Pitching prospects could have impact among rookies

Published 1:37 am Friday, March 28, 2014

The Associated Press


Some of the young arms have arrived, and a few more will make it to the majors this summer. Either way, there are a lot of promising pitching prospects poised to impact the playoff races in 2014.

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Check out these rookie pitchers, along with a couple up-and-coming position players.

—RHP Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees: The 25-year-old Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year, helping Rakuten to a Japan Series title. It was enough to convince the Yankees to hand over a $155 million, seven-year contract in January, plus another $20 million posting fee to his Japanese club team.

Tanaka looked good in spring training, displaying a terrific split-fingered fastball. He is slotted to make his debut April 4 against Toronto.

—SS Xander Bogaerts, Boston: Bogaerts made his major league debut in August, and then went on to help the Red Sox win the World Series. He hit .296 with two RBIs in 12 postseason games while spending most of his time at third base.

Now Stephen Drew is gone, and the 21-year-old Bogaerts gets to move back to his natural position of shortstop. He also joins a deep Boston lineup, making for ideal conditions for the Aruba native to shine.

—RHP Yordano Ventura, Kansas City: Ventura will begin the season as the Royals’ third starter after a dazzling spring training. The 22-year-old righty has one of baseball’s best fastballs, consistently 97-99 mph and touching 100 occasionally. He made his major league debut last summer, going 0-1 with a 3.52 ERA in three starts.

—OF Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati: The time is now for Hamilton, who was handed the job in center after Shin-Soo Choo signed a big free-agent deal with Texas. There are concerns about Hamilton’s ability to get on base, but his speed makes him one of most exciting players in the game. He had 13 steals in 14 attempts over 13 games last year with the Reds.

—OF George Springer, Houston: The New Britain, Conn., native was sent down to Triple-A Oklahoma City toward the end of spring training, but his major league debut is coming soon. He hit .303 with 37 homers and 108 RBIs over two minor league stops last season.

The Astros traded for center fielder Dexter Fowler over the winter, so Springer will make the transition to right field with the RedHawks. Should be no problem for the athletic Springer, who also had 45 steals last year.

—3B Nick Castellanos, Detroit: When the Tigers traded Prince Fielder to Texas in November, it created an opening in the lineup for Castellanos, who hit .276 with 18 homers at Triple-A Toledo last year. The 22-year-old Castellanos, who was selected with the 44th pick in 2010 draft, takes over at third base while Miguel Cabrera moves to first.

—RHP Archie Bradley and SS Chris Owings, Arizona: The elbow injury for Diamondbacks ace Patrick Corbin could accelerate the timetable for Bradley, who went 12-5 with a 1.97 ERA at Double-A last season. The 21-year-old right-hander, who has a mid-90s fastball and a big curveball, was competing for a spot in Arizona’s rotation this spring.

Owings, 22, hit .330 with 12 home runs and 81 RBIs at Triple-A Reno last season. The Pacific Coast League player of the year was pushing slick-fielding Didi Gregorius for the starting shortstop job in camp.

—RHP Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh: The second overall pick in the 2010 draft will begin the season in the minors after he was shut down for two weeks in late March with elbow soreness. The 6-foot-5 Taillon could make his major league debut this summer, giving the Pirates a boost as they try for a second straight playoff appearance.

—OF Oscar Taveras, St. Louis: Taveras missed most of last season after ankle surgery and had hamstring trouble this spring. He will begin the year at Triple-A Memphis, but remains the top prospect in one of baseball’s most talent-rich franchises.

—INF Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs: It looks as if Baez could be on that first wave of prospects coming through Chicago’s highly regarded minor league system. The shortstop drew attention for his bat speed during spring training and could get promoted to the foundering Cubs this summer.

—RHP Taijuan Walker, Seattle: Walker, who was slowed by a tender right shoulder in spring training, could give the Mariners one of the top rotation tandems in the majors when he’s finally paired with Felix Hernandez. Walker was 5-3 with a 3.61 ERA for Triple-A Tacoma last year.


Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap