With Spring Training only a week old, many fans are still casually keeping their eye on baseball. With March Madness around the corner, the World Baseball Classic coming and the NBA & NHL in the heart of their season, you can’t really blame them.That usually leads a few “unknowns” bursting out onto the scene that fans are not quite familiar with. Last year that list included names Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Yoneis Cespedes and Anthony Rizzo.
In attempt to make sure no player catches you by surprise this year, I have compiled a list of 10 prospects poised to make a splash in 2013.
1 – Jurickson Profar, 2B/SS Texas Rangers
Jurickson Profar made his much-anticipated debut with the Texas Rangers as a late season call up in September. Profar struggled (3 hits in 17 plate appearances), but the 20-year-old from Curacao is the front-runner to win the AL Rookie of the Year award.In fact, the Rangers think so highly of him, they refused to include him in trade offers from the Arizona Diamondbacks involving Justin Upton, despite losing Josh Hamilton in the offseason.
The question remain what will the Rangers do with Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler. Texas will likely start Profar in Triple-A, but another slow start from Kinsler could result in a quick call up. Though it is possible Kinsler could be moved to the outfield to make room on the roster.
Either way, Profar will burst onto the scene in 2013 and the Rangers counter to Mike Trout in Los Angeles.
2 – Wil Myers, OF Tampa Bay Rays
Kansas City shocked the baseball world by trading away the Minor League Player of the Year, Wil Myers, to Tampa this offseason. The Rays, who have always been a savvy organization, were glad to oblige, parting with James Shields and Wade Davis.
Myers was phenomenal in the minors last year, combining for 37 HR, 109 RBI and .314/.387/.600. The 22-year-old has already impressed the right people in the first week of Spring Training and could easily push Luke Scott or Matt Joyce out of the everyday lineup before Opening Day.
The Rays may be cash-strapped, stuck in an awful baseball stadium and have little fan support, but Tampa keeps finding talent to remain a major player in the tough AL East.
3 – Adam Eaton, OF Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona finally parted ways with Justin Upton this winter. That move would not have taken place if Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson were not confident the Adam Eaton could be an everyday player.
The reigning Pacific Coast League MVP has gotten off to a hot start this spring. Eaton is the type of player Towers loves. Scrappy, gritty and quick, perfect for Gibbyball. Ideally, the Diamondbacks will have Eaton leadoff where he could then wreak havoc on the base paths.
If Arizona wants to play spoiler in the NL West, Eaton will have to deliver in 2013. I think he will.
4 – Mike Olt, 1B/OF Texas Rangers
Mike Olt is another talent infielder who has been biding his time in the Rangers minor leagues. With Andre Beltre locking up Olt’s natural position, third base, Texas will see if Olt can handle duties at first and in the outfield this spring.
Olt struggled in his first call up (.152/0 HR/5 RBI), so the Rangers will be extra careful not to rush him the second time around. Olt went straight from Double-A to the Majors, which could have been a reason for his underwhelming numbers.
But with the departure of Hamilton to the Angels, Texas will need Olt to contribute this year.
5 – Gerrit Cole, SP Pittsburgh Pirates
Will this be the year Gerrit Cole cracks the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation? Certainly looks like it.
The Pirates have taken baby steps with Cole since he was selected as the #1 Overall pick in 2011, unlike his UCLA teammate (more on him later). The former Bruin went 9-7 with a 2.80 in all three levels of Pittsburgh’s minor league system in 2012. Now Cole is competing for the final spot in the rotation.
The Pirates are poised to finally have a winning season. Adding Cole to that mix will only help matters.
6 – Trevor Bauer, SP Cleveland Indians
Now on to Cole’s college teammate, Trevor Bauer. Bauer was selected #3 overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the same 2011 draft. Bauer was rushed to Majors, ruffled a few feathers with his unique personality and warm-up routine and we eventually sent back down to Triple-A. For whatever reason, the Diamondbacks and Bauer were not a good mix and he was shipped to Cleveland.
With a new team comes a new start. And with the Indians starting rotation practically up for grabs, Bauer can turn things around quickly. Having someone who knows how to manage headcases (Terry Francona) should only help Bauer in the long run. Don’t be surprised if he ends up being the AL Rookie of the Year.
7 – Billy Hamilton, OF Cincinnati Reds
Billy Hamilton should be higher on this list. However, the logjam in front of him in the Reds outfield means he will likely see more time in the minors this season.
Hamilton’s speed is undeniable (155 stolen bases last year), but the question will be how often can he get on base. His on-base percentage numbers are decent (.410), but his batting average is too low (.289) and he strikes out at an alarming rate (113). Hamilton has great range, but arm strength is also another area of concern.
With newly-acquired Shin-Shoo Choo, Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick already in Cincinnati, it appears Hamilton will have to wait until the second half of the season or 2014 to make his impact.
8 – Oscar Taveras, OF St. Louis Cardinals
Oscar Taveras is in a similar situation, a highly-touted prospect looking to crack an already filled outfield. Seems to be a luxury in the NL Central.
While Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and Jon Jay will be the starting outfielders in St. Louis to start the season, the Cardinals brass still wants to see what Taveras can do in the spring. The 20-year-old tore up Double-A last season, batting .321 with 23 HR and 94 RBI, so you can understand why Mike Matheny is willing to take a look.
More than likely, Taveras will be a late season call up as the Cardinals make their annual run to win the division.
9 – Jedd Gyorko, 2B/3B San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres are going to be an interesting team in 2013. The Padres had the second best record in the NL after the All-Star Break, held on to some of their big name talent and moved the fences in a PetCo Park in hopes to be more balanced offensively.
Another way for the Padres to become more balanced is to put Jedd Gyorko (pronounced jerk-o) in the starting lineup. The West Virginia Alum already has three home runs this spring, but whether he makes the club or not will be determined on if he can make the switch from third to second base.
If that happens, the Padres could have a very formidable 1-2 punch in Gyorko and Chase Headley.
10 – Tyler Skaggs, SP Arizona Diamondbacks
Finally, the last prospect to keep an eye on this year is Tyler Skaggs of the Diamondbacks.
Arizona is loaded with stud pitchers in its minor league system. Wade Miley was the NL Rookie of the Year runner-up last season, Patrick Corbin pitched well in his brief appearance in 2012, Archie Bradley is highly thought of throughout baseball and yet it could be Skaggs who makes the biggest impact to the DBacks in 2013.
Skaggs was a “throw-in” piece when Arizona traded Dan Haren to the Angels. Since then, Skaggs has competed in the Futures Game and won 19 games in the DBacks farm system. The 21-year-old from Santa Monica is in battle for the final spot in the rotation, but even if he doesn’t win it, there’s a good chance you’ll see Skaggs get the call up in 2013.