Mike Trout makes contact with the ball against Seattle, Oct. 1. Trout went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year.
Last season featured a pair of sensational rookies in Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals and Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels.
Both were named Rookie of the Year in their respective leagues. According to ESPN.com, Harper, who blasted 22 home runs and tallied 59 RBI, finished last season with the most wins above replacement (5.0) of any player at his age or younger since 1900.
Trout was overwhelming in his rookie season, posting a .326 average with 30 home runs while leading the major leagues with 49 stolen bases.
With 2012 in the books, who will be the next rookie sensation? Which rookie will launch his major league career in thrilling fashion? Who will take home the Rookie of the Year hardware this season? Moreover, which rookies are capable of making a big splash in the majors this year?
There are a number of candidates capable of fitting the part, and those who make their respective clubs will have a chance to do what Harper and Trout accomplished in 2012.
Ranger Jurickson Profar drives a ball in a game against Tampa Bay, Sept. 8.
At first glance, Texas' lineup appears depleted heading into 2013.
Mike Napoli was scooped up by the Boston Red Sox and Josh Hamilton signed with the Los Angeles Angels over the offseason.
Despite the departures of Napoli and Hamilton, there's no need to panic in Texas. The Rangers have plenty to look forward to, thanks to the emergence of highly coveted prospect Jurickson Profar.
Profar, a middle infielder, is rated as the top prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America.
Despite turning 20 last week, Profar’s age shouldn’t fool anybody.
Profar spent part of last season in Double-A Frisco, where he posted a .281 average with 14 home runs and 16 steals. The Rangers promoted him to the majors late last season, where he played just nine games with a home run and two RBI.
Less than a dozen games into spring training, manager Ron Washington is already bursting with excitement about Profar.
“The kid is in the game,” Washington said, courtesy of The Dallas News. “He has been impressive. The more you watch him, the more he grows on you.”
Moreover, Washington said Profar possesses a rare characteristic that many young prospects don't have (courtesy of MLB.com):
What I've seen is quite impressive ... The game of baseball does not scare him, and that's a tough attribute for any young kid to already have, and he certainly has it. Because the game doesn't scare him, that means he won't be taken aback by adversity, because [this game is] full of adversity, and if you can't handle adversity, then this game will eat you up.
Washington doesn't fear Profar will be impacted by adversity. Rather, he feels Profar will prosper.
"We will not let him fail," Washington said, courtesy of MLB.com. "He's quite an impressive kid."
With less than a dozen spring training games under his belt this spring, the Rangers certainly see Profar contributing at some point this season.
But, there’s a problem. The Rangers middle infield is already in place. Elvis Andrus occupies shortstop, while Ian Kinsler holds down the fort at second base.
However, there’s been talk of Kinsler switching to first base, according to ESPN.com, but the general manager Jon Daniels has yet to make a firm decision.
With little experience at first base, Kinsler is optimistic he could make the transition. Kinsler told ESPN.com:
That’s what spring training is for ... If it was a situation where I was moving to the outfield I’d have to know a little earlier because I’d have to strengthen my arm differently and I’d have to be in a little better condition as far as long-distance running. Those are really the only two differences. As far as first base, I’m still going to train the same way as far as explosiveness and trying to get my quickness back.
Profar balked at the chance to play in the World Baseball Classic, according to the Star-Telgram. The move allows Profar to remain in place at spring training, which is essential to his development.
"He wants to put himself in the best position to make the club," Daniels said.
Baltimore's Dylan Bundy throws a pitch in a game against Boston, Sept. 23.
Baltimore made its first postseason appearance in 15 years last season.
With high expectations for 2013, the Orioles were quiet over the offseason. Whether or not the Orioles succeed this season will hinge on their in-house talent.
Right-hander Dylan Bundy is among the list of Baltimore’s talented prospects. Baseball America has Bundy rated as the No. 2 overall prospect in all of baseball.
According to NewsOK.com, Bundy became the first Oriole in 45 years to make his big league debut before age 20.
At age 19, Bundy was dominant in his first professional season in 2012. Playing for three different minor league teams, the right-hander compiled 119 strikeouts in 103.2 innings of work, and averaged 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
"It seemed like it was just yesterday that Dylan was here pitching for us, then last season he was in the Futures game and pitched in the big leagues," Owasso coach Larry Turner said, courtesy of NewsOK.com. "He's the real deal."
