MLB: 2009 Pre-Season All Rookie Teams

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MLB: 2009 Pre-Season All Rookie Teams

Rookies are a big part of Major League Baseball.

They are as much are part of the game as managers and coaches, bats and balls, and even veterans or All-Stars.

Every year rookies go to spring training hoping when they leave they’ll do so wearing an MLB uniform.

Rookie years sometimes alert fans of a great career about to happen.

Perhaps, a rookie year can even be the best year of a career that will never again have the same kind of promise; other times a rookie year can show the public a player might not live up to hype and prospect status that surrounded him coming through the minor leagues.

In the last few years, the MLB has had several Rookies of the Year winners who have seemingly launched great careers. 

Dustin Pedroia’s 2007 Rookie of the Year campaign certainly seems to fit into one that alerted fans of great things to come.

Not only did he capture the award, but he lead off the World Series by sending the first strike he saw into the seats on top of the green monster at Fenway Park.

After the Sox won the World Series in his first year, it seemed like his career really couldn’t get much better from there.

In fact, many people believed he was going to fall off a bit and experience a sophomore slump.

Pedroia spent the 2008 season continuing to prove anyone who doubted him wrong and ultimately lead the Red Sox back to the playoffs and captured the 2008 AL MVP.

Ryan Braun was the NL’s winner of the rookie award in 2007 after putting together one of the best rookie seasons the MLB had ever seen.

Braun followed up that campaign by hitting 37 home runs and helping the Brewers to reach the playoffs for the first time during his lifetime.

Last year, showcased two rookies who both carried their teams into the playoffs.

Geovanny Soto was one of the best offensive catchers in the MLB and allowed the Cubs to make the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 1908.

Evan Longoria was part of one of the biggest turn-around in sports history as he helped the Tampa Bay Rays went from the worst record in baseball to American League Champions—both players look like part of the next wave of MLB superstars.

Some rookie years aren’t as fruitful as those experienced by the award winners of the last two seasons.

Sometimes a player is anointed a team’s savior before he ever dons their uniform and not everyone can live up to that.

People forecasting the careers of Delmon Young and Alex Gordon were sure both were stars in the making with legitimate 40-homer power.

Last season, those two can’t miss prospects, missed once again combining for just 26 round trippers.

Homer Bailey, Clay Buchholz and Phil Hughes were both supposed to ascend to the top of the MLB’s pitching ranks, but all three spent the last season taking steps backwards instead of towards stardom. 

Other players come up to the big leagues and showcase talent that initially triggers thoughts of future stardom, before that players stock comes falling down in the following seasons.

Eric Hinske hit 24 home runs, scored 99 times and drove in 84 runners in his first season for Toronto.

After looking like a budding star, Hinske’s career derailed a bit and those totals all still rank as career bests for him.

Other players like Ben Grieve and Marty Cordova also looked like potential regulars on the All-Star roster in their first season.

Grieve won the Rookie of the Year at 22-year-old and followed that with two solid seasons, but at 24, his career completely fell apart and he was out of baseball before reaching 30.

Cordova was very similar to Hinske as he homered 24 times in his first go-around in the majors and only reached 20 once more, in what turned into a mediocre career, following an elegant start.

Will this year’s top prospects turn into what is expected of them?

Is Matt Wieters baseball’s next big thing?

Will anyone surprise the baseball world as an unexpected rookie of the year candidate?

Is there a rookie out there this year that can influence a pennant race the way we’ve seen recently?

All questions regarding the who, what, where, when and why about 2009’s crop of rookies are answered in the following paragraphs which highlight the top rookie candidate for each position in the American and National Leagues.

Also find out who the top three finishers for the 2009 Rookie of the Year in each league will be and why those players have been deemed rookie of the year worthy.

Rookie of the Year by Position

American League

C-Matt Wieters, BAL

It seems likely that Wieters is heading to AAA to open the 2009 campaign despite obliterating the minor leagues a year ago.

Like Evan Longoria a year ago, he will reach the big leagues in short order and be productive as soon as he arrives.

Wieters won’t be going to the World Series the way Longoria did as a rookie, but he will be among the best fresh faces in the game this season.

He should arrive in Baltimore some time in May and should get a chance to play in upwards of 120 games, and projects to be among the elite-if not the best catcher-in baseball in the future, while beginning to establish himself as such upon arrival to the MLB.

