10 Under-the-Radar MLB Players Who Will Become Household Names in 2012
We're just about two weeks into spring training, with Opening Day just a few more weeks away. Thus far, we've seen who has come to camp in shape and ready to play, and who's already dropped from the various position battles on each team.
Spring training is a time for the regular players to get some at-bats to get ready for the season. For the many others, it's a time where players have the opportunity to show their organization that they deserve a spot on the limited 25-man roster.
Here are 10 "under-the-radar" players that will become household names in the upcoming 2012 season.
Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals
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2011 Stats: .267/.334/.445, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 48 R, 4th-place NL ROY
This Washington catcher erupted on the scene in 2011 with his explosive power and good catching ability. Finishing fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, Wilson Ramos played, and will play, a huge role for the young Nationals over the next couple of years.
Hitting 15 home runs as a rookie catcher is no easy feat and if Ramos can keep up those power numbers, he has a chance to in the All-Star game this season. Regardless, there will definitely be a lot of Wilson Ramos jerseys sold in DC this season.
Jemile Weeks, Oakland Athletics
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2011 Stats: .303/.340/.421, 2 HR, 36 RBI, 50 R, 22 SB
Jemile Weeks is one of the few, and I mean few, bright spots on the Oakland Athletics. He played in just under 100 games in Oakland during his rookie campaign last season but proved to be very successful.
Last November, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported that the Athletics were willing to trade anyone but Weeks. Oakland did sign Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a big contract this offseason and along with Weeks, the two should play a big role in the future of Billy Beane's Athletics.
Just an early prediction; Weeks will represent the Oakland Athletics in the All-Star Game this year.
Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers
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2011 Stats: .304/.325/.362, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 34 R, 24 SB
In limited time last season, Dee Gordon showed the Dodgers' organization that he's the real deal and that he is the shortstop of the future. The former top prospect of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Gordon shows the ability to hit at the top of the lineup, field a great shortstop and use his speed when necessary.
The Dodgers already have great players in Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, and above-average players in Andre Ethier and James Loney, but don't be surprised when you start hearing about this kid in 2012.
Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
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2011 Stats: .204/.288/.296, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 22 R
Brandon Crawford, much like Dee Gordon, is also coming off his first season in the big leagues, playing in 66 games in 2011 with the San Francisco Giants. The Giants had a disappointing 2011 after winning the World Series in 2010, mainly due to the injury of Buster Posey that kept him out of virtually the entire season.
2012 with be a season where the Giants will try to return to glory, especially with Crawford as their everyday shortstop. If anything, Crawford's great glove should get his name around this upcoming season.
Andrew Cashner, San Diego Padres
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2011 Stats (with Chicago Cubs): 0-0, 1.79 ERA, 10.2 IP, 8 K
Andrew Cashner will have a big role for the Padres in 2012, being traded from the Chicago Cubs in the Anthony Rizzo deal. A strained rotator cuff kept him out of nearly all of 2011 but shouldn't have any outstanding issues going into this season.
The Padres do have Huston Street as their closer at the moment, but Cashner could end up giving him a run for his money for that role. The Padres don't have a lot of notable players in their rotation or their bullpen so Cashner could be one of the bigger names in San Diego going forward.
Mike Aviles, Boston Red Sox
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2011 Stats (with Kansas City and Boston): .255/.289/.409, 7 HR, 39 RBI, 31 R
Mike Aviles is currently in competition for the starting shortstop job in Boston, doing his best to fight off Nick Punto and prospect Jose Iglesias. Aviles has appeared in eight spring training games and is hitting .292 with two runs and three RBI thus far.
There is a good chance that Aviles beats out his competition and is the Opening Day starter for Boston and if this is true, Aviles could be poised for a breakout year, hitting towards the bottom of the Red Sox lineup. His versatility to play any infield or outfield position puts him in great shape for a spot on the 25-man roster and the starting lineup.
Alex Presley, Pittsburgh Pirates
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2011 Stats: .298/.339/.465, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 27 R, 6 3B, 9 SB
Who in the world is Alex Presley? Well, he's likely going to be the starting left fielder of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012. In 52 games in the majors last season, Presley showed great balance, with the ability to hit, hit for power, get on base, use his speed and play an above-average left field; skills that every team likes to see in a young player.
There's a small sample size for Presley but it does seem that he has a bright future with the young Pirates. He, along with the newly extended Andrew McCutchen, could be quite the tandem in the Pittsburgh outfield in the future.
Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds
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2011 Stats: .324/.324/.486, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 6 R
Zack Cozart only played in 11 games with the Reds last season but he has excelled in Triple-A over the last two seasons. The Reds will most likely give Cozart the Opening Day nod and see how he does before making a decision on whether to keep him up in the majors or to give him just a little more time in the minors.
Tommy John surgery kept him out of the second half of the season with the Reds last year and if he can come back healthy, Cozart should make an immediate impact in the Cincinnati lineup. He's definitely a guy to look out for for NL Rookie of the Year.
Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals
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2011 Stats: 4-8, 5.64 ERA, 105.1 IP, 87 K
This highly talented young prospect broke onto the Kansas City scene in 2011 but really struggled adapting, posting a 5.64 ERA in over 100 innings pitched. Danny Duffy is just one of the overall top prospects in the Royals' system but a full season in the big leagues could really be the difference maker for him.
If Duffy can improve during spring training and get off to a good start to the season, he should be very impressive for the rest of the season. The Royals as a team don't really have a good chance of a playoff spot but they will be able to develop their young prospects into future stars, just like Duffy.
Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox
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2011 Stats: .230/.296/.337, 10 HR, 44 RBI, 60 R, 23 2B
After finishing fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting after his 2009 season, Gordon Beckham has really digressed since. His batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage have decreased in each of the last two seasons and his strikeouts have increased to over 100 in just under 500 at-bats last season.
This will finally be the season where Gordon Beckham really becomes a household name in Chicago. The White Sox don't have the talent that they used to and there should no longer be a lot of pressure on the young infielder.