Young players, whether they be mid-season call-ups or rookies who make the team out of spring training, tend to have a massive impact on their team's success.
From players like Buster Posey and Jason Heyward to Neftali Feliz, more and more are young stars expected to produce immediately upon their arrival in the majors.
Let's take a look at who we can expect to have some of the biggest impacts on their team's success in the 2011 season...
Adam Jones (CF) and Matt Wieters (C) are the cornerstone pieces to the Baltimore Orioles franchise. Both of them are young, play important positions on defense, and have a lot to offer via offense.
In 2011, I wouldn't be surprised to see Jones hit 25+ HRs with 90+ RBIs. With all the new offensive firepower the Orioles signed with offseason (Vlad Guerrero, Mark Reynolds, Derek Lee), Jones will have a lot of protection and chances to drive in runners. His patrolling centerfield and becoming a bigger offensive force in vital if the Orioles plan on competing this or any season in the near future.
Wieters, position is even more important than Jones' because he not only controls opposing base runners but he controls the team's pitching staff. In terms of Wieter's offense, signs for a breakout year may lay in his 2010 second half contact percent. If those trends continue 20 HRs is not an unreasonable expectation.
The Red Sox are loaded with talent, especially after the additions they made this offseason, but no player may be feeling more pressure than Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
As the full time catcher for the high-powered Red Sox's rotation Saltalamacchia's responsibility will ultimately begin and end of defense. Any offense they get from him will be considered a bonus because his real job is to handle the pitching staff.
As the Giants showed us in 2010, pitching is the most important part of a baseball team and without a solid backstop calling the game the staff will not as effective.
Saltalamacchia's importance will not show in his own stats but rather the stats of his pitchers and how he handels them over the course of the season. Will it require more than this season for him to settle in with the Red Sox's pitchers or will he be he next Posey-Giants rotation and gel almost instantly?
The answer to that may be the deciding factor in how well the Red Sox do in 2011.
With Sabathia coming off surgery, Cliff Lee going to the Phillies, and Andy Pettitte retiring the New York Yankees' rotation is certainly weaker than most of their fans would like to have imagined going into the 2011 season. Thus, it is more important than ever for Phil Hughes to have a solid year in 2011.
Hughes started off really well but seemed to tire as the season went on. Even given some time off at the end of the season didn't seem to help restore his energy. After throwing a career higher 176 IP, Hughes has a major season ahead of him.
Will he rebound and become the 1A or number 2 of the Yankee rotation or will the IPs from 2010 continue to haunt him and send the Yankees' rotation deeper into a hole?
If the Yankees want to compete for a spot in the playoffs they will need Hughes to have a strong 2011.
The Tampa Bay Rays have a lot of young talent (Evan Longoria, David Price, etc.) but all eyes will be on their superstar prospect Jeremy Hellickson.
If Hellickson can live up to expectations, the Rays may have one of the most powerful 1-2 punches at the top of the rotation in the American League. Hellickson has the ability to be dominant with his only downside being his HR/9 ratio.
I think as he pitches more and more we'll see that HR/9 number drop and he may be competing for the 2011 Rookie of the Year.
As with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Toronto Blue Jay's big prospect is a starting pitcher. Kyle Drabek will be the player getting most of the attention on the Blue Jays in 2011.
Drabek is the Blue Jay's big prospect and Toronto fans and executives have high hopes for this pitcher. A groundball pitcher, Drabek will rely on his infielders making plays to get the opposing hitters out.
Choosing a player for the Chicago White Sox came down to two choices for me: Gordon Beckham or John Danks. Ultimately, I decided on Gordon Beckham because we've seen Danks perform consistently over the last few season; Beckham, on the other hand has not.
2010 was a tale of two seasons for Beckham. In the first half of the season he hit .206 with a .264 OBP and only 2 HRs; in the second half of the season Beckham hit .316 with a .373 OBP and 7 HRs (the second half was shortened by an injury).
Although you cannot completely throw out the poor first half Beckham had, his second half stats show there is a lot to like about him and a lot of potential there. A complete year like the 2nd half of 2010 and the White Sox may be looking at Beckham hitting 25+ HRs for them in 2011.
