WTNYOctober 12, 2004
Rookies of 2005
By Bryan Smith

In the next two days, my hope is to provide you with the ultimate resource for what my title implies: next seasons rookies. I dont want to just touch on who could win Rookie of the Year, but ultimately touch on the majority of players that will cross the rookie threshold next year. B.J. Upton and David Wright might not be high up on Rookie of the Year ballots, but not every baseball fan knew their names last year.

To provide a thorough list, I first look at the players that had cups of coffee with the Major League organization this season. All these players are highly likely to play next year, many of whom will compete for the top rookie slot. I also look through each organizations AAA and AA rosters, for players that didnt get call-ups this year, but will get time next year. And finally, I quickly perused over the Baseball America high-A league top 20 prospects, to look for players that might make the big jump next season.

Today I will cover the American League, which should have some nice ROY competition next season. I might be wrong on a few players, and whether or not they still qualify as rookies, so please correct me.

In the American League East, its normally safe to say no big rookies will be coming in through Beantown or the Bronx. We saw Kevin Youkilis appear in Boston this season, but few rookies ever have a chance to make a difference with these powerhouses. If Boston spends too much money re-signing their core, look for Theo Epstein to trust Abe Alvarez to be his fifth starter. Ive always been a fan of Alvarez, who Rich Lederer also likes, from Long Beach State.

The majority of the rookies will be coming through Toronto, who could have as many as six next season. Russ Adams looked spectacular in a September call-up, and probably did enough to force J.P. Riccardi to trade Chris Woodward or Orlando Hudson. While Gustavo Chacin might not have made the difference Adams did, shutting down the Yankees for seven innings will always get you noticed. Carlos Delgados exit should open the door for Eric Crozier, a midseason acquisition from the Cleveland Indians. Furthermore, the closer reins could be handed over to Brandon League as early as next year, and he has sensational stuff. Finally, while they shouldnt make much of a difference, notice that Guillermo Quiroz and Aaron Hill are right over the horizon.

As much as Baltimore and Tampa need makeovers, they wont be getting much of them. Scott Kazmir still qualifies as a rookie, and should be guaranteed a slot in next years rotation. This season, Baltimore showed they arent hesitant to start rookies, possibly opening a door for former Tar Heel, John Maine. Val Majewski, who I wrote about last week, could land a spot if his arm injury heals over the offseason. The Devil Rays have a bevy of outfielders to choose from (Joey Gathright, Jonny Gomes, Matt Diaz), but no spots with Crawford, Baldelli, and Jose Cruz. Finally, two pitchers that could make a difference are Devil Ray reliever Chad Orvella, and Oriole Hayden Penn. Penn busted on the prospect scene this year, and another explosion will surely land him in Camden Yards.

Moving to the Central, it should come as no shock that the division champs could have the most rookies next season. The Twins are always known to shake things up, and 2005 should not change that notion. Im already lobbying for the trade of Jacque Jones, as Terry Ryan has already shown confidence in top prospect Jason Kubel. The team also gave a significant number of appearances to Jesse Crain, who should further strengthen next seasons bullpen. The left side of the infield could be entirely new, as both Jason Bartlett and Terry Tiffee, have shown they are ready to replace Guzman and Koskie. And should any rotation spots open up, watch out for J.D. Durbin, or darkhorse prospect Francisco Liriano.

We see an obvious difference in philosophies between Terry Ryan and Kenny Williams in the fact that the White Sox might not debut any rookies next year. Top prospects Brandon McCarthy and Brian Anderson might have chances, but neither will make a significant impact. Kansas City, shockingly, will see much of the same, with only Denny Bautista and Mark Teahen possibly getting serious time. And in Tigerland, as Dave Dambrowski keeps refusing to start from the youth, we should really only see Curtis Granderson. But dont rule out possible time from second basemen Ryan Raburn, and WTNY favorite, former first round pick from Rice, Kenny Baugh.

Mark Shapiro will continue his change of the Indians dynamics, as he continuously gives young players opportunities. Jhonny Peralta, Brandon Phillips nor Grady Sizemore can still be considered rookies, but it will be interesting to watch how Eric Wedge uses them in his lineup. All three have already shown some amount of Major League readiness. The Indians rookies should be in the pitching staff, with Francisco Cruceta as the most likely rotation candidate. Also, look for Fernando Cabrera and former top collegiate hurler Jeremy Guthrie to get looks out of the bullpen. The only possible hitter that might make a difference is Ryan Garko, a C/1B type that could steal Josh Phelps job from him.

