MLB Power Rankings: 20 Players To Keep Your Eye On in 2011
With only a couple of weeks until pitchers and catchers report, and only a month until Spring Training begins, teams are making the final modifications to their rosters and are getting ready to make an impact in 2011. Whether it's looking for a World Series ring or helping young players gain major league experience, each team has their eye set on something this season.
Every team has a group of players that can make a huge impact in a given season. We know most of them, but others are under the radar. After all, no one knew who Jose Bautista was until 2010. Who are people that could make an impact, and are therefore people to watch? Here are 20.
I tried to limit this to people that have not made an impact at the major league level, with the exception of rookies who went under the radar because of how good Buster Posey and company were in 2010.
20. Richard De Los Santos, Pitcher, Tampa Bay Rays
Unfortunately for this pitcher, he is the one on this list who may end up not seeing playing time in 2011, since the Rays' starting rotation is pretty much set. Nonetheless, he had a great 2010 season with the AAA Durham Bulls. He went 14-5 with a 3.52 ERA, pitching nearly 150 innings.
He seems ready to be a starter and make an impact at the major league level, but can the 26-year-old make it into the rotation and pass a prospect who the Rays are touting as their next great pitcher?
Hopefully, he can pull that off. If nothing else, he could join a bullpen sorely in need of some arms.
19. Brandon Dickson, Pitcher, St. Louis Cardinals
Dickson is another person who may not make the roster because of a solid rotation, though like Santos above, he could find his way into the bullpen. In 2009, Dickson had an 8-10 record but a 3.78 in AA Springfield, then improved in 2010 for the AAA Memphis Redbirds, going 11-8 with a 3.23 ERA.
Combine that with a strikeout total that's been increasing every year, and Dickson could be a great possibility to add to the end of a starting rotation. He's certainly earned a chance.
18. Peter Bourjos, Outfielder, Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim
The first on the list to have major league experience, Bourjos played 51 games for the Angels in 2010. While he was great defensive and has shown he has the speed for the majors, he was lackluster offensively.
In the minors, however, Bourjos hit .314 in 2010, and had 10+ triples three straight years. I expect to see a vastly improved player in 2011, as do the Angels.
17. Barbaro Canizares, First Baseman, Atlanta Braves
Canizares has one major flaw that could prevent a big debut; the Braves are concentrating on Freddie Freeman, who plays the same position and appears further on. If he wants to make a major league roster, he'll have to move to another team.
It's too bad the Braves couldn't stick him in because he was amazing in the minors. With the Gwinnett Braves in 2010, Canizares hit .341 with only 54 strikeouts in nearly 500 plate appearances. He's clearly been dominating minor league pitching, so hopefully he gets an opportunity to face major league pitching beyond five games in 2009.
16. Jeff Samardzija, Pitcher, Chicago Cubs
This will be a make-or-break year for Samardzija. So far, in three major league seasons, he's proven himself to be the definition of a Quadruple-A player; he can dominate minor league hitters, but can't seem to pitch effectively in the majors.
He went 11-3 this past season for the Iowa Cubs, which was easily his best minor league season, so maybe there's still hope for the former Notre Dame star.
15. Logan Morrison, Left Fielder, Florida Marlins
With all the talk of Mike Stanton and Gaby Sanchez making an impact in Florida, Logan Morrison seems to have slid under the radar. Part of this could be because he's a natural first baseman, and since Sanchez has that locked down, he's playing his secondary position at left field.
He played in 62 games last year and put up decent stats, yet the Marlins are hoping for the Kevin Youkilis-like stats he was putting up in the minors; hitting .300 while having 48 walks to 35 strikeouts, resulting in his .OBP being over .400. The Marlins look to have a great team looking ahead to 2012-13, and this year will start to see the main hitters mesh.
14. Alex White, Pitcher, Cleveland Indians
While Carlos Santana is the big name who made his debut in 2010, and Lonnie Chisenhall is the big name who should debut in 2012, Alex White has flown under the radar as a result. With little effort, White could be the Indians' most successful draft pick of the 2000s; that "honor" currently belongs to Orioles' workhorse Jeremy Guthrie.
In White's first full minor league season, he had an 8-7 record with a 2.28 ERA at AA Akron. He'll start the season in Columbus and I could easily see him making an impact this year, seeing as how the Indians could use some rotation help.
13. Michael Kirkman, Pitcher, Texas Rangers
The 23-year-old already has World Series experience, yet could make an impact even if he ends up not being a starter. He went 13-3 for AAA Oklahoma City with a 3.09 ERA, so the Texas Rangers brought him up in August.
He was put in the bullpen and was a key piece down the stretch, pitching in 14 games and finishing with a 1.65 ERA, striking out a batter an inning. He'll be a pitcher to watch whether he's in the rotation or bullpen.
12. Travis Wood, Pitcher, Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati Reds fans already know this guy's name, as he has found a spot in Cincy's starting rotation. In 17 starts, Wood went 5-4 with a 3.51 ERA, and has already shown great promise. Now that he will be adding to an already young rotation, I expect great things from Cincinnati's latest find.
