Every year there seems to be a handful of prospects who are able to come up, either after Spring Training or during the season, and make a positive impact on the club at such a young age without much big league experience. We saw this two seasons ago with Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants and this year with Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves. These are not necessarily the best prospects in the organization, but the ones who are closest to the major leagues ready to make a significant difference. Lets take a look at the possible top members of the 2012 rookie class for each National League team.
Julio Teheran (ATL)- Teheran was widely regarded as the top pitching prospect in all of baseball last year. He had a taste of the majors making a few spot starts for the Braves in 2011 but struggled. It is a very small sample size so take that with a grain of salt. The trade of Derek Lowe to Cleveland opens the door for a spot in the rotation for Teheran. He has legitimate ace stuff and is projected as a top of the rotation starter. He dominated AAA last year posting a 2.55 ERA with a 15-3 record in 144 innings pitched. The 20 year old is ready to make the next step. Look out NL East
Dominic Brown (PHI)- Brown has been the Phillies top prospect for a few years now and he got a substantial taste of the big leagues last year, hitting .245/.333/.391 in 184 AB’s in 2011. He destroyed AAA in 2010 but took a bit of a step back in 2011 overall. The left field job is his to lose now that Raul Ibanez is gone. Still one of the top outfield prospects in the game and this could be his first full season in the majors if everything goes well.
Matt Harvey (NYM)- The Mets top draft pick in 2010 breezed through high-A ball and held his own in AA in his first season of pro ball. Harvey is a durable workhorse with top of the rotation stuff. The Mets are desperate for rotation help and if Harvey starts the year in AA and pitches well, we could see him in Queens by the middle of the season. Sandy Alderson and his new regime will make sure Harvey is not rushed, but if he is ready, he will be up in a heartbeat.
Brad Peacock (WSH)- Everybody salivates over Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, but Brad Peacock is on the verge of breaking the big league rotation in Washington. He may not come with a future ace tag on him, but he has the makeup to be a productive middle of the rotation guy. Peacock has a great curveball and pitched well in AA and AAA in 2011. He has a shot at making the 25 man roster out of Spring Training.
Matt Dominguez (MIA)- Dominguez had his first taste of the big leagues last year and was unfortunate enough to suffer a broken wrist after being hit by a pitch. The defense of Dominguez is very good but the only question is will he be able to handle big league pitching. He did not exactly tear the cover off the ball in the minors and that is a concern for the Marlins. If he can hit, he has the chance to be a solid big league regular. Spring Training will be extremely important for him.
Brett Jackson (CHC)- The main name being thrown around for Theo Epstein compensation it very well in AAA in 2011. The Cubs will look to give Jackson a shot at an outfield position in 2012. He doesn’t have the upside to be a star outfielder and perennial All-Star, but a ceiling of a solid regular is still very valuable.
Devin Mesoraco (CIN)- The top catching prospect in 2011 is ready to break camp with the big league club in 2012. In 50 AB’s in the majors in 2011 Mesoraco struggled, but he hit well in AAA all season. Being a catcher, as long as Mesoraco is able to hold his own with the bat and play well behind the plate in 2012, he will provide serious value for GM Walt Jocketty and let him address other areas of the team. The Reds have the talent to be back in the playoffs in 2012 and Mesoraco could seriously help them. He projects to be an above average regular in the future.
Paul Clemens (HOU)- Oh boy, the Astros are a mess. Their top talent in their mediocre farm system is all in the lower levels. Clemens was acquired from the Braves in 2011 and has a chance to touch the big league rotation in 2011. But don’t expect much of an immediate impact from him just yet.
Starling Marte (PIT)- Marte is arguably the best hitting prospect in the entire Pirates suddenly prosperous organization. He hit extremely well in a full season of AA but the Pirates are not in a position to call him up immediately and start his big league clock. Expect him to start 2012 in AAA but he could easily be a mid-season call up.
Shelby Miller (STL)- The World Series champions are in good shape heading into 2012. They are getting their ace Adam Wainwright back, and are expecting their top pitching prospect Shelby Miller to reach the big leagues. Miller probably isn’t in a position to make the club out of Spring Training but pitched very well in AA in 2011. If he continues his success in AAA, he will easily get his chance to start in the majors in 2012. He is a top 5 pitching prospect in all of baseball.
Mat Gamel (MIL)- With Prince Fielder likely on his way out of Milwaukee, the defending NL Central champs will turn to their late blooming 1B prospect Mat Gamel to take over. Gamel used to be a top prospect in the organization but has lost value over the past few seasons. However, the 25 year old had an outstanding season in AAA in 2011. Expect Gamel to be given every opportunity to win the 1B job out of Spring Training.
Drew Pomeranz (COL)- Is arguably the most big league ready pitcher in all of the minor leagues. The jewel in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade has a lot of expectations on his shoulders for the Rockies in 2012. He is already being penciled in as a rotation fixture and is expected to help carry Colorado to the playoffs next season. The workhorse is one of the top pitching prospects in the entire league along with Matt Moore, Julio Teheran and Shelby Miller. Expect a significant impact from Pomeranz in 2012.
Brandon Belt (SF)- Although Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford do not qualify as rookies and are not eligible for the Rookie Of The Year Award, this will be their first full season in the majors. Belt was a popular pick to win the award last year and is touted to eclipse 500 AB’s in 2012. He struggled in 2011 but there are still high expectations on the young player. A full season of Belt and Posey will give the anemic offense an injection of youth and excitement. Expect a significant impact from Belt in 2012.
Jarrod Parker (ARI)- The D’backs top pitching prospect enjoyed a pretty successful season in AA last year throwing 130 innings with an 11-8 record. While there are still things to work on before Parker is a completely polished young pitcher, he can easily reach the big leagues in 2012. Breaking camp on the big league roster may be a bit of a stretch for Parker, barring a fantastic Spring Training, but he will almost certainly be in Arizona’s rotation some time in 2012
Dee Gordon (LAD)- Gordon is in a similar situation to Brandon Belt as he will not qualify as a rookie in 2012 as he has surpassed the 130 AB threshold. But Gordon hit well in his half season with the Dodgers and is touted to take over the full time SS position. He was one of the top infield prospects in all of baseball in 2011 and is expected to contribute significantly to the offense in 2012. Expect 500+ AB’s for Gordon barring injury.
Anthony Rizzo (SD)- Rizzo is 2 AB’s short of exceeding rookie eligibility for 2012 as he had 128 plate appearances in 2011 and struggled mightily after tearing the cover off the ball in AAA. He is the future first baseman of the franchise and will be given the opportunity to win the job in Spring Training. One of the main pieces in the Adrian Gonzalez trade will either begin the year in the big leagues or at worst, be called up mid way through the season.