Note From The Editors: It has come to our attention that this blog has been extremely basketball-centric of late and we strive to provide you with more balance than that. Sorry. We got caught up in all the basketball-madness. We’re sending you an apology cookie, via carrier pigeon, and it could arrive at any moment. Eyes to the sky, people. Anyway, In the middle of this crazy NBA season, and this already-nerve-rattling, bracket-demolishing NCAA Tournament, there’s also been this whole Spring Training thing that has been conspiciously absent from this space…no longer. Since I love top 5 lists, that’s how we’ll throw out our first pitch of the Outsider baseball season…
The 2010 MLB season was a banner year for the rookie class. Several highly touted prospects came up to the majors and made an impact, most notably Jason Heyward (who is basically a young-Daryl Strawberry minus the cocaine & booze), Buster Posey, Neftail Feliz, and Elvis Andrus. Each of those guys not only shined, but were major contributors to playoff teams.
The 2011 rookie crop is poised for more of the same. Here are 5 guys you should expect impact performances from.
5) Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals
I feel for Royals fans, I really do. A once-proud franchise reduced to rubble by big-market money, a declining fan base, and several failed draft picks (has Alex Gordon hung up the spikes yet? Enough already). Might Mike Moustakas, who’s been highly touted for what seems like a decade, be the one to kick-start the turnaround? If last season’s minor league performance was any indication, he just might be. In 118 games, split between AA and AAA, Moustakas hit .322 with 36 HRs and 124 RBIs. That’s a MONSTER season on any level and came on the heels of a disappointing 2009 season, which saw him fall from his top-prospect perch. He’s a big kid and he should hit for power immediately, even if his average isn’t stellar as a rookie. Royals fans…enjoy.
4) Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Reds
We got to see a little of Chapman’s 100 mph-heat last season but, barring injury, we should be in for a full season of it this year. Expect more of the same: ridiculous fastball, filthy slider, & some control issues. He probably won’t be much of a fantasy-play in standard roto formats as he will most likely be used in middle relief/setup situations, but he will be fun to watch as he is groomed as the eventual replacement to the over-paid and over-fed, Fransisco Cordero.
3) Jeremy Hellickson, P, Rays
Hellickson should step right into the rotation slot opened up by the Matt Garza trade (Cubs), and the Rays won’t experience much of a drop-off as a result. Hellickson’s combination of stuff and command is remarkable, even though his nickname is definitely not. It’s Hellboy, in case you were wondering. Hellboy (blech) can run his fastball up to 94, but usually sits at 91-92 with great sink and great control. His changeup is his out pitch and he can move it inside and out. He has the weapons to thrive in the offensive terrordome that is the AL East.
2) J.P. Arencibia, C, Blue Jays
Arenciba is a guy who will not only start right away, but will put up good enough numbers to warrant a late-round fantasy pick. He may not have the pure-hitter contact ability that Posey has, but he certainly has the power. 20-25 homers and 75-80 RBIs are not out the question for this kid if he stays healthy and handles the pitching staff well enough to warrant getting the bulk of the starts. If Jose Bautista is for real (I’m still not buying it), the Jays will have a nice middle-of-the-order trio in Bautista, Arenciba, and Adam Lind. With Travis Snider continuing to develop and Kyle Drabek (another good rookie to watch) and his top-of-the-rotation potential, the Jays have a nice young core to build around.
1) Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves
After parting ways with in-season acquisition, Derek Lee, the Braves handed Freeman the 1B gig without so much as a thought to acquiring a veteran to be a stop-gap. That shows how highly they think of the sweet-swinging, slick-fielding, 6’5″ left-hander. Last year, at AAA, he hit .319 with 18 HRs and 87 RBIs. It wouldn’t be a shock to see similr power numbers in his rookie season. The Braves farm system has been tremendous throughout recent years and this kid should help maintain the status-quo and combine with Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla, and Bryan McCann to form a potent lineup for years to come…plus his name is Freddie Freeman. There’s a nickname there and it’s eluding me. If you can think of one, post it as a comment and we’ll publish the best one. Goodluck and godspeed.
Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays, Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies, Kyle Drabek, RHP, Blue Jays, Matt Dominguez, 3B, Marlins, Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants, Jesus Montero, C, Yankees
-by Max Joice