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August 29, 2012

Future Shock

2013 Rookie of the Year Award

by Kevin Goldstein

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The 2012 American League Rookie of the Year race is over. Let's say Mike Trout doesn't get another hit for the rest of the year, going 0-for-125. He'd still finish the year with a .261 batting average, 24 home runs and 40-plus stolen bases. Now, anyone predicting Mike Trout for Rookie of the Year honors would not have exactly been going out on a limb, but how many people took Todd Frazier for National League honors before the season started? A look at winners of the award throughout history show a combination of obvious choices and plenty of surprises. So who does the crystal ball say are next year's nominees? Winning the RoY is a tough combination of talent and potential opportunity for playing time, so here are the big names, as well as some possible surprises in each league.

American League Favorites

1. Wil Myers, OF, Royals
If Myers isn't the best offensive prospect in baseball, he's certainly the best offensive prospect in the American League, and he's ready for big league action after spending most of the year at Triple-A, leading the minor leagues in total bases heading into the final week of the regular season. He might not see Kansas City at all this year, but he should be the everyday right fielder in 2013 and get the kind of at-bats needed to put up good counting stats.

2. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Blue Jays
D'Arnaud was on the verge of a mid-season callup this year as he hit .333/.380/.595 at Triple-A Las Vegas, but then he suffered a season-ending knee injury. He's the best catching prospect in baseball, and J.P. Arencibia just hasn't hit enough to hold onto the job, although he should be a nice trade chip this off-season due to positional scarcity. Catchers with this kind of offensive ceiling are rare, and d'Arnaud should be able to hit right away.

3. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Orioles
It would be amazing to see a 2011 high school draftee reach the big leagues so quickly, but if anyone can do it, it's Bundy. He has the stuff to succeed in the big leagues right now, and while he's not going to begin the year in Baltimore, he's a likely first half callup who would need to maximize his 125 or so big league innings to win it.

American League Sleepers

1. Nick Castellanos, OF, Tigers
Pushed to Double-A after hitting .405 during the first two months of the season at High-A Lakeland, he's slowed down in his first taste of the upper levels due to a lack of patience and power that is still more projectable than real. His ability to hit for average is real, however, and he could be an answer for Detroit in a corner.

2. Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Astros
This one could come down to Brett Wallace. We've seen the good and bad versions of Wallace in the big leagues, but Singleton is without question the first baseman of the future in Houston, and he's finishing his year strongly at Double-A while showing the ability to hit for average, hit for power, and draw plenty of walks. A hot start in Triple-A could create an opportunity.

American League Surprise

Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers
Considered by many to be the best prospect in baseball, Profar isn't going to play without having the ability to play every day, and Elvis Andrus is signed through 2014. Some feel the Rangers wouldn't miss a step by replacing Andrus with Profar, and a two-year cost-controlled All-Star shortstop generates a big return on the trade market. It will be a story to watch this coming offseason. And if not this year, then next.

National League Favorites

1. Trevor Bauer, RHP, Diamondbacks
The National League is all about pitching, and Bauer tops the list based heavily on the adjustments he's made after struggling in his brief big league stint earlier this year. Bauer has simply become a more efficient pitcher, trusting his stuff within the strike zone, and no longer trying to get tricky with his secondary pitches; that only resulted in throwing too many pitches and walking too many batters. A strike-throwing version of Bauer is a terrifying talent who could rack up big strikeout numbers right away.

2. Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Diamondbacks
Bauer and Skaggs are almost neck-and-neck, but Skaggs staying in the Arizona rotation until the end of the season could bring him perilously close to the rookie eligibility limit of 50 innings. Skaggs has been impressive in his first two major league starts, as while he's been a bit wild, he's kept runs off the board with a plus fastball and even better curve. Just 21 years old, he's still getting better and is just a few refinements from taking off.

3. Shelby Miller, RHP, Cardinals
Six weeks ago, Miller would be nowhere close to consideration for this list, but after a brutal first half of the year that saw his ERA creep above six, he's returned to the Shelby Miller of old; in his last six starts, the 21 year old has whiffed 52 while walking just four in 38 1/3 innings. He's recovered his low-to-mid 90s velocity, he's rediscovered his plus breaking ball, he's throwing more strikes than ever, and he's going to compete for a job in the 2013 rotation.

National League Sleepers

1. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals
Recently named the Texas League player of the year, Taveras is a better prospect than any of the favorites, but right now there's no obvious way to get him playing time in 2013. Matt Holliday is signed through 2016, Jon Jay is controlled for the same amount of time, and Carlos Beltran has one more year left on his deal. Having just turned 20 in June, there's no need to rush Taveras.

2. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins
Yelich is almost the opposite of Taveras, in that he might not be ready yet, but the 2010 first-round pick has all sorts of opportunity, as only Giancarlo Stanton has locked down a permanent spot in the Miami outfield. Currently hitting .319/.394/.508 in the Florida State League, Yelich will begin next year as a 21-year-old in Double-A, and has the potential for a breakout year that forces the Marlins' hand.

National League Surprise

Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds
As a shortstop with steady defense and above-average power for the position, Zack Cozart isn't going anywhere. But what if the Reds do what many scouts would like to see, and move Hamilton to center field? Currently at 154 stolen bases and counting, Hamilton could earn votes solely on the excitement he brings to the field and his ability to fill up a single column on the stat sheet.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  Prospects,  Scouting,  Minor League Baseball

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