Last season, a number of talented young players busted out and had a huge impact on the major leagues.
Justin Upton developed into the league’s next big star.
Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and Jonathan Broxton helped lead the Dodgers to the playoffs.
Pablo Sandoval emerged as one of the game’s brightest and most likable young talents.
Adam Lind gave the fans in Toronto something to cheer about.
Additionally, 2009 marked the emergence of other young stars like Wandy Rodriguez, Ben Zobrist, and Billy Butler to name a few.
So, who are the names to know in 2010? Take a look to find out.
The A’s young closer is quickly emerging as one of the league’s better closers. The reigning AL Rookie of the Year posted 26 saves last season while keeping his ERA at a minuscule 1.84 and his WHIP at a phenomenal 0.88.
The A’s aren’t likely to be very good in 2010, but don’t think Bailey won’t get a lot of saves opportunities. The young A’s pitching staff will keep them in a lot of games, and the games they do win are likely to be close. Expect Bailey to close out 35-40 games in 2010.
A few years down the road, Bailey is likely to be one of the league’s elite stoppers. He started his minor league career as a starter, but the A’s are likely to keep him in the closer position long term after his 2009 success.
What’s most impressive about Gonzalez’s 2009 stat line is that he hit just .236 in his first 106 at bats, before turning it on and hitting .314 over his final 172 at bats.
Gonzalez, the prize of the Matt Holliday trade, finished the 2009 season at .284 with 13 home runs and 16 stolen bases in only 278 at bats.
The Rockies have too many quality options in the outfield, which may suggest that the lefty swinging Gonzalez is headed for a platoon, but Gonzalez hits lefties nearly as well as righties.
The bottom line is that he is just too talented to sit on the bench, and a season of 25 home runs and 25 stolen bases is not out of the question for 2010.
In time, Gonzalez will emerge as one of the league’s premier power/speed threats. I like his chances to one day join the 30/30 club, and he has the potential to post MVP quality seasons.
David Price, Jeff Niemann, and Wade Davis
I am counting these three young Rays starters as one, and all show a world of promise.
Price is the phenom we remember from a couple of years back during the Rays’ World Series run; Niemann is the big righty who led Rice to a college baseball championship; and Davis is the less-heralded youngster who may actually end up being the best of the three.
Price’s impact on the Rays down the stretch and in the playoffs during their 2008 World Series run has been well documented. This season, the Rays are ready to fully unleash Price after a year of seasoning, and the sky is the limit.
By some accounts, Niemann has been a disappointment. Out of college, he was touted as an elite prospect, but never posted fantastic minor league numbers.
However, his 2009 season, in which he posted a 3.95 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP, showed a ton of promise, and the talent within is starting to come to the surface.
Davis entered the Rays system with a lot less buzz than Price and Niemann, but quickly made a name for himself.
He has five excellent minor league seasons behind him, and is ready to make an impact at the big league level. He has a very good chance to be the 2010 AL Rookie of the Year.
McCutchen got the call after the Pirates dealt Nate McLouth to Atlanta and never looked back. In 433 at bats, he hit .286, scored 74 runs, slugged 12 home runs, collected 54 RBI, and stole 22 bases. That’s pretty incredible for a 22-year old.
McCutchen could very well bust out in a huge way in 2010. The Pirates won’t be good, but McCutchen will hit at the top of the order, meaning he will score his share of runs.
He could steal 30 bases in his sleep, and could easily pop 15 long balls. He walks enough, but will have to cut down on his strikeouts to maintain an average around his 2009 total.
McCutchen’s longterm outlook depends on how his power develops. He definitely has the potential to develop into a 25-home run or more guy, but power potential is hard to project out. At worse, he’s a .285, 100 run, 15 home run, 75 RBI, 40 stolen base guy in his prime.
Before the 2009 season, Wieters was all but given the AL Rookie of the Year award, and the title of the league’s next big star. Things didn’t exactly go as planned. Sure, Wieters hit .288 and collected 9 home runs in 354 at bats, but he fell far short of expectations.
So is Wieters a bust? Not even close. He was 22 years old at the start of the 2009 season, and he just wasn’t quite ready yet. With another year of time to develop, Wieters is ready for a monster 2010, even if it is a year late.
Five years from now, Matt Wieters may be the best catcher in baseball not named Joe Mauer. He has 30-plus home run potential, and could easily develop into the Mike Piazza of this generation.
Rasmus had a very good rookie season for the Cards in 2009. He finished with a poor .251 average, mainly because he struggled against lefties.
However, the Cards are committed to letting him play every day, which will give him the opportunities he needs to figure out southpaws. In 474 at bats last season, he scored 72 runs, hit 16 home runs, and drove in 52 runs.
Rasmus’s average probably won’t jump drastically as he continues to work on hitting lefties, but he should score a ton of runs hitting in front of Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. His power should continue to develop, and we should see him steal more bases in his sophomore season.
The former Little League World Series participant has a world of talent. Assuming he becomes at least adequate against lefties, he has the potential to post numbers around .280, 100 R, 25 HR, 80 RBI, 20 SB.
Like many rookie starters, Anderson did not have a spectacular first big league season. He won 11 games, posted a 4.08 ERA, collected 150 strikeouts, and had an 1.28 WHIP.
While that is a solid stat line, it’s not reflective of the ace in the making that the A’s believe they have in Anderson.
Like many second year starters, Anderson is likely to take a huge step in 2010. At only 22, Anderson seems likely to win 15 games this season, while posting an ERA below 3.50 and striking out 175.
Anderson is a few years away from reaching his potential, but when he does, watch out. He could easily become one of the big league’s best starters, and compete for Cy Young awards year in and year out.
Reimold made his big league debut at 25 in 2009. While he may have been later to the party than some of the others on this list, he proved to be a tremendous talent. He collected 15 home runs in 358 at bats, and posted a .279 average.
The Orioles will play Reimold every day in 2010, which should give us a great idea of what the young man is really capable of. He is likely to get 500 plus at bats, slug 20 plus home runs, and could steal double-digit bases.
At 6’4” and 205 pounds, Reimold has the size and strength to develop into a 30 plus homerun per season guy. He is likely to perennially drive in 100 runs, and is surprisingly fleet-footed for a big guy.
Hanson may not have been the NL Rookie of the Year in 2009, but he was certainly the league’s most impressive rookie.
In 21 starts he went 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA, 116 strikeouts, and a 1.18 WHIP. Incredible numbers for a guy who was 22 years old for the majority of the season.
Hanson will get a full season’s worth of starts and emerge as a true ace in 2010. The Braves could be a lot better than people think, and Hanson could win as many as 18 games, and post an ERA around 3.00. A jump in strikeouts is also likely.
Sooner than later, Hanson will be one of the league’s best starters. He has all the tools to be a perennial Cy Young candidate, and will carry on the tradition that Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine started in Atlanta.
Beckham may be the most talented guy on this list, and may possess the most long-term upside. He showed signs of what’s to come in 2009 when he batted .270 with 58 runs, 14 home runs, 63 RBI, and 7 stolen bases in 378 at bats.
A huge step forward is in line for Beckham in 2010. At 23, he could easily emerge as an one of the league’s premier second basemen, the position he’ll play in 2010 after spending 2009 at third base.
Don’t be surprised if he hits .280 with 90 runs, 25 home runs, 90 RBI, and double digit steals in 2010.
Long term, the sky is the limit. He could hit for an average well over .300 and hit 30 plus home runs year after year. Five years from now, he may to second base what Chase Utley is to second base today.
Check out my five impact rookies for the 2010 season here!