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The 1 Rookie on Every MLB Team to Watch in 2013

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2013

The 1 Rookie on Every MLB Team to Watch in 2013

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    Over the course of the 2012 season, 291 players—174 position players, 117 pitchers—made their major league debuts.

    Some teams, like the Houston Astros, utilized its minor league system more than others, more veteran-laden teams such as the New York Yankees.

    But each and every major league team had its minor league shuttle in operation more than once during the season.

    It happens every season, and 2013 will be no different.

    That said, not every team has a prospect heading into the regular season that you can point at and say, "He's going to make an impact for the (insert your favorite team here)."

    Let's take a look at the youngsters who should be on your radars heading into the season—not only for fans of the game, but for those fans who find themselves knee-deep in papers and spreadsheets preparing for fantasy baseball drafts.

    The names on this list might be helpful to those folks looking to take a flier on an unproven commodity in the later rounds of their drafts.

     

     

    *To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster between Opening Day and September 1 when rosters expand.

    *All spring training stats courtesy of MLB.com.

    *World Baseball Classic stats courtesy of WorldBaseballClassic.com.

    *All other stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Baltimore Orioles: Jonathan Schoop, IF

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    If everything goes according to plan in Baltimore this season, Jonathan Schoop won't see the big leagues until rosters expand in September.

    But when Brian Roberts remaining healthy is a major part of said plan, well, chances are that we'll see the talented infielder make his major league debut sooner rather than later, especially if Roberts goes down for an extended period of time.

    Schoop, 21, struggled a bit at the plate for Double-A Bowie in 2012, posting a .245/.324/.386 slash line over 124 games. With the national team from The Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, Schoop has gone 6-for-24 with a pair of home runs and six RBI.

    He'll spend the bulk of the season back in Double-A, but when he comes up, it'll likely be to stay.

Boston Red Sox: Jackie Bradley Jr., OF

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    When Boston manager John Farrell was asked by the Boston Globe's Christopher L. Gasper whether prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. was heading back to Double-A to start the season, Farrell answered in the affirmative—but certainly left the door open to change his mind at a later date:

    “Likely, but you never want to put a limit on anyone either,” said Farrell. “He is making the best of the opportunity, and he’s making a very strong impression.”

    A strong impression indeed.

    Not only has the 22-year-old outfielder looked the part of a major league hitter at the plate, where he's compiled a .536/.629/.714 slash line with three extra base hits (one home run) and four RBI, walking more than he's struck out, but he's played outstanding defense in both center and right field

    While the Red Sox went out and handed Shane Victorino a three-year, $39 million deal this past winter to play right field, the "Flyin' Hawaiian" may need to slide over to left, making room for Bradley Jr..

    To be fair, the pitching that he's faced thus far in exhibition games isn't the caliber that he'd face on a nightly basis at Fenway Park, and he's had a total of 271 plate appearances above the High-A level during the regular season.

    He doesn't have a ton of experience against high-quality pitching.

    Chances are, Bradley Jr. will find himself down on the farm once camp breaks, to get more experience against better pitching.

    But considering Ellsbury's injury history and Victorino's declining play (he's been a non-factor for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic), coupled with the impression that Bradley Jr. has made on not only team officials, but his teammates as well, it won't be long before he's shagging fly balls in Beantown.

New York Yankees: Ronnier Mustelier, IF/OF

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    "Starting at third base for your New York Yankees...Ronnier Mustelier?"

    It's at least a possibility—and the prospect of having to fit him into the roll call must have the Bleacher Creatures at Yankee Stadium stumped.

    Mustelier, a 28-year-old infielder/outfielder who signed with the Yankees as an international free agent in 2011 after defecting from Cuba back in 2009.

    He's quickly worked his way through the team's farm system, posting a .303/.359/.455 slash line with 10 home runs and 49 RBI in 89 games at Triple-A in 2012, spending time both in the infield and outfield.

    So far this spring, Mustelier has continued to swing a solid bat, with a .333/.417/571 slash line, grabbing the attention of both hitting coach Kevin Long and general manager Brian Cashman, who explained to John Harper of the New York Daily News how impressed they've been with his play:

    “This kid’s going to hit, you can see that,” hitting coach Kevin Long was saying on Sunday. “The ability is there.”

