Spring training is just a month away. Pitchers and catchers report in around three weeks, position players report a couple days after that and then the team workouts begin. Once they are underway, scrimmages and games are the only thing standing in the way of Opening Day.
There are plenty of young players eager to impress this season. For some, this opportunity is a chance to make the major league roster, but for most, it will be about the experience of being there and becoming accustomed with the way the top stars on the team handle themselves and prepare for the new campaign.
If nothing else, the camp for those who have no chance of making the big club this year will help them when they return next season. They won't be as nervous about the novelty of being the new kid in the locker room, and hopefully it will help them focus on their performance rather than trying to fit in in unfamiliar surroundings.
Some of these guys are appearing in their first big league camp, others may have been here in 2010 or 2011. Here are 30 young guys to watch in spring training and minor league camps.
Selected in the first round (28th overall) of June's draft, Sean Gilmartin has been invited to spring training, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman.
The Florida State University product has grown in skill, confidence and maturity since turning down a chance to sign with the San Diego Padres three years ago. Now he will look to prove he has what it takes
to be fast-tracked through the minors.
Gilmartin made five starts with the Rome Braves in the South Atlantic League last year, posting a 2.53 ERA and 2-1 record in his short stint with the club. He fanned 31 batters over 23.1 innings at the Class-A
level before joining the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League.
Facing considerably more polished hitters, Gilmartin made eight appearances in the AFL. The left-hander went 2-1 with a 4.34 ERA. He struck out 26 men over 29 frames and walked just six batters. If it wasn't for a torrid outing against Scottsdale (seven runs on eight hits over three innings) his ERA would have been much more in line with his general performances at 2.77.
Chad James is one of 62 players scheduled to join the Miami Marlins in camp next month, according to MLB beat reporter Evan Drellich.
The left-hander lost 15 games in the Florida State League with Jupiter last season, despite a 3.80 ERA and 124 strikeouts over 149.1 innings.
In his second full season as a pro, the former first-rounder arguably performed much better than his win-loss record suggests. In 16 of his 27 starts he allowed two earned runs or fewer and lost seven times during that stretch. In the five games where he only allowed one earned run, he was 1-3.
James will report to camp with the other pitchers and catchers on Feb. 22 ahead of the first full-squad workout on Feb. 26. He needs to lower his hit rate to become a credible threat, but he's not that far away from being an excellent young hurler.
Baseball America says Matt Harvey has the best slider in the system. His fastball and changeup aren't bad, either.
New York's No. 2 prospect is one of the more promising right-handers in the minors today, and it's only a matter of time before he gets a call-up to Citi Field. He should get a taste of life in the majors by
the end of 2012, and I expect he will be ready to slot into the rotation there by the middle of 2013.
Harvey went 8-2 with a 2.37 ERA and 92 K's in 76 innings for St. Luice in the Florida State League before earning a promotion to Double-A Binghamton. In 12 more starts in the Eastern League, the 6'4" farmhand was 5-3 with a 4.53 ERA and 64 strikeouts over 59.2 innings. He finished the season 5-0 with a 2.68 mark in his final seven starts and almost a strikeout per inning. .
Mets beat reporter Anthony DiComo says Harvey, the seventh overall pick in the 2010 draft, may "begin this season back in Double-A, but he figures to advance quickly, potentially cracking the big leagues by the end of this season." I feel the same way. Harvey figures to pack a lethal one-two punch with Zack Wheeler in the not-so-distant future.
Mets pitchers and catchers must report to Port St. Lucie, Fla., by Feb. 20, with their first workout scheduled for Feb. 22. The first full-squad workout is Feb. 27.
The Philadelphia Phillies beat reporter for MLB.com Todd Zolecki reported that Austin Hyatt is one of the non-roster players, along with B.J. Rosenberg, invited to join the team this spring.
Hyatt went 12-6 with a 3.85 ERA in 28 starts last season with Double-A Reading. He fanned 171 batters over 154.1 innings and held batters to a .235 average. The 49 walks placed him in the middle of the pack, but his biggest problem was his inability to prevent the long ball. He surrendered 20 homers in total, and at least one in 16 different outings.
