When we all look back on the 2012 season a few years from now, one of the things that will stand out most is how many great careers started in what the Mayans allegedly predicted would be the final baseball season in history. There are a couple of obvious rookies who have made their names known across the nation (Mike Trout and Bryce Harper in case you live under a rock, have been drilled in the head with a rock, or hate baseball), but those two future/current stars are far from the only big-name prospects to debut or play their first full season in 2012.
All rookie conversations in 2012 begin and end with Mike Trout. Trout is leading baseball in WAR thanks to an approach at the plate, on the basepaths, and in the field that leaves him elite in every aspect of the game. Trout is certainly hitting for average (.335), he walks at an above-average rate (9.3%), he hits for power (25 HR, .580 SLG), and he steals all of the bases there ever are to steal (42 steals in 46 attempts). Bryce Harper had a brilliant start to his career at the baby age of 19, though he has slid off the track in the second half. Harper still has evident power and speed, he seems to have a good eye at the plate, and he’s almost certainly going to blossom into a star.
Plenty of people (self included) have waxed poetic and/or simply gushed about Trout and Harper, but what about the other guys who are making their mark in their first go-around? Todd Frazier, who is certainly a much older rookie than many others, has exhibited plenty of power (18 HR, .549 SLG) for the first place Reds. Frazier has already proven himself a worthy third base regular, and he should fit in for years as a cheap solution of pop at the hot corner for a good team.
Will Middlebrooks, one of the top Boston prospects entering the season, also represents an above-average third baseman with a bright future. Middlebrooks initially gained playing time as a result of Kevin Youkilis‘ injuries, but he earned his keep right away by hitting for power. Middlebrooks is slugging .509 and has clubbed 15 homers, but he’ll need to have a more selective eye going forward. Just 23, he has the time to get there.
Across the diamond, Anthony Rizzo has looked much better at the plate as a Cub than he did as a Padre. Rizzo has the skill set to become one of the best first basemen in the game when it’s all said and done. He has power, he fields the position very well, and his walk rate will surely increase based on his minor league track record. Rizzo, Frazier, and Middlebrooks represent a trio of players that could all reach the All-Star game any given year.
The guys who have been around most of the season or all the season don’t even begin to scratch the surface, though. Manny Machado and his powerful bat have made waves with eight extra-base hits in just 73 plate appearances, while Arizona’s future ace Trevor Bauer was terrible in a brief stint but will certainly right the ship in a larger showing. Rangers prospect Jurickson Profar is another name just now hitting a Major League roster, and his is of great significance. With Trout and Harper now at the big league level, Profar is considered by many sources to be the best prospect in the game. Profar is a toolsy shortstop who figures to be better than average at every aspect of the game. Many feel he could unseat Elvis Andrus, and that guy’s a hell of a player.
I would feel remiss if I didn’t discuss Mets starter Mike Harvey in this space, as he’s been flat-out dominant in his first seven career starts. Harvey is striking out 10.42/9 and has walked just 3.61/9. He’s only allowed 30 hits in his 42 1/3 innings, and there are plenty of opinions I’ve read in which analysts feel his raw stuff is that of a true ace once he hits his prime.
There are surely other impact players I’ve missed in my attempt to point out all of the future stars getting their start in 2012, and to them I apologize. Calling 2012 the Year That Trout and Harper Made It would have been great, but it turns out we fans are even luckier than we thought we were a few months ago.