The switch hitter won’t reach the pinnacle of his promise for a couple of years, but should wind up hitting .280 while pushing 15-20 homers and competing for Rookie of the Year honors this season.

1B-Justin Smoak, TEX

A high school teammate of Wieters at Goose Greek High in S.C., drew Mark Teixiera comparisons as the MLB draft approached a year ago.

Like Teixiera, he became a first round pick of the Rangers.

After signing, he tore apart LoA and established himself as one of the best 1B prospects in baseball.

There has been speculation that he could skip HiA and go right to AA.

Whether or not that happens, the Rangers plan to move him in a hurry as long as he hits.  All signs indicate that will happen.

Smoak has above average power from both sides of the plate and is known for being able to show good patience.

He has demonstrated the ability to hit off speed stuff on a regular basis and his glove might end up being his best tool and he’ll be mentioned in Gold Gloves discussions very soon.

Though he’s blocked, because the Rangers are seemingly set with Chris Davis at first, Mike Young at third and Hank Blalock at DH, he should be able to push his way onto the field midway through ’09.

If any of the three go down or under-perform, Smoak will be waiting to join the Rangers lineup.

Once he arrives he’s going to hit about .290 and could swat double digit homers in about half a season.

2B-Chris Getz, CHI

Getz is one of three players who will be competing for the 2B job for the White Sox this spring.

The Rockies tried to give Jayson Nix their starting job last season and he flopped.

Brent Lillibridge was also acquired this winter, and hit a dismal .200 in 80 big league at-bats while posting just a .220 mark in AAA last year.

Getz offers the White Sox the most advanced bat of the trio and has the versatility to play all over the field.

He should take the job out of spring training, and with a full season at the MLB level could hit .280 and reach double digits in both homers and steals.

3B-Dayan Viciendo, CHI

Viciendo is the latest Cuban to sign on with the White Sox.

A year ago, Alexei Ramirez came to the USA big league ready and made an immediate impact on the field for the White Sox.

Viciendo’s impact might not be as swift, but it should eventually be even bigger.

At just 19-years-old, he is likely headed for AA to start the season.

The White Sox gave him a four-year big league deal and will move him to the Major League roster as soon as he is ready to play for them.

He should be entrenched next to Ramirez in the south side by June.

His conditioning is the biggest question: He’s listed at 248 lbs. already, but his overall ability should be able to compensate.

Down the road he could be one of baseball’s premier home run threats but it’s not fair to expect that of someone who would only be a year removed from high school if he grew up here just yet.

He has a .260 with 15 homers this year and would be not only be reasonable, it would give the White Sox an early return on its most recent investment.

SS-Elvis Andrus, TEX

The Rangers moved the face of their franchise from shortstop to third base to make room for Andrus.

The good news for Rangers fans is Andrus’ talent and potential are good enough that it forced Michael Young to make the switch.

Andrus will find his way to the top the Texas lineup before long and as a result will score a ton of runs.

As long as he doesn’t get overmatched this year and he shouldn’t, Andrus could swipe 40 bags and eclipse 100 runs before the season ends.

He’ll need to keep the K’s down, but an average of .270 wouldn’t be too much to expect from Andrus, who came to the Rangers as part of the Teixiera trade.

OF-Travis Snider, TOR

The sweet-swinging lefty played at four levels last season.

On his way to the big leagues Snider was named an Eastern League All-Star and showcased the power his bat holds when he won the league’s homerun derby.

He put on an impressive show, launching balls that approached 500 feet, including one that hit a light on top of a town in right center field.

His advanced approach and feel for hitting allowed him to reach the big leagues last September at just 20-years-old.

He showed the Toronto front office they had made a good decision by hitting .301 during his cup of coffee and even homered deep to right field as a visitor at Fenway Park.

Snider could be the best offensive rookie in baseball this year and should hit .270-.280 an easily eclipse 20 home runs.

OF-Michael Saunders, SEA

Saunders will be part of a group of young players who takes advantage of Seattle’s rebuilding the next few seasons.

Saunders has established himself as one of the top outfield prospects and will have a chance to break into the big leagues in a hurry, because of Seattle’s lackluster outfield situation.