Selected in the 15th round of the 2009 draft, Hyatt has a 27-11 record over three minor league season. He has always been a flamethrower, now he just needs to refine his command. An Eastern League midseason All-Star, Hyatt will need to make the most of his time in camp with the veteran pitchers to hone his craft and live up to his potential.
The best thing about the 25-year-old right-hander is that he doesn't have to rely solely on his fastball. His changeup is a plus offering, and Baseball America even rated it the best on the farm.
Signed by the Washington Nationals as a free agent a couple weeks before Christmas, third baseman Jarrett Hoffpauir has been invited to spring training.
Remember when he was a threat to hit 20 homers? It seems a long time ago, but in 2007, 2009 and 2010 he reached double digits. In 2010 he hit .295 with 16 homers and 73 RBI in 107 games before a late call-up.
Last season in Tucson, however, Hoffpauir slipped backward again. His 34 RBI were a career low and he slugged just five home runs.
The former sixth-rounder has appeared in 21 major league games: eight in 2009 and 13 more in 2010. At 28 years old, this may be Hoffpauir's last chance to make a big impact. I'm intrigued to see how
Bryce Harper's good, we get it, but there will be other players at the camp, too. I'm not saying I'm more interested in seeing Hoffpauir than Harper in the majors, but I do like the thought of giving some attention to someone other than Harper this spring.
Already considered by some to be a future major league shortstop, Javier Baez will enter the 2012 season will high expectations.
There is obviously zero chance Baez will break camp with the team considering he has only had five pro games and 18 at-bats, but there is a chance that he does enough to earn a spot in a full-season league to start 2012.
“We want to make sure we protect the investment (in them), but there’s a difference in protecting them and babying them.” player development coordinator Jason McLeod told PJStar.com. “We want to put those players in a position where they can be successful.”
Many Cubs fans will not know too much about Baez, other than the fact that he was taken out of Arlington County Day School in Florida with the ninth pick of the 2011 draft and that he absolutely murdered pitchers in his conference.
He hit .771 with 22 homers, 64 hits, 20 doubles and 52 RBI, according to a Sporting News scouting report. Those numbers were not typos. He struck out three times, leading Baseball America to name Baez as the prospect with the fastest bat in the draft.
Devin Mesoraco appeared in 18 games with the Cincinnati Reds in 2011 and he'll be challenging for a spot on the roster when camp gets underway next month. The catching prospect is another high school
first-round draft pick on the cusp of big things, so it will be interesting to see whether he sees more major league time this year.
Mesoraco has came into his own over the last few years. He slugged 26 homers and plated 75 runs in 2010, obliterating his previous career highs of nine and 42 respectively, and he followed that up with a
15-homer, 71-RBI campaign exclusively with Triple-A Louisville last year.
He has a big-time bat, and he projects to hit for average as well as power. He's not going to be a .300 hitter in all likelihood, but there's no reason to think he can't be a .275, 20-homer guy with a little more seasoning.
The 23-year-old right-hander has a bright future. He impressed coaches throughout spring training last year with his work ethic and defense, and this year, in his fourth big league camp, he will look to take that next step.
Back in his natural position at first place, Jonathan Singleton has a big season ahead of him. He hit 13 homers and plated 63 runs between two Class-A Advanced levels in 2010, and he will move up to Double-A Corpus Christi in 2012 if he has a good camp.
Singleton has good plate discipline and decent power, and it will be fun to see him going against some top prospects this spring. He's posted on-base numbers of .395, .393 and .392 over his first three years as a pro, so the ability to hit for average and draw walks is all there.
If he can continue to replicate these figures in the Texas League, Houston fans will feel even better about shipping Hunter Pence off to Philly.
MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo ranks Singleton as the third-best first-base prospect entering the season.
Selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round of the 2011 draft, former Georgia Tech hurler Jed Bradley is one of five non-roster pitchers invited to spring training.
The 21-year-old left-hander made five appearances in the AFL for the Peoria Javelinas, but he was kept on a very strict leash. This will be the first chance for many fans to see him pitch. He has smooth mechanics, two good fastballs (a four- and two-seamer) and a plus slider. His changeup isn't quite there, but it's not far away.
According to MiLB.com, Bradley went 7-3 with a 3.49 ERA in 16 starts in his final college season, recording 106 strikeouts over 98 innings.
