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Top 25 Rookies

Our picks for the top rookies for 2009




This year's BA staff picks for the top rookies in the major leagues looks a lot like the top of our Top 100 Prospects list, and like that list is led off by Matt Wieters and David Price. The bumper crop of catching prospects in the minor leagues probably won't make its full impact for another season or two, while this season's big infusion of talent will come in center field. Players on this list meet the major league standards for rookies:

• no more than 130 at-bats,

• 50 innings, or

• 45 days on a major league roster during the 25-player roster limit.

1. Matt Wieters, c, Orioles
Opening Day Age: 22
First Professional Season: 2008
You may have heard, we think he's going to be good. Orioles will probably start him off in Triple-A (like Evan Longoria last year) to delay his arbitration eligibility, but fans will be anxiously awaiting him from Opening Day. Once he comes up, we don't expect a long adjustment period (like Evan Longoria last year).
2. David Price, lhp, Rays
Opening Day Age: 23
First Professional Season: 2008
Price was as impressive as any Rays arm in the playoffs coming out of the bullpen last year, and now he's ready to contribute to the major league rotation. His skills would make him a special prospect no matter which side he threw from, but the fact he's lefthanded adds to the package.
3. Travis Snider, of, Blue Jays
Opening Day Age: 21
First Professional Season: 2006
An .888 career OPS in 1,138 minor league at-bats makes you wonder why he only has 73 at-bats, even if he is just 21. He isn't the most athletic player in the world, but there seem to be few who doubt that he'll hit.
4. Colby Rasmus, of, Cardinals
Opening Day Age: 22
First Professional Season: 2005
We thought Rasmus might be ready last season—he checked in at No. 9 on this list a year ago—but when he didn't win a job in spring training and got off to a slow start in the minors, it didn't work out. He's still not penciled into the lineup yet, but we don't see how the Cardinals can hold him back much longer.
5. Tommy Hanson, rhp, Braves
Opening Day Age: 22
First Professional Season: 2006
After his meteoric rise last season, Hanson goes into his first big league spring training not being counted on to win a job, but the pitchers immediately ahead of him don't inspire a great deal of confidence. Hard not to believe he won't be up by midseason.
6. Cameron Maybin, of, Marlins
Opening Day Age: 22
First Professional Season: 2006
Another guy we've been anxiously waiting for, Maybin has the path cleared for him this time around and got a good dose of Double-A seasoning last season to prepare him for the major leagues. If he plays well right out of the gate, then the Marlins become an even bigger threat to surprise in the NL East.
7. Matt LaPorta, of, Indians
Opening Day Age: 24
First Professional Season: 2007
While LaPorta will probably open the season at Triple-A Columbus, it won't be long before the Indians find a way to get his bat into their lineup. He can play first base or left field, but it's his bat that will get him attention.
8. Dexter Fowler, of, Rockies
Opening Day Age: 23
First Professional Season: 2005
The embarrassment of center-field riches continues (see Page 18), with Fowler ready to build on his breakout 2008 campaign. He batted .335/.431/.515 in Double-A last season and played in the Olympics, and while he'll have to fight to win a starting job, we think he'll do it.
9. Trevor Cahill, rhp, Athletics
Opening Day Age: 21
First Professional Season: 2006
It seems almost certain that Cahill will open the season in Triple-A, but when you look at the names ahead of him on the Athletics pitching staff, it seems just as certain that he'll be in Oakland before the weather gets too warm.
10. Brett Anderson, lhp, Athletics
Opening Day Age: 21
First Professional Season: 2007
Cahill and Anderson are paired up everywhere else, so why not on our rookie list? Ask 10 people which one gets called up first or which will be more successful right away, and you'll probably get five on each side. The Athletics are glad they have both choices.
11. Gaby Sanchez, 1b, Marlins
Opening Day Age: 25
First Professional Season: 2005
A never-ending quest to have a miniscule payroll means opportunity is never far away for a Marlins prospect, so Sanchez should step right in at first base after hitting 82 doubles the last two minor league seasons. In addition to his bat, he's also a strong defender at first base.
12. Andrew McCutchen, of, Pittsburgh
Opening Day Age: 22
First Professional Season: 2005
Like Rasmus and Maybin (and Jordan Schafer to follow), McCutchen was a product of the strong 2005 draft, and while we've been anxious for those guys to break through to the big leagues, this should be the year. McCutchen, too, will have to earn his spot, but do you really think Nyjer Morgan is going to be a major impediment?
