MLB's Quarter-Mark All-Rookie Team
We've reached the first quarter mark of the 2013 MLB season, and already there have been a number of first-year players making a significant impact.
As the season progresses, we will see significantly more prospects promoted to the big leagues, including some of the most highly-regarded youngsters in the game. Even now though, there is a talented crop of rookies, especially on the pitching side of things.
So here is a look at what the 2013 all-rookie team looks like at the first quarter mark of the season. I've selected a starting lineup, five-man rotation and closer to assemble the team.
Catcher: Evan Gattis, Atlanta Braves
A top recruit out of high school, Evan Gattis quit baseball during his freshman year and battled anxiety and substance abuse for four years before returning to the diamond.
In three minor-league seasons prior to this year, he hit .308/.374/.546 with 44 home runs and 167 RBI over 832 at-bats.
With Brian McCann on the shelf to open the season, Gattis earned a roster spot out of camp, and he quickly played his way into a starting role. With McCann back he moves to the bench, but his run production numbers thus far have been impressive.
First Base: Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals
Despite a 2011 season in which he hit .300 with 32 home runs and 101 RBI, Matt Adams found himself buried on the Cardinals depth chart last season as he saw just 86 at-bats at the big league level last season.
The 24-year-old earned a bench job this spring, and he has been a dynamic force for the Cardinals in limited action.
With Allen Craig entrenched at first base, Adams may still wind up being a trade chip in the long run, but for now he is a valuable weapon off the bench for a very good St. Louis team.
Second Base: Jedd Gyorko, San Diego Padres
A third baseman by trade, Jedd Gyorko began the transition to second base last season and earned the everyday job out of camp this spring.
After back-to-back seasons with 100 RBI in the minors, Gyorko has the offensive potential to be one of the most productive second basemen in all of baseball.
His numbers aren't exactly eye-popping, but he has flashed the run production skills that should make him a difference maker in the middle of the Padres lineup for years to come.
Shortstop: Didi Gregorius, Arizona Diamondbacks
In need of a long-term answer at shortstop, the Diamondbacks acquired Didi Gregorius from the Reds in a three-team deal that saw Trevor Bauer shipped out of Arizona.
A .267/.319/.375 hitter in six minor league seasons, his offensive game was still relatively raw, but he already profiled as a plus defender and was expected to take over as the everyday starter at some point.
With Cliff Pennington struggling, the team called Gregorius up on April 19, and he went 2-for-5 with a home run in his first game in Arizona. He's more than held his own at the plate since, and the 23-year-old looks to have a bright future.
Third Base: Conor Gillaspie, Chicago White Sox
After trading for Kevin Youkilis to fill the void at third base last season, the White Sox signed Jeff Keppinger to a three-year deal to take over as starter in the offseason.
In a far more under-the-radar move, the team also acquired Conor Gillaspie from the Giants for minor league reliever Jeff Soptic.
A former first-round pick back in 2008, Gillaspie never really got a chance in San Francisco, but the 25-year-old has made an immediate impact in Chicago.
Outfield: A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks
Heading into the season, it was Adam Eaton who was expected to make a splash as a rookie and the everyday center fielder for the Diamondbacks.
However, a strained elbow has sidelined Eaton to this point, and Pollock has made the most of the opportunity so far.
The team's No. 10 prospect according to Baseball America, Pollock hit .318/.369/.411 with 52 RBI and 21 steals in his first season at Triple-A last year. He'll likely wind up in a reserve role once the team gets healthy, but the 25-year-old has made a solid contribution.
Outfield: Aaron Hicks, Minnesota Twins
The No. 14 overall pick back in 2008, Aaron Hicks has been one of the Twins top prospects since entering the league.
He enjoyed the best season of his pro career last year, hitting .286 with 13 home runs and 32 stolen bases in a full season at Double-A, and he was expected to continue rising the ranks this season.
Instead, he won a starting outfield job with a strong spring, and entered the season as one of the favorites for AL Rookie of the Year. Despite a rough start, he has kept his starting job, and he is slowly starting to turn things around.