Gerrit Cole may be the future ace of this staff, but fans are going to have to be patient before they see him pitching in the majors Fortunately, the 21-year-old California native will give the Pittsburgh faithful a glimpse of the future when he joins the team in big league camp.
Brian McTaggart reported last week that Cole was among six players invited to spring training by the Pirates.
Cole, a Scott Boras client, received an $8 million bonus when he signed with the Pirates in August, and he made his pro debut in the Arizona Fall League in October. He went 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in five starts, fanning 16 batters and walking four in 15 innings.
He has a fastball that tops 100 mph, and he also throws a slider and a change. Cole, originally drafted by the New York Yankees back in '08, will bring a fresh approach to the organization and I can't wait to see him move through the system in 2012. I wouldn't be too surprised to see him advance to Double-A by the end of the year.
River Bandits manager Johnny Rodriguez said last year that non-drafted free agent Carlos Martinez has the potential to be a star.
"I've been in baseball more than 30 years and he could be a No. 1 guy in St. Louis," Rodriguez said. "He was better than I had expected. He reminds me of when I saw a young Pedro Martinez in Albuquerque in the early '90s. In fact, he shows me more than what Pedro did at his age, and you know how his career went."
The Cardinals signed Martinez last April and he led the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League with a 0.76 ERA in 12 starts. He went 3-2 with 78 strikeouts over 59 innings. His numbers in the pros were never going to rival those in the DSL, but there were still plenty of positives to take.
He went 6-5 with a 3.93 ERA across two levels between the Midwest and Florida State Leagues, and he struck out 98 batters over 84.2 innings. He struggled on his promotion to Palm Beach, but the lessons he
learned there should serve him well going forward.
Martinez, who reportedly received a $1.5 million signing bonus, impressed the Cardinals' front office during a mini-camp bullpen session in Jupiter, Fla., prior to the start of spring training in February. Fans should see more of the same in 2012.
I can't wait to see Trevor Bauer pitch again because, well, he's different. He's unique and quirky in his own way and that's refreshing to see. He's an interesting kid with a ton of potential and the skills to match. I've spoken with him a couple of times, and I like everything about the way he approaches the game and handles himself on the mound.
Bauer's future is bright, but he's not there yet. He has only appeared in seven pro games, and none above the Southern League. Spring training should give him his first real test since going pro.
He's high on the Diamondbacks' prospect depth chart, and some people expect him to make the big leagues out of camp. I'd prefer to see him get stretched out back in Mobile and then log some Triple-A innings before a promotion to the majors.
Following a signing bonus of $3.4 million, Bauer is guaranteed at least $4.4 million over the next three years. If he makes the team out of spring training and stays there for the next couple years, that contract will net him $7 million.
Yet to play a game above Double-A, Tim Wheeler is on a fast track to the major leagues. Will he break camp with the team after spring training? Probably not. Hopefully you will get to see his blazing speed, ridiculous power and stellar defense this spring, though.
This 23-year-old outfielder has rapidly developed into one of the best raw power hitters in the organization, and he's not finished yet.
He mashed 33 homers at Tulsa in 2011, all while maintaining his running game (21 steals) and lifting his average (.287). His .900 OPS was easily a career high, and there was no doubt that the 2011 version of Wheeler was what the Rockies had in mind when they selected him as a compensation first-round pick in the 2009 draft.
This 6'4" left-hander will see his power numbers decrease when he makes the jump to Triple-A at the start of 2012, but don't be concerned. He's got the talent to be a 20-20 guy in the majors within a couple years, and he'll give fans a tantalizing glimpse of that potential this season.
Alfredo Silverio burst out of seemingly nowhere last season, putting up career numbers in the Double-A Southern League and signaling he is ready to make the next step.
He hit 16 homers, 42 doubles and 18 triples for Chattanooga (all career highs), plating a personal-best 85 runs and scoring 90 times. He also hit .306, another high point from his sixth year in pro ball.
Silverio was selected to the Futures Game and the Southern League's postseason All-Star squad. He was also named to MiLB.com's Organization All-Star team, which picks the best performance at each
position within a club's system, regardless of age or prospect status.
