The 2017 season was special. We had a rookie in each league blow through records and help their teams get deep in the post season. History says that we likely won’t see a year like that again from a rookie in a long time. Don’t tell that to these guys though.
Shohei Ohtani Los Angeles Angels |P/DH
Ohtani is attempting to take on Major League Baseball as both a pitcher and a hitter. He hopes to be the Japanese version of Babe Ruth. On the mound, he has a fastball that has been clocked in the triple digits, with secondary pitches that feature a Tanaka like splitter and a curveball that is going to leave a lot of hitters looking goofy. At the plate Ohtani has a power bat that produces some of the prettiest backspin in today’s game. A very underrated part of Ohtani’s game is his eye at the plate. At 23 he already seems to have a veteran eye and stays with his approach throughout an at bat. On the mound, I would worry about pitch count and getting deep in games. He’s a strikeout pitcher who had an average walk rate in Japan. This spells early exits. His stuff can be unhittable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wait him out. He has the ability to exceed expectations at both positions though, and will likely be making the way for players like Hunter Greene.
Michael Kopech Chicago White Sox |P
You can’t talk about hitting triple digits without talking about Michael Kopech. The 6’3 right hander is a power pitcher who is looking absolutely lights out in spring training so far. Kopech features a high 90’s fastball with a low 90’s slider. He seems to have taken command over some of his control issues and has been surgical with his pitches so far this spring. Kopech reminds me of Jacob DeGrom of the Mets. Everything he throws at you is hard. Barreling him up is going to be difficult because his fastball has late movement that’s sure to break some bats this year.
Miguel Andujar New York Yankees |3B
Andujar has exploded onto the scene so far this spring training. Going into the year the discussion was who was going to play third base for the Yankees. Andujar has made it very clear they don’t need to look any further. What makes Andujar special is how often he makes good contact. He rarely swings and misses, and when he makes contact the exit velocity is usually pretty high. The main concern with Andujar is the defense, and whether he can become a steady third basemen. He has decent range and a cannon for an arm. He struggles with throwing from different angles though which is essential in the infield. Andujar has the lineup around him that will allow him to feast on fastballs. Look for him to hit towards the top of the lineup on days where some of the superstars are taking a day off.
Kyle Tucker Houston Astros |OF
How is it that the best team in baseball might have even more weapons they’ve yet to unleash on the league? Well the answer to that is pretty simple. They built their team TOO well. Tucker is ready to break out, but has to wait for the outfielders in front of him to move on or give him an opportunity in some way. Tucker has sent balls into orbit this spring training and is showing the Astros that the time might be now to have him in the lineup. Tucker has plus power, and a decent approach at the plate. His problem is that he’ll likely be limited to a corner spot, or maybe even pick up first base. Tucker has a lot of similarities in his swing to Cody Bellinger. His swing angle is made to hit balls deep into the outfield. Look for the Astros to possibly trade Reddick or Marwin Gonzalez, who’s a free agent at the end of the year, to make room for the power hitting lefty.
A.J Puk Oakland Athletics |SP
Imagine Randy Johnson and Cole Hamels had a baby. This is pretty much what you’re looking at when you see A.J Puk. Puk has a mid-90’s fastball with a wipe out slider. He has Chris Sale type stuff, with Cole Hamels like mechanics. He doesn’t just sling the fastball up there instead he is very mechanical and almost over the top in his delivery. Puk has looked like the best pitcher in A’s camp this spring training and part of the reason why I can see the A’s sneaking into a wildcard spot.
Ronald Acuna Atlanta Braves |OF
Acuna is the best hitting prospect in the Minors right now. Barring injury, he will make his MLB debut this season at the young age of 20. Acuna is a 5-tool player who is still growing into his power. If you really want to compare him to a major leaguer, the best player to compare him to is Mike Trout. Yes, that’s quite a comparison, Trout is the best player in the game, but when you look at Acuna and you watch him at the plate you see the same qualities that make Trout the All-star that he is. He has a short but powerful swing. He consistently gets the barrel to the ball. He’s probably faster than Trout was when he was called up. He’s a top outfielder. He even has a really good arm that’s something that Trout lacks. Till this point he owned every level he’s played it. The majors may be next this season.
Victor Robles Washington Nationals |OF
Speed kills in baseball and there aren’t many guys in the MLB that have game changing speed. Victor Robles is that guy. He’s a plus defender that is likely to be on his way to multiple Gold Gloves. His defense is spectacular and his arm is right there with it. He’s only 20 years old, but got his first taste of the big leagues last September. At the plate Robles has a mature eye in the strike zone and has continued to develop power in each minor-league season. I can see him hitting anywhere from 12- 20 Home runs if he plays an extended period in the Majors this season. Look for him to take over the centerfield spot in D.C. We could be watching the passing of the torch from Harper to Robles.
Alex Reyes St. Louis Cardinals |OF
2 seasons ago the baseball world was excited about the 21-year-old who was a power throwing Dominican out of New Jersey. A suspension and some Tommy John surgery later and this is the year Alex Reyes is finally back to compete for the Cardinals. Before he left, Reyes showed the baseball world a high 90’s fastball with a plus curveball and a changeup that seemed to be developing at a very good pace. Reyes will likely be utilized as a spot starter/long reliever this season. Expect the Cardinals to utilize him like the Yankees utilized Chad Green last season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Reyes eventually took over the closer role. His high 90 heat with decent secondary pitches can make him a very effective closer.
Lewis Brinson Miami Marlins |OF
There’s not a lot to be excited about in Miami right now, but that doesn’t mean the Marlins don’t have anybody to come and watch. Brinson was acquired from the Brewers in the Yelich trade, and has the potential to be just as good if not better than Yelich. Brinson is probably the best overall athlete coming out in this year’s rookie class, and will likely start in Miami from day 1. His new ballpark, as well as his tools, will likely see him making a permanent move to right field. He has the arm strength to make the long throws and the athleticism to be a plus defender there. Offensively, Brinson has superstar potential. He’s a strong hitter who will be an above average power guy. His comparison is somewhere between Yasiel Puig and Lorenzo Cain. He doesn’t have the raw tools that Puig has, but is likely to end up with similar numbers. His tools are closer to Lorenzo Cain’s, but Brinson has more upside and can provide some better offensive numbers. The rebuild starts around him.
Ryan McMahon Colorado Rockies |1B
I can’t imagine a better place for a young hitter to thrive than Colorado. McMahon time has arrived in Colorado and they’ve made that clear by not resigning the veteran Matt Reynolds who had a very good year for them last season. McMahon is purely an offensive player. He’s been a high average hitter every year in the minors. He needs to get a little stronger so he can hit for power more consistently, but other than that his bat will be the real deal. He’s not somebody you’re going to have to worry about on the bases and his defense probably isn’t going to turn any heads at this point in his career, but his bat has the potential to put up some big-time numbers. His swing looks similar to that of Mitch Moreland’s. He’s been working on getting a little bit more lift on the baseball which has skewed his numbers a little bit, but that shouldn’t stop him from being a key contributor this season. If the Rockies, make another playoff run this season look for the name Ryan McMahon to be a part of it in a decent sized way.