MLB 2012 Predictions: National League Rookie of the Year
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The National League has an excellent crop of young talent for the 2012 season. However, some of the bigger names, such as the Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper, will begin the season in the minors and are maybe a year away. Others, like Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Trevor Bauer, are simply too talented to be kept from the big leagues for very long, yet aren't there quite yet.
But for my NL Rookie of the Year candidates, I generally went with players who look to have starting jobs to begin the season, giving them every opportunity to succeed. These five players should make significant contributions to their teams this year.
1. Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres
Among the rookie class of 2012, none seem more guaranteed of a regular full-time job this season than the Padres first baseman. He was the centerpiece of the package received from the Cincinnati Reds in return for Mat Latos, and should flourish now that he's no longer blocked at first base by Joey Votto.
Alonso appeared in 47 games last year with the Reds, and shouldn't be overwhelmed by facing major league competition. In 98 plate appearances, he hit .330/.398/.545 with five home runs and 25 RBI. Petco Park's vast outfield should give him plenty of space to hit doubles into the gap.
2. Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves
Teheran has had his struggles this spring, infamously serving up six home runs in start against the Detroit Tigers. He's also been fighting some soreness in his pitching arm, but had no pain in a recent bullpen session and should be ready to start the season.
With Tim Hudson out until at least May following back surgery, Tommy Hanson recovering from a concussion, and Jair Jurrjens looking bad this spring (a 10.13 ERA before his most recent start), the Braves need Teheran in their starting rotation. He doesn't need to go back to Triple-A, where he finished with a 15-3 record, 2.55 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 144.2 innings last year.
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3. Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds
The Reds may have wanted to see more from Mesoraco's bat this spring, as he's hit .226/.273/.355. That might cost him the starting job at catcher to begin the season. But Dusty Baker seems happy with Mesoraco's defense behind the plate and expects that his hitting will come around once he settles in.
Mesoraco has shown he can hit throughout his minor league career (.289/.371/.484, 15 homers, 71 RBI in Triple-A last season), so the Reds don't seem worried about that. If he plays defense to Baker's liking, he should supplant Ryan Hanigan at catcher soon enough.
4. Drew Pomeranz, Colorado Rockies
The prize pitching prospect received in return for Ubaldo Jimenez, Pomeranz has had an excellent spring and earned a spot in the back end of the Rockies' starting rotation. In four starts, he's compiled an 0.82 ERA, allowing just one run over 11 innings while striking out nine batters.
Pomeranz won't have the pressure of topping Colorado's rotation, as he'll probably slot in fourth behind the Rockies' veteran and incumbent starters. He may also benefit from spending some time with a sage tutor, if 49-year-old Jamie Moyer makes the team. Talent that made the jump from Double-A to the majors should eventually take care of itself, however.
5. Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds
Why Cozart over Braves rookie Tyler Pastornicky? Cozart isn't fighting for a big league job through the last days of spring training. Pastornicky may eventually beat out Andrelton Simmons for Atlanta's starting shortstop positoin, but the team is going to push the competition to the very end.
Cozart has no such worries, as he'll be the Reds' opening day shortstop. He might not have Pastornicky's glove, but Cozart is also a better hitter whose bat should keep him in the everyday lineup. He'll also get plenty of opportunity to put up good numbers, as Baker has him penciled in for the second spot in the batting order.
Wednesday, we'll post predictions for the NL Cy Young Award. The NL MVP candidates will be posted on Thursday. And I think we'll cover Comeback Player picks on Friday.
Check back with Horsehide Chronicles later Tuesday for NL West predictions. Those will be followed by the NL Central on Wednesday and the NL East on Thursday.
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