OF Avisail Garcia (Tigers)
A few hours later, the St. Louis Cardinals moved one game closer to their second consecutive World Series appearance, as a strong outing from Adam Wainwright and 12-hit offensive attack sunk the Giants, 8-3. And with Barry Zito starting tonight in a potential elimination game for the Giants, it seems that there will likely be a rematch of the 2006 World Series.
While a Tigers-Cardinals World Series matchup will showcase some of the game’s top superstars, it will also introduce a national audience to numerous highly impressive young players.
So, here’s a preview of five rookies (some still considered prospects) poised to make an impact in the 2012 World Series.
A starter during the minor league season, Rosenthal, 22, has emerged as a major weapon out of the Cardinals bullpen and assumed a more prominent role over the course of the postseason.
Appearing in five games this October, he’s allowed just one hit and a walk while tallying seven strikeouts in 4.2 scoreless innings.
Boasting a fastball that averages 98.58 mph (via Baseball Prospectus/Brooks Baseball), the right-hander routinely touches triple digits without sacrificing command. As a reliever, Rosenthal also mixes in a plus breaking ball that’s an absolute hammer.
Like Rosenthal, Miller is a 22-year-old right-hander who’s been utilized as a reliever this season, despite working as a starter exclusively in the minor leagues. However, Miller has received substantially more fanfare than Rosenthal, ranking as the Cardinals’ top pitching prospect for the last three seasons.
He doesn’t necessarily possess the one-inning, lights-out arsenal like his teammate but could be used in a long-relief role if a Cardinals starter falters.
After taking a no-hit bid into the sixth inning in his first career start on Oct. 3, Miller is also a candidate to potentially start a World Series game in the wake of an injury or shelling of a Cardinals starter.
A career .236 hitter over seven minor league seasons, Kozma has been able to stay afloat, thanks to his above-average defense and speed. So the fact that the 24-year-old posted a .952 OPS and 1.4 fWAR over the final month of the season while filling in for the injured Rafael Furcal was an unexpected surprise.
Although he hasn’t swung a red-hot bat as he did in September, the right-handed hitter has continued to deliver clutch hits while playing excellent defense.
The starting shortstop in all 10 of the Cardinals’ postseason games, Kozma is batting .235/.366/.382 with one home run, seven RBI and 11/6 K/BB in 34 at-bats.
Beginning the year with the Tigers’ High-A affiliate, few would have imagined that Garcia, 21, would serve as a key player in the Tigers’ World Series surge. Promoted from Double-A to the big leagues on Aug. 31, the 6’4” outfielder ultimately appeared in 23 games over the final month, many times as a late-inning, defensive replacement in right field.
However, after batting .319 in 47 regular-season at-bats, the right-handed hitter has continued to impress in the postseason, batting .333/.368/.389 with four RBI and a stolen base. Furthermore, Garcia is 3-for-4 as a pinch-hitter this October and seemingly impervious to the pressures of the postseason.
After breaking camp as the Tigers’ fifth starter, Smyly, a 23-year-old left-hander, pitched in 23 games during the regular season including 18 starts. The southpaw finished his rookie campaign with a 4-3 record, 3.99 ERA, .247 BAA and 94/33 K/BB in 99.1 innings.
Appearing in only two games in the League Championship Series—he’s allowed one hit and fanned two batters in 2.1 innings—Smyly will likely inherit a more significant role in the World Series with fellow left-hander Phil Coke now serving as the team’s closer.