Behold the Amazing MLB Rookie Class of 2010
Back in 2001, the first "article" I ever wrote about baseball was an amateurish ditty comparing the 2001 rookie class to a great rookie class of a generation ago, the 1986 rookie class.
I am reminded of that article in 2010 as an endless stream of amazingly talented can't-miss prospects spills into Major League Baseball.
It is starting to look like both the 1986 rookie class and the 2001 rookie class are going to pale in comparison to the amazing class we're starting to put together here in 2010.
Sadly, for the first time (and unlike in 1986 or 2001) I am now significantly older than these guys, so much so as to justify referring to them as "youngsters," and to say things like, "We didn't have kids this talented in my day."
Catcher: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
The owner of a 21-game hitting streak before he'd even played 60 major league games, the 23-year-old Buster Posey is hitting like Mike Piazza while being tasked with handling one of the best young pitching staffs in the league.
The Giants have so much faith in this guy that they jettisoned Bengie Molina for him. Molina was struggling this season, but tossing aside a Flying Molina Brother is not something teams do lightly.
Runner Up: Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians
First Base: Ike Davis, New York Mets
After being drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft, the Mets fast-tracked Ike Davis to the majors.
In his first-ever major league action, he has been asked to replace Carlos Delgado at first base and play a run-producing role in a lineup that is challenged on a daily basis by playing in an extreme pitchers' park.
Davis has responded, and is currently second on the team in home runs and RBI.
Runner Up: Gaby Sanchez, Florida Marlins
Second Base: Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates
A first-round pick of the Pirates in 2004, Neil Walker has taken the long way to the majors. Nevertheless, in 51 games for Pittsburgh he is hitting .304 with an OPS over .800.
Honorable Mention: Scott Sizemore, Detroit Tigers.
Third Base: David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals
A light hitter without a lot of pop, David Freese has solidified third base defensively for the St. Louis Cardinals while also hitting .296 with a .361 OBP.
Already 27 years old, Freese has shown power in the minors, hitting 26 home runs in Triple-A in 2008.
Given the chance to continue to mature at the major league level, he could get his power numbers back up, especially with his 6'2", 220-pound frame.
Honorable Mention: Danny Valencia, Minnesota Twins
Shortstop: Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
Starlin Castro has burst onto the scene for the Chicago Cubs, and with Ryan Theriot being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers it appears that Castro is here to stay.
Currently hitting .305, Castro has been a good hitter but has been error-prone in the field early on in his career.
The Cubs and their scouts promise that Castro hits like Tejada and fields like Vizquel.
Left Field; Brennan Boesch, Detroit Tigers
The 6'4" Detroit Tigers outfielder got off to a smoking start before slowing down of late.
Nevertheless, Boesch is still hitting .295 with an OPS over .850, and through 81 games has 12 home runs and 51 RBI.
If he's going to stick around, though, he'll have to improve upon his .750 road OPS.
Center Field: Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers
Austin Jackson was meant to be a consolation prize for losing Curtis Granderson to the Yankees.
He wasn't supposed to play in 2010, he wasn't supposed to hit .310 with 26 doubles, 61 runs scored, and a league leading seven triples, and he certainly wasn't supposed to outplay Granderson.
He has done all of these things.
Right Field: Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
Has Jason Heyward been overhyped? Sure. Was voting him into the 2010 All-Star Game premature? Of course.
Has the J-Hey Kid shown maturity on the field, patience at the plate, and an ability to flash all five tools at will?
Reserve OF: Tyler Colvin, Chicago Cubs
Of Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Kosuke Fukudome, guess which player is currently second on the Chicago Cubs in OPS, OPS+, and home runs.
The answer: none of them.
Tyler Colvin is currently second in all of those categories on the Cubs.
Reserve OF: Domonic Brown, Philadelphia Phillies
In his long awaited major league debut, Domonic Brown went 2-for-3 with a double, two runs and two RBI.
And the outfielder who many considered the top prospect in the minor leagues in 2010 also looked like he could hold down right field for the Philadelphia Phillies for the next 20 years.
Reserve OF: Mike Stanton, Florida Marlins
Put aside his .231 batting average and .299 on-base percentage. Mike Stanton has been a stud in the minor leagues and will be a stud again someday at the major league level.
Excited by his 21 home runs in 53 games at Double-A Jacksonville, the Marlins brought the 20 year old straight to majors. This was perhaps a bit premature, but all Stanton needs is time.
Starting Pitcher: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
Currently enduring his first stint on the disabled list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder, the Washington Nationals phenom is now 5-2 with a 2.32 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 54.1 innings pitched.
It is difficult to find words to describe what he has done to this point, from his 14 strikeouts in his major league debut to his 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings to his 100 mph fastball.
Of course, U.S. Senator and Baseball Hall of Famer Jim Bunning wasn't at a loss for words when Strasburg was scratched from his start last week when the inflammation in his shoulder was discovered.
"Five-hundred twenty starts, I never refused the ball," Bunning told the Politico website. "What a joke!"
Starting Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants first round pick in 2007 pitched 10 good innings in 2009, but in 2010 the 20-year-old (!) has established himself as a force in the Giants rotation.
Oddly, and uniquely amongst Giants pitchers, Bumgarner has actually performed better on the road (4-1, 1.87 ERA) than at home this season (0-2, 4.85 ERA). If he can continue that sort of performance, he'll be lethal.
Starting Pitcher: Mike Leake, Cincinnati Reds
The hype around Leake has died down, but at the end of July he is still the second-best pitcher on the Reds staff behind Johnny Cueto, and he still hasn't pitched a single inning in the minor leagues.
Starting Pitcher: Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals
Jaime Garcia is a testament to what an incredible year 2010 has been for rookies. He might be having the quietest 9-4, 2.33 ERA season ever.
His peripherals aren't great, and most of his success has come at home (1.46/3.12 ERA split).
Nevertheless, Garcia doesn't give up lots of hits, doesn't allow many home runs, and has continued to win.
Starting Pitcher: Mitch Talbot, Cleveland Indians
Mitch Talbot was drafted by the Houston Astros in 2002, back when they were in annual contention for the NL Central division title and/or the NL Wild Card.
He then got traded to the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays at a time when they were starting to make their transition into a great baseball team.
By the time he finally becomes a full-time major leaguer, Talbot is stuck on a bad Cleveland Indians team.
But Talbot is probably just happy to get the chance to be a major league regular; he was only ninth on the Rays starting pitcher depth chart as recently as 2008.
Relief Pitcher: Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers
In his first full major league season, the 22-year-old Texas Rangers closer is leading the American League in saves and is striking out over a batter per inning.
Feliz's road ERA is 1.45, compared with an ERA over 5.00 at home, which tells you both just how good he is and how hard it is for a pitcher to succeed at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Feliz is one of the big reasons why the Rangers have the AL West all but locked up on Aug. 1.
Relief Pitcher: Drew Storen, Washington Nationals
Drew Storen is the "oh by the way" for the Washington Nationals pitching staff in 2010.
The 22-year-old was taken with the 10th overall pick in 2009, nine picks after Stephen Strasburg, and has a 3-2 record with a 2.61 ERA in 30 appearances in this his rookie season.
When the Nationals traded closer Matt Capps to the Minnesota Twins before the deadline, the message was clear: Washington has its closer of the future.