    “He’s got a gift,” said the Yankee GM. “He impacts the ball with the bat differently than others do.”

    While he entered spring training trying to make the team as a reserve outfielder, with the injury to first baseman Mark Teixeira and the very real possibility of needing Kevin Youkilis to man first base, Mustelier could find himself sitting on the hot corner in the Bronx come April.

    Skipper Joe Girardi figures he's got nothing to lose by seeing whether the diminutive Mustelier (he stands 5'7") can handle the position:

    “We’re going to see what he looks like there,” said Girardi. “In talking to him, third base is where he played the most in Cuba.”

    If Mustelier can play even adequate defense at third base over the next few weeks, his major league debut is likely to follow once the team breaks camp—and his ability to play a corner spot in the outfield or the hot corner would make him a more valuable roster addition than more ballyhooed prospects such as Melky Mesa or Zoilo Almonte.

Tampa Bay Rays: Chris Archer, RHP

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    Despite throwing seven innings of one-hit, scoreless baseball this spring, 24-year-old right-hander Chris Archer will start the 2013 season as the ace of the rotation for Triple-A Durham, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times notes via Twitter:

    #Rays option @chrisarcher42, Torres and Odorizzi to durham

    — Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) March 12, 2013

    But, as Rays manager Joe Maddon alluded to in a conversation with Topkin, Archer doesn't figure to be down on the farm for too long:

    He is a bright kid, he gets it, he understands how this whole thing works. He knows his time is coming. We know that his time is coming. When you've got a young guy like that, you don't want to mess it up with somebody who can be that good. So right now, the way this thing is being put together, it seems the timing is right to send him back for a little more seasoning and get him ready so when he comes up here he stays here.

    With a fastball that touches the upper 90s and effectively sets up his slider, the best pitch in his repertoire, Archer has averaged a strikeout per inning over his seven-year minor league career.

    Control remains something of an issue, with Archer averaging five walks per nine innings of work in the minors and issuing three free passes this spring, one of the few things that he needs to work on back in Durham. 

    He made his big league debut in 2012, allowing 15 earned runs over 29.1 innings of work, walking 13 and striking out 36. 

    While his long-term future in Tampa may be out of the bullpen, Archer will be the first one to get the call when Tampa Bay needs a starting pitcher due to injury or ineffectiveness.

Toronto Blue Jays: None

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    While the Toronto Blue Jays still have plenty of talent left in the minor leagues, the team didn't trade away a boatload of prospects to solidify the lineup and rebuild the starting rotation in order to rely on unproven youngsters in 2013.

    The Blue Jays are making a run at a wide-open AL East, and should one of its youngsters need to play a significant role, something will have gone terribly, terribly awry.

Atlanta Braves: Julio Teheran, RHP

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    After a miserable 2012 season that saw him get shelled at both the major and minor league levels, the sheen on one of baseball's top pitching prospects, Julio Teheran, was in serious danger of wearing off.

    But the 22-year-old put in the work that he needed to this winter and the results in spring training reaffirmed his status as one of the bright up-and-coming stars on the mound: Teheran has allowed two earned runs and 4 hits over 14 innings of work, walking only four while striking out 18.

    Against the St. Louis Cardinals in his latest outing, Teheran tossed five innings of no-hit ball.

    He'll start the season as Atlanta's fifth starter, and if this spring is any indication, Teheran may not be the one to relinquish his spot in the rotation when Brandon Beachy returns from the Tommy John surgery that ended his 2012 season prematurely.

Miami Marlins: Jose Fernandez, RHP

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    At this point, it's not a matter of if, only when, Jose Fernandez will make his major league debut in 2013.

    Miami's top pitching prospect—and the seventh best prospect in baseball according to MLB.com—won't break camp with the Marlins, having never pitched above High-A over his 27 minor league starts.

    But he'll finish the year in the big leagues.

    Fernandez has been nothing short of dominant in the minors, going 14-2 with a 2.02 ERA and 0.96 WHIP, striking out more than four batters for every walk he issues.

    He's got a five-pitch arsenal to choose from when on the mound, with at least three of his pitches grading out as plus major league offerings right now.

