Evan Gattis: Professional hitter.
It’s only three weeks into the Major League Baseball season, and all statistics represent a small sample, but many of the game’s top rookies are off to a hot start.
At the same time, there are several highly regarded youngsters who have scuffled in the early going. While some players will be forced to work through their struggles with the goal of furthering their development, others face a potential demotion if they don’t right the ship in the near future.
With so many notable prospects starting the season in the major leagues, it’s never too early to speculate about the Rookie of the Year Award. I will break down the race in each league on a weekly basis this season with a detailed look at certain prospects' stock.
So, here’s a look at how some of the top rookies have fared through the first three weeks of the season.
Evan Gattis, C, Atlanta Braves
2013 Stats: .279/.333/.674, 7 XBH (5 HR), 12 RBI, 10/4 K/BB (12 G)
I think it’s safe to say that everyone—well, except for opposing pitchers—is rooting for El Oso Blanco.
After winning a spot on the Opening Day roster as the backup catcher, Evan Gattis has emerged as a main cog at the heart Atlanta Braves order, as the 26-year-old has already dropped five bombs through his first 12 games in the major leagues.
While it’s doubtful that the right-handed hitter will maintain his current Ruthian pace, he'll inevitably put up big numbers over a full season.
Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2013 Stats: 18.1 IP, 1.96 ERA, .169 BAA, 18/5 K/BB (3 GS)
After an impressive showing in the major leagues last September, Shelby Miller, 22, has been outstanding as the St. Louis Cardinals’ fifth starter.
Through his first three starts this season, the right-hander has been difficult to barrel thanks to plus command of three pitches.
Miller’s mound presence and makeup has been equally impressive, as he’s confidently pitched through a few rough patches and finished each outing in dominant fashion.
Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins
2013 Stats: 15 IP, 3.60 ERA, .200 BAA, 17/6 K/BB (3 GS)
Making the largely unprecedented jump from High-A to the major leagues to open the 2013 season, Jose Fernandez immediately justified his ranking as one of the game’s top pitching prospects with a dazzling big league debut.
Boasting a mid-to-upper 90s fastball, underrated changeup and absolutely filthy curveball, the 20-year-old right-hander has thrived in the face of advanced competition.
Fernandez may have a few shaky outings here and there, as he did on Thursday night, but he seems poised for a monster rookie campaign and excellent career as a front-line starter.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2013 Stats: 18.2 IP, 2.89 ERA, .268 BAA, 20/3 K/BB (3 GS)
After a shaky big league debut on April 2, Hyun-Jin Ryu has made noticeable improvements in each subsequent start. A command-oriented left-hander with pitchability, the 26-year-old has already surpassed expectations with a 20/3 K/BB through his first three starts.
With Zack Greinke sidelined for roughly the next two months, the Los Angeles Dodgers desperately need the stocky southpaw to step up in his absence.
He lacks the ceiling of Jose Fernandez and Shelby Miller, but Ryu’s high floor should make him a favorable candidate for the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
2013 Stats: .524/.565/1.048, 5 XBH (3 HR), 4/2 K/BB (7 G)
Yes, Matt Adams has only appeared in seven games this season. However, that makes his robust production all the more impressive; 11-for-21 is ridiculous in any context.
And thanks to his red-hot start, including home runs in three consecutive games last week, Adams should continue to receive most of the starts at first base against right-handed pitching.
Aaron Hicks, OF, Minnesota Twins
2013 Stats: .044/.157/.044, 20/6 K/BB (12 G)
Despite his lack of experience above Double-A, Aaron Hicks parlayed a breakout 2012 campaign and impressive spring into an Opening Day roster spot as the Minnesota Twins center fielder. Thrust into the mix as the team’s leadoff hitter, the switch-hitter is mired in a big-time slump to begin his career.
Through his first 12 games, Hicks is 2-for-45 with 20 strikeouts, including seven games in which he’s fanned at least twice. With Darin Mastroianni now on the disabled list, Hicks’ spot on the 25-man roster seems safe for the time being, and the organization seems confident he’ll work though the early-season funk.
Wily Peralta, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
2013 Stats: 16 IP, 6.19 ERA, .302 BAA, 10/8 K/BB (3 GS)
After an impressive showing late last season as a September call-up, Wily Peralta has been knocked around in two of his three starts in the Milwaukee Brewers rotation.
Between those two outings, the 6’1”, 245-pound right-hander has allowed 13 hits and six walks over 9.1 innings. Furthermore, Peralta’s struggled to pound the strike zone with consistency, as he’s thrown just 97 of 173 pitches for a strike.
As the team’s top pitching prospect, he’ll likely receive a lengthy opportunity to right the ship. It’s difficult to envision anything positive coming from a return to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League (Triple-A).
Rob Brantly, C, Miami Marlins
2013 Stats: .186/.234/.256, 3 2B, 9/3 K/BB (12 G)
Acquired by the Miami Marlins last July in the deal that sent Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Detroit Tigers, Rob Brantly made a strong impression by posting an .832 OPS through 31 games.
Regarded as the organization’s future backstop, the 23-year-old has received a majority of the playing time this season. He has struggled to get things going, with a .490 OPS and zero runs scored—the latter a result of the Marlins’ dismal offense—through 12 games.
Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves
2013 Stats: 16 IP, 7.31 ERA, .318 BAA, 12/7 K/BB (3 GS)
After dazzling this spring with a 1.04 ERA, .082 BAA and 35/9 K/BB over six starts, it seemed as though Julio Teheran was finally ready to break through at the major league level.
Although he’s pitched decently overall, Teheran has been forced to battle through early-inning struggles in each start (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Perhaps more significantly, the 22-year-old has been ineffective against left-handed hitters, with a 13.50 ERA and .433 BAA.
The right-hander will need to make adjustments this season, and the organization should give him a chance to do so.
Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2013 Stats: 9.2 IP, 4.66 ERA, .325 BAA, 11/1 K/BB (9 G)
Trevor Rosenthal was a force out of the Cardinals bullpen down the stretch of the 2012 season and was virtually unhittable during the NLDS and NLCS.
With a plus-plus fastball that routinely touches triple digits and devastating breaking ball, the hard-throwing right-hander should always post a favorable strikeout rate.
However, he’s caught too much of the plate with both offerings to begin the season, and he has been knocked around more than he should. At the same time, it’s also worth noting that Rosenthal struggled following each of his call-ups last season. Therefore, he may just need some time to settle in.
Jedd Gyorko, 2B/3B, San Diego Padres
2013 Stats: .236/.328/.291, 3 2B, 11/8 K/BB (15 G)
One of three top-100 position prospects to make an Opening Day roster, Jedd Gyorko has held his own during his first taste of the major leagues.
Although he hasn’t shown the power he did last season in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League—go figure—the 24-year-old’s plate discipline and approach has been better than expected, as he’s reached base safely in 13 of 15 games.
The fact that he’s cut down on the strikeouts in the early going is encouraging and suggests that the right-handed hitter is capable of making adjustments over a full season.
*Stats courtesy of MLB.com and reflect all games through April 18, 2013.