Jackie Bradley Jr. started in left field for the Red Sox on Opening Day.
With 25-man rosters set and the 2013 season now underway, there’s no question that this year’s extra-long spring training helped a large contingent of prospects break camp in the major leagues.
While players such as Shelby Miller and Adam Eaton were considered early favorites to make their team’s Opening Day roster, others forced their organization to make a difficult decision in the final days of camp.
Regarded as a long shot to make the team, Jackie Bradley Jr. gave the Red Sox no choice but to start the season with him in left field. Similarly, with Brian McCann on the disabled list to begin the season, 26-year-old Evan Gattis mashed his way into a reserve role with the Braves. However, those are only a few examples.
Here’s a look at the top 25 prospects opening the 2013 season in the major leagues.
Selected in the second round of the 2012 draft out of the University of Florida, Rodriguez, 22, logged just 19.2 innings before the Dodgers promoted him to the major leagues last fall.
After making his debut on September 8, the 6’3” southpaw ultimately appeared in 11 games out of the bullpen and registered a 1.35 ERA over 6.2 innings. Used primarily as a left-handed specialist, same-side hitters were 2-for-14 (.143) against Rodriguez.
After his success last season, Rodriguez won a spot in the Dodgers’ Opening Day bullpen and is expected to serve a similar role.
After a rapid ascension through the Indians’ system over the last two seasons, Allen reached the major leagues for the first time in 2012 and registered a 3.72 ERA and 8.4 K/9 over 29 innings. Even though he posted a 6.48 ERA this spring, the hard-throwing right-hander still fanned 10 batters in over 8.1 innings.
While Chris Perez will begin the year as the team’s closer, it’s possible that the Tribe may try move him at some point during the season. Allen should be the top candidate to inherit the ninth inning in his absence.
His command leaves something to be desired, but there’s no question that the 24-year-old will continue to miss bats in the major leagues.
Acquired from the Braves prior to the 2012 season, Hoover, 25, registered a 2.05 ERA with 31/13 K/BB over 30.2 innings for the Reds last season. The right-hander strengthened his case for a spot in the Opening Day bullpen with an excellent spring in which he fanned 19 batters in 10.1 innings.
Having posted a 9.9 K/9 over five seasons in the minor leagues, Hoover should one day serve as a closer. Expected to serve as a setup man with Jonathan Broxton, he should also receive the occasional save opportunity when Aroldis Chapman needs a night off.
Marte finally enjoyed a breakout season last year, which marked his seventh in the Diamondbacks’ system. Playing in 113 games for Double-A Mobile, the 24-year-old batted .294/.363/.523 with 25 doubles and 20 home runs over 446 plate appearances.
Although he batted only .170/.220/.404 with three home runs in 25 games this spring, injuries to both Cody Ross and Adam Eaton helped him crack the Opening Day roster. However, once either of the aforementioned players returns from the disabled list, Marte is presumably headed back to the major leagues.
Given his knack for mashing lefties, the right-handed hitter should receive his share of at-bats in the majors over the course of the 2013 season.
Acquired during the offseason from the Oakland Athletics, Peacock is set for a return to the major leagues after making a few starts for the Nationals in late 2011. After enduring a down year last season for Triple-A Sacramento (6.01 ERA in 134.2 innings), the right-hander bounced back with a 2.78 ERA and 17/7 K/BB in 22.2 innings this spring.
As a result, the he was named the team’s fourth starter heading into the 2013 season.
Considering the Astros’ on-field product, I wouldn’t expect anything significant from Peacock this season, though he should still pitch well enough to stick in the majors.
Although he’s only a .264/.313/.314 career hitter in the minors over three seasons, Iglesias is still regarded as arguably the top defensive shortstop prospect in the game.
With Stephen Drew sidelined indefinitely while recovering from a concussion, the 23-year-old benefited from extended playing time this spring and made the most of his opportunities by batting .294/.324/.441 with seven extra-base hits in 25 games.
As a result, Iglesias broke camp as the Red Sox’s shortstop and was 3-for-5 with an RBI in their win over the Yankees on Opening Day. The increase in extra-base hits and overall production is great to see and could help keep him in the major leagues once Drew returns.
Much like Carter Capps, Pryor is a flame-throwing right-hander who raced through the Mariners’ system to reach to the major leagues last season. Despite spending some time on the disabled list following his call-up, the 23-year-old registered a 3.91 ERA and 10.6 K/9 in 23 innings.