Finally, we go out to the West, which should offer some fantastic rookies. The first and most notable is Dallas McPherson, who we saw this October on Mike Scioscias playoff roster. The Angels will not even attempt to pursue Troy Glaus, leaving room for Fabians arch nemesis. But expect McPherson to factor into the ROY debate, if not with average but power and opportunity. I dont believe that Casey Kotchman still qualifies, but lets all pray that on Opening Day 2005, no matter how highly Scioscia thinks of Darin Erstad, Kotchman is 3 in your scorecard.

Billy Beane, whos farm system I often criticize, will have a chance to prove me wrong next year. Former top pick Nick Swisher showed enough in September to convince As brass hes their starting right fielder next season. Swishers average will probably be lower than McPherson, but expect a good OBP and ISO in his first full season. Joe Blanton, also chose in that draft, had a tough year before a great finish, and his K/BB and HR/9 rates would be enough to convince me hes their fifth starter. Note to Beane: trade one of the Big Three. Oh, and Scott Hatteberg, so PCL MVP Dan Johnson can finally get a chance. Who knows what this team does with Octavio Dotel, but I can promise you that both Jairo Garcia and Huston Street will contend for some save opportunities.

The Rangers had a breakout season in 2004, but like Kansas City in 2003, will fail unless they add more pitching. They will be hard pressed to find much from their farm system, as scouts think quite lowly of Chris Young, Kameron Loe, and Nick Regilio. If any Ranger prospect makes a difference, it will be John Hudgins, a prospect who I am borderline obsessed with. A former Stanford graduate, if Hudgins avoids arm troubles, Im convinced hell make Grady Fuson proud. Finally, while they shouldnt make much of a difference, expect John Hart to let Adrian Gonzalez or Jason Botts compete for the DH spot.

Last and rightfully least, are the Seattle Mariners. After Clint Nageotte and Travis Blackley overstayed their welcomes, expect their chances to be limited in 2005. But I like the Australian southpaw, and still believe that Nageotte could be a force alongside Rafael Soriano in the bullpen. As for the lineup, the story of the offseason will be if Bill Bavasi makes room for either Jeremy Reed or Shin-Soo Choo. The former was Septembers best call-up, while the latter is one of the scouts most favorite prospects. But most of all, I would be remiss not to mention Felix Hernandez, who if he reaches the Majors as quick as Zack Greinke, could make waves in the Rookie of the Year debate.

If Bat-Girl is promoting Santana/Nathan in the 04 campaign, would it be wrong to start asking for your vote (think Internet Baseball Awards) for King Felix in the 05 ROY race?

Comments

Would anyone be willing to take some type of McPherson vs. Swisher wager?

what kind of wager?

Just to venture some guesses as to who will be more productive.

I'll wager a guess:
McPherson will start at 3B, Swisher will play an outfield utility guy role ala Jason Werth. McPherson will play solid enough to keep starting most of the games, will hit 28 HR and get about 167 strikeouts, somehow still maintaining a .300 batting average, leading me to believe once he stops getting fooled he'll hit in the .500 - .600 range because if the guy doesn't strike out he hits it a long way. Swisher will hit about .260, with 15-20 HR and will strikeout a good amount of the time, not nearly as much as Dallas, he'll have some good months where he manages to bring his batting average up to .280. Oakland will eventually realize they are still rebuilding even though they're leading the division and will put him in LF with Byrnes and Dye at CF and RF, and Kotsay, left fiddling with his hat like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, will stammer his way out the door tripping over everything.

I'll admit, I don't really know Swisher that well, so I could be wrong about Oaklands outfield situation...but that's my guess. You got any insight?

Time to voice in...

Dave, the problem with your reasoning is that Jermaine Dye is a free agent at season's end, leaving a spot for Swisher. Expect both players to get 500+ AB.

As for what I think, I don't think either player will hit .275. Swisher should post a line of about .260/.350/.450, which if of course very solid. I think McPherson should .270/.325/.500, showing more raw power.

Fabian?

I see Swisher going .250/.350/.450. I see McPherson going .245/.295/.450.