RHP Shelby Miller (Cardinals)
As a self-proclaimed prospect junkie, one of my favorite times of the year is spring training—when roster battles emerge between veteran players and up-and-coming prospects. After all, who doesn’t love some good old-fashioned speculation?
Well, today I thought I’d engage in some myself by highlighting a handful of prospects who have the potential to break camp with their respective organization. While some of these scenarios are clearly more likely than others, there’s definitely a case to be made for each of these five prospects.
With incumbent catcher Brian McCann expected to miss a portion of the 2013 season and David Ross drawing trade interest from other organizations, Bethancourt’s arrival in the big leagues may come ahead of schedule.
As arguably the most advanced defensive catcher in the minor leagues, he should be able to handle the position as early as next year. His offense, however, is nowhere close to big-league ready.
So even if he breaks camp with the Braves out of necessity, it’s likely that he’ll only be a stop-gap until McCann’s return.
With Chris Young now out of the picture, the door has opened for 23-year-old outfielder Adam Eaton, who emerged as one of the best-kept prospect secrets in 2012.
Named as both the rookie of the year and most valuable player of the Pacific Coast League after batting .381/.456/.539 with 119 runs, 58 extra-base hits and 38 stolen bases in 119 games, the undersized center fielder fared just as well in 22 games with the Diamondbacks in September (.259/.382/.412).
He’s expected to fully recover from the broken hand that prematurely ended his season in late September, and it’ll be interesting to observe exactly how much confidence the organization has in Eaton come spring training.
After a dismal first half of the season last year at Triple-A, the 22-year-old right-hander more than righted the ship with his absolutely dominant second half.
His success ultimately led to a September call-up with the Cardinals, where he was excellent in six appearances, including his first big-league start on Oct. 3 in which he carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning against the Cincinnati Reds.
While he’s not a lock for the starting rotation and will presumably be in the mix along with RHP Joe Kelly and RHP Trevor Rosenthal, Miller will definitely receive a long look during spring training.
Having recently moved from shortstop to center field, Hamilton could be on the fast track to the major leagues, given the Reds' desire for a top-of-the-order center fielder.
Depending on the perceived progress during spring training of their speedy switch-hitter at the new position, the Reds may explore trading for a player of a similar ilk.
However, with a limited park for such players, it’s hard to rule out the possibility of Hamilton being the team’s everyday center fielder in 2013.
Already rumored to be in the mix for playing time at first, second and third base, Rendon is playing in the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost time (ankle injury) during the regular season.
The most advanced hitter from the 2011 draft class, there’s a chance that the 22-year-old would have reached the major leagues this past season had he not suffered his third serious ankle injury in as many years.
The key for Rendon this season will be whether he can remain healthy.