    With the Marlins not expected to contend for much other than a high draft pick in the 2014 MLB draft this season, there's no reason for the team to keep the 20-year-old down on the farm once he proves that Double-A lineups are no significant challenge.

    The experience that he can gain from spending half of the 2013 season in the big leagues will prove to be invaluable in the long run—and give fans a reason other than Giancarlo Stanton, the man Fernandez plunked in the head with a fastball during a simulated game early in spring training—to come out to Marlins Park.

New York Mets: Zack Wheeler, RHP

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    The closer Zack Wheeler gets to making his major league debut, the better the Mets decision to trade All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran to acquire him looks.

    Wheeler, 22, threw only two innings for the Mets during spring training before being reassigned to minor league camp, but he left a lasting impression on manager Terry Collins, who told CBS New York that it's only a matter of time before Wheeler arrives on the scene in Flushing:

    He did a lot. We saw a great arm out of him. We know he’s got the great arm. I thought he handled his situation in the clubhouse, you (media) guys. I know he’s disappointed. He’s got every right to be. But he’s going to get his chance. Just like Matt Harvey. When he gets here, he’ll never look back.

    Harvey, the team's other ballyhooed pitching prospect, made his major league debut in 2012, posting a 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in just over 59 innings of work.

    Standing 6'4", Wheeler throws downhill, making it incredibly difficult for right-handed batters to lift the ball.

    When you mix in his arsenal of pitches, highlighted by two variations of his fastball that he can dial up to the high-90s, batters have found themselves taking defensive swings rather than swinging for contact when facing him.

    Wheeler's plan from the minute he arrived at spring training was to break camp with the team, but an oblique injury he suffered early on limited the amount of work that he could get in, leaving the Mets with little choice but to start him at Triple-A this season.

    Once he's got some work under his belt, Wheeler will get the call, whether it's to replace an ineffective Jeremy Hefner or an injured Johan Santana in the rotation, the latter of which has become an almost annual occurrence for the former Cy Young award winner.

Philadelphia Phillies: Darin Ruf, 1B/OF

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    Darin Ruf is a below average fielder at both first base and left field, and really, his ideal fit in a major league lineup would be as a designated hitter.

    But the Philadelphia Phillies don't play in the American League, forcing Ruf to put a glove on his hand when he takes the field.

    That said, Ruf has a powerful swing, one that the Phillies have every intention of getting into their lineup on at least a semi-regular basis in 2013, despite his poor showing this spring, where he's mustered only a .188/.316/.281 slash line over 32 at-bats.

    Coming off of a 2012 season that saw him hit .308 with 38 home runs and 104 RBI for Double-A Reading, it's easy to see why the Phillies are high on him.

    While he'll provide a bit of an adventure whenever the ball comes his way, his run producing potential is simply too great to overlook—and the main reason that Ruf figures to make the team out of spring training, likely in a left field platoon with Laynce Nix.

Washington Nationals: Anthony Rendon, 3B

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    On a team with no glaring weaknesses, there's really no room for a rather inexperienced 22-year-old, especially when that player is blocked at the major league level by an All-Star still in his prime.

    Such is the case with third base prospect Anthony Rendon, who on talent alone, is likely one of the 25 best players in camp for the defending National League East champions, but who is blocked by Ryan Zimmerman at the hot corner in our nation's capital.

    Rendon has been nothing short of impressive this spring, hitting .296 with three doubles, three home runs, eight RBI and six runs scored in only 27 at-bats.

    Therein lies the problem—at-bats.

    Rendon, who has battled injuries throughout his career, was limited to only 160 plate appearances in 2012. Manager Davey Johnson pointed to that lack of experience as a major reason why Rendon wasn't a candidate to break camp with the team when he spoke to James Walker of the Washington Post:

    "No, He needs the reps. He needs to play."

    That said, the 22-year-old has made a strong impression this spring, not only on Johnson, but on his future major league teammates as well, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark

    Nats 3B phenom Anthony Rendon scorches line-drive out. Davey Johnson said Ryan Zimmerman asked him: "Is there any other position he plays?

    — Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) March 6, 2013

    With Zimmerman's own spotty injury history—he hasn't played in more than 150 games since 2009—there's a chance that Rendon could be called upon to replace the All-Star if and when he goes down.