13. Elvis Andrus, ss, Rangers
Opening Day Age: 20
First Professional Season: 2005
The remade Rangers are putting new emphasis on pitching and defense, and to that end they have moved Michael Young to third base and cleared the way for Andrus at shortstop. He is by all accounts a premium defender, so the question in both the short and long term will be how much he'll hit.
14. Mat Gamel, 3b/of, Brewers
Opening Day Age: 23
First Professional Season: 2005
You may not find Gamel on the Brewers' Opening Day roster, but with his development and the Brewers' chronic need for a lefthanded bat in the lineup, Gamel should reach Milwaukee soon. There's room at third base if Gamel can tame his defensive demons.
15. Jordan Schafer, of, Braves
Opening Day Age: 22
First Professional Season: 2005
Unless you think Gregor Blanco or Josh Anderson is the long-term answer in center field for Atlanta, then you're just waiting for Schafer to prove himself against Triple-A pitching before he begins roaming the middle garden at Turner Field.
16. James McDonald, rhp, Dodgers
Opening Day Age: 24
First Professional Season: 2003
McDonald wasn't among the most prominent Dodgers prospects a year ago (even though he ranked No. 7 on their prospect list), but a strong Double-A performance and star turn in the National League playoffs earned him notice. He'll probably open the season in the bullpen but could eventually fill a rotation spot.
17. Jordan Zimmermann, rhp, Nationals
Opening Day Age: 22
First Professional Season: 2007
With Jim Bowden resigning in the middle of spring training, the Nationals have plenty of upheaval, including their annual open casting call for starting pitchers. After just one full season of pro ball, Zimmermann offers true frontline starter stuff, so he'll be up quickly if he doesn't break camp with the big league club.
18. Koji Uehara, rhp, Orioles
Opening Day Age: 34
First Professional Season: 1999
Uehara and fellow Japanese veteran Kenshin Kawakami (signed by the Braves) are both being counted on to prop up shaky rotations, but Uehara's all-star track record in Japan as well as his success in international competition—including two wins in the 2006 World Baseball Classic—suggest he has the better chance to excel.
19. Taylor Teagarden, c, Rangers
Opening Day Age: 25
First Professional Season: 2005
Catcher is a crowded position in Texas in spite of the trade of Gerald Laird, with Teagarden likely opening the season behind Jarrod Saltalamacchia. But he should get enough at-bats for his defense, leadership and power potential to earn some notice.
20. Jonathon Niese, lhp, Mets
Opening Day Age: 22
First Professional Season: 2005
Niese made three starts in New York at the end of last season, with mixed results, and he's not at the front of the line as the Mets build their 2009 rotation. There should be enough attrition ahead of him to give him an early opportunity and he profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation starter eventually.
21. Dayan Viciedo, 3b/of, White Sox
Opening Day Age: 20
First Professional Season: 2005
Viciedo hit 32 home runs in 233 professional games in Cuba as a teenager, before he defected in May 2008. The White Sox were willing to invest $10 million in Viciedo, and while he probably will get more seasoning in the minors, they won't wait long to get a look at their investment.
22. Alcides Escobar, ss, Brewers
Opening Day Age: 22
First Professional Season: 2004
Everyone knew Escobar was a premium defender, but he proved himself with the bat in Double-A last season, stamping himself as the Brewers' top prospect. It's hard to find a place to work him into the lineup right now, but with his ability we're willing to place a wild-card bet on it happening sometime this year.
23. Brett Cecil, lhp, Blue Jays
Opening Day Age: 22
First Professional Season: 2007
Like the other pitchers at the back of this list, Cecil doesn't appear to have an immediate opportunity in the major league rotation, but he also offers a lot more than many of the pitchers ahead of him. He'll open the season in Triple-A and wait for the inevitable Matt Clement injury.
24. Gio Gonzalez, lhp, Athletics
Opening Day Age: 23
First Professional Season: 2004
Gonzalez landed in this same spot on our rookie list last year, and he did reach Oakland by the end of last season, but he looked worn down and did not have his best stuff. He's likely to open this year at the back of the big league rotation and should show much better results if he refines his command.
25. Max Ramirez, c, Rangers
Opening Day Age: 24
First Professional Season: 2003
Ramirez doesn't have an obvious opening in the Texas lineup, but his bat is ready and he doesn't have anything left to prove in the minor leagues. He should find at-bats between catcher, first base and DH eventually and gives a deep Rangers offense still another potent option.