The Cleveland Indians' catcher, Carlos Santana, is a superstar in the making. Great on both the offensive and defensive sides of the game, Satana can do it all; and, being in one of the most important positions -catcher, Santana has a huge impact on the outcome of the game.
Unfortunately, Sanata's fantastic debut was cut short by a knee injury but, if healthy, he's going to be a tough opponent for pitchers as he is known for his patience and power to all fields. A .300 BA with 20+ HRs is not far fetched for his 2011 season...and certainly not for a few seasons down the road.
For me, the Detroit Tigers' success in 2011 hinges on two people: their younger catcher Alex Avila and their number two starter Rick Porcello.
Aside from the obvious importance of being the catcher and having to handle the pitching staff, Avila is an interesting player on the offensive side of baseball. He has good patience but a mediocre contact rate; with that said, however, his hard hit rate of 38% is quite high. This may provide a boast in the amount of HRs he hits in 2011...perhaps he can hit 15-20?
Rick Porcello, the number two pitcher for the Tigers, figured things out in the second half of the 2010 season and showed his real potential. If that continues, he's going to have an excellent 2011 season and with Verlander and Scherzer in the rotation as well the Tigers will have a very formidable rotation.
If Porcello and Avila perform well in 2011 don't be surprised to see the Tigers go deep into the playoffs this upcoming season.
The Kansas City Royals' designated hitter, Billy Butler, is a solid hitter and at a young age of only 24 he has many good seasons ahead of him.
Butler profiles as a hitter with a .300 BA, good patience, and moderate power. While this won't be enough to carry the Royals' offense on his own, expect Butler to put up a typical Butler season and for teams to keep asking about his availability.
Delmon Young had a breakout year in 2010 posting a .298 BA, with 21 HRs and 112 RBIs. Expect this to continue, if not improve in 2011.
The Twins will be vying for the AL Central title this year and if Delmon Young produces like this they will certainly make a good run at it. If Young is able to produce like he did in 2010 then it will take pressure off of Morneau, who is coming of a concussion that ended his season in 2010.
Since Young is only 25 I expect to see him improve on last year and a .300 BA with 30 HRs in 2011 would not surprise me.
Bourjos is the owner of elite speed but his failure to get on base is a big concern for the Los Angeles of Anaheim. Having a guy who can steal bases like he can is always a valuable asset but, if he can't get on base, his value is only as a defensive replacement/pinch runner.
With a .245 BA and a .273 OBP in 2010 his speed/defensive might be the only thing keeping him in the majors. Of course, Bourjos is a young player so, if he is given the chance, he may develop into a better hitter but the Angels will need that to happen sooner than later if they want to compete.
Oakland Athletics' starting pitcher Brett Anderson's biggest issue is his health. He suffered an elbow injury in 2010 but, if healthy, he is a solid pitcher.
Given his great command and ability to get groundballs Anderson has the ability to lead the Athletics rotation in 2011 and, if healthy, I'm betting he will. But can he stay healthy?
If you're one of the best pitcher in baseball chances are you'll probably be the biggest impact player on your team. 24 year old Felix Hernandez is a superstar; plain and simple.
The only concern I have for him is has no pitched 3 consecutive seasons of 200+ IPs with last season being 250. That's a lot! Hopefully the Mariners aren't burning out their young stud because he has a bright future ahead of him if he can stay healthy.
It'll be tough to outdo his 2010 campaign (2.27 ERA with a 1.06 WHIP) but he should be one of the best in the AL nonetheless.
The question for the Texas Rangers this spring training will be what to do with pitcher Neftali Feliz. Some in their organization want to make him a starter while other want to keep him as a closer. If you look at the stats, it's not real question, he should be kept as a closer.
Feliz was dominant in 2010 and should be again in 2011. With that said, I wouldn't be surprised to see a little rise in his WHIP and ERA as his high flyball percentage, in Arlington, will lead to more HRs.
If the Rangers want to repeat and get back to the World Series they will need Feliz closing games as effectively as he did in 2010. He should be up to the task...
