As teams across Major League Baseball panicked at the thought of a slumping economy, the 2009 MLB season started off crazy before Spring Training had even began.
It started with free agency seeing talented players in their prime like Orlando Hudson and Juan Cruz go unsigned well into February because teams didn’t want to forfeit a first-round draft pick.
It saw proven veterans like Pedro Martinez and Paul Byrd sit without suitors despite teams in desperate need of pitching.
It has seen Raul Ibanez lead the league in home runs and a pitcher from Kansas City record an ERA under 1.00 almost two full months into the season.
But most importantly, it’s seen the next wave of superstars break into the league.
This season nearly two dozen of Project Prospect’s Top 200 prospects have made their major league debut, with about 50 of those 200 seeing time at the major league level.
“Can’t miss” prospects like Matt Wieters (Baltimore), Matt LaPorta (Cleveland), and Fernando Martinez (New York Mets) have debuted as the season as progressed.
Others, like Colby Rasmus (St. Louis) and Rick Porcello (Detroit) cracked the Opening Day rosters of their respective clubs.
Some still turned a cup of coffee in 2008 into at least a part time gig in 2009, including Dexter Fowler (Colorado) and Taylor Teagarden (Texas).
However, the place where the most prospects are popping up is the starting roation.
The Nationals are throwing four rookies in their rotation right now—including top prospect Jordan Zimmerman.
Oakland started the season out with their top two prospects—Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill—in their starting rotation, and have also used Josh Outman there, along with Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey out of the bullpen.
While some of these arms like Porcello, Zimmerman, Anderson and Cahill started out in the rotations, that hasn’t been the case for them all.
Some, like David Price (Tampa Bay) and Brett Cecil (Toronto) had to start out the year in Triple-A.
Others still, like Derek Holland (Texas) got acclimated to the big leagues out of the bullpen before cracking the rotation.
The question as to why this explosion is occurring has a different answer depending on who you talk to.
Many will simply blame it on the economy.
And while I do believe that teams are choosing to go with cheaper, younger talent rather than sign pricey veterans on the downside of their careers (and wisely so), I don’t think that is the whole story.
We are seeing a major movement in baseball right now where there is an abundance of incredible talent.
Talent that is not just physically capable, but also mentally poised to handle playing in the big leagues.
Prepare yourselves baseball fans.
This is only the beginning of a long ride.
They won’t all make it, but the face of baseball is changing.
And right now, that’s just what baseball needs.
This article, along with the rest of my articles in 2009, are dedicated to the memory of my good friend and Philadelphia Phan, Craig Anderson, who passed away on Feb. 3, 2009 from complications due to cancer. To donate to a great cause, visit www.cancer.org.