Feb 12, 2013

Clocking In

The last few weeks have seen a few talented young rookies make their debuts in the Big League. These late spring call-ups are always significant because they are normally impact players left to marinate in the minors at the start of the season in order to delay their service clock and squeeze one more precious year of service from them.

The following are the top ten rookies destined to have an impact on their ball clubs. At least one team is staking a major claim to the future of their already highly-contested division.

10. Wilfredo Mota, SP, Salt Lake City Awesome
The 23-year-old southpaw from the Dominican Republic has decent command and will be able to start on a few days of rest. His fastball is not especially problematic but he’s blessed with a decent slider setting that pitch up. As is typical of most lefties, he’s harder on left-handed bats but righties will be able to drive the ball with some success against him, and his fastball lacks some zip to blow away major league hitting.

9. Mendy Whang, RP, Tacoma Mongols
The lefty’s greatest attribute is that he can make repeated appearances out of the bullpen when needed and will reduce the burden on the rest of the staff. Whang has decent control but is limited to two pitches, both of which are serviceable but won’t exactly strike fear into his opponents. There is just enough movement on his pitches to prevent batters from teeing off on one, but he will surrender his fair share of hits.

8. Skeeter Cooke, RP, Tacoma Mongols
Cooke likewise will be a workhorse for Tacoma, able to put in a lot of innings on a short amount of rest.  Blessed only with two pitches, Cooke’s change-up is bat-freezing and he’ll lock up a lot of hitters with this plus-plus pitch. His curveball is just decent enough to keep batters honest and fishing. The combination keeps batters off-balance, especially right-handers. It’s too bad he doesn’t throw just a little harder or lower in the strike zone or he could be special.

7. Phillip Burke, SS, Indianapolis Indians
Burke won’t be getting to every ball hit his way if he ends up playing shortstop everyday, but he has a decent enough bat to make up for his lack of range in the field. There’s nothing special about the way Burke gets his work done: he makes average contact and will struggle at times to put good wood on a right-hander. He’s quick, but gets an average jump on the pitcher so he won’t steal a ton. He’s a better fit at second base, and time will tell where he finds his home.

6. Edgar Reyes, CF, Charleston Chewbaccas
Reyes is that rare blend of defensive-minded centerfielders with pop in his bat. Blessed with elite range and a potential gold glove to go with it, Reyes will also turn pitchers’ heads with his hitting. He has above average power, likely since he tends to pull the ball, and makes fairly consistent contact at the plate. Too bad he struggles with the strike zone, rarely finding a pitching he won’t chase with his bat. The latest Wookie is a nice piece to re-build around.

5. Yunesky Polanco, 2B, Cheyenne Duck Snorts
The third player on this list from the Dominican Republic, Polanco is blessed with elite power and a good eye which should send a lot of mistake pitches into the seats of Conte Yard. His lumbering upper-cut of a swing leaves him vulnerable to the strike-out, and at times he’ll often send a ball for a skyward pop-up or awkward grounder when he fails to put good wood on the pitch. Defensively he’s rangey and those big biceps will come in handy for turning two.

4. Luis Montero, SP, Indianapolis Indians
The first of a trio of pitchers breaking in the mound for the Indians, Montero is the least refined of the group but has the furthest still to go in his development. The right-hander is all of 21. He’ll need to continue to develop his command, and his set-up pitch won’t be fooling many batters, but his fastball is major-league ready as is the rest of his off-speed stuff. He’ll be an effective starter in the rotation, and become even more so with exposure to major league coaching.

3. Gregg Denny, SP, Indianapolis Indians
The Oklahoma-native from Broken Arrow won’t be tossing many complete games, but he will put the Indians in position to win with a quality start on a regular basis. Denny is a hard-throwing righty. His fastball and change-up will be enough to challenge opposing batters, and he’ll locate the pitches well enough to keep the ball in the park.

2. Nick Munoz, 3B, Pittsburgh Ponies
Cut in the classic, old-school mold, Munoz profiles to bring a slugger’s mentality to the hot corner. His above average power, coupled with the ability to drive the ball cleanly against right-handed pitching, should elevate his slugging percentage in PNC Park. He’ll turn the occasional single into a double with his baserunning sense and blazing speed. His defense is not too shabby, either, as Pittsburgh will get all this offense with no drop-off in fielding.

1. Carlos Lugo, SP, Indianapolis Indians
With the addition of Carlos Lugo, consider for a second that 26-year-old Pedro Rivera becomes the veteran of the five-man rotation. The Indians add their third and perhaps best piece to the rotation with the recent call-up of Carlos Lugo. The 22-year-old keeps the ball down in the zone, inducing a lot of grounders. His Slider and curveball are not overpowering pitches, but major league worthy, and he’ll throw them hard. As a result, batters will struggle to put decent wood on the ball against him, keeping the ball in the park and often in front of the defense.

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