERA, the Cleveland Indians decided to pick up Carmona's $7 million option.

    Carmona is another pitcher who is very inconsistent. He has had a few seasons where he has been an All-Star caliber pitcher and other years in which he has been downright terrible. The Indians are hoping that the 2012 season is one of his better years.

A.J. Burnett

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    A.J. Burnett has driven New York Yankees fans crazy each of the past two seasons. Burnett was impressive in his only start during the playoffs last year, and the Yankees are hoping it is a sign of things to come.

    There may not be much room in the Yankees' rotation for Burnett in 2012. The Yankees already have C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda in their rotation. Burnett will need to fight it out with Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia for the last spot in the rotation.

Matt Moore

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    Matt Moore may have only pitched 19.2 innings at the major league level in 2011, but they were all incredibly impressive. The expectations for Moore heading into 2012 will be sky high.

    Moore looks like he will be a future ace. If he struggles during the 2012 season, people may begin to wonder if his performance in 2011 was just a fluke.

Julio Teheran

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    Julio Teheran did not have as much success in the majors as the Atlanta Braves would have liked during the five games that he appeared in. For some reason, people have soured on Teheran as the result of this very small sample.

    Teheran was only 20 years old last season, and he is getting better and better. He will be in the majors in 2012, and he should perform well enough to silence his critics.

Aubrey Huff

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    Aubrey Huff was a big part of the San Francisco Giants success in 2010. Both he and the team did not live up to expectations the following season.

    Huff had a bad year in 2011, and he is getting older. The Giants have a few young players who could take his starting job, so Huff will need to prove that last season was just a bad year.

Chone Figgins

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    Things began to go downhill for Chone Figgins after he joined the Seattle Mariners. Figgins has had his numbers tail off significantly, and he was one of the worst players in the majors in 2011.

    Figgins hit .188 with just one home run, 15 runs batted in and 11 stolen bases last season. He has lost his starting job, and the Mariners are hoping that he can increase his trade value with a decent performance this season.