The Atlanta Braves had too much talent under 25, I couldn't pick one of them; heck, I couldn't even pick two.
Jason Heyward we all know from his fantastic debut in the 2010 season. His continuation of his success in 2010 will be an important part of the Braves offense in 2011.
Freddie Freeman, the rookie making his debut this season, will have a tough task of helping provide some spark to the Braves offense. With Chipper Jones likely to be a non-factor, Freeman will have to combine with Heyward to produce most of the Braves runs (of course there are other solid hitters on the team to do this as well).
Craig Kimbrel will be called upon to close games in 2011 and if 2010 is an indication of what he is capable of this shouldn't be a problem.
If these three guys can perform well then the Braves may be competing in the playoffs this season. With a young core like this their future definitely looks bright.
Much like the Atlanta Braves, I couldn't reduce the list of young impact players for the Florida Marlins. With Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco getting locked up this offseason, the Marlins future, much like the Braves, looks bright.
The Marlins outfield is filled with young talent that are all potential superstars.
Chris Coghlan had a rough second year in the majors after his 2009 ROY award, but I'll chalk that up to the sophomore slump; I expect to see him hitting around .300 with a .360 OBP in 2011.
Logan Morrison got to see a little major league time at the end of the last season but he didn't show off all he can do. Morrison is a guy with excellent plate discipline, a lot of power, and the ability to drive the ball into the outfield gaps. Since he is young his power may be more doubles than HR power right now but that'll change as he gets older. At only 23 years old, he's got a lot of time to develop still.
Mike Stanton...21 years old...maybe a star already? After only one season in the majors it may be a bit early to put that tag on him, but it's certainly coming. He's an all-around player and his ability to hit for power, but be patient at the plate, is a combination that will lead to a lot of success for him, and the Marlins. Don't be surprised to see a 30+ HR season in 2011 with 100+ RBIs.
New York Mets' firstbaseman Ike Davis showed off his power in 2010 and fans should expect to see some more of it in 2011. He also left room for encouragement as his walk rate rose over the course of 2010.
Davis' only real down side is his contact percentage; it's not terrible but it does keep his BA modest. All-in-all, Davis is a great power threat with a fantastic glove at firstbase. For all the troubles the Mets have they can be happy with what they get from Ike Davis.
Just going off the Phillies depth chart they don't have a single player, in a prominent role, under the age of 26. I'm not sure they have a player on their depth chart under 26 at all excluding Dominic Brown - who may not make the team out of spring training.
This is the definition of an old team...They certainly have a lot of talent and the ability to win this year but, if I was a Phillies fan, I'd be concerned about the future of this team given the aging players found throughout the entire roster. For now though, the Phillies can enjoy their team's success and, with such a great rotation, they're almost a lock to be competing in the playoffs this year.
We still need to see Washington Nationals' pitcher Jordan Zimmerman pitch post-surgery but, if he can handle a season's workload and still has his skills intact, I see big things for this young pitcher.
The Nationals are another team filled with young talent but, for this season, I am not excited to see Zimmerman pitch. If he can stay healthy he may be a guy who puts up 15 wins and a 3.25 ERA!
The Chicago Cubs have two young infielders up the middle and their success will certainly rely heavily upon both of them covering their positions wells.
Starlin Castro, only 21 years old, is still in the growing phases of his game and I think we can expect some growing pains from him. He certainly has speed but he can be too aggressive sometimes. He's got a lot of talent and should be a solid contributor for the Cubs for many years to come but I'm not sure this will be the season he figures it all out.
Blake DeWitt is only 25 but he hasn't show much with his few seasons in the majors already. Aside from decent speed and a good eye there isn't much to talk about with him. Perhaps he'll have a breakout season for the Cubs this year?
If these two guys have solid seasons the Cubs may do better than expectations.
A similar situation faces the Cincinnati Reds as the one with the Texas Rangers and Neftali Feliz; do the Reds make Aroldis Chapman a started or their closer?
I'm gonna bet that Chapman is a future closer but, either way, he may be the definition of a power pitcher as he can consistently bring his fastball in the triple digits!
