When we talk about "impactâ€‹" 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. Here are some NL Central rookies who I think can make an impact on their team's success in 2013. Click HERE for my NL East picks and HERE for the AL East..
Junior Lake, IF/OF: It wouldn't be a surprise if Lake never puts it all together and never earns a regular starting job in the majors, but his set of tools is too intriguing to at least not find out. The 22 year-old, who has played primarily shortstop in the minors along with some time at second and third base, even played some left field in the Dominican Winter League. His ultimate role could be as a super-utilityman who offers some right-handed power and speed off the bench.
Brett Jackson, OF: Two of the top trade chips on the Cubs, should they fall out of contention, are outfielders Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus. If either go, Jackson figures to get a long look in center field where the team will try to find out if his overall skill set of speed, power, and defense is worth the massive amount of strikeouts that come with it.
Arodys Vizcaino, RHP: The former Braves and Yankees prospect will start the season in the Triple-A rotation, where he'll be eased back from Tommy John surgery. If the Cubs can surprise and stay in contention for a playoff spot in the second half, however, the 22 year-old could be put to use as a late-inning reliever, where he might be best-suited anyway.
Anthony Zych, RHP: Unlike Vizcaino, there's no question that Zych's future is in the Cubs' bullpen. He'll likely start the season in Double-A, where he had a 4.38 ERA with 12 walks and 28 strikeouts in 24.2 innings last season. If the Cubs fall out of contention and can trade closer Carlos Marmol, there's a chance the 22 year-old Zych could audition in a late-inning setup role in August and September.
Billy Hamilton, CF: The Reds aren't counting on Hamilton in 2013. He'll be playing center field for Triple-A Louisville and if things are going well in Cincinnati, he'll remain there until at least September. Even during a short September stint, though, Hamilton could make an impact as a late-inning pinch runner, especially if there's a tight pennant race going on. In order to see Hamilton in the majors earlier, the 22 year-old would have to show that he can handle center field while continuing to get on base. Combine that with an injury to one of the Reds' starting outfielders and the "Billy Hamilton era" can begin in Cincinnati.
Tony Cingrani, LHP: He proved in 2013 that he was on the fast track as he dominated the hitter-friendly California League (Hi-A) and then didn't have much trouble with Double-A hitters before a late-season promotion to Cincinnati (5 IP, ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 9 K). The 23 year-old could be the team's '6th starter', waiting in the wings down in Triple-A if Aroldis Chapman is pitching out of the bullpen, but he could also be valuable as the second lefty out of the 'pen if Chapman is in the rotation.
Logan Schafer, OF: Center fielder Carlos Gomez appeared to have finally figured things out when he had an .809 OPS with 14 homers and 26 stolen bases after the All-Star break last season. Just in case that was a fluke and he really hasn't, Schafer would be the safe pick to make some starts in his place against some tough right-handed starters. The 26 year-old should settle into a role as a fourth outfielder and occasional starter in the majors.
Hiram Burgos, RHP: The Brewers don't have many sure things in their 2013 rotation but they do have plenty of young arms that could possibly succeed. Burgos is one of those after a stellar minor league season in 2012. The 25 year-old allowed only 128 hits in 171 innings with 49 walks, 153 strikeouts, and a 1.95 ERA between Triple-A, Double-A, and Hi-A. He could be a long shot for the Opening Day roster but he should get a shot at some point if he continues putting up numbers like that.
Wily Peralta, RHP: Based on stuff alone, Peralta should be the favorite for the #3 spot in the Brewers' rotation to start the season. He also has the "top prospect in the organization" status to back it up, four strong September starts in the majors, and not really much competition standing in his way.
Tyler Thornburg, RHP: Thornburg is yet another case of a pitcher who could ultimately end up in the bullpen, although the Brewers will give him every chance to prove he can be a capable starter before that happens. It's a strong bet that he starts the season in the Triple-A Nashville rotation before heading to Milwaukee around mid-season in a role that highly depends on the state of the rotation.
Gerrit Cole, RHP: The Pirates have resisted the temptation to trade any of their top prospects in order to improve their big league team down the stretch over the past two seasons. The team has faded down the stretch in both cases but now a few of those prospects they refused to trade are close to helping out the big league club, including Cole. The top overall pick in the 2011 draft could be just as good as acquiring a big name starter at the deadline, except he might be ready to help sooner than July 31st.
Bryan Morris, RHP: The 25 year-old has a big-time arm and also has a chance to emerge as a late-inning workhorse in the Pirates' bullpen. A former starter, Morris had a 2.67 ERA with 17 walks and 79 strikeouts in 81 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis. His impressive splits against left-handed hitters (.211 BAA, 37 IP, 4 BB, 29 K) and ability to pitch multiple innings make him a very strong bet to make the team out of Spring Training.
Oscar Taveras, OF: This tweet by BP prospect guru Jason Parks pretty much says it all: @ProfessorParks I just asked a pro scouting dir about the biggest weakness in Oscar Taveras's game: "He doesn't play for us. That's all I can think of." Taveras is that good. He doesn't have a clear path to the majors until 2014 but a couple months of Taveras beating up on Triple-A pitching might be enough to entice the Cardinals to at least start working him into the outfield mix in the second half. An injury to a current starting outfielder that would keep them out of the lineup for more than a few weeks, however, could get Taveras to the majors before his 21st birthday on June 19th.
Shelby Miller, RHP: The Cardinals aren't short on candidates to fill the last spot in the rotation and Miller might be the best of a very solid group. Something clicked for the 22 year-old on his way to a dominant second half that ended in a September call-up and two post-season appearances. If he can continue to have command of his entire arsenal of pitches, Miller should have a terrific rookie season in the majors.
Trevor Rosenthal, RHP: Although he'll have a chance to win a rotation spot out of Spring Training, the Cardinals will likely be deciding whether to have the 22 year-old Rosenthal pitch out of their big league bullpen, where he showed off an upper-90's fastball in 22.2 big league innings in 2012, or continue to develop as a starter in the Triple-A Memphis rotation. My guess is that he's Triple-A bound to start the year and then the Cards will call him up to give them another late-inning weapon as they fight for the NL Central title in the second half.
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