Baseball America ranked Silverio fourth on the Dodgers' list of top 10 prospects for 2012. He was one of 15 prospects invited to the club's winter development camp, and I'm excited to see how he fares this
Jedd Gyorko should see time at the big-league level this season if he continues on his current path.
He lit up the hitter-friendly Cal League with Lake Elsinore and then proved he was more than capable of handling his own at Double-A San Antonio.
Gyorko is a pure hitter with great pop and a knack for getting runners home. For those who question whether he would be able to make an impact at the major league level, just take a look at what he was able to do in the Arizona Fall League at the end of last year.
Selected in the second round of the 2010 draft, Gyorko needs seasoning before he's ready to contribute on an everyday basis, but you should see him impress at the major league camp.
Gyorko could hit 20 homers or post a .400 OBP at Triple-A next year en route to San Diego. Once in the majors, he'll prove his 2011 breakout was legit.
Joe Panik is a left-handed shortstop in the San Francisco Giants system. The 21-year-old native of New York spent all of 2011 with Salem-Keizer in the Northwest League, where he showed off his range of
He hit a league-leading .341 with 19 extra-base hits, 13 steals and 54 RBI in 69 games in his first season, grabbing league MVP honors to go alongside selections to the postseason All-Star game and AFL Rising Stars and All-Prospect teams.
MiLB.com named him to the Giants' team of the year and Baseball America named him as a short-season All-Star. In an interview posted on MiLB.com, Panik said: "It was a good summer for me, to start off my career, I really enjoyed Oregon. It's a great place to play, great people, just very, very fun."
MLB.com's Chris Haft said Panik, along with Gary Brown, were added to the list of non-roster invitees last week. The 29th overall pick from the 2011 draft is obviously several years away from contributing at the major league level, so this might be the best chance for Giants fans to catch him in person for a while.
Selected by the Baltimore Orioles with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, Dylan Bundy hopes his high school game can translate to the minors. He was the 2011 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year, won the Baseball America High School Player of the Year Award and was selected as the USA Today National Player of the Year.
MLB.com described him as having a "polished, power arm" and they said he "projects as a future top-of-the-rotation starter."
I've not seen a list of the Orioles' non-roster invitees yet, but I would like to see Bundy on that list. Yes, he isn't going to be making the team out of camp, and that's fine, but for the experience alone he should get given an invitation.
Fans love seeing their new draft picks in person and the O's could do a lot worse than having this guy pitch a couple innings at the end of February.
Baseball America recently named Bundy as having the best fastball and best curve.
There's little to suggest Ryan Lavarnway will show the kind of bat he did at Double-A and Triple-A in the majors, but the Red Sox still see him as their backstop of the future and have no plans to slow down his progression.
He hit a career-best 32 homers across two levels in 2011, plating 93 runs and batting .290. He's not going to replicate those numbers in the big leagues, and I think he'll struggle to live up to expectations, but I think he will do pretty well this spring.
If Lavarnway doesn't make the team out of spring training, people will say it's because the Red Sox want to give him more at-bats in the International League and ensure he plays every day.
Whether Jason Varitek was offered an invite to come to camp or not, Lavarnway should be in Boston by the end of the year.
Following the deal that sent Jesus Montero to Seattle in exchange for Michael Pineda, Gary Sanchez becomes to No. 1 catching prospect in the Yankees system.
The 19-year-old Dominican backstop signed with the Yankees for $3 million as a 16-year-old international free agent in July 2009, and he showed solid growth last season compared with in 2010.
He smacked 17 homers and plated 52 runs in 82 Atlantic League games with Charleston, proving that the power he showed briefly in rookie ball and short-season Staten Island was legit.
I'm looking forward to watching him this year. It will be interesting to see how the Yanks see his development progressing and where he fits into their long-term plans.
There aren't too many shortstops in the minors who are more fun to watch than Hak-Ju Lee.
He came to Tampa in the Matt Garza deal and is known for his glovework, athleticism and ability to make ridiculous plays in the hole look routine.
He's got decent gap-to-gap power, and while he won't wow you with moon shots over the outfield wall, he will collect his fair share of extra-base hits. His plus speed makes him a threat to take an extra base, and there's a chance that he could add some bulk when he fills out his wiry 170-pound frame a little more.