He’s demonstrated the ability to hit double-digit homers as well as base running skills that have allowed him to steal over 20 bases and has a solid strike zone knowledge, which has lead to above average on-base percentages throughout this minor league career.

He could see half a season with the Mariners this year and should hit .270 with an on base of .350 or better while pushing 10 homers and steals. 

OF-Matt LaPorta, CLE

LaPorta came to the Indians in exchange for CC Sabathia last summer and his bat should join Cleveland’s lineup in a hurry.

LaPorta is a premier power prospect that could be a 40-homer guy within a couple of years.  He has already swatted 35 in just 141 minor league games.

Additionally, LaPorta has displayed an astute ability to draw walks meaning power isn’t his only calling card.

With Cleveland’s 1B and DH scene already full, he’ll continue to work out in the outfield and will put the pressure on Sin-Soo Choo and Ben Francisco to play well.

If either falters, LaPorta will step in and take the job. Even if both hold their own, LaPorta’s bat could force one of them out by midseason.

By the end of the year he’ll have an on-base percentage over .360 to go with 15 homers in the majors-offensive numbers the Indian’s lineup could severely use.

 

SP-Price, TB

Price has already pitched on baseball’s biggest stage and is very much in the Rays plans for this season.

They traded Edwin Jackson to open up a spot in the rotation for the young lefty.

His electric fastball and wipeout slider are a potent combination and he proved he could pitch against anyone in the AL East by shutting down the Red Sox in the ALCS last fall.

With a full season at the big league level, Price should push win 15 games.

Like Wieters, it’ll take a few years for the fireball to reach peak potential but he’ll post an ERA of about 4.15 to go with the quality wins total.

SP-Neftali Feliz, TEX

Feliz is part of a crop of very young, very talented arms that are almost ready to make an impact for their respective big league teams.

His fastball, which will be one of the best in the majors when he arrives, is a pitch he can live off of and his other pitches aren’t nearly as effective, but both his changeup and curve are at least adequate.

The power curve is a plus-pitch when it’s on, and will help pile on strikeouts as he matures.

He has already shown a great ability to finish hitters off and lead the minors with 10.8 per game nine last year and should debut after 21st first birthday and arrive in time to make at least 15 starts.

He could burst onto the scene via Felix Hernandez a few years back, but winning six or seven of those starts while putting close to a K an inning in the books is more likely.

Both Price and Feliz will be challenged for these spots by Orioles arms Chris Tillman and Brian Matsuz, Feliz’s teammate Derek Holland, Oakland A’s products Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson, and Blue Jays lefty Brett Cecil.

If any of those guys can crack an MLB rotation out of the spring or shortly there after, they could end up with the best numbers this year.

RP-Kevin Jepsen, LAA

Jepsen took a long road to the big leagues.

After spending five years in class A, Jepsen used his mid-ninties power fastball and hammer 12-to-6 curves to pitch his way onto the US Bronze medal Olympic team and into the bigs last summer.

He even earned a spot on the club’s postseason roster and made sure is part of their future plans andwill help the Angels have one of the best bullpens in the AL.

He should throw a normal relievers share of innings—an ERA in the mid-3 isn’t too much to expect and he could pile on 60 or more K’s out of the pen.

Jose Mijares of the Twins and Mariners 2008 first round pick Josh Fields could both have big impacts in the pen this year too.

2009 American League Rookie of the Year:

  1. Travis Snider;
  2. Matt Wieters;
  3. David Price.

 

Snider gets the nod over baseball’s two most touted prospects for a few reasons: Like Price, he has already debuted in the majors and held his own as 20-year-old.

He’s going to get more opportunity than Wieters and will end up with better power and RBI numbers, because he’s going to spend the whole season in Toronto.

Pitching in the AL East is no easy task and Price will soon find out that it’s not just the Red Sox and Yankees lineups that pack some punch.

Every team in the East can hit, as the division is easily baseballs best.

National League

C-Lou Marson, PHI

Marson’s bat is polished and big league ready, but he will head back to AAA to work on game calling skills.

Once ready, he will take the starting job for the Phillies and they’ll be happy to have him behind the plate.

His defense won’t win any Gold Gloves, but he won’t hurt the team either.

Despite having an average arm at best Marson threw out 37 percent of runners last summer, because of a quick release.

The defense is all a bonus at this point anyway, as his bat has always been his calling card.

