2013's Top 10 First Half Rookies

April 16, 2013

We all know about Jurickson Profar, Oscar Taveras, Wil Myers and Dylan Bundy. There’s little doubt that they each will play a significant role for their prospective club at some point in the 2013 season. But, besides being top prospects, they all have something else in common: they are currently playing in the minor leagues.

So, while we wait for these can’t-miss prospects to grace us with their presence in the majors, I thought it would be polite, if not downright appropriate, to take a look at the top rookies who are actually playing (and making an impact) for their major league squad.

1. Jose Fernandez, SP Miami Marlins

If you didn’t know about this kid before the 2013 season began, you do now. Due to injuries to Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez, the Marlins threw their 20- year-old top prospect right into the fire, and he’s already the best pitcher on their staff. Fernandez has a dominating fastball with wicked movement that sits at 94 MPH, and in two-strike counts he effortlessly hits 97 MPH to put batters away. His curveball is equally nasty, and although he can float it up there at 77 MPH with arching movement, it usually sits at 83 MPH with devastatingly late break. Oh yeah, and he has a changeup too, although it’s not a plus pitch for him—yet.

2. Shelby Miller, SP St. Louis Cardinals

Only 22 years old, Miller has posted impressive strikeout numbers at all levels of the minor leagues. Because his fastball, which he throws 88-94 MPH, is not overpowering, and his curveball isn’t yet a pitch that garners many swings-and-misses, he most likely won’t be able to match those strikeout rates in the majors. Still, Miller has good stuff. His best pitch is his fastball, which has heavy sinking movement, and he’s more than capable of getting major league hitters out with it. Like his curveball, his changeup needs polish, but I expect it to eventually be an average-to-plus pitch. Because he is dependent on command, Miller will have a few bumps in the road, but he profiles nicely as No. 3 starter.

3. Evan Gattis, C Atlanta Braves

Gattis has an awesome back story, a weird batting stance and legit power. Even more impressive is that, for a guy who looks like he was just handpicked from the lumber yard and thrown onto a baseball diamond, he has great patience at the dish. He can yank a ball 400 feet just as easily as he can inside-out a pitch into right field for a base hit. The only hole I see in his swing is the fastball up and in. But Gattis, 26, especially for a big man, has a compact, stride-less swing. He might have trouble finding at-bats once Brian McCann returns from the disabled list, but his steady stick will likely force the Braves into making room for him in the lineup.

4. Wily Peralta, SP Milwaukee Brewers

If you want to see one of the game’s better sinkers (especially for a starting pitcher), look no further than Wily Peralta. This pitch is what has caused Peralta to be heralded as Milwaukee’s top pitching prospect, and it is also what will allow him to be successful at the major league level—if he can command it consistently. He throws it 91-97 MPH and gets plenty of ground balls, which is especially beneficial since he pitches half of his games in hitter-friendly Miller Park. Because his secondary pitches still need refinement, he won’t be posting large strikeout numbers—at least not yet. His slider is his second best pitch, which he will eventually learn to use more effectively in two-strike counts. While his control will likely remain an issue, Peralta has the stuff to be a very good pitcher.

5. Trevor Rosenthal, RP St. Louis Cardinals

Rosenthal, after pitching as a starter for most of his minor league career, came up to the major leagues late last year and dominated as a reliever. The Cardinals decided—properly—to leave him in the bullpen for 2013, and the decision should pay great dividends. Rosenthal throws pure gas; his fastball sits consistently at 97 MPH, and he casually humps up to 100 MPH to finish off hitters. Even better, he commands it well. The only downside of the pitch is that it is pretty straight, which can be forgiven due to its high velocity. He has a decent changeup and a still- developing curveball, which he sometimes overuses. Once he gets more experience and develops better pitch selection, he could be one of the more dominant closers in the game.

6. Matt Adams, 1B St. Louis Cardinals

Adams has done nothing but mash at every level. He is big, strong and his power is for real. What bodes well for Adams is the fact that he doesn’t try to do too much at the plate. He is a patient hitter with a good eye, and even though he may resemble Adam Dunn at the plate, he will hit for a higher average and strike out much less. What troubles me about Adams is that his swing is a little long and he has trouble catching up to good fastballs. His power zone, like most lefties, is low and in, and he punishes breaking balls on the inner half of the plate. I think the league will figure out Adams soon enough and start pounding him inside with fastballs, but until then he will continue to rake.

7. Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP Los Angeles Dodgers

Ryu has a full arsenal of pitches that will allow him to compete in the major leagues. His fastball is relatively straight and he throws it 89-92 MPH. He has a big, slow, sweeping curveball that can buckle a batter’s knees. His slider, which is more of a slurve, sits around 84 MPH and gets a lot of swingthroughs. His best pitch is his changeup, even though it doesn’t have much fall-away movement; what makes it so good is Ryu’s ability to repeat his motion and arm speed consistently. Ryu will throw any pitch at any time, which, coupled with his ability to command all of his offerings, allows him to keep batters off-balance and guessing. He will get hit hard when his command is not there, but he fits nicely into the Dodgers’ rotation as a solid No. 3 starter.

8. Jedd Gyorko, 2B San Diego Padres

Gyorko, the Padres’ top hitting prospect coming into the 2013 season, struggled a bit in Double-A before putting together his most impressive offensive campaign in 2012 at the Triple-A level. Although his power may not translate to the major league level, his solid approach and plate discipline will. He can get pull-happy sometimes, but he has decent plate coverage and the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field. His biggest challenge in the majors will be adjusting to off-speed pitches, but he could be an above-average regular.

9. Julio Teheran, SP Atlanta Braves

Because of their belief in Teheran’s potential, the Braves were willing to part with Randall Delgado as a piece of the Justin Upton trade. Teheran’s fastball is lively but erratic. When he’s throwing it in the lower part of the zone, it is a nasty pitch. His curveball, which has late, sharp break, shows great potential, although he struggles to command it consistently. His changeup, which he underutilizes at times, is another potential plus pitch. There is no question about Teheran’s stuff: it’s his ability to command it that will determine his future. He certainly has No. 2 starter potential, and he’s only 22 years old.

10. Brad Peacock, SP Houston Astros

After Peacock put together a few dominant seasons in the minor leagues, his star has faded quite a bit. He is essentially a two-pitch pitcher who depends on command, something that has eluded him at times in the past. His fastball sits around 91 MPH and has little movement, so he has to locate it well in order to be effective. His curveball, an above-average pitch, is what has always excited evaluators and allowed him to rack up strikeouts at all levels of the minor leagues. The pitch has big, sharp break, and he can steal a strike with it or use it to put a batter away. He has a changeup that he throws with little frequency, but that’s going to have to change in order for him to have any hope of developing into anything more than a No. 4 starter.

 

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattmf86.