Whether they are rookies, players who may have had a surprising second half in 2012, or a feeling, here are players you will want to look out for in the 2013 MLB season.
Jurickson Profar, 2B/SS, Texas Rangers
Jurickson Profar posted an amazing season at the age of 19 in Double-A in 2012, compiling a .281/.368/.452 line with 26 doubles, seven triples, 14 home runs, and 16 stolen bases for Frisco. He had 17 at-bats with the Rangers at the end of the season. Profar is about as ready as any prospect could be, even though he will be just 20 in February. The question will be: where does he play? With Ian Kinsler at second, Elvis Andrus at short, and Adrian Beltre at third, will the Rangers move Profar or make a deal? Perhaps moving Kinsler to left if or when Josh Hamilton leaves via free agency is an option. Regardless, Profar is a hitting machine who can get on base, a rarity for someone so young.
Darin Ruf, 1B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Ruf was “old” for Double-A in 2012, but you still have to appreciate his .317/.408/.620 line and his 38 home runs. Fans should be aware of the fact that he hit three home runs and posted a 1.079 OPS in 33 at-bats for the Phillies at the end of the season. More importantly, he is playing in the Venezuelan Winter League, learning to play the outfield, and he is still raking, having hit nine bombs with a .994 OPS in 76 at-bats. With Ryan Howard locked in at first base, the 6’3″, 220 pounder out of Creighton will need to play elsewhere. As the Phillies make changes with their roster after dealing Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino in 2012, it will be interesting to see how much of an opportunity Ruben Amaro, Jr. and Company will provide the slugging right-handed hitter.
Stanton is an absolute freak. Standing 6’5″, 245 pounds, the slugger just turned 23 at the beginning of November and he already has 93 career home runs. Stanton hit 37 home runs in 2012 in just 449 at-bats, including 18 in just 43 games and 164 at-bats in the second half of 2012. Stanton’s 1.057 OPS in the second half was only behind Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey, both players worthy of their league MVP awards. I felt that 2012 was the year that Stanton could get to 50 home runs, and had he not missed 39 games, he very well could have reached that total. If he keeps his knees healthy, Stanton could be on his way to catching asterisks, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, or any other slugger in history.
Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres
San Diego is where pitchers go to revive their careers and where hitters go to die, but don’t tell Headley that. The 28-year-old switch-hitter erupted in the second half of 2012, hitting .308/.386/.592 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI in 289 at-bats, while posting a career best .875 OPS, 31 home runs, and an NL-leading 115 RBI. Headley’s name was mentioned all over the place at the 2012 non-waiver trade deadline, but with the Padres moving the fences in at Petco and Headley under team control for two more years, it would take a significant haul to pry away the star third baseman. However, the Padres have dealt the likes of Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield, and Adrian Gonzalez in the past due to salaries, so Headley may only be more impressive if he ends up playing elsewhere in 2013.
Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals
Wil Myers has nothing left to prove at the minor league level. In 2012, Myers hit .314/.387/.600 between Double-A and Triple-A, mashing 37 home runs and driving in 109 runs. Myers doesn’t even turn 22 until December, so the future is bright. The Royals, brilliantly, have Jeff Francoeur signed through 2013 in right, Alex Gordon signed through 2016 (counting the team option) in left, and Lorenzo Cain in center. Myers played 87 games in center in 2012 but he profiles better in a corner. With Billy Butler entrenched at DH and Eric Hosmer needing a bounce-back in 2013, where will the Royals find room for this future All-Star? Another trade is possible, but, more likely, Frenchy could be headed to the pine.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics
The A’s won the AL West in 2012 and shocked the world. After trading away Gio Gonzalez to the Washington Nationals for a load of prospects, Billy Beane and Oakland ownership won the 2012 offseason by landing the Cuban-defector, Cespedes. While he was a free-swinger (102 strikeouts), Cespedes could also take a walk (43 BB, .356 OBP), becoming an immediate impact player for the A’s. Cespedes exploded in the second half of 2012, posting a .909 OPS, 14 doubles, 14 home runs, and even stealing 10 bases. The overall line, .292/.356/.505, was enhanced down the stretch, .311/.376/.533, so this could be the beginning of a fantastic career. The pure power and speed that Cespedes offers makes him a potentially elite outfielder, MVP candidate, and a superstar, which the A’s needed so badly.
Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Kansas City Royals
When you go 14-0 with a 0.08 ERA in your senior year of high school, you must have some solid stuff. Odorizzi still has the stuff, a broad repertoire that had many linking his pitches and command to Greg Maddux when he was drafted in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. A major part of the Zack Greinke deal, Odorizzi went 15-5 with a 3.08 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012 before making two starts for the Royals in September. Odorizzi has the stuff to become a solid No.2 starter for the Royals, and with Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy working their way back from elbow surgery, and only Bruce Chen, Luis Mendoza, Ervin Santana, Will Smith, and Luke Hochevar in front of him, Odorizzi should begin making an impact early into the 2013 season. He may end up striking out about 170 batters over 200 innings in his prime, while keeping the ball in the park and runners off the bases due to his control.
Carlos Santana, C, Cleveland Indians
After an anemic .221/.339/.336 line in the first half, Santana broke out in the second half of 2012, hitting .281/.389/.498 with 14 doubles, 13 home runs, 46 RBI, and a 41:45 K:BB in 263 at-bats. Santana will turn the magical age of 27 in April, and the catcher, signed through 2017 for the Indians, could continue to establish himself as a dynamic offensive catcher, wearing the No.41 of his mentor, Victor Martinez, with pride. Defensively, Santana allowed 10 passed balls (most in the AL) and threw out only 26 percent of would-be base stealers, so he may not be a catcher much longer if he doesn’t improve behind the dish.
Zack Cox, 3B, Miami Marlins
Gregg Dobbs is all that is standing between Zack Cox and the Miami Marlins everyday third base job. While Cox posted a disappointing .254/.301/.409 line over 394 at-bats in 2012, he was rated by Baseball America as the best pure college hitter in the 2010 MLB Draft, prior to being taken 25th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals. While he has been a bit of a disappointment to this point, especially with his plate discipline, Cox will only turn 24 years old next May. Considering his pedigree, the fact that the Marlins acquired the third baseman for Edward Mujica was surprising. While there may be growing pains, Cox is probably better right now than what Dobbs could provide over the entire 2013 season.
Max Scherzer, RHP, Detroit Tigers
6-1 with a 2.08 ERA and a 80:15 K:BB over 65 innings from August through the end of the season. Then, 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA and an 18:3 K:BB in 11 innings against the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees…Scherzer was a beast down the stretch. He lost his only World Series start against the San Francisco Giants, but Scherzer became a reliable piece to complement Justin Verlander and Doug Fister, stabilizing an amazing group of pitchers collected by the Detroit Tigers. Scherzer was third in the majors (behind James Shields, Verlander, and tied with Clayton Kershaw) in strikeouts in the second half (110), while winning a career-best 16 games in 2012. Scherzer will turn 29 in July and he is arbitration-eligible for the second time. After earning $3.75 million in 2012, Tigers ownership may want to consider locking the mis-matched eyed starter into a long-term contract.