Rounding Third: Finding the next Mike Trout
Philadelphia, PA – Few rookies put forth the type of season that Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outfielder Mike Trout did in 2012.
To say Trout's first season was spectacular doesn't even do it justice, as he led all rookies in nearly every offensive category and was a unanimous choice for the American League's Rookie of the Year.
Trout also became the first player in major league history to steal 45 bases, score 125 runs and hit 30 home runs in a single season. Additionally, he is the only player to hit .320 or above with 30 home runs and 45 stolen bases in a single season.
All that with missing most of the first month of the season. And oh yea, he turned 21 in August.
As good as Trout was, though, the hype machine went into overdrive for his NL Rookie of the Year counterpart, Bryce Harper, who oddly enough burst on the scene as a 19-year-old on the same day as Trout.
Harper only batted .270, but blasted 22 home runs and tallied 59 RBI, and his 5.0 wins above replacement was the highest of any player his age since 1900.
So let's take a look at a few players who could be this year's Mike Trout or Bryce Harper:
OSCAR TAVERAS, OF, ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Taveras won league batting titles in each of the past two seasons while managing 272 hits in 202 games. In 2012, he led the Texas League in doubles (37) and extra-base hits (67). He also drove in 94 runs, hit 23 home runs and batted .346 with runners in scoring position during a full season in Double-A.
All that came one the heels of a year that saw Taveras bat .386 with an on- base-percentage of .444 in 78 Single-A games.
At 20, Taveras was the youngest of the 59 participants in the Cardinals major league camp. He's held his own offensively, but St. Louis wants him to get a little more polished in the field before they bring him up on a full-time basis.
In a perfect world Taveras would replace Carlos Beltran in 2014. But, don't be surprised to see the Cardinals turn to Taveras midway through this season.
WIL MYERS, OF, TAMPA BAY RAYS
The Minor League Player of the Year last season, Myers was the focal point of the Rays' deal that sent starter James Shields to Kansas City.
Myers was terrific for the Rays this spring, hitting 300 with a triple, three doubles and an RBI in 15 Grapefruit League games. But, like Taveras, Myers won't start the season with the big league club, as he still has some holes in his swing after striking out 140 times last season.
But, it won't be long before he's roaming the outfield at Tropicana Field. In fact, Myers will likely be recalled sometime in June. which would net the Rays an extra year of arbitration with him, similar to the way the Nats handled Harper a year ago.
Tampa also did the same thing with Evan Longoria back in 2008, but the team eventually worked out a long-term deal with him shortly after his call-up, negating any "Super Two" nonsense anyway.
JURICKSON PROFAR, INF, TEXAS RANGERS
Profar's biggest stumbling block may be that he his literally blocked in the Rangers' lineup. Ian Kinsler is Texas' everyday second baseman. Elvis Andrus is the everyday shortstop. That is not going to change.
Profar is the top prospect in all of baseball. But the Rangers can't guarantee the 20-year-old 350 at-bats, meaning he's headed towards Triple-A Round Rock. By the way, that's not a bad thing either. He won't turn 21 until after this coming season. There is no rush. In fact he'd probably benefit from another year of minor league seasoning.
He spent part of last season in Double-A Frisco, where he posted a .281 average with 14 home runs and 16 steals. The Rangers promoted him to the majors late last season, where he played just nine games with a home run and two RBI.
Even if he was lights-out in spring training, which he wasn't by the way, it would have been hard for manager Ron Washington to find a spot for him.
Profar may get his 500 at-bats this season, but there is a very good chance it does not come with the Rangers. Profar is always the first name out of other general managers mouths when they call about a trade.
How about this? The Rangers desperately need a power bat to replace Josh Hamilton in the outfield, while the St. Louis Cardinals are searching for a shortstop to take over for Rafael Furcal, who is out for the season.
Anyone down for a Taveras-Profar swap?
AARON HICKS, OF, MINNESOTA TWINS
Of the players mentioned here, only Hicks will be an everyday player for his team at the outset. Well at least it appears he will anyway.
Minnesota needed someone to win the center field spot with Denard Span and Ben Revere now playing elsewhere. The Twins quietly hoped Hicks would win the job, but nobody expected him to win it going away.
Hicks, the 98th best prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, has been tremendous, hitting .326 with four doubles, four home runs, 13 RBI and 13 runs scored in 14 games.
While Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire hasn't come right out and said that Hicks is his man, the prevailing thought going into the spring was that the team preferred to use Darin Mastroianni as a fourth outfielder. Hicks' big spring should allow that to happen.
TRAVIS D'ARNAUD, C, NEW YORK METS
The New York Mets may have got a steal when they sent reigning National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto for a package of players centered around catcher Travis D'Arnaud.
Once the centerpiece of a deal that sent Roy Halladay to Philadelphia, D'Arnaud was pegged to make his big league debut last season, but a torn PCL delayed that. He was hitting .333 with 16 home runs and 52 RBI in 67 Triple-A games at the time of the injury.
D'Arnaud is ready. The always cost-conscious Mets will likely handle D'Arnaud the same way the Rays will treat Myers and wait until mid-June so they have him under their control for another year.