    Worst case scenario, Rendon will join the club when rosters expand in September, giving Zimmerman a breather and Johnson a powerful bat to bring into games off of the bench.

Chicago White Sox: Simon Castro, RHP

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    Acquired from the San Diego Padres as part of the package the White Sox received for outfielder Carlos Quentin, 24-year-old Simon Castro won't start the 2013 season in the windy city, already having been optioned to Triple-A Charlotte.

    But Castro certainly made an impression on Chicago's coaching staff before he departed, allowing only three hits and one earned run in seven innings this spring, walking one while striking out nine.

    Armed with a plus fastball and above-average slider, Castro's future in the big leagues could be as a reliever, but the White Sox will continue to develop him as a starting pitcher, at least for the time being.

    Considering the spotty injury history of Jake Peavy and John Danks coming off of shoulder surgery that limited him to only nine starts in 2012, Castro could have ample opportunity to make an impact in the big leagues this season.

Cleveland Indians: Trevor Bauer, RHP

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    Shortly after the three-team trade that saw the Cleveland Indians trade All-Star outfielder (and impending free agent) Shin-Soo Choo to the Cincinnati Reds, ESPN's Buster Olney still couldn't believe what the Indians had just pulled off:

    It really is amazing that the Indians ended up with Trevor Bauer essentially in return for a one-year rental, Shin-Soo Choo.

    — Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 12, 2012

    Bauer, 22, has been considered one of the best prospects in all of baseball since the Arizona Diamondbacks selected him with the third overall pick of the 2011 MLB draft. He wore out his welcome in Arizona after reportedly scoffing at constructive criticism from coaches, earning a reputation of being somewhat difficult to deal with.

    Veteran hurler Brett Myers told USA Today's Bob Nightengale that Bauer's not difficult or a bad guy—he's just different:

    He's got a lot of stuff in that head of his. I sat down with him (Monday) to talk about his mechanics, and he was talking about physics, chemical reactors and biochemistry crap, and body creating a force. I'm like, 'What the hell?' I couldn't even pronounce the words he's saying.

    But you know what, he's completely different than what you heard about him. You hear he's this rude guy, or stuck in his ways. He was great. He gave me the respect of listening to me.

    I don't know who gives him all of the ideas, but he's a whole lot smarter than me or you. I don't know if I could think that much.

    Armed with a five-pitch repertoire, including a live fastball that he can dial up to the mid-to-upper 90s—and maintain that velocity deep into games—it's easy to see why many still consider him to be a future ace in the big leagues.

    Considering the rather sorry state of Cleveland's starting rotation, Bauer has a chance to break camp with the club. Even if he doesn't, it won't be long before he gets the call to join the Tribe.

    Once he does, he won't be leaving anytime soon.

Detroit Tigers: Bruce Rondon, RHP

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    Despite pitching to a 4.76 ERA and 2.47 WHIP in six spring appearances spanning 5.2 innings of work, 22-year-old flamethrower Bruce Rondon remains very much in contention for a spot in Detroit's bullpen to start the season.

    Except it might be as part of a "closer-by-committee" approach rather than as the team's sole ninth inning option, as Jim Leyland confirmed to Lynn Herring of the Detroit News—though there's a caveat:

    I want to see people swing and miss at his breaking ball once in a while. I want to make clear: I like what I've seen. I'm not really shocked by what I've seen.

    I'm thrilled about it (Rondon's audition). I have no qualms about it. I'm very positive about it and I think it will work out fine.

    It's hard to imagine how Leyland could be "thrilled" considering Rondon's struggles, but when a prospect who has never thrown a major league pitch remains your best option in the ninth inning, well, you do what you can to pump up his confidence.

    Rondon, who pitched to a combined 1.53 ERA and 1.09 WHIP across three levels of Detroit's farm system in 2012, has not impressed rival general managers, as CBS Sports' Jon Heyman noted on Twitter:

    #tigers rookie closer bruce rondon "doesn't look ready" says rival gm. fastball 95-98 and straight, iffy control on curve

    — Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) March 6, 2013

    Yet he figures to make an impact for the defending American League champions early in the 2013 season.

