Profar, Bundy Headline List of Rookies to Watch
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 14:02
Although hype surrounded the likes of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout entering 2012, nobody could have anticipated the seasons that the eventual rookies of the year would put up in 2012.
The consensus top prospects entering the year, the two managed to eclipse even the loftiest of expectations. Trout — the less heralded of the two (at least in the public’s eye) — put together the best rookie season of all time, while leading all of Major League Baseball in wins above replacement, an advanced statistic designed to measure the overall value of a player’s performance. (Harper finished a more-than-respectable 26th.)
At least one disgruntled Hoya columnist thought that Trout was the slam-dunk choice for American League MVP, but entrenched, old-fashioned voters thought Miguel Cabrera — the winner of baseball’s mystical “Triple Crown” distinction (leading the league in home runs, runs batted in and batting average) — ultimately catapulted him above Trout despite advances in statistics that claimed Trout was truly the most valuable.
But that’s an argument for another day. With the 2013 season around the corner, examining the next wave of potential rookie phenoms is important given their immediate and often unexpected impact on the pennant race and postseason. The odds of uncovering another Trout are miniscule, but below are five players who have the opportunity to join baseball’s wave of young stars in 2013.
Jurickson Profar, Infielder, Texas Rangers
If the soon-to-be 20-year-old Curacao native’s name does not ring a bell, surely his play will in the coming months. Despite the presence of Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler in the middle of Texas’ infield, the Rangers will get creative in 2013 to ensure Profar’s bat and glove find their way into the lineup, perhaps by moving Kinsler to first base or the outfield. Profar rocketed his way through Texas’ farm system, ultimately producing an excellent stat line with a .281 batting average, 14 home runs, 16 stolen bases and patience at the plate with a 66/79 walk/strikeout ratio just as a 19-year-old in AAA. After belting a home run in his first career MLB at-bat last year, Profar appears destined for a magical career full of 20-20s and a regular .300 average on top of one of the best gloves in the game.
Dylan Bundy, Pitcher, Baltimore Orioles
The only pitcher to crack my list, Bundy — also 20 — shot through Baltimore’s system even faster than Profar, reaching the majors in his first full season out of high school. Bundy profiles as an ace and the best pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg, with an arsenal that includes a high-90s fastball, an above-average curveball and a quality changeup that ultimately led to a 2.08 earned run average, 0.92 WHIP and 119 strikeouts in just 103 2/3 innings in 23 starts in 2012. If the Orioles hope to return to the playoffs in 2013, they will have to rely on Bundy and up-and-coming third baseman Manny Machado to provide the spark to a squad that (very) luckily made the postseason in 2012.
Wil Myers, Outfielder, Tampa Bay Rays
Of all of the major offseason trades, no young player on the market was more coveted than then-Royals outfielder Wil Myers. Myers and several others were dealt to Tampa Bay in exchange for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis in a futile attempt by the Royals to maybe become relevant in 2013. Regardless, the Rays were wise to acquire Myers, who profiles as a middle-of-the-order right field bat as soon as this year. Knowing Tampa Bay, they will likely keep Myers in the minors for a month or two to gain an extra year of control on him before he reaches free agency. But, when he is called up, Rays fans can expect a solid average to accompany excellent power. Myers clubbed 37 home runs between AA and AAA, second in all of the minor leagues, with an impressive .314 average to boot. Ultimately, Myers projects as a .270-.290 hitter with 30-plus home run potential.
Billy Hamilton, Outfielder, Cincinnati Reds
Reds center field prospect Billy Hamilton may be the fastest man alive. Now, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but the man can certainly fly, swiping a record 155 bases — yes, 155 — in 2012. While he does not pack much of a punch, he is a solid contact hitter with excellent plate discipline, walking 86 times last year. Although Cincinnati acquired outfielder Shin Soo Choo to man center field, Choo is a defensive liability, and it will be hard to suppress Hamilton much longer. Expect at the very least a late season call-up and a potential weapon on the base paths in the postseason.
Oscar Taveras, Outfielder, St. Louis Cardinals