Outfield: Robbie Grossman, Houston Astros
Last season, the Pirates shipped a trio of players to Houston for left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, and outfielder Robbie Grossman was among them.
The 23-year-old hit .266/.376/.410 with 10 home runs and 13 steals in Double-A last season. After spending the first 19 games of the season in Triple-A, he earned a call-up to Houston.
He entered the season as the team's No. 17 prospect according to Baseball America, and he has quickly taken over as the team's everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter. His average isn't great, but he's shown solid plate discipline and he'll likely get a long look this year.
Starting Pitcher: Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals
A big reason why the Cardinals were willing to let Kyle Lohse walk in free agency was the fact that Shelby Miller was ready to step into a rotation spot.
He has been the team's top pitching prospect since the team selected him with the No. 19 pick in the 2009 draft, and he looked great in a six-game audition last season, allowing just two runs and striking out 16 in 13.2 innings of work.
Despite that strong showing, and his vast potential, it's safe to say that few expected the 22-year-old to be as good as he has been this season. Not only is he the front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year, but he's a legitimate Cy Young-candidate at this point.
Starting Pitcher: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
This signing of Zack Greinke stole the headlines, but the Dodgers also spent big to sign Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, giving him a six-year, $36 million deal.
The 26-year-old was dominant over the past seven seasons pitching for the Hanwha Eagles, but there is always a question as to how smoothly a foreign import will make the transition to the MLB game.
So far, Ryu has been fantastic, stepping up as the team's No. 2 starter with Greinke on the shelf. The team as a whole is struggling, but he has been a clear bright spot and a steal at just $3.3 million this season.
Starting Pitcher: Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
After going 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA and reaching High-A in his first pro season, Jose Fernandez entered 2013 as the No. 5 prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America.
Expected to be a future ace, the Marlins had no intention of starting the season with Fernandez in the rotation. However, injuries to Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi at the end of spring opened up a pair of rotation spots and the Marlins opted to give one of them to the 20-year-old.
The Marlins have been careful not to over-extend him, keeping him around 80 pitches each start, but all signs point to him spending the rest of the season in the rebuilding Marlins rotation.
Starting Pitcher: Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati Reds
Left-hander Tony Cingrani emerged from relative obscurity last season to go 10-4 with a 1.73 ERA and 10.6 K/9 between High-A and Double-A in what was his first pro season.
He earned a late-season call-up, making three relief appearances and allowing four hits and one run with nine strikeouts in five innings of work. Despite that success, he opened the season in the minors with no open rotation spot in Cincinnati.
However, an injury to Johnny Cueto opened up a spot, and Cingrani was the obvious choice after he allowed just three hits and no runs in 14.1 innings of work in Triple-A while striking out 26. He's continued that dominance here in the early going, and looks to have locked up a rotation spot for the remainder of the season.
Starting Pitcher: Nick Tepesch, Texas Rangers
When top pitching prospect Martin Perez took a line drive off his left forearm and fractured his ulna this spring, it opened up the No. 5 spot in the Rangers rotation.
Derek Lowe was signed to compete for the job, but in the end it was Nick Tepesch who emerged with the job, and he has more than held his own over his first seven big league starts.
The 24-year-old went 11-6 with a 3.67 ERA between High-A and Double-A last season, but the former 14th-round pick was not viewed as much more than organizational depth, entering the season as the team's No. 19 prospect, according to Baseball America's Prospect Handbook.
Closer: Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers
Late last season, the Brewers turned to Jim Henderson when incumbent closer John Axford faltered, and he saved three games with a 3.52 ERA over 36 games.
The Brewers went with Axford again as the closer to open the season, but it didn't take long for him to lose the job this time around, and it was again Henderson who got the call.
Not only has he been the best rookie closer in the league, but he's been one of the best closers in baseball period. He's yet to blow a save, and has allowed just 13 base runners in 17 innings of work. He's far from a prospect at 30 years old, but he's a solid short-term answer if nothing else.