Find your place, rookie. This season it’s on the fast track to stardom. It’s only June 12 and already 69 baseball players have debuted in 2010. Many of the debuts have been awesome.
Players like Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch, Mike Leake, Stephen Strasburg, and Jason Heyward have been the cream of the crop. The top five preseason prospects who started in the minors — Strasburg, Mike Stanton, Carlos Santana, Justin Smoak and Buster Posey are all on major league rosters.
There’s a lot to discuss. Let’s start by talking about those top five prospects.
Stephen Strasburg — There is really only one pitcher in the game right now who I’d confidently expect to match the 14 Ks in seven innings that Strasburg amassed in his debut. It’s Tim Lincecum. We won’t know if Strasburg can be as dominant overall as Lincecum for at least a few more months, but unless Jason Heyward goes 30/30, the NL ROY begins and ends here.
Mike Stanton — The 20-year-old brought his massive power to the pros just last weekend. Since his callup, Stanton’s hitting .357 with a double, a triple, three runs and two RBI. When he left AA, Stanton had 21 homers and 52 RBI in just 52 games. Another can’t-miss player.
Carlos Santana — When a team bats a prospect in the No. 3 hole in his major league debut — like the Indians did with Santana Friday — it tells you where the organization’s head is at about that player. Santana was an unimpressive 0-for-3, but he hit 13 homers and drove in 51 in 57 games at AAA this season. Poor defense could cost him playing time, but the Indians might recall Lou Marson to catch and play Santana at 1B.
Justin Smoak — His six homers and 22 RBIs in the pros aren’t enough to make us ignore his .219 batting average. He hit 12 homers and 21 doubles at three different levels in 2009, but the average won’t come around until next season. He hit .290 in 2009, but only .244 against AAA pitchers. This season he was hitting .300 before he got the call.
Buster Posey — He had a 7-game cup in 2009, but started 2010 in the minors. the seasoning was just what the doctor ordered. He’s hitting .429 in 17 games with the Giants. He has four doubles, a triple, a homer and seven RBI. He won’t keep up that torrid pace, but at least he’s tagging pitchers out of the gate. In 631 minor league at-bats, Posey had a 125/25/118/7/.333 line.
Some notes on a couple of the other guys mentioned in the intro: We’ve talked a lot about how Brennan Boesch is a must-own … Told you how, despite Mike Leake‘s amazing start — he didn’t throw a single minor league pitch but is 5-0 with a 2.68 ERA — he’s going to slow down because the Astros are going to lighten the workload … Austin Jackson‘s luck has turned of late, bringing him back to reality.
And we still haven’t even talked about the Pirates’ Jose Tabata — who is 3-for-8 (.375) with a double, two runs and an RBI in his first two games in the majors and was leading the International League with 25 steals in just 53 games before his call up — the Rockies’ Jhoulys Chacin — who wasn’t on a lot of radars in the preseason but has struck out 53 batters in 49 innings with a 1.22 WHIP and a 4.04 ERA in 2010 — or the Dodgers’ John Ely — who is 3-2 with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in eight starts.
Despite all of those debuts and the fast starts from the cup-of-coffee guys — like Tabata, and Alcides Escobar — there are still plenty of top prospects toiling away in the minors. Here are the top five:
Desmond Jennings — He’s been less than impressive so far this season explaining why there hasn’t been much buzz. He’s slumping to start 2010, but he still has 14 steals. He had 52 steals, 11 homers and scored 97 runs with a .318 average over two levels in 2009. When he starts to heat up the buzz will be deafening.
Pedro Alvarez — He is among International League leaders in homers (12) and RBI (51) and is hitting .291. Andy LaRoche is taking grounders at second to open up 3B for the prospect. There’s no official word, but Alvarez could be called up as early as next week.
Jeremy Hellickson — The Rays have plenty of arms, but Hellickson is one of the best prospects in baseball. He’s got 79 Ks to 19 walks in 75.2 innings with a 2.50 ERA. Hellickson is ready, but the Rays haven’t peeped about calling him up yet.
Domonic Brown — He’s still only in AA, but he’s on the fast track. Last season across three levels he hit 14 homers and stole 23 bases while hitting .299. So far in AA in 2010 he’s hitting .311 with 10 homers, nine steals, 37 runs and 36 RBI.
Aroldis Chapman — Hurt his chances of being called up any time soon when he got absolutely bombed Monday — seven runs, six hits, six walks in just over two innings. Chapman has struck out 61 batters and walked 34 in 54.2 innings. He’s 5-3 with a 4.45 ERA and a 1.573 WHIP in 11 starts. Chapman is living up to reports that he is as wild as he is talented.