As was the case in the Mariners’ first game of the year on Monday night, Pryor will likely serve as a high-leverage reliever. And if something happens to Tom Wilhelmsen, the right-hander could receive some looks in the ninth inning.
After losing Josh Hamilton via free agency during the offseason, Martin opens the 2013 season as the Rangers' primary center fielder, though he’s likely to share time with Craig Gentry against left-handed pitching.
Despite posting only a .643 OPS in 32 games with the Rangers over the last two seasons, the 25-year-old’s minor-league numbers are more encouraging, as he’s batted .323/.388/.503 with 16 home runs and 29 stolen bases in 128 games.
Martin solidified his spot on the 25-man roster with a strong spring highlighted by a .895 OPS and five stolen bases in 26 games. However, his adjustment to a near-everyday role in the major leagues may not be as smooth as expected, as the left-handed hitter has some length to his swing and employs an overaggressive approach.
Still, Martin is a candidate to hit 10 home runs and steal 20 bases.
Selected in the third round of the 2011 draft, it took Capps a little over a year to reach the major leagues. After registering a 2.47 ERA and 12.5 K/9 in 69.1 minor league innings, the 6’5” right-hander was promoted to majors in early August, where he posted a 3.96 ERA and 10.1 K/9 over 25 innings.
With an unorthodox release point and plus-plus fastball that sits in the high 90s, the 22-year-old has the makings of a future closer. Expected to serve as the Mariners’ setup man to begin the season, Capps will amass a significant number of holds while missing more than a bat per inning.
More importantly, he’s presumably first in line for saves if Tom Wilhelmsen is unavailable.
Even though Jurickson Profar is ready for the major leagues, the Rangers ultimately optioned him to Triple-A to start the 2013 season to ensure he receives consistent playing time. As a result, Garcia made the Opening Day roster as a reserve infielder.
Also a switch-hitter, the 21-year-old batted .292/.337/.398 with 30 stolen bases in 100 games last season in Double-A and played both shortstop and second base opposite Profar.
Overall, Garcia’s a solid defender at both positions with good range and instincts. At the dish, he's an aggressive hitter who puts the ball in play and puts pressure on opposing defenses with his speed.
Even if he doesn’t hit, Garcia offers plenty of value as a defensive replacement and should have a more defined role as the season unfolds.
Since entering the team’s system as a 23-year-old in 2010, the 6’4” right-handed hitter has batted .308/.374/.546 with 44 home runs over three seasons. With Brian McCann opening the 2013 season on the disabled list, Gattis made the most of his opportunities this spring by batting .368/.393/.772 with six home runs and 16 RBI in 24 games.
Gattis officially made the Braves’ Opening Day roster as a backup catcher after spending four years away from the game after high school. Given his offensive potential, the 26-year-old could begin to steal starts from Gerald Laird with a hot start at the plate.
Once Brian McCann returns from the disabled list, Gattis could stick with the team due to his knack for mashing left-handed pitching.
Acquired from the Blue Jays as part of the blockbuster deal that sent Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson north of the border, Hechavarria entered spring training as the favorite to break camp as the team’s starting shortstop. And despite hitting .183/.254/.283 with seven strikeouts in 21 games, he still received the nod on Opening Day (0-for-3, 2 K).
While his defense has always been excellent, the 24-year-old’s lack of consistency at the plate is concerning. He batted .254/.280/.365 with 32/4 K/BB last season in 41 games with the Blue Jays last season.
Even though the Marlins will give Hechavarria an extended opportunity to settle in, ongoing struggles could ultimately lead to a demotion to Triple-A.
After a trade from the Tigers to the Marlins last July, Brantly was promoted to the major leagues and batted .290/.372/.460 with 11 extra-base hits and 16/13 K/BB over 31 games. Originally expected to serve as the team’s backup catcher, the 23-year-old broke camp as the Opening Day starter after an injury to Jeff Mathis (broken collarbone) early in the spring.
While he shouldn’t be expected to showcase the same amount of power as late last season, the left-handed hitter should have no problem holding his own in the more prominent role. If he struggles, though, expect Mathis to cut into his playing time upon returning.
Adams followed a monster 2011 campaign by posting a .986 OPS with 18 home runs in 67 games for Triple-A Memphis last season before ultimately receiving a promotion to the major leagues.
