2012 MLB Predictions: 8 Hot Prospects Who Will Battle for Rookie of the Year

Mike Grofsick@sickgrofContributor IIIFebruary 24, 2012

2012 MLB Predictions: 8 Hot Prospects Who Will Battle for Rookie of the Year

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    2011 was a year in which we saw some rookies produce at a high level. Craig Kimbrel took home the award for the NL, while Jeremy Hellickson won it for the AL.

    This year, the AL Rookie of the Year award seems like it will be fought over by a bunch of pitchers and the NL Rookie of the Year award seems destined to end up in a hitter's hands.

    These are some of the American League names you'll see fighting for the award (in no particular order):

    Yu Darvish

    Matt Moore

    Mike Trout

    Jesus Montero

    Jacob Turner

    Leonys Martin

    National League:

    Bryce Harper

    Devin Mesoraco

    Yonder Alonso

    Anthony Rizzo

    Zack Cozart

    Julio Teheran

    Nolan Arenado

    Now let's take a look at the top four of each league, in order...

AL No. 4: RHP Jacob Turner

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    Jacob Turner is a 20-year-old right-handed pitcher from the Detroit Tigers. Although he is only 20 years old, it looks like he's going to be in the major leagues for a large portion of the season.

    Turner got three spot starts at the end of last season and got hit around a little bit. In those three starts, he posted an 8.53 ERA. However, that was his first taste of big-league hitters, so it shouldn't be looked into that much.

    Turner has a couple advantages playing in Detroit. The lineup should provide him plenty of run support and he plays in a decent pitcher's park.

    There should be plenty of potential for double-digit wins this season with that lineup scoring for him and he is a good enough pitcher to fill out the rest of the stat sheet.

    MLB.com projections: 6-5, 127 IP, 118 Ks, 3.97 ERA, 1.40 WHIP

AL No. 3: CF Mike Trout

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    Mike Trout has an advantage over other AL rookies because he had a lot of major league experience last season. Trout had 123 ABs, which is under the 150-AB limit to be considered a rookie.

    In those 123 ABs, Trout hit just .220, but had five home runs. Trout did all that while being just 20 years of age.

    The main problem that Trout will face is that the Angels outfield is currently quite crowded. Right now, Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos all will see time in the Angels outfield. However, with the kind of hype Trout has behind him, he will definitely see a quality amount of playing time.

    That is actually another thing that bodes well for Trout. He is widely considered the top hitting prospect in baseball. This means that all the voters for the R.O.T.Y. already know a lot about him.

    If he puts up good numbers, they'll seem even better because of the hype surrounding him.

    MLB.com projections: .266/.324/.409, 9 HR, 38 RBI, 14 SB

AL No. 2: RHP Yu Darvish

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    Yu Darvish is the latest of the Japanese phenoms to make the switch to the major leagues.

    Darvish's numbers last season in Japan were extremely impressive. He had 276 strikeouts and a 0.83 WHIP in 232 innings, but you can never be sure what will transfer to the U.S.

    Dice-K Matsuzaka was even more highly touted when he came over from Japan and we all know how that's working out for the Red Sox.

    Darvish is just 25 years old and has all the makings of a top-shelf pitcher, so we'll have to see how his abilities transfer over.

    If Darvish were to win the R.O.T.Y., he would be the fourth Japanese player to take the award after switching over. The others in that group are Hideo Nomo, Kazuhiro Sasaki and Ichiro Suzuki.

    MLB.com projections: 12-7, 183 innings, 166 Ks, 3.69 ERA, 1.28 WHIP

AL No. 1: LHP Matt Moore

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    Matt Moore made a huge splash last year, striking out 15 batters in just nine-and-a-third innings. This was enough for Tampa Bay to give him a postseason start as a 22-year-old rookie.

    Moore certainly didn't disappoint. In Game 1 of the NLDS, Moore threw seven innings of two-hit ball, while only walking two and striking out six. Moore got the win in that game, becoming the pitcher with the fewest ever career major league innings to win a postseason game.

    Moore dominated every step of the way in the minor leagues, posting a 1.92 ERA between two levels last year. He also struck out 210 batters and posted a 0.95 WHIP in 27 starts.

    If Moore can stay healthy and pitch up to his potential this season, in my eyes, he is the far and away R.O.T.Y. favorite.

    MLB.com projections: 12-7, 175 IP, 170 Ks, 3.39 ERA, 1.23 WHIP

NL No. 4: SS Zack Cozart

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    Zack Cozart is a young rookie, already 26 years of age. He spent some time in the majors last season, batting .324 in 37 ABs.

    In 2010 in Triple-A, Cozart hit 17 homers and stole 30 bases, showing a good combination of power and speed. The knock on Cozart is that he doesn't walk a lot and strikes out a little too much, which many scouts believe will lead to him not having a great average.

    Cozart will play half of his games in a great hitters park, Great American Ballpark, which should help him post some good power numbers.

    MLB.com projections: .249/.305/.392, 13 HR, 57 RBI, 21 SB

NL No. 3: 1B Anthony Rizzo

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    Anthony Rizzo was acquired by the Cubs just a month ago from the Padres. Rizzo debuted last season with the Padres and had 128 ABs that he'd probably rather forget.

    In those 128 ABs, Rizzo batted just .141, but did have an OBP of .281. The OBP of .281 doesn't look great by itself, but it being .140 points better than his average is a promising sign.

    After Rizzo struggled enough to be demoted back to Triple-A, he once again demolished that level with his bat, but then went only 4-for-30 in his September return to the majors.

    Rizzo has a big-time bat with a lot of power potential. Wrigley field should also help his bat out a lot more than PETCO Park did.

    MLB.com projections: .257/.328/.457, 15 HR, 54 RBI

NL No. 2: C Devin Mesoraco

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    Devin Mesoraco is another rookie that managed to get some major league time last season. In 50 ABs, Mesoraco hit .180 with two home runs.

    Dusty Baker tends to favor veteran players and likes to platoon his catchers, but the Reds let Ramon Hernandez leave for Colorado, so that makes it seem as though the door is open for Mesoraco.

    Ryan Hanigan is now the catcher that Mesoraco will split time with, but Mesoraco will see a lot more time with Hanigan as the other catcher than if Hernandez was still there.

    The 23-year-old Mesoraco will almost definitely break camp with the team and it seems as though he will start the year as the opening day catcher.

    In last year at Triple-A, Mesoraco had a .289/.371/.484 line with 15 home runs.

    MLB.com projections: .258/.308/.433, 10 HR, 40 RBI

NL No. 1: 1B Yonder Alonso

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    Yonder Alonso is the power-hitting first baseman that the Padres acquired in the Mat Latos trade with the Reds in the offseason.

    Like all the other R.O.T.Y. candidates on this list in the NL, Alonso received some playing time last season. In 88 ABs, Alonso hit .330 with five home runs and 15 RBI.

    Leaving Great American Ballpark for PETCO Park will probably hurt Alonso's power potential a little bit, but the great opportunity for everyday playing time should make up for per-AB losses.

    Alonso's Triple-A stats last season were a .296 average, with 12 home runs and 56 RBI in 91 games. If Alonso can continue to transfer his minor league success into major league success like he was able to in limited time last season, he is my favorite to bring home National League R.O.T.Y.

    MLB.com projections: .265/.334/.425, 16 HR, 60 RBI