In 2010 we watched in awe as Jason Heyward made his major league debut by launching a home run in his first at bat. Then when Buster Posey and Mike Stanton were called up we raced to our computers and frantically clicked the add button to make sure we got them before anyone else. The AL didn’t showcase quite the same rookie star power as the NL, but Neftali Feliz dazzled out of the ninth inning in Texas and Austin Jackson surprised many in Detroit by hitting .293 and stealing 27 bases to help bring in the new class of MLB stars.
It is that time of the season when the struggling clubs call up their young studs to shake things up and possibly make a run with youth at the forefront. Whether it is this season, or next there are many young players who are ready to breakout and become stars.
Here is a lineup of rookies looking to make a difference for their ball club and for your fantasy roster:
(I purposefully excluded Bryce Harper because he is no where near being called-up to the major leagues)
1B- Eric Hosmer, Royals: Baseball America’s No. 8 prospect before the season, Hosmer has made an immediate impact in the heart of the Royals lineup. He was hitting .439 with 3 homers and 15 RBIs in AAA before being called up to the majors on May 6. He is hitting .310 with 5 HRs and 20 RBIs in his first 129 at bats and shows no signs of slowing down. He should be owned in almost every format and you should target him as a keeper heading into the 2012 season.
2B- Danny Espinosa, Nationals: A third rounder in the 2008 draft and Baseball America’s No. 66 prospect prior to 2011, Espinosa reached double digit totals in both homers and steals in both of his full seasons in the minors. Between AA and AAA in 2010 he hit .268 with 22 home runs and 25 steals, but his average increased after the move to AAA. His current totals of 10 homers and 33 RBIs are good for fourth best in the bigs for second baseman and he’s thrown in 5 steals. His average has dropped to .217, but he was a career .270 hitter in the minors so we can expect that number to climb to the .250-.265 range by season’s end. Second base has recently become a power position and Espinosa is poised to continue that trend in the future, hold onto him if you’ve got him.
3B- Mike Moustakas, Royals: Moustakas is Baseball America’s No. 9 prospect and for a good reason, this kid hits wherever he plays. Originally a Shorstop, he has moved to third base to allow for his offense to flourish. Last season, at just 21 years of age, between AA and AAA he hit .322 with 36 bombs and 124 RBIs. He is just 22-years old now, but he was hitting .287 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs in AAA before his June 9 call-up. He will start at third base and hit sixth for the Royals. He is a must add in keeper leagues and those with enough roster space in mixed, season-only leagues.
SS- Dee Gordon, Dodgers: The son of former major league pitcher Tom Gordon, Dee Gordon was Baseball America’s No. 26 prospect before being called up earlier this week to fill in at shortstop for the Dodgers and did so in an impressive fashion. In his first start on Tuesday, June 7 he went 3 for 5 with a stolen base. He has tremendous speed as showcased by his 73 steals in A ball in 2009 and 53 steals in 2010 in AA. He was hitting .315 with 22 steals in AAA before his call-up and he’ll pick up right where he left off. If you have stolen base needs don’t hesitate to pick up Gordon. He won’t offer much in the way of power yet, but he’ll bring a lot more to the table than the very similar Starlin Castro.
LF- Yonder Alonso, Reds: Baseball America’s No. 73 prospect was originally a first baseman, but with MVP Joey Votto currently blocking that position he has been working out in LF. He’s currently hitting .323 with 7 homers and 35 RBIs. His best year came in 2010 when he hit .290 with 15 HRs and 69 RBIs between AA and AAA. he is just 24-years old and has plenty of room to grow, but once he makes the transition to the big leagues and is hitting in lineup with Joey Votto and Jay Bruce you can expect big numbers from him.
CF-Mike Trout, Angels: Even though he is Baseball America’s No. 2 prospect he is arguably the best prospect in all of baseball and at just 19-years old. The 6′ 1″, 200 Lbs center fielder might not live up the Mickey Mantle comparisons, but if even a fraction of that comes true we will have a star on our hands. At double-A Arkansas right now he his hitting .303 with 6 HRs, 18 RBIs and 16 stolen bases and is a candidate for a September call-up. With Torii Hunter, Peter Bourjos, and Vernon Wells currently occupying the outfield in Anaheim it might take Trout until next year to have a starting job, but adding him in keeper leagues would be a wise decision.
RF- Domonic Brown, Phillies: Brown is Baseball America’s No. 4 prospect and for good reason. Between AA and AAA in 2010 Brown hit .327 with 20 HRs, 68 RBIs and 17 SBs. He had a brief stint with the big league club last season and didn’t quite live up to expectations, but he is with the Phillies right now and has been playing almost everyday since May 23. His .250 batting average will come up in time and he’ll show some more power and speed. By next year he will he a staple in Philadelphia’s lineup and he’ll be showing us what all the hype was about.
C- J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays: A huge sleeper coming into the 2011 season, the former first round pick Arencibia hasn’t disappointed. At AAA Las Vegas in 2010 at 24-years old Arencibia hit .301 with 32 bombs and 84 RBIs in just 104 games. Spread those numbers out over a 162 game season and you’re looking at MVP type power numbers from a catcher. He was a career .275 hitter in the minors and is hitting .249 right now in the majors so the average from last season most likely wont hold up. Still, he has 10 home runs for Toronto currently and is a legitimate rookie of the year candidate.
SP- Michael Pineda, Mariners: The big 6′ 7″ 255 Lbs, 22-year old right hander just might be the best pitcher in a Mariner uniform. How can I say that if Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez is still there? Well, Pineda has pitched better than King Felix to date and he might be the reason the M’s decide to deal Hernandez at the deadline. He is 6-3 with a 2.33 ERA and 76 K’s in 77.1 innings. He’ll mot likely have an inning cap by season’s end because he has never pitched more than 139 innings in any professional season. He is the real deal and will be a top-20 pitcher at the start of next season.
SP- Jeremy Hellickson, Rays: Jeremy “Hell-boy” Hellickson has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year and he is a rookie and is just 24. His AAA line last year read 12-3, 2.45 ERA, 123 K’s in 117.2 Innings. That was before he was called up the the big leagues and went 4-0 with a 3.47 ERA and 33 K’s in 36.1 innings. At the start of 2011 he was one of baseball’s top prospects and premier rookie of the year candidates and he has pitched better than anticipated. Winning rookie and pitcher of the month honors in May, he is 7-3 on the season with a 2.64 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. Pitching for the Rays he will have lots of opportunities to win games and could scratch the 20-win plateau.
RP- Jordan Walden, Angels: The once top-100 prospect doesn’t have overwhelming minor league numbers, but what he has done in the big leagues in 2011 speak to his talent as a closer. In 27.1 innings he has notched 13 saves to just 3 blown saves and a very solid 2.96 ERA. He has recorded highest K/9 rate of his career and has looked good in the ninth for the Angels. The closer job should be safe for a while because their next best option is Fernando Rodney, the guy Walden took took the job from previously.