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January 22, 2013

Minor League Update

Potential Impact Rookies (NL EAST)

by Jason Martinez

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When we talk about "impact" rookies, it's important to note that several rookies will be getting the call to the majors and failing to help their team in any way shape or form. Coming up with a few big hits or making a couple of quality starts, however, could make a big difference at the end of a 162-game season. Beginning in the NL East, I'll be taking a look at each team and picking out some rookies who I think will make an impact on their team's success in 2013. 

Atlanta Braves

  • Evan Gattis, OF: Barring a trade or a return of free agent Michael Bourn, the 26 year-old Gattis is expected to compete for the left field job this spring. His right-handed power (34 HR in 467 at-bats between Hi-A, Double-A, and the Venezuela Winter League in 2012) is intriguing but he's less than a full season removed from being moved to the outfield from the catcher position. A few months in Triple-A will allow him to work on his defense and allow the Braves to assess whether it's at least good enough to get his bat in the lineup. His bat should help whenever he does arrive, even if it's just as a pinch-hitter.
  • Julio Teheran, RHP: After Teheran's dominating finish to the Dominican Winter League (0 ER, 2 H, 4 BB, 15 K in 16.2 IP over last three starts), General Manager Frank Wren acknowledged that the 21 year-old probably has a leg up in the competition for the fifth starter's spot heading into Spring Training. If he's back to the 2011 version, where he was so impressive in his first season in Triple-A, as opposed to the 2012 version when he struggled, he'll be in the majors to stay. 
  • Sean Gilmartin, LHP: In addition to one start by Teheran, nine other pitchers combined to make the other 161 regular season starts for the Braves in 2012. You have to figure that Randall Delgado will get a shot eventually, and Brandon Beachy could return in the second half after he's recovered from Tommy John surgery. And it wouldn't be surprising to see Gilmartin, the 28th pick in the 2011 draft, make his first big league start at some point during the season. While he profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter, he was near big league ready when drafted and held his own during stints in Double-A and Triple-A during his first full season. 

Miami Marlins

  • Rob Brantly, C: Small sample size or not, the left-handed hitting Brantly was impressive at the plate (.832 OPS in 100 at-bats) after coming over in a mid-season trade with the Tigers. The Marlins traded John Buck this offseason and brought in Jeff Mathis, a prototypical backup who is less of a threat to take away starts from Brantly. The 23 year-old has the necessary leadership qualities to be a big league catcher for several years.
  • Adeiny Hechavarria, SS: The 23 year-old out of Cuba will get his chance to show off his plus defensive skills as the Marlins' everyday shortstop in 2013. If he can hold his own with bat, which is a huge question mark at this point, the Marlins will be just fine at the position for a long time.
  • A.J. Ramos, RHP: Armed with a 93 MPH fastball, an assortment of secondary pitches, and an impressive 12.3 K/9 in 178 minor league appearances, the 26 year-old Ramos is ready for a regular role in the Marlins' bullpen. He finished the year in the majors, posting a 3.86 ERA while striking out 13 and walking four in 9.1 innings.
  • Grant Dayton, LHP: The Marlins already have three lefty relievers, Mike Dunn, Dan Jennings, and Scott Maine, who are ahead of him on the depth chart, but Dayton is certainly on the fast track to the majors and could be in Miami after a few months in the upper minors. 

New York Mets

  • Travis d'Arnaud, C: The 23 year-old will start the season in the minors to ensure his arbitration and free agency clock are pushed back a year and then he'll settle in as the Mets starting catcher for at least the next six-and-a-half seasons. And it shouldn't surprise you if he's an All-Star in at least two or three of those years.
  • Jeurys Familia, RHP: The verdict has nearly been reached in regards to Familia's future role as a major leaguer. Most think he'll be a setup man and the Mets could use 2013 to ease him into a late-inning role. First, they'll likely allow him to start the season in Triple-A Las Vegas' rotation just to get a little bit longer look to make sure they're not wrong on their assessment.  
  • Zack Wheeler, RHP: Matt Harvey's rookie season was a success so why not stick to the same formula with Wheeler. Harvey, who had a 2.73 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 59.1 innings over his 10 big league starts, made 20 Triple-A starts in 2012 before making his big league debut on July 26th. Depending on the state of the rotation, the 22 year-old Wheeler could get the call sooner. Either way, I wouldn't expect him to be in the minors beyond the All-Star break. 

Philadelphia Phillies

  • Darin Ruf, 1B/OF: The Phillies ignored him for most of the 2012 season despite his home run barrage in Double-A, so I kind of wanted to ignore him, too, even after they finally called him up. But the thing is, he held his own with 11 hits in 33 at-bats and three homers during his big league stint and definitely won over some Phillies fans. The 26 year-old may not be a future regular but there's a chance he can provide some right-handed pop off the bench in 2013.
  • Phillippe Aumont, RHP: The 23 year-old has an electric arsenal of pitches that could make him a dominant late-inning reliever down the road. But his inability to throw the ball where he wants is the reason he'll likely start the season in Triple-A, where he's logged 67 innings over the past two seasons with 48 walks and 96 strikeouts. If he gets in a groove, however, expect the Phillies to take advantage and call him up right away. 
  • Jonathan Pettibone, RHP: Even if 35 year-old Roy Halladay and 34 year-old Cliff Lee are capable of 200-plus innings and 32-plus starts -- yes, I think they're more than capable -- the chances of any five-man rotation staying healthy for an entire season is pretty low. As a result, the "6th starter" is becoming more and more essential in an organization. Pettibone is a strong candidate, along with Tyler Cloyd, to fill that role in 2013. The 22 year-old isn't a big time prospect but should settle in as a back-of-the-rotation starter, although he could bounce back and forth as needed this year.  

Washington Nationals

  • 3B Anthony Rendon: Barring an injury, I really don't have any idea how Rendon gets at-bats in the majors. There's nowhere for him to play, even if he does move from third base. I do expect, however, that he will be ready to help out off the bench or with an occasional start late in the season. Why leave a hitter this good in the minors when you're trying to win a division? 
  • RHP Christian Garcia: The former Yankees prospect, healthy for the first time in years for a full season, had no trouble at all with Double-A or Triple-A hitters before landing in the Nationals' bullpen in September. With the bullpen already having plenty of depth in 2013, the Nats can afford to send the 27 year-old back to Triple-A, where he could return to starting -- he's pitched out of the bullpen the past two seasons -- and they can find out if he can be as effective out of the rotation. If he is, he could serve as the team's "sixth starter". If not, the Nats have another power arm ready to help in the bullpen later in the season. 

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