    Whether that impact will be a positive or negative one remains to be seen.

Kansas City Royals: None

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    You might be wondering why there's a picture of someone in Tampa Bay Rays gear under the headline for the Kansas City Royals, but that's where the man formerly known as Kansas City's top prospect, Wil Myers, now calls home, having been dealt as part of the package that bought James Shields and Wade Davis to Kaufman Stadium.

    After years of feeding the major league team with young talent, the Royals farm system is in a bit of a waiting pattern, as the next wave of youngsters is still a year away from making an impact in the big leagues, essentially leaving the major league roster to fend for itself.

    That's not to say that the Royals won't have their handful of minor league call-ups during the regular season—every team, no matter how barren the farm system, does—but when it comes to rookies who are noteworthy, those players simply won't be joining Eric Hosmer and company in Kansas City this season.

Minnesota Twins: Chris Colabello

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    Chris Colabello is not a top prospect. 

    He's not really a prospect at all.

    A 29-year-old infielder who spent the first nine years of his professional career playing Independent ball in the Canadian-American Association, Colabello latched on with the Minnesota Twins prior to the 2012 season, hitting .284 with 19 home runs and 98 RBI for Double-A New Britain.

    Currently playing for Italy in the World Baseball Classic, Colabello has been impressive, hitting .429 with two home runs and seven RBI, none bigger than a three-run blast off of San Diego ace Edinson Volquez that gave Italy an early 4-0 lead over a stacked Dominican Republic squad in second round action (the Dominican would rally for a 5-4 victory.)

    While Minnesota has first base covered with Justin Morneau, the team could certainly use a bat with power—and a viable replacement for Morneau, considering his lengthy injury history—sitting on the bench.

    He'll get a longer look once he returns to camp, but you have to think that between his play for Italy in WBC and what he did at Double-A in 2012, Colabello has an excellent shot at breaking camp with a Twins squad that isn't considered much of a threat in the AL Central.

Chicago Cubs: Kyuji Fujikawa, RHP

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    At 32-years-old, Kyuji Fujikawa is the oldest player on our list, but he'll be making his major league debut in 2013 for the Chicago Cubs, so he qualifies as a rookie.

    With 202 saves and a 1.36 ERA in six seasons with the Hanshin Tigers of the Japan Central League, Fujikawa was signed to serve as one of the primary setup men for closer Carlos Marmol.

    Except Marmol isn't long for Chicago, as the Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer reports that the Cubs have told Marmol's representatives that their client will be traded at some point this season, opening the door for Fujikawa to take over in the ninth inning.

    Fujikawa has been dominant thus far in exhibition play, throwing four innings of two-hit ball while allowing no runs and sending five batters down on strikes.

    His impact on the Cubs will only grow once Marmol is removed from the equation.

Cincinnati Reds: Tony Cingrani, LHP

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    Thoughts that the Cincinnati Reds might keep 23-year-old Tony Cingrani around to serve as a left-handed arm out of the bullpen were put to rest when the team optioned him to Triple-A Louisville, but make no mistake about it—Cingrani will don a Reds uniform in 2013.

    After pitching to a 1.73 ERA and 1.03 WHIP over two levels of Cincinnati's minor league system in 2012, striking out 172 batters in only 146 innings of work, Reds fans got a look at Cingrani once rosters expanded in September. 

    He didn't disappoint, allowing one earned run and four hits over five innings of work, walking two while striking out nine. This spring, however, was a different story, as he allowed four earned runs and five hits over four innings, walking one and whiffing five.

    Cingrani has two plus-pitches in his arsenal, a mid-90s fastball and a changeup that looks eerily similar to his heater upon release and, like his fastball, fades away from right-handed batters.

    While Mike Leake remains in the mix to be the first one called upon should the team need a sixth starting pitcher, Cingrani will also be on that short list, especially if he gets off to a strong start in Triple-A.

    Worst case scenario, he'll be another late-season roster addition.

    But considering how electric his stuff has been and his penchant for missing bats, I've got a sneaking suspicion that we'll be seeing him in Cincinnati before long.

Milwaukee Brewers: Wily Peralta, RHP

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    The team's top pitching prospect, 23-year-old Wily Peralta has been a mixed bag of results for the Milwaukee Brewers so far this spring.

