Last year Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez and Ubaldo Jimenez went from future stars to MVP and Cy Young candidates respectively. To stay ahead of the game, let’s look at some of last year’s future stars that could follow the Rockies duo’s path and become household names.
Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates
Last year Andrew McCuthchen made a big leap for the Pirates, and many are expecting Alvarez to follow suit this year. His rookie season had its moments, both good and bad, as he hit .256 with 16 HRs and 64 RBIs in 347 at bats.
He struggled hitting .114 through his first eleven games, but slowly began to figure things out. He hit .255 in July and .250 in August before closing the season out hitting .306 in his last 29 games.
He was particularly effective in September hitting .311 with 15 runs, ten doubles, a triple, five home runs, and a whopping 26 RBIs. He only walked nine times in 103 at bats, but still managed an impressive OPS of .936.
Alvarez hit 49 HRs in 679 at bats while at Vanderbilt and 40 HRs in 707 minor league at bats, so clearly the power is real. He has good size at 6’3″, 223 pounds. After going without a homer in his first 16 games, he finished with 16 in his remaining 79 games.
The Pirates have some pieces in place that should at least make them more competitive next year, with Alvarez and McCutchen leading the way. Playing in Pittsburgh may keep Alvarez from truly becoming a household name, but as he becomes more comfortable with Major League pitching, he has a good chance to blossom into a top ten third basemen, perhaps as soon as this year.
Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants
Bumgarner did not wilt under the pressure of pitching in the World Series. Instead he rose to the occasion tossing eight scoreless innings to take Game 4 of the World Series. He was 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 20-2/3 innings during the playoffs.
Bumgarner didn’t just catch fire in the playoffs though. He delivered during the regular season as well going 7-6 with a 3.00 ERA. He had a brilliant July going 4-2 with a 2.27 ERA before struggling in August with a 5.29 ERA in 32-1/3 innings. He showed resolve getting back on track and posting a microscopic 1.13 ERA in September.
There was a lot of hype for Bumgarner after he went 34-6 with a 2.00 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in the Minor Leagues, and so far he has lived up to the hype. His size (6’4″) only added to the hype.
He has the luxury of pitching behind Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez so he won’t have to face top notch opposing starters on most nights. He should post double-digit wins with low peripherals in 2011.
Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Hellickson may have a more difficult time breaking out, not because of his abilities, but rather because of the conservative approach Tampa Bay takes with its top prospects. Not only will they want to keep his innings down, they will want to do what’s best for the team financially.
That said, Hellickson is an unbelievable talent. He posted a 49-16 record with a 2.72 ERA in the Minors with 634 strikeouts in 580 innings. He was 12-3 with a 2.45 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 117 innings for Triple-A Durham last year.
He didn’t sip his “Cup of Coffee” with the Rays, he guzzled it going 3-0 in his four starts with a2.05 ERA, a 0.76 WHIP. He did not pitch as well out of the bullpen, but that isn’t likely something he’ll have to worry about next year.
He’ll have his work cut out for him facing the new look Red Sox and the powerful Yankees, but don’t expect him to be intimidated.
Carlos Santana, C, Cleveland Indians
Santana was fairly productive in his 46 games last year with the Indians before suffering a left knee injury. He hit .260 with six home runs and 22 RBIs in 150 at bats. He posted a solid .868 OPS.
He was extremely effective for Triple-A Columbus last year hitting .316 with 13 HRs, 51 RBIs, and a 1.044 OPS in 196 at bats. This after hitting .290 with 23 HRs and 97 RBIs in 428 at bats for Double-A Akron in 2009.
Santana took to the Majors like a duck to water hitting .345 with ten runs, nine doubles, four home runs, and a 1.165 OPS in 58 at bats during 18 games in June.
Santana’s rehab is going well, which should allow him to participate fully in Spring Training. The Indians are expected to work him some at first base, which should reduce the wear and tear on his body while providing additional at bats for the talented young slugger.
While he’s not as polished as Buster Posey, who had quite a breakout himself last year, he should be among the top catchers in the American League if he can stay healthy.
Mike Stanton, OF, Florida Marlins
At 6’5″, 240 pounds Stanton displayed plenty of power last year slugging 22 home runs in just 359 at bats, which was good for one every 16.3 at bats. At that pace he would have 30 HRs in 489 ABs.The power did not come as a surprise. Stanton went deep every 13.4 in the Minor Leagues.
While the power was impressive, Stanton hit just .259 with 123 strikeouts. While the strikeout rate (one every 2.9 ABs) is alarming, he did show improvement from 2.62 AB/K in June and July to 3.2 AB/K from August on. He hit .312 in his last thirty games, including closing the season with a modest eleven-game hitting streak.
Forget about the rumors of a Stanton trade for Ozzie Guillen. The talented slugger is staying put. At least until he is ready for his big payday. That, of course, is a whole new topic of its own.
He doesn’t get the hype that Atlanta’s Jason Heyward gets, but has the potential to be every bit as productive.
There you have it. Five players who are poised to do great things for their respective teams this year. Whether you are a fantasy baseball player or a baseball enthusiast, these players should be on your radar. Before long, any or all of them could be representing their respective league in many All-Star Games to come.