Spring Training Preview: 10 Big-Name Prospects With the Most to Prove
All players report to spring training with something to prove. Veteran's come to show that they still have it and young prospects come trying to break onto the big league roster.
For a young star with tons of potential, sometimes this pressure is too much to handle.
Now that teams are getting into their full spring routine, it is now or nothing for some big-name prospects.
10. Kyle Gibson P, Minnesota Twins
After being drafted by the Twins in the first round of the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft, Gibson flew through the minors like a man on a mission. He breezed threw high A-ball, made his presence felt in AA before starting three games at the AAA level.
The best sample size to really look at would be his work at the AA level. He made 16 starts and compiled a 7-5 record with a 3.68 ERA. He also had a 7.5 K/9 ratio. His minor league stats are incredible. Overall, in 2010, he finished with a 2.96 ERA and a 126:39 K/BB ratio over his 26 starts.
He will showcase his abilities this spring and could possibly prove he has the skills to break the opening day roster. If not, you will see this 23-year-old at the big league level at some point early this season.
9. Desmond Jennings OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Desmond Jennings has the potential to make Rays-faithful forget all about Carl Crawford. The 24-year-old is the next in line to take over left field duties.
In 109 games at the AAA-level, Jennings posted a rather unspectacular .278 BA with three homeruns and 37 steals. He might lack the power of Crawford, but that could come with time and adding some bulk.
In a short 21-game stint at the Major League level, Jennings didn't do much to impress the Rays coaching staff as he only hit .190. That's why it's been reported that Rays VP of baseball, Andrew Friedman is rumored to be bringing in a veteran to compete with Jennings for the opening day left field position. Cue in Johnny Damon. Now Jennings has direct competition that could hopefully lead to an escalation in his play.
If Jennings can play up to his potential, the left field position is his to lose.
8. Domonic Brown OF, Philadelphia Phillies
After Jayson Werth left town to play for the Nationals, right field seemed destined to be the roaming grounds for Domonic Brown. Manger Charlie Manuel seemed to alleviate all skepticism by saying that he is "kind of the first choice there."
Brown put on a show in AAA, hitting .346 in 28 games, but was not as impressive in 35 games with the big boys—only hitting .210.
Brown is in prime position for an impressive rookie campaign. The competition for his starting job is minimal, but the hype around him is massive.
Manuel believes in his future stud, but will the pressure be too much for him to handle?
7. J.P. Arencibia C, Toronto Blue Jays
With John Buck leaving Toronto for Florida, the catchers position belongs to J.P. Arencibia. With the backing of GM Alex Anthopoulus, Arencibia is on center stage.
He has shown pop in his bat, slugging 32 homeruns in AAA last year and two more in 11 games with the Jays, Arencibia just needs to mature as a hitter. His 2010 AAA .301 BA shows that he can hit for average, but this could be looked at as an outlier since he hit .236 the year before at the same level.
Patches of brilliance coupled with rookie slumps are expected, but a strong spring training can help alleviate some of the uncertainty surrounding this catching prospect.
6. Kyle Drabek P, Toronto Blue Jays
Kyle Drabek was looked at as an integral piece of the Phillies farm system that wouldn't be moved. When the Roy Halladay trade came to fruition, Drabek turned into the center piece of the move for the Jays. Now it's time for their trade to hopefully pays dividends.
In two seasons at the AA-level, Drabek accumulated a 22-11 record and a 3.21 ERA. His 1.23 WHIP is respectable as well.
Drabek will be battling for one of two open spots at the end of the Blue Jay's rotation and is looked at as the favorite to fill one of the voids.
With Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero, Drabek, with a strong spring training, will create a lethal 1-2-3 punch in the tough AL East.
5. Dustin Ackley 2B, Seattle Mariners
Ackley, the second overall pick in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft, is looking to bring some offensive pop to this stagnant Mariner offense—but skeptics believe he is not ready.
His stats don't do much to turn those nonbelievers into believers. At AAA, Ackley only hit .274 with five homeruns and 23 RBIs in 52 games. The North Carolina protege needs to make more of a significant impact with the bat in the majors. He has seemed to have caught fire recently as he hit .424 and earned MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League.
Chone Figgins made the move over to third base, his natural position, to open the door for Ackley to make his Major League debut.
The Mariners are trying to become relevant again and with a strong spring performance, Ackley could provide them with a glimmer of hope.
4. Mike Moustakas 3B, Kansas City Royals
The Alex Gordon project has not panned out for the Royals, but Moustakas will look to make Royal fans say "Gordon who?"—and he has the skill set to do so.
Moustakas tore up AA and AAA last season, hitting .347 and .293 respectively. He has pop in his bat to boot slugging 36 HRs in 118 games across both leagues.
According to Manager Ned Yost, Mike Aviles is penciled in to be the starting third baseman for the Royals come opening day, but if Moustakas has a spring for the ages, he can easily earn the spot.
He has raw-power that will ease his transition into the Majors. All he needs to do is prove himself worthy of a shot this spring.
3. Craig Kimbrel P, Atlanta Braves
Craig Kimbrel is looking to take over the closer spot for the Atlanta Braves with Billy Wagner now out of the picture. Neftali Feliz showed us just how dominant a rookie can be, even in the pressure-filled closer role. Kimbrel has just as nasty stuff.
As a closer with the Braves AAA affiliate, Kimbrel notched 23 saves in 48 games, a 1.62 ERA and a ridiculous 13.4 K/9 ratio. At the big league level, Kimbrel kept impressing. In 20 and 2/3 innings, he stuck out 40 batters and finished with a .44 ERA.
It has been reported that Kimbrel would have to split the closing duties with Jonny Venters, but with a strong spring after an impressive 2010 campaign, the job should be Kimbrel's for the taking.
2. Freddie Freeman 1B, Atlanta Braves
Freeman, at the ripe age of 21, has been handed the first base position for the Atlanta Braves. Talk about a lot to take on, but the Braves' management believes in his ability.
In one season at AAA, Freeman posted well-rounded numbers. He hit for average, .319 and power, 18 HRs, but his September debut in the Majors was far from impressive. He went 4-24, but did hit a homerun off Roy Halladay which is no easy feat.
This spring will help the Braves weigh whether or not they are rushing this blossoming star or if he is ready to take his game to the next level.
1. Jesus Montero C, New York Yankees
There has been hype surrounding Montero for years and now it seems he has his opportunity to make a splash at the next level.
His hitting ability has been unquestioned for years. He hit 21 HRs and posted a .289 BA in AAA last year, but his catching ability has always seemed to hold him back. Now, with a chance to showcase his skill set for Joe Girardi and the rest of the Yankees' brass, he could earn himself a spot on the opening day roster.
With the surge of young prospects the Yankees have at the catcher position, Montero has a lot riding on how he performs this spring. He feels he is ready to take the next step, but a strong spring showing will help cement his status as one of the brightest up and coming catchers the league has to offer.