    He's allowed three earned runs and seven hits over 4.1 innings of work, walking one and striking out two.

    But his stuff is impressive—to the point that he's drawing attention from umpires, as Adam McCalvy of MLB.com noted after his last appearance:

    Ump Tony Randazzo was so impressed with the movement on Wily Peralta's changeup today, he asked RRR if it was a screwball.

    — Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) March 9, 2013

    Peralta opened some eyes in September of last season, pitching to a 2.48 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in six appearances (five starts), walking 11 and striking out 23 over 29 innings of work.

    Penciled into the Brewers' starting rotation as the team's fifth starter, Peralta needs to get back on track before the regular season gets underway.

    That said, he's Milwaukee's best option to bring up the rear of a rotation that, aside from ace Yovani Gallardo, is largely unproven at the major league level.

    He throws two versions of his fastball, a pitch that sits in the low-to-mid 90s, but it's his slider, with deceptive movement and sharp bite, that really frustrates the opposition. Peralta also has a solid changeup in his repertoire, one that acts more like a splitter, making batters sitting on his heater look foolish.

    Expect to see Peralta taking the ball from manager Ron Roenicke every fifth day once the season gets underway.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Phil Irwin, RHP

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    I know, I know.

    You expected to see either Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon in this spot for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but chances are, both will spend the bulk of the season in the minor leagues honing their craft.

    The same can't be said for 26-year-old Phil Irwin, who has stayed under-the-radar despite going 28-16 with a 3.02 ERA in four minor league seasons, striking out 369 batters in 413.2 innings of work while walking only 72.

    Irwin hasn't gotten a start yet this spring, but he's been impressive, allowing two earned runs and five hits over eight innings, walking a pair and fanning nine.

    With the fifth spot in Pittsburgh's starting rotation seemingly up for grabs and pre-spring training favorite Kyle McPherson struggling mightily (a 9.39 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in three starts), Irwin has done everything he possibly can to impress the Pirates' brass.

    He throws his fastball for strikes on both sides of the plate, has a nasty curveball that is clearly the best pitch in his repertoire, and mixes in a cut fastball and slider as well.

    Whether he'll break camp with the club is up in the air, but even if he winds up at Triple-A to start the season, Irwin will be one of the first arms the Pirates call on when they need reinforcements for the rotation.

St. Louis Cardinals: Shelby Miller, RHP

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    Engaged in a battle with Joe Kelly for the fifth spot in the starting rotation for St. Louis, 22-year-old Shelby Miller doesn't necessarily need to win the job in order to break camp with the Cardinals.

    Miller, who made his major league debut in 2012, pitching to a 1.32 ERA and and 0.95 WHIP, striking out 16 over 13.2 innings of work, could throw out of the bullpen for St. Louis and serve as an emergency starter.

    Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch didn't completely discount that scenario in an appearance on ESPN 101 radio in St. Louis, and the chance to work with pitching guru Dave Duncan on a daily basis certainly wouldn't stunt Miller's growth.

    That said, if Miller doesn't beat Kelly out for the job, I think it's far more likely that he starts the season at Triple-A Memphis, taking the ball every fifth day and getting into a groove as a starter. This way, when he does return to St. Louis,  he won't need to build up his arm strength before joining the rotation.

Houston Astros: George Springer, CF

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    It's not a question of if George Springer will be running down fly balls at Minute Maid Park in Houston this season, it's only a question of when he'll arrive.

    Assigned to minor league camp after a strong showing in eight exhibition games, going 4-for-12 with a pair of home runs, seven RBI and six runs scored, Springer figures to be a mid-season addition to the major league squad, once the rebuilding Astros are firmly out of contention for a playoff spot.

    We looked at Springer earlier this month, and it would be a mistake to read too deeply into his demotion—the Astros remain very high on the 23-year-old, and he is certainly the center fielder of the future in Houston and a major part of the team's rebuilding efforts.

    In 128 games between High-A and Double-A last season, Springer hit .302 with 24 home runs, 87 RBI, 32 stolen bases and an OPS of .908.