Across two levels last year, Lee his .292 with 30 RBI, 37 extra-base hits, 33 steals and 98 runs scored.
Bill Ballew at Baseball America called Lee the best defensive infielder and fastest baserunner in the system in his review of the team's top 10 prospects headed into 2012.
Travis d'Arnaud has the combination of defensive ability and offensive prowess that managers cherish. The Blue Jays will get a further chance to examine the 22-year-old Cal native when pitchers and catchers report in three weeks time.
MiLB.com said he was named the best defensive catcher in a poll of Eastern League managers last year, the same season he led the league with a .542 slugging percentage.
Acquired by Toronto from the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Roy Halladay in December 2009, the former first rounder also hit .311 and plated 78 runs for New Hampshire. He should get a chance to play in Las Vegas in 2012, and I would expect a major league debut before the year is out.
Nathan Rode from Baseball America says d'Arnaud is the best power hitter and best hitter for average that Toronto has in the minors.
Scott Merkin reported on Monday that Thompson was one of the 18 non-roster invitees selected for spring training camp.
The 20-year-old comes from an athletic background of basketball players and he's fun to watch on the diamond. The 6'3" second-round pick from the 2009 draft, Thompson led Kannapolis with 95 runs scored, 24 home runs and 60 walks. He also plated 87 runs.
His stats took a massive jump from the previous year when he batted just .229 with eight homers and 31 RBI in 58 South Atlantic games. The second time was the charm for the Cal native.
Baseball America writer Phil Rogers also named him the best power hitter in the Sox organization. He will move up to Double-A in 2012, but first he'll get his shot at major league spring training next month.
Francisco Lindor is a player I'm excited about watching. I didn't get a chance to see him play in person in any of his five games with short-season Mahoning Valley last year, but I'm certainly excited by his ceiling.
The 18-year-old shortstop has a slick glove from what I've read, and Ben Badler said in his evaluation of the Indians farm system that he has the most potential for hitting for a high average.
The sample size from last year doesn't tell you anything of note because he only accumulated 19 at-bats over five games. He hit six singles and struck out five times in five games.
His numbers from Montverde Academy in Florida are only a little more insightful, meaning you have to go on scouting reports for information. ESPN's Jason Churchill said he showed "arm strength and accuracy, and the ability to hit from both sides of the plate."
Churchill also quoted a long-time scout who was gushing with praise: "The only thing I have yet to see is the costume. He's one of those stat sheet stuffers: steals, defense, throws, doubles, homers, triples...in a lot of years that is the No. 1 pick."
The Detroit Free Press reported two weeks ago that Nick Castellanos will pen spring training in major league camp.
That's great news for Castellanos, and a sign that he might not need too much minor league seasoning before he's ready for a shot in The Show.
The 19-year-old third baseman is going to be manning the hot corner in Detroit for many years to come once he arrives in the majors, and even though he won't be there this year, there's a very real chance that he gets a cup of coffee before the middle of 2013.
In his first full season as a pro last year, Castellanos batted .312 with 36 doubles, seven homers and three triples in 135 Class A Midwest League games for the West Michigan Whitecaps. The Florida native—drafted as a supplemental first-round pick in 2010—plated 76 runs and scored 65 times. His 158 hits led the league.
Ben Badler from Baseball America says Castellanos has the best bat in the organization, both in terms of hitting for power and hitting for a high average.
If he can replicate his 800-plus OPS numbers as he heads toward Double-A this year, he'll be in great shape. I can't wait to see how he fares in his first camp next month in preparation.
I can't wait to see Bubba Starling play this spring. The fifth overall pick in June's draft, Starling is a flat-out athlete. He was an All-State selection in three sports at Gardner-Edgerton High School in Kansas, and MiLB.com reports that he was one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
He chose pro baseball over a football/baseball scholarship at Nebraska, earning a lucrative $7.5 million contract when he signed with the Royals. The bonus was the second highest in draft history and the most ever given to a high school player.
The 19-year-old checks in at 6'4" and 180 pounds and Jonathan Mayo says he has all the tools needed to be an elite center fielder. Naming Starling the No. 3 outfield prospect headed into 2012, MLB.com's Mayo said: "He has plus speed that should allow him to both steal bases and play an outstanding center field. Starling's strong throwing arm is a plus defensively as well."