Seeing occasional playing time with Cardinals, Adams batted .244/.286/.384 with two home runs in 27 games before season-ending surgery was required to remove bone chips in his throwing elbow.
Finally healthy, the 24-year-old batted .288/.333/.500 with three home runs and 17 RBI this spring, which landed him a reserve role on the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster. Given the fragility of the team’s veteran starters, Adams should receive his share of starts over the season. He’s certainly not afraid to cut it loose at the plate, so it’s a relatively safe assumption that Adams will jump the yard roughly 10 to 15 times.
While Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton may get all the attention, Maurer will be the first Mariners pitching prospect to reach the major leagues this season. A 23rd-round draft pick in 2008, the 6’5” right-hander finally turned the developmental corner last season at Double-A Jackson. He registered a 3.20 ERA and 7.6 K/9 in 137.2 innings.
With two spots up for grabs in the team’s starting rotation headed into spring training, the 22-year-pitched his way onto the Opening Day roster with a 1.50 ERA and 25/7 K/BB in 24 innings. Maurer is going to surprise a lot of people this season—including opposing hitters. He's got a deep arsenal of average-to-plus pitches, including a fastball that sits in the mid-90s.
He will make his big league debut on Thursday on the road against the A’s.
Fresh off a breakout season at Double-A New Britain in 2012 in which he batted .286/.384/.460 with 45 extra-base hits and 32 stolen bases in 129 games, Hicks was named the Twins‘ Opening Day center fielder after out-playing both Darin Mastroianni and Joe Benson this spring.
He may be the least experienced of the trio, but the 23-year-old has the highest ceiling thanks to his power-speed potential and plus defense in center field. That being said, Hicks isn’t a guarantee to remain in the major leagues this season, as he’ll need to produce in order to keep his job.
Assuming he does stay, though, the rookie is a sneaky candidate to go 20-20.
Regarded as the Brewers’ top prospect headed into the 2012 season, Peralta struggled in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League (Triple-A) to the tune of a 4.66 ERA and 4.8 BB/9 in 146.2 innings.
However, his stuff was still impressive and he was able to make adjustments over the course of the season. The 24-year-old right-hander was awarded his first crack at the big league rotation in September and responded favorably with a 2.48 ERA and 23/11 K/BB in 29 innings.
Although he had a rocky spring, Peralta will open the 2013 season as the Brewers' third starter. It’s doubtful that he’ll enjoy the success of Shelby Miller or Julio Teheran, but the right-hander should still amass his share of strikeouts while eating plenty of innings.
The biggest pop-up prospect of the 2012 season, Straily opened the year in Double-A and finished it in the major leagues. After registering a 2.78 ERA with 190 strikeouts in 152 innings across Double-A and Triple-A, the 24-year-old right-hander was promoted to the major leagues, where he posted a 3.89 ERA over seven starts in the heat of the A’s pennant race.
Although he struggled off and on in major-league camp, Straily solidified his spot in the Opening Day rotation with five scoreless innings in his final spring tune-up on March 30.
With Bartolo Colon set to return from a 50-game suspension in the near future, the right-hander may be relegated to Triple-A, albeit temporarily. However, Straily is still expected to spend a majority of the upcoming season in the major leagues.
Many expected Gyorko to serve as a September call-up last season after he batted .311/.373/.547 with 30 home runs in 126 games between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tucson. However, due to a lack of available roster spots, the Padres decided to hold him in the minors for the entire year.
Gyorko entered camp as the outside favorite to break camp as the team’s second baseman, and he did his part by batting .257/.286/.486 with five doubles, four home runs and 12 RBI in 26 games this spring. And with Chase Headley on the disabled list to open the season, the 24-year-old ultimately made his big league debut as the Padres’ third baseman on Monday.
Gyorko could conceivably pace all NL rookies in extra-base hits and RBI, assuming he spends the entire 2013 season in the major leagues.
A starting pitcher in the Double-A rotation over the first half of the 2012 season, Rosenthal dominated out of the Cardinals’ bullpen following the All-Star break and especially during the NLDS and NLCS when he was virtually unhittable.
As a result of his success in both roles, the 22-year-old entered camp as one of three in-house candidates vying for the final spot in the starting rotation. However, after some initial struggles, the organization has already decided to move him back to the bullpen, where he’s a proven commodity.