    The more success he has against competition at the upper levels of the minor leagues, the quicker his return to the fold in Houston will be.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Kole Calhoun, OF

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    Kole Calhoun is facing an uphill climb to make the Los Angeles roster out of camp, given the team's rather crowded outfield/designated hitter situation and his somewhat disappointing numbers: a .207/.306/.414 slash line in 13 games thus far.

    But the 25-year-old sits second on the team in both walks (five) and RBI (eight). Despite leading the team with nine strikeouts, Calhoun has shown improved plate discipline and the ability to make a positive impact on the team's fortunes even when the hits aren't falling for him.

    Calhoun has flown through the team's minor league system, reaching Triple-A Salt Lake in only his second full professional season, hitting .298 with 14 home runs and 73 RBI in 105 games.

    He may start the season back in the Pacific Coast League, but when the Angels need a right-handed bat off of the bench—or if the team can ever convince someone to take Vernon Wells and his albatross of a contract off its hands—Calhoun will be right back in the clubhouse alongside Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and the rest of that star-studded lineup.

Oakland A's: Dan Straily, RHP

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    After pitching to a 2.78 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and striking out 190 batters in 152 innings of work between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012, 24-year-old Dan Straily got his first taste of the big leagues.

    In just over 39 innings for the A's, Straily posted a 3.89 ERA and 1.32 WHIP, striking out twice as many batters (32) as he walked (16).

    This spring, however, the results have been nowhere near as impressive, as he's allowed five earned runs and nine hits over 6.2 innings of work, walking a pair and sending six batters down on strikes.

    With Bartolo Colon still serving his suspension from last season and Brett Anderson being injury-prone, Straily could still break camp with Oakland, though he may best be served by building his confidence back up with Triple-A Sacramento.

    Wherever Straily ends up, he will play a significant role in Oakland's attempts to defend its AL West crown in 2013. 

Seattle Mariners: Danny Hultzen, LHP

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    Finally, one of the much-hyped pitching prospects that the Seattle Mariners have in its farm system will make his major league debut in 2013.

    That pitcher will be 23-year-old southpaw Danny Hultzen.

    He struggled upon being promoted to Triple-A in 2012, throwing to a 5.92 ERA and 1.89 WHIP in 12 starts, battling command issues and getting hit all over the field.

    But the skills that made him one of the Top 20 prospects in all of baseball heading into the season (according to MLB.com) have been on display this spring, albeit the sample size of only three innings is incredibly small and not a precursor to regular season success.

    Armed with a mid-90s fastball that has excellent movement, an above-average chanegup and a mid-80s slider, Hultzen is likely to start the season back at Triple-A to prove that his control issues from 2012 are a thing of the past.

    With the back-end of Seattle's rotation full of relatively unproven commodities like Hisashi Iwakuma, Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan—quality pitchers in their own right but none as naturally gifted or potentially as dominant as Hultzen—cracking the rotation at some point this season shouldn't be much of an issue.

Texas Rangers: Leonys Martin, CF

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    A Cuban defector who signed a five-year, $15.5 million contract with the Texas Rangers in 2011, 25-year-old Leonys Martin has been tasked with filling the void in center field created by Josh Hamilton's defection to the Los Angeles Angels via free agency.

    Martin has 32 major league games under his belt but produced unimpressive numbers, with a .204/.254/.389 slash line and only two extra base hits, both doubles.

    In only 55 games with Triple-A Round Rock last season, Martin hit .359 with 12 home runs and 42 RBI, impressive numbers considering that it was only the second year he's spent on American soil.

    As Martin continues to acclimate to a new country, new language and new teammates, the more comfortable he'll get.

    He seems to be fairly comfortable right now, evidenced by his numbers this spring: a line of .394/.447/.576 with four extra base hits (two doubles, two triples) and seven RBI more reflect the five-tool-talent that many believe Martin is.

    Martin may wind up splitting time with Craig Gentry to start the season for the Rangers, but it won't be long before Martin is the team's everyday center fielder and No. 9 hitter in the lineup, giving them a combination of power and speed at the bottom of the batting order that most teams don't have.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Adam Eaton

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    What do you look for in a leadoff hitter?

    Someone with the ability to get on base who has speed to burn.

    Adam Eaton has both—but the potential is there for him to be much more than a speedy leadoff hitter.