Either in the rotation or the bullpen, Chapman has the ability to anchoring the pitching staff and thus his importance to the Reds cannot be undervalued.
Plus, if nothing else, he is really fun to watch...
Much like the Phillies, the Houston Astros didn't have many players under the age of 26. However, one player who is their 23 year old catcher Jason Castro. On the Astros' depth chart, Castro is listed as the top catcher and, if that continues, he will have a lot of responsibility in leading the Astros' pitchers.
As for hitting skills, Castro hasn't show much at the plate. He has average speed for a catcher and a decent walk rate but a subpar power rate and his ability to his LHP is almost nonexistent.
At such a young age, though, he has a lot of time to improve into a solid everyday catcher.
One of the big keys for the Milwaukee Brewers to have a successful 2011 season will be the performances of their aces: Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo.
Both have been proven aces, but 2011 is especially a big season for Gallardo as he is trying to bounce back from a horrible 2nd half in the 2010 season (5.77 ERA with a 1.53 WHIP).
Gallardo is one of the best pitchers in the NL, so don't let his poor 2nd half fool you. Expect Gallardo to pitch well (potential sub 3.00 ERA here). With Greinke, Gallardo, Braun, and Fielder the Brewers have put together a solid team to make a run for the playoffs in 2011.
Andrew McCutchen was certainly worth of getting this spot, but no organization may be more excited about an upcoming prospect than the Pittsburgh Pirates are about Pedro Alvarez; and for good reason too.
Alvarez showed off his skills when he posted a .939 OPS in September of 2010, but did have some weaknesses exposed - specifically trouble with LHP and a lower than expected contact rate.
Nonetheless, Alvarez should have a tremendous year for the Pirates (possibly 25+ HRs with 100+ RBIs). Definitely worth being excited about.
St. Louis Cardinals' starter Jamie Garcia had a great rookie year in 2010 by posting an ERA of 2.70. After a hot start, Garcia cooled down a bit but still posted a 3.52 ERA in the second half of the season.
With Carpenter and Wainwright heading the Cardinals' rotation, Garcia could be a really solid number three pitcher. If he posts a sub 3.50 ERA, as a number three, the Cardinals will certainly have a deep rotation and a good chance at making a push for the playoffs.
Garcia will be a big part of the Cardinals' run at a championship season in 2011.
Arizona Diamondback outfielder, Justin Upton, is the main part to the offense. Upton is a threat in all aspects of the game, and is a particular issue for opposing teams when he is at the plate.
Given the support around Upton, pitchers may get wise and not pitch to him as much but as Upton continues to develop, since he is only 23, a 30 HR and 30 SB year is not out of the question.
Colorado Rockies' starter Jhoulys Chacin had a fantastic rookie season in 2010 and all signs point to another great season in 2011.
The importance of Chacin is obvious given how much he would help the Rockies, or any team's, starting rotation. Between his control and a high groundball rate (which really helps when pitching at Coors Field), Chacin could prove to be an anchor in the Rockies rotation.
On an up year for Chacin, it's possible he may post a sub 3.00 ERA.
An obvious pick as the Dodgers' representative for this last, Kershaw, to me, may be winning the NL Cy Young Award in 2011.
Kershaw started to fix his biggest problem in 2010, his control; and if that continues there will be no stopping him. Keep an eye on Kershaw this year as he may set to become one of the best pitchers in baseball.
With the trading of Adrian Gonzalez, Mat Latos is now the main component of the San Diego Padres organization.
His great 2010 season can be attributed to his ability to handle lefty hitters better than he did in 2009 and, if that continues, we can expect to see more seasons like he posted last year.
Without these two guys the Giants don't win the World Series in 2010; so, it stands to reason, that the San Francisco Giants will need these two again in 2011 if they want to try and repeat.
Posey, as the catcher, has to guide the Giants rotation (which is the heart of the team), as well as be a major offensive force batting either 3rd or 4th in the lineup.
At the same time, Bumgarner has to build off of his great rookie year and continue to keep the Giants rotation deep. With Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, and Bumgarner, the Giants may be the only team, on paper, capable of matching up to the Phillies' rotation.