"He has excellent raw power and has shown enough pure hitting skills to indicate he'll tap into that power consistently and hit for average as well. It might take Starling a little time to put it all together, but the payoff could be huge."
Baseball America ranks Starling as having the best power in the minor league system. He's also described as the best athlete on the Royals' farm.
Australian right-hander Liam Hendriks relies on pinpoint control to find success on the mound. He won't blow hitters away, but what he lacks in velocity, he makes up for in location and changing speeds.
He went 12-6 between New Britain and Rochester last year, posting a 3.36 ERA in 139.1 innings of work. He made four starts for the Minnesota Twins, but he's yet to record his first victory in the majors.
The 22-year-old has been among Minnesota's top prospects for the last few years, and 2012 could be when he makes his breakthrough. A midseason Eastern League All-Star and Futures Game selection, Hendriks could sneak into the back end of the rotation this year.
Jason Marquis and Brian Duensing will likely be fighting for the fifth spot, but expect Hendriks to be in that mix with a strong spring training.
John Manuel of Baseball America says Hendriks has the best control of anyone in the system.
The Texas Rangers paid a lot of money in acquiring Yu Darvish, and I'm excited to see him in a big league uniform next month.
Following a $51.7 million fee to negotiate with him, the club then spent a further $56 million locking him up for six seasons. With that kind of investment, there will be a lot of eyes on him when he starts working out and throwing to major league hitters.
His stats with the Nippon Ham Fighters speak for themselves. He was 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA in 28 games last year, striking out 276 batters over 232 innings. He is 93-38 since 2005, and he's still only 24 years old.
ESPN's Richard Durrett quotes pitching coach Mike Maddux as saying he will prepare Darvish the same way he does with all of the other pitchers, including scouting the big league hitters with video and going over reports.
I haven't seen him play in person, so I can only go on the scouting reports of others and the brief clips I've seen of him online and on TV. That said, there's a reason people are excited to see him take the mound.
MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reported last week that Matt Shoemaker is one of 20 non-roster players invited to big league camp next month.
I'm excited about this because it's a reflection of the success he had in 2011 in Arkansas. He went 12-5 with a 2.48 ERA in 23 starts in the Texas League, tossing five complete games, two shutouts and fanning 129 batters in 156.1 innings.
He struggled a little in the Pacific Coast League following a promotion, but I'm confident that whatever he takes from spring training this year will help him move forward when he goes back to Triple-A.
Shoemaker is not too far away from the majors, so the camp will help us see just how he stacks up against major league hitters and the other pitchers at the back end of the big league rotation.
Pitchers generally have the upper hand in the spring while hitters take time to catch up to live pitching, so don't be surprised if Shoemaker turns in some impressive innings.
If you follow minor league baseball or you read the scouting reports on Peacock following the Gio Gonzalez trade, you'll know the kind of form he found in 2011. He went 15-3 with a 2.39 ERA between Harrisburg and Syracuse before earning a call-up to Washington in September.
It was a breakout year for him, especially after losing 11 games in 2010, 11 games in 2009 and 12 games in '08.
But in 2011, his command was good, and he knocked 70 points off his opponents' batting average from the previous three years despite moving up through the ranks. Furthermore, his strikeout numbers increased without a corresponding rise in innings pitched.
He'll have to compete with Jarrod Parker and A.J. Cole to sneak onto the back of the rotation, but there's no doubt he has the talent to do just that. I'm not convinced that moving from the NL East will be great for him, but if this means he has a shot to make an impact at the major league level sooner, you obviously have to like that choice.
Alex Liddi had a brief introduction to the major leagues in 2011, and he should be back there again this coming year.
The 6'4" third baseman has ridiculous power and a pretty good eye. He blasted 30 homers with Triple-A Tacoma last year, and he has averaged 100 RBI over the last three years in the minors.
A non-drafted free agent, Liddi is on the cusp of great things. Kyle Seager probably has a slight edge over Liddi headed into spring training, but it's likely that whoever has the better spring will make the Opening Day roster.
Liddi hit .225 with three homers and six RBI in 15 games with the Mariners in 2011. It will be interesting to see how he does in camp and whether he can overtake Seager on the depth chart.