    Eaton owns an impressive .355/.456/.510 career slash line over three minor league seasons, and while he won't post such gaudy numbers at the major league level, a .300 batting average and an on-base percentage pushing .400 are certainly reasonable goals for the 24-year-old center fielder.

    He uses his plus-plus speed to get to balls hit in the outfield gaps with relative ease, and it won't take long for baserunners to think twice about trying to advance once he unleashes his powerful and accurate throwing arm.

    Don't let his diminutive physical presence fool you—Eaton stands 5'9" tall and weighs less than 200 pounds—there's some power in that package.

    I'm not talking Mike Trout or Rickey Henderson power, but 10-to-15 home runs out of the leadoff spot will help Arizona replace the power it lost when it traded away Justin Upton and Chris Young, who combined, accounted for 31 home runs and 108 RBI for the Diamondbacks in 2012.

Colorado Rockies: Nolan Arenado, 3B

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    If you want to see one of the sweetest swings that you've seen in awhile, point your eyes toward Colorado's spring training games and take a gander at 21-year-old Nolan Arenado.

    Surpassed by 2012 draft pick David Dahl as the team's top prospect (according to MLB.com), Arenado has been raking this spring, hitting .348 with four home runs and 10 RBI. Seven of his eight hits have gone for extra bases, and he looks very much like the fourth big bat in the Rockies lineup, alongside Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Wilin Rosario.

    He might not start the season smacking balls into the night at Coors Field, but it won't be long before he's manning the hot corner in Colorado and garnering support in the NL Rookie of the Year race.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP

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    Signed to a six-year, $36 million deal this offseason, 25-year-old South Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu bolsters a Los Angeles Dodgers' rotation already deep with talent.

    Over seven seasons in Korea, Ryu went 98-52 with a 2.80 ERA, winning the league's strikeout title five times.

    While the strikeouts have been there this spring—Ryu, with 12, trails Clayton Kershaw by two for the team lead—he's struggled, allowing seven earned runs and 13 hits over 10.2 innings of work.

    That said, the Dodgers didn't pay him handsomely to get minor league seasoning. Despite the presence of veteran starters like Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly, Ryu will start the season in the Dodgers' rotation.

    It will be fascinating to watch how he acclimates himself to the MLB-style of play during the regular season.

San Diego Padres: Jedd Gyorko, IF

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    While Jedd Gyorko has slowed down a bit after getting off to a fast start this spring, the 24-year-old has still posted solid numbers, hitting .270 with three home runs and nine RBI through 14 exhibition games.

    As manager Bud Black told Scott Bair of The Associated Press (via The Republic), whether he breaks camp with the team is all up to Gyorko:

    We know about his bat, and he's had a good start to the spring, but we've been really impressed with his defense. He's been steady over there, and has made every play that's come his way. ...

    His overall play must be high. That encompasses everything, from how he's swinging the bat to how he's fielding his position. He's a confident guy so it probably won't be an issue, but we need to find out whether he's mentally ready for the everyday grind of the big leagues.

    Named San Diego's best position prospect (and third overall) by Baseball America, Gyorko could be a doubles machine in the spacious confines of Petco Park; while the outfield dimensions were reconfigured, it remains a pitcher's park.

    With his big-time potential as an impact bat in the middle of the Padres' lineup, it's hard to envision a scenario where Gyorko isn't the team's opening day second baseman.

    Even if the team makes the surprising decision to start Gyorko back at Triple-A, it won't be long before he's turning double plays in the Padres' infield.

San Francisco Giants: Francisco Peguero, OF

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    While Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres will split the left field duties to start the season for the defending World Champions, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see 24-year-old Francisco Peguero holding down the spot by himself by the All-Star break.

    Peguero has absolutely smashed the ball this spring, hitting .414 (12-for-29) with five RBI while playing solid defense in the corner.

    An exceptional athlete with a cannon for a throwing arm, Peguero has a combination of power and speed that the Giants simply don't have in their everyday lineup.

    He'll start the season at Triple-A Fresno, but as Blanco and Torres continue to prove that neither one is a long-term answer in the corner and Peguero continues to rake, the Giants will be hard-pressed to keep him down on the farm for long.

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