By Chris Gamble
Some of their names are familiar to us already. Jesus Montero took New York Yankees by storm last September. Now, he finds himself in Seattle after being traded for Michael Pineda. Matt Moore showed enough poise to start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Tampa Bay Rays. There are seemingly a ton of future stars poised to make Major League rosters either out of Spring Training or as call-ups later on in the year. Here is my list of impact rookies for 2012 and what to expect from them this year.
1. Jesus Montero, C, Mariners. Montero takes the top spot on this list because his offense is something Seattle needed badly last year. He won’t be expected to immediately mash 40 homers but that day will come. He is young, still only 22 years-old, and has proven he is capable of hitting. His defense leaves a lot to be desired, however. He is listed as a catcher but with his offensive abilities and defensive inefficiencies he should become the Mariners DH with random appearances behind the plate. Montero will mash, even at SAFECO Field, using his opposite field power to drive balls into the gap. That power might not translate into home runs right away but it will soon. Because of his ability to play every day and his potential impact in a very blah lineup I have him listed at the top spot.
2. Matt Moore, SP, Rays. Matt Moore might just be one of the best pitchers most of us have never heard of. He got the nod to start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Rays last season based on his ability and other pitchers rest. The only reason he isn’t in my top spot is because the Rays won’t throw him to the wolves. They will let him pitch but will monitor his pitch counts and innings closely. The Rays have a future ace in Matt Moore and they know it. He has been lights out at every stop in his minor league tours and now he should continue that in the Majors. He could very well win the AL Rookie of the Year Award, a precursor to the Cy Young that I see sometime in his future. Yes he is that good.
3. Jarrod Parker, SP, Athletics. Parker will pitch in a very forgiving ballpark and has good enough stuff to get Major League hitters out. The defense behind him will also aid him. He has a very nice fastball and generates a lot of swings and misses and his mistakes will partly be masked by the fact that The Coliseum is a notorious pitcher’s park. Parker should be able to give the A’s quality innings as he continues to develop. I can see him evolving into an ace, especially if he pitches a few years out there in Oakland. As for right now, he can pitch well enough to be considered for AL Rookie of the Year.
4. Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds. He will be the Reds starting catcher going into this season and should hit well enough while playing above average defense to make Reds fans dream about a big future. His offensive skill set isn’t as high as Montero’s but few young catchers come into the league with that kind of power and ability. He will eventually hit for 20+ homers although I think it will take some time for that power to develop at the Major League level. He is not far off from being an All-Star at catcher and should win the NL Rookie of the Year Award.
5. Addison Reed, RP, White Sox. Reed will most likely end the year as the White Sox closer. He has electric stuff and should provide plenty of impact in a bullpen that badly needs it. His fastball runs north of 95 MPH and can touch 99 at times. His slider is devastating, especially on right-handed hitters. He is much better suited to the bullpen than the starting rotation and the White Sox should keep him there. He could have the kind of impact that Craig Kimbrel had for the Braves last season.
6. Mike Trout, OF, Angels. If he had a guaranteed spot in the outfield in Anaheim he would be near the top of this list. Trout does everything well. Defense, hit for average, hit for power, and steal bases. The only problem is there are a few guys in front of him making boatloads of money and the Angels might have to ease him into the lineup. I am a little astounded that the Angels think guys like Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, and Vernon Wells are better than him because right now they aren’t. Trout should start and the Angels might be forced into doing just that. There is not a single outfielder on this roster that is better all around than Mike Trout. If the Angels wake up and send one of the aging veterans to the bench then Trout might just be the most impactful rookie of them all.
7. Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals. It has already been determined that Harper will start the season at AAA. That is a good thing for Harper. He has shown some insane skills in the minors but he still needs a little time to develop his pitch recognition, especially from left-handers. That will come and when it does let the show begin. He will be dominant in D.C. If he gets off to a hot start and shows he has improved from his Spring Training struggles I don’t see anything blocking the Nationals from calling him up. Nats Manager Davey Johnson is enamored with the kid and believes he will be a force in the near future. I’m inclined to believe Davey. I just hope he doesn’t get a stupid tag-line. I don’t know if I can stomach “HarperMania” every night on ESPN.
8. Jacob Turner, SP, Tigers. He looks like he will be the Tigers fifth starter, a move I’m not in love with. Turner has some plus stuff, namely his fastball and a 12-6 curveball. The talent is there but I think he could have used another season in the minors before getting the nod. Still, it’s a fifth starter slot on a team with loads of offense so his mistakes could be easily overcome. However, he does pitch to contact, especially with his fastball that tends to stay up in the zone. With Prince Fielder at first and Miguel Cabrera at third there might be some issues for Turner. Plus, he won’t be 21 until May. The Tigers have a tendency to rush their pitchers and I think they are rushing Turner. Who knows, though. The kid could put it together and thrive away from the attention in the fifth spot and compete for AL ROY.