Surprise Breakout Rookies Who Can Chase 2013 ROY Awards
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It's a long way to the 2013 Rookie of the Year awards, but it's never too early begin predicting the front-runners. We're nearly two weeks into this young season, and a crop of youngsters has already separated itself from the rest of the field.
Notable ROY award favorites Wil Myers, Jurickson Profar and Oscar Taveras have begun the season at the Triple-A level, and fellow standout Adam Eaton sits on the disabled list.
This leaves the door wide open for the following five players to make their marks.
It may be a roller coaster of a season—jumping up and down between the majors and minors, seeing significant time on the bench, etc.—but these five studs have already made their presence known.
SS Jose Iglesias, Boston Red Sox
Iglesias committed zero errors in 47 innings at shortstop.
Filling the void left at shortstop for the Boston Red Sox, Jose Iglesias excelled both at the plate and in the field.
In six games for the Red Sox, Iglesias, who is valued more for his glove than his bat, went 9-for-20 with two doubles in 21 plate appearances. A handful of those hits came as infield singles; nevertheless, the stat sheet does not lie, and Iglesias was reaching base often for the gritty, new-look Red Sox.
Boston signed former Athletics shortstop Stephen Drew to a one-year, $9.5 million contract during the offseason. Having that sort of money invested, the Red Sox had no choice but to start Drew and demote Iglesias when Drew returned from a mild concussion.
In his first game back with the team, Drew went 0-for-4.
In his first game down at Triple-A Pawtucket, Iglesias hit a two-run home run in his second at-bat.
With fellow prospect Xander Bogaerts poised to make his big league debut in the next year or two, Iglesias' future as the Red Sox shortstop is up in the air.
He will make more appearances this year, though, and he'll be looking to continue where he left off.
SP Dan Straily, Oakland Athletics
Straily struck out the side in the first inning, two in the second and two more in the third.
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He may not get another start in the majors for quite some time, but Dan Straily certainly made his first and only early-season start count.
After Straily's start on April 5, Oakland manager Bob Melvin stated, "He knew it before he came in here. He admitted it bothered him some. But he put it aside, and he was terrific." Melvin was referencing the return of veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon from a 50-game suspension for PED use.
Straily, who started seven games for the A's last season, threw 6.2 innings, allowing two runs on five hits while striking out 11. Granted, the outing was against a weak Houston Astros lineup, but Straily was impressive regardless.
Last season, the 25-year-old went 2-1 with a 3.89 ERA. He struck out 32 batters in 39.1 innings of work but did allow 11 home runs.
The right-hander was optioned down to Triple-A Sacramento after his start and will patiently wait for his next big league start.
RP Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers
Henderson stands tall at 6'5''.
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After a long career in the minor leagues, which began in 2006 in the Washington Nationals system, right-handed reliever Jim Henderson is finally beginning the season with the big club.
Henderson pitched 30.2 innings for the Milwaukee Brewers last season, recording a 3.52 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP.
In 2013, Henderson has pitched four scoreless innings, allowing just three hits while striking out six and recording one save. John Axford was slated as the Brewers' closer entering the season but struggled to a 20.25 ERA in three appearances. Consequently, Milwaukee handed the door-slamming duties to Henderson.
The 30-year-old Henderson should hold the closer rule for the time being until Axford can work out the kinks.
The opportunity is at hand for Henderson to become a dominant relief pitcher.
SS Pete Kozma, St. Louis Cardinals
Kozma could be the long-term solution at shortstop for the Cardinals.
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Pete Kozma is the St. Louis Cardinals' shortstop of the future.
Kozma has had brief stints at the major league level over the past two seasons—the most notable being his performance during the Cardinals' race to the playoffs last season, when he hit .333 with two home runs and 14 RBI in 26 games.
The current season has continued similarly for Kozma, who sits at a .294 average through nine games. He has collected four extra-base hits (three doubles and a home run) and driven in five runs.
With Rafael Furcal out for all of 2013 due to ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow, Kozma should enjoy his first full season at the major league level.
1B Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals
At 6'3'', 230, Adams is a force at the plate.
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Could Matt Adams be the slugging replacement the Cardinals have been searching for since the departure of Albert Pujols?
OK, let's not get ahead of ourselves. But one thing is true: Matt Adams can rip the cover off the ball.
In the brief sample of this 2013 season, Adams is hitting .643 (9-for-14) with two home runs and seven RBI. He's also featuring an unworldly 1.881 OPS.
The question is whether we should be surprised.
Adams was a bargain pick for the Cardinals back in the 2009 amateur draft—a 23rd round pick from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania—but many scouts are wondering why the slugger was undervalued throughout the scouting process.
He has put up impressive numbers during his minor league career, hitting .300 with 32 home runs and 101 RBI at the Double-A level in 2011, followed by a .329 average with 18 home runs and 50 RBI in just 67 games for the Triple-A Redbirds in 2012.
If Adams can consistently produce, he will be a valuable piece in the Cardinals' race back to the NLCS and a likely candidate for the NL Rookie of the Year.