He has a great feel for hitting and is very disciplined rarely swinging at bad pitches.

Marson should arrive in June or July and post respective marks in both average and on-base percentage the rest of way.

A .280 and .350 are fair numbers this season and though he’ll never be a huge home run threat, Marson will one day be one of the game’s better offensive catchers as he should routinely hit .300 at the major league level.

1B-Gaby Sanchez, FLA

When the Marlins traded Mike Jacobs an infield spot opened up in Florida.

Even though 3B Dallas MacPherson crushed over 40 minor league homers last summer in AAA, it looks like Florida plans to leave Jorge Cantu there and promote Sanchez to play first.

Sanchez could be this season’s version of Joey Votto.

He’s not a prototypical 1B as he lacks big time power but his overall hitting skill is above average.

Not only did he hit .314 in AA last year, but he also demonstrated plus plate discipline as he walked 69 times while striking out just 70.

He pounded out 42 doubles to go with 17 homers and showed he isn’t a clogger on the bases by swiping 17 bases.

Despite not having the same power as Jacobs, he will be a huge improvement for the Marlins there as he will push a .300 average, could outshine Jacobs’ OBP by 70 points, and isn’t a liability in the field—he is above average there.

2B-Jason Donald, PHI

Two Phillies injuries have created buzz about Donald.

With both Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz recovering from surgery, Donald could head north with the MLB club when camp breaks.

Even if he doesn’t he could arrive if he either has a set back or if Feliz starts slow.

As a hitter Donald punishes mistakes but is also patient enough to draw his fair share of walks.

He should hold his own in Philadelphia—if he isn’t traded to another with a better opportunity for him—and could hit .280 in the majors this season with double digit home runs and steals.

3B-Brett Wallace, STL

Wallace tore apart the minor leagues after being drafted last season and finished the year at AA and is in the mix to fill in for the injured Troy Glaus in St. Louis.

Though, it is not very likely, if Wallace is able to win the 3B job out of the spring he could own one of the most productive rookie bats in baseball.

Wallace uses a solid attack plan at the plate to hit and doesn’t have much trouble recognizing off speed.

A prolonged stint on the DL for Glaus could really open the door for Wallace but he could end up retaining rookie eligibility for the 2010 season.

He becomes the most eligible candidate for this spot though, because he is the rookie who likely sees the big league time this year.

Pablo Sandoval, Ian Stewart and Chase Headley have all exhausted rookie status.

Any one of them would top this list if they hadn’t surpassed 130 at-bats last season.

Pedro Alvarez and Mat Gamel could take this spot if they can get any kind of significant playing time with their parent clubs.

 

SS-Alcides Escobar, MIL – The Brewers have spent this decade developing home grown talent that has started to make its mark in Milwaukee.  Alcides Escobar will be one more piece to the puzzle when he arrives for good.  The slick-fielding shortstop has always been discussed as a potential Gold Glover and last season his bat started to receive praise of its own.  He hit .328 in AA last season while swiping 32 bases.  He projects to hit in front of the big bats and could become a catalyst for an already talented offense.  Escobar is most likely ticketed for AAA but if Rickie Weeks or Bill Hall faces the struggles they’ve become familiar with Escobar will push them out of their spots.  A better glove-man than incumbent SS J.J. Hardy, Escobar will eventually push him to 3B.  He’ll settle in somewhere halfway through this season and could end up stealing 15 bases for the homer-happy Brewers, giving their offense a more dynamic look.

OF- Colby Rasmus, STL – A legitimate 5-tool talent, Rasmus struggled last season.  Despite his average and power being down he still demonstrated quality big league talent as he walked 49 times in just 331 at-bats while playing a phenomenal center field.  He still has all the makings of a middle of the order hitter and the Cardinals have already started to prepare for his arrival.  They moved Skip Schumaker to 2B and as soon as Rasmus is ready will move Ankiel to LF.  Barring another slow start he’ll arrive by June and will put last year’s offensive woes behind him.  He could reach 15 homers and steals and will begin to give the Cardinals some of the return they expected when they drafted him in round one in 2005.

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OF-Dexter Fowler, COL – Even if the 23-year old switch hitter heads back to AAA, it won’t be long before his bat is at the top of the Rockies order.  Not only does he project to hit for a high average, he has already demo

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