Mitchell Boggs is poised to inherit most of the save opportunities with Jason Motte on the DL. However, with a triple-digit fastball and wipeout breaking ball, not to mention his overwhelming ability to miss bats, the Cardinals certainly won’t hesitate to use Rosenthal as closer if Boggs falters.
Since his selection in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft, Eaton has been an offensive force, batting .355/.456/.510 with 123 extra-base hits, 98 stolen bases and 166 walks over three minor league seasons.
After posting gaudy numbers for Triple-A Reno last season, the undersized 5’8” outfielder reached the major leagues as a September call-up and batted .259/.382/.412 with 19 runs scored and 14 walks in 22 games.
Following the offseason trade of Justin Upton, Eaton was poised to open the 2013 season as the Diamondbacks’ leadoff hitter and center fielder, as manager Kirk Gibson was noticeably grooming the 24-year-old for the role this spring. Unfortunately, Eaton suffered a sprained UCL in his left elbow towards the end of the camp and is sidelined for the first six to eight weeks of the regular season.
Once he returns, Eaton should serve as a catalyst at the top of the Diamondbacks’ order and should pace all NL rookies in runs scored, hits and on-base percentage. And for the record, he’s still my pick to win the rookie of the year award.
Coming off a massively disappointing 2012 season in which he posted a 5.08 ERA in 131 innings for Triple-A Gwinnett, Teheran reverted back to his original mechanics during the offseason and once again looks like the pitcher who was considered a top-10 prospect just a year ago.
The 22-year-old right-hander was arguably the most impressive pitching prospect in major league camp this spring, posting a 1.04 ERA with seven hits allowed and 35/9 K/BB over 26 innings. As a result, Teheran broke camp as the Braves’ fifth starter and is seemingly poised to (finally) make an impact this season in the major leagues.
If his performance this spring is a sign of what’s to come, Teheran should emerge as one of the better back-end starters in the game and contend for the NL rookie of the year award.
Bradley thrived in his first full minor league season in 2012. The South Carolina alumnus batted .315/.430/.482 with 42 doubles, 24 stolen bases and 89/87 K/BB in 128 between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland.
With above-average speed, mature secondary skills and defensive prowess in center field, Bradley was originally expected to reach the major leagues later this season. However, thanks to an outstanding spring—as well as injuries to left-handed hitters David Ortiz and Stephen Drew—the 23-year-old made the team as the Opening Day left fielder.
Although Bradley was hitless in his big league debut against the Yankees on Monday, he played a significant role in the team’s win with two runs scored, three walks and an RBI at the bottom of the order.
Even when Boston’s injured veterans return from the disabled list, it’s hard to see the organization sending him back to the minor leagues. Therefore, assuming he sticks in the majors, there’s a strong chance that Bradley paces all AL rookies in runs scored and on-base percentage, and possibly even hits.
Miller parlayed a lights-out month of August into a September call-up with the Cardinals after struggling at Triple-A over the first half of the 2012 season. As a result, the right-hander entered spring training as one of three in-house candidates vying for the final spot in the Opening Day rotation.
And after registering a 3.94 ERA with 13/5 K/BB in 16 innings in major-league camp, the team officially anointed the 22-year-old as the fifth starter.
Provided that he stays healthy, Miller should be able to stick in the majors for the duration of the 2012 season. If he continues to make the necessary adjustments, such as more effectively mixing his pitches, the right-hander should make a serious run at the NL rookie of the year award.
After throwing only two innings in major-league camp this spring, Fernandez was expected to open the 2013 season in the Double-A rotation. However, due to unexpected trips to the disabled list for both Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez, the 20-year-old will start the season in the Marlins’ starting rotation.
In his full-season debut in 2012, the then-19-year-old emerged as one of the more dominant starting pitchers in the minor leagues with a 1.75 ERA and 158/35 K/BB in 134 innings across both Class-A levels. At 6’3”, 215 pounds, the right-hander is physically and mentally mature with a combination of pure stuff and pitchability. He has one of the higher ceilings of all pitching prospects.
Although he’ll be limited to 150 to 170 innings in the major leagues, the Marlins seemingly intend to keep him in the starting rotation for most of the season. Fernandez will inevitably struggle at times but should still miss more than a bat per inning and receive his share of votes in the NL rookie of the year voting.
Personally, I couldn't be more excited to watch his debut against the Mets on Sunday.