by Aaron Rife
Last year a closer won the Jackie Robinson Award (yeah, that’s what the ROY award is called; I bet you didn’t realize that) for the first time in NL history. Craig Kimbrel took home the award after posting a monster stat line: 4-3, 47 Saves, 2.10ERA, 1.08WHIP, and an amazing 127 Ks in only 77 innings. He now holds the record for most saves by a rookie; breaking Neftali Feliz’s 1-year old record of 40. That’s an impressive rookie season.
This year in the NL, hitters seem to have the upper hand going in to spring training. Here’s a look at the players and a couple long shots. I’ll take a stab at predicting the outcome as well.
Yonder Alonso, 1B Padres- Alonso being traded to San Diego was a blessing regardless of the park differential. He played most of his time last year in the outfield and didn’t show enough promise to make the Reds think that was a possibility going forward and some guy named Votto was blocking him at first base. Kid can rake; think numbers similar to Adrian Gonzalez’ first year at Petco: 38 doubles, 24 HR, 82RBI, .304 Average. He’ll hit 40+ doubles and .300+ easy.
Julio Teheran/Randall Delgado, SP Braves- The Braves keep stockpiling young arms; now the plan is to showcase their next wave of potential All-Stars. Look for both of these two to have stellar seasons that also have the chance of being very similar. Teheran looks to start out the season in the rotation whereas Delgado isn’t a sure thing. Both had a cup of coffee last season: Teheran’s was shaky but you could expect that from someone who was only 20 years old at the time. I think they’ll both have their struggles which will keep their ERAs close to 4 causing them to miss out this year. That’s not to say they won’t be studs in the future. There will be plenty of seasons to improve when you’re 21 and 22 years old. If either of the two would have a breakout year, I think it would be Teheran. I put them both here because they could cancel each other out should both perform well.
Devin Mesoraco, C Reds- The prized catcher of the Reds farm system finally gets a chance to show what he can do. The Reds thought enough of Mesoraco to not offer Ramon Hernandez a contract, meaning they’re starting the season with Mesoraco as the starter (most likely splitting almost 50/50 with Hanigan). His small stint with the Reds last year shouldn’t be discouraging; he can hit and he’ll get every opportunity to prove otherwise. Playing in a bandbox of a stadium will be nice too. I look for him to have about 15-18 HR and a .270 average which isn’t bad at all for a rookie catcher, its just not ROY numbers.
In The Hunt:
Anthony Rizzo, 1B Cubs- Rizzo has been shipped twice in the past 12 months; makes one wonder if he’s legit or not (think Brett Wallace). With not much in the cupboard in Chicago he’s going to play the majority of games for the Cubs. It’s hard to gauge Rizzo off of is 2011 season: he didn’t hit well at home or on the road, and there wasn’t much difference against righties or lefties. He just plain stunk. Maybe it was the pressure of being the next Adrian Gonzalez. If that’s the case, he’s going to need another change of scenery. He may not have the expectations in Chicago like he had in San Diego but the media and fans won’t put up with another slow start.
Drew Pomeranz, SP Rockies- It used to be that pitching in Coors Field was an afterthought, but that hasn’t been the case recently. Whether it’s the humidor or better scouting, the Rockies have been able to get some quality seasons out of young starters (Jimenez, De La Rosa, Chacin) and Pomeranz looks to fit right in. He was acquired from Cleveland for Ubaldo Jimenez and made it to the majors after starting 2 games for the Rockies AA squad in Tulsa. Drew will start out of the gate for Colorado and should last all season. The numbers will be favorable in terms of strikeouts and WHIP; where he’ll be lacking is wins and ERA.
Bryce Harper, OF Nationals- What hasn’t been said about Bryce Harper? There’s little indication that he will start the season on the major league roster. There’s talk of him starting in RF and pushing Werth to CF, so that’s something to keep an eye on. The good thing is that once he comes to the majors he’ll be there to stay.
My way-too-early prediction- Yonder Alonso