I read a great article on MLB.com this week, and it touched on why baseball is so unique from any of its counterparts. With such a long and storied history, no other sport looks back on the past and celebrates it like baseball does. On the flip side, Spring Training and the Minor League system allows future prospects to strut their stuff, showing the general public what could be on the horizon in the coming years. The NFL, NBA, and NHL don’t have a minor league system that is as publicized as Major League Baseball. Since spring is a hopeful time for all 30 organizations the article I read talked about five young players who have gotten a lot of attention since they were called up, but are ready to bloom into the superstars that everyone is expecting them to become. These players are:
Starlin Castro: Chicago Cubs
Eric Hosmer: Kansas City Royals
Brett Lawrie: Toronto Blue Jays
Andrew McCutchen: Pittsburgh Pirates
Giancarlo Stanton: Miami Marlins
Each of these players is entrenched firmly in a starting job once camp breaks at the end of the month, and every one of them has a different kind of pressure on them as they pursue the stardom that analysts and scouts have pinned them for. For Starlin Castro, he’s
the cornerstone of a Chicago Cubs franchise that hasn’t won a World Series title since 1908 and their last appearance in a Fall Classic coming in 1945. Entering his age-22 season, Castro has already established himself at the plate with two .300 average seasons, two 30+ doubles seasons, and a career on-base percentage of .343. In his rookie season, his WAR was only 0.6, but in his All-Star 2011 season, it improved to 2.2. So, he’s definitely heading in the right direction; the only thing left to tame is his defense. Either way, 56 errors in two years is not something to dismiss, but he still has a lot of coaching to do. Eric Hosmer had a real nice rookie campaign for Kansas City (.293/.334/.465) and he’s poised to be the face of the franchise as this young team hopefully develops into a winner. There is pressure on him to be the main driver to get this team back to winning; we’re talking about a franchise that has had three winning seasons since 1990, and none of those totaled more than 84 wins. Hosmer didn’t play a full season last year, but after being called up in May, he was consistently in the line-up, so he knows what a season in the Bigs is all about.
Out of the five players on this list, Brett Lawrie has the least experience in the MLB going into 2012, but after his call up last year in the beginning of August, the Blue Jays saw a fantastic sample in his 150 at-bats (.293/.373/.580). We all know how tough it is to be the Toronto Blue Jays and play in the American League East division with the three-headed monster that is the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. However, the team and its fans have renewed hope with the institution of the second Wild Card spot, and the front office has been making solid moves to improve and rebuild the organization since Alex Antrhopoulos took over as general manager in 2009. On the other hand, Andrew McCutchen has the most experience out of any of these players, entering his fourth season after signing a nice extension over the winter. At the age of 25, McCutchen has already established himself in Pittsburgh, and even though the organization hasn’t had a winning season in almost 20 years, they are moving in the right direction with manager Clint Hurdle in charge.
Giancarlo Stanton is entering his third season with the Miami Marlins, but he is by far the most developed when it comes to his power. It’s hard for fans in Miami not to be excited to see what he’s going to do this year, especially if you look at his trends from his first two seasons. All of the following increased from his rookie to sophomore season: slugging%, batting average, walk rate, on-base%, and home run total. While doing all that, his strike out rate decreased. With the big offseason Miami had, they have to be expecting Jose Reyes to be on more often so Stanton can drive him in. It’s clear to see why he’s trending in the right direction when you hear him talk about it; he’s aiming to not just be a better ballplayer, but to get smarter in certain situations, and not give up at-bats. What more could a manager ask for?
Even though the article I read didn’t rank these players in any such order, I feel behooved to do so myself, just for fun of course. Who has the most pressure on them to perform at a high level this year? It’s Brett Lawrie for me. This is a guy who only had 150 at-bats, and analysts are calling him the next big thing in baseball. You combine that with him being a Canadian born player on the only Canadian MLB team, and you have some pressure on you. The player who has the least amount of pressure to take on this stardom? I would say Andrew McCutchen; since he’s been around the longest, he’s the most established than any of the other players at their respective decisions.
Who is going to make the biggest splash this year? Eric Hosmer. He’s had hype surround him since he was taken third overall in the 2008 draft, and he’s responded to it quite well. He has a heck of a lot of power, and he will be the “leader” of a very interesting Kansas City Royals team. They will go through some growing pains, being a young team will do that, but Hosmer seems calm, cool, and collected, and he has a good chance of taking that demeanor all the way to a 30 home run season. Who will make the smallest splash on his way to stardom? Starlin Castro. With the consistency that he’s shown at the plate, I don’t see him outperforming what he’s already done, especially at the young at of 22 with a lot to learn still. The only thing that can drastically improve is his defense, and in today’s game, defense is unfortunately overlooked on many occasions (except for Web Gems, of course).
Which young player are you most excited to watch develop into a star this year?