As far as his major league career is concerned, Orioles manager Buck Showalter envisions his young gunslinger making an impact late this season.
“Dylan Bundy will be available to pitch [for us] in September and October,” Showalter said, courtesy of The Baltimore Sun. “How we get there, we’ll see. I know that on the front end of it, we’re going to get ahead of it.”
Whether or not Bundy is called up sooner remains a mystery. If the Orioles struggle, then Bundy could end up receiving that phone call sooner rather than later.
Cardinal Oscar Taveras hits a grand slam in a spring training game against the Miami Marlins, Feb. 28.
He’s touted as the Cardinals’ best prospect and is compared with the likes of Albert Pujols and Barry Bonds, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
For 20-year-old Oscar Taveras, the question isn’t it if, but when.
Last season, the young power hitter played 124 games in Double-A Springfield of the Texas League, posting a .321 average with 23 home runs and 94 RBI. His success at the plate led him to earn league and All-Star MVP honors.
Manager Mike Matheny realizes the potential in Taveras, and says he will get a fair look during spring training, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“There are going to be opportunities in the outfield [this season],” Matheny said, courtesy of the Post-Dispatch. “I plan on getting a good look at him. No question.”
There's no doubt that Taveras is highly regarded as an integral piece for the Cardinals' future, according to general manager John Mozeliak (via the Post-Dispatch):
He's a highly talented player who we look upon as a major part of our future. ... The $1 million question today is when? Looking at our projected roster, it's hard to imagine he's going to get the right amount of playing time to put him in the big leagues at this time. We want to be thoughtful about it. We want to be patient about it. We'll see how spring unfolds.
So far, so good for Taveras during spring training. He's already made his presence known. On Feb. 28, he hit a grand slam in the Cardinals’ 8-2 route over the Marlins.
"We want the time to right," Mozeliak said, courtesy of the Post-Dispatch.
The right time may be now for Taveras and the Cardinals.
Rays prospect Wil Myers digs in at the plate during the SeriusXM All-Star Futures Game, July 8.
With the potential of Wil Myers, there’s reason for excitement in Tampa Bay.
Rated as the No. 4 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America, Myers was drafted in the third round of the 2009 draft by Kansas City. In 2012, the Royals shipped Myers to the Rays in exchange for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis.
Last season, Myers spent time in both the Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues. With Northwest Arkansas, Myers posted a .343 average with 13 home runs and 30 RBI. And with Omaha, the youngster played in 99 games, posting a .304 mark with 24 homers and 79 RBI.
The Rays' heralded prospect has certainly drawn the attention of manager Joe Maddon during a spring training batting practice session.
“I didn’t get to see him [hit]; I was over there on the other field, but when he hit the ball, I thought it was thunder,” Maddon said, courtesy of MLB.com.
Myers also has hitting coach Derek Shelton excited about the future.
“The thing that’s the most impressive is the bat speed,” Shelton said, courtesy of MLB.com. "The way the ball comes off his bat. You can see it not only when he’s hitting on the field, but when he’s hitting off a tee. You don’t see very many people who generate that kind of bat speed.”
Whenever Myers is called up to begin his big league career, the Rays will certainly benefit from his explosive bat.
Former Blue Jays catcher Travis d'Arnaud sets up behind the plate in a spring training game against the Braves, March 17, 2012.
Since being drafted by Philadelphia in the first round of the 2007 June amateur draft, Travis d’Arnaud has bounced around the majors like an aging veteran.
In 2009, the Phillies traded d’Arnaud to Toronto in a package deal that landed starting pitcher Roy Halladay. During this past offseason, d’Arnaud was the central figure in a deal that shipped him from Toronto to the New York Mets in exchange for 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.
No matter, it appears d’Arnaud has finally found a permanent home with the Mets, where he could become an integral component for the future, if not this season.
“He’s got a real good work ethic, and the talent is there,” said Mets bench coach Bob Green, who works with the team’s catchers, courtesy of The New York Times.
At the moment, d’Arnaud is in contention to stay with the Mets this season instead of being sent down to the minors. If he makes the team out of spring training, then d’Arnaud could boost the Mets offense dramatically.
Last season, d’Arnaud played for Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League, where he hit .333 with 16 home runs and 52 RBI.