Written by Jonathan Leshanski
Published: 27 February 2012
Analyzing prospects is always a challenge. Trying to figure out which will make his rookie debut in the upcoming season and are the most likely to be impact players over that span can be a bit of a crapshoot. Some of the most talented ones will be left behind when spring training ends. Others, often seemingly less ready, will get a chance early due to an unexpected injury or simply because they got hot at the right time.
That said here are the nine AL prospects I think will be most likely to make a significant impact in 2012.
Matt Moore (SP, Tampa Bay): Tampa once again produces a pitcher who from day one of the season should be an impact player. At AAA he averaged 13.5 K/9 and was even better than that during his brief stay in the Majors and the playoffs last year. Because of that he's no sleeper but with potential like his he'll either be overrated in your draft or a significant bargain. If you draft him don't expect Tampa to push him for more than 160 innings, even though the Rays have said he won't be on strict limitations this year.
Matt Moore making his major league debut against Baltimore last September.
- Yu Darvish (SP, Texas): The Rangers gambled big money that this Japanese import can translate his dominance to the Majors. Certainly he's got the build for it and at 6-5 he looks like a pure power pitcher. MLB players who've faced him for the most part have been impressed and believe that the skills will translate. That said, he's a gamble and if your league offers the opportunity to get him cheap enough, the ace upside is intriguing.
- Addison Reed (CL, Chicago): The 23-year-old Reed is a pure power pitcher with an excellent slider and barring some Spring Training stumbles he's going to be handed the closer role for the White Sox. He's got 98 mph heat and looks to be one of those guys who'll be able to translate his high K/9 to the bigs -- he averaged 11.8 at AAA.
- Yoenis Cespedes (OF, Oakland): The Cuban outfielder isn't exactly a giant in stature at 5'11 but he has a great eye and surprisingly good power. If that power translates to the Majors the way it did in the World Baseball Classic and against competition back in Cuba he could offer 30 home run power right off the bat, not to mention a decent average. If you play in a league that values OBP or OPS he's likely to be a very good buy. The fact he'll hit in the middle of the order in Oakland should give him plenty of RBI chances too.
- Jarrod Parker (SP, Oakland): If you wondered why Oakland seemed to think that trading Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill away was a good idea, you apparently missed the news about Jarrod Parker. Parker is an elite prospect who projects as a No. 1-type starter and should get a chance to show his stuff this year. He's not going to be a high strikeout type pitcher, but if everything comes together he could offer an ERA in the mid 3's and gather 12-15 wins.
- Mike Trout (OF, Angels): The 20-year-old Trout came close but didn't quite get enough at bats to lose rookie status last year. That's a good thing since he didn't really flash the skills that made him one of the Angels top prospects. Right now, in a crowded Angels outfield, he's actually projecting as more of a fourth outfielder, but if he gets to play, his good OBP, high average and rising power level should make him a worthwhile investment, especially as he should be cheap. If he got to play every day, projecting 15-20 home runs and 20+ steals, along with a .265 average, wouldn't be outrageous.
- Jesus Montero (C/DH, Seattle): Brought in for his bat, Montero may not actually play the field so much as take the everyday DH role. However, he'll qualify as a catcher, which makes his bat worthwhile, especially since he already offers 20-25 home run power and solid average. He'll be dropped into the center of the Mariners lineup giving him plenty of RBI chances. That should make him a nice pickup at the right price.
- Wil Myers (OF, KC): Myers probably won't make the opening day roster, but the kid is big, plays hard and has terrific bat speed and determination. He's 6-3 and 195 and as he's only 21, he's probably as close to can't miss Major Leaguer that the KC organization has. Defensive struggles, not to mention the Royals needs, have pushed him from the catching position to the outfield. That means he'll be ready sometime this year rather than down the road. That said, his power is still developing and just how much he can contribute this year is very much up in the air. He's got breakout potential, but it might not be this year. In a keeper league he's well worth stashing.
- Jacob Turner (SP, Detroit): There is a lot to like about Turner, a 6-5 righty who has solid across the board skills and plenty of room for growth. He's almost a lock to make the opening day rotation and he offers some immediate upside. Even if it takes him a few years to reach his full potential, he offers value -- especially if he can translate his 10.8 K/9 that he had in AAA to the Majors. He projects as a clear No. 2 pitcher down the road.