11. Freddie Freeman, First Baseman, Atlanta Braves
Last year, the Atlanta Braves and MLB hyped up Jason Heyward big time before he even made a splash. He ended up answering the hype, finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting. This year, the same is being done with Freddie Freeman, who had a great year in the minors in 2010. We'll see if he can continue the trend Heyward started.
10. Daniel Hudson, Pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks
I wonder if the Chicago White Sox already regret sending Hudson over to Arizona. Since his arrival in 2010, Hudson has a 7-1 record with a 1.69 ERA in 11 starts, yet somehow he ends up mostly under the radar outside of Arizona and my articles.
In 17 starts with the Chicago White Sox' AAA team, the Charlotte Knights, Hudson went 11-4 with a 3.47 ERA, so they had to have known he could be big in the majors. No question that he'll have a great 2011.
9. Jesus Feliciano, Outfielder, New York Mets
The last of the 30+ guys on the list, Jesus Feliciano was lighting it up in the minors when he finally joined the Mets' roster in 2010. In four seasons at AAA, he hit over .300 each year including .339 in 2010. He also went the 2010 season without making an error in the outfield at AAA.
While it's tough to see where he'll fit in on the Mets right now, there are a lot of options for this guy, and if given the opportunity he could shine.
8. Jorge Vazquez, First Baseman, New York Yankees
If Vazquez could play 100 games in a season, he would have likely already made a major league roster. This past season in AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was probably the worst of his minor league career, as he only hit 18 home runs and 62 RBI in 76 games, while hitting .270. Yes, only.
There's a lot of power in Vazquez's bat, and if the Yankees can find some room on their roster for him, it would make a powerful lineup even more so.
7. Jose Tabata, Left Fielder, Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates have a truckload of pitching talent that will likely see a Sept. 2011 or 2012 debut and get them on the right track. Until then, they have great prospects in the lineup making their debuts. Andrew McCutchen has turned into a star for them, and Jose Tabata is doing the same.
In 102 games so far, Tabata hit .299, and is looking to play similarly to how he was in the minors. While he may not be a superstar, he could be a productive leadoff hitter to get the ball rolling. We won't hear much of him in 2011, but that will be because he's on the Pirates.
6. Wilson Ramos, Catcher, Washington Nationals
Wilson Ramos has been a highly-touted catching prospect, up there with Carlos Santana and another who will be seen later in the countdown.
His minor league stats aren't as eye-catching as most of the others, but he's great behind the plate, catching 50 percent of people stealing in 2010. Ramos pairing up with Strasburg et al could make Washington great for many years.
5. Tyler Graham, Outfielder, San Francisco Giants
With the struggles the Giants had at outfield after Aaron Rowand and Nate Schierholtz could not get anything done, the Giants might have their answer for a replacement at AAA Fresno. For a decent amount of 2010, Tyler Graham was flirting with a .400 batting average.
Yes, .400. He ended the season with a .343 average, and if the Giants are smart, they'll find a way to get him onto the major league roster in 2011, even if it's just as a fourth outfielder.
4. Dustin Ackley, Second Baseman, Seattle Mariners
The Mariners are going to bring up Ackley in 2011, no question about that. Although he hit .274 in AAA this past season, he's got a huge amount of potential, and Seattle wants to see how he can do against major league talent.
He was the No. 2 pick in the 2009 draft, so he could end up having a fantastic rookie season for a team that really needs someone who can kind of hit in the infield.
3. Jesus Montero, Catcher, New York Yankees
For all the talk about how the Yankees buy all their talent, they actually have a couple great prospects hidden in the farm system. Jesus Montero is arguably the best of the bunch for the Yankees. He continues to improve each year in the minors, and had a very good year for AAA in 2010.
Add in the fact that he's only 20, and his arrival in the majors could be one of the biggest, as the Yankees will already have their successor to Jorge Posada.
2. Jeremy Hellickson, Pitcher, Tampa Bay Rays
Everyone in Tampa Bay and elsewhere has been talking about this prospect, and for good reason. He broke out and had a great 2010 in Durham, going 12-3 with a 2.45 ERA and 123 strikeouts, then moved up to the major league roster.
In 10 games for the Rays, four starts, he's 4-0 so far in his major league career. With Matt Garza gone, Hellickson will have to step up, and I expect him to; he's got all the stuff to be a great one-two punch alongside David Price.
1. Mike Moustakas, Third Baseman, Kansas City Royals
The Royals have a lot of young guys that they're hoping can make an impact. The biggest one they have is third baseman Mike Moustakas, who many have as an early favorite for a Rookie of the Year Award alongside Hellickson.
In 118 games at AA and AAA in 2010, Moustakas had a .322 average, 36 home runs, 124 RBI and had a much better fielding percentage once he jumped to AAA. Needless to say, he's ready for an opportunity to show what he can do.