By Kyle Johansen @kylejohansen on April 9, 2014
There is already a strong class of Rookie of the Year candidates to start 2014 and most have lived up to the hype through the early going. In addition to the top prospects fans have been dying to see, there are some surprise candidates who have made a name for themselves early. Not included here are elite prospects who have the potential to make some serious noise during the summer months such as George Springer, Javier Baez and Oscar Taveras.
Kolten Wong is off to a nice start to the season, hitting .280 with an OPS of .800 and two stolen bases. Wong has put up similar numbers in the minor leagues, and if he can maintain his batting average and OPS along with 20-30 stolen bases, he will be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year in the National League.
The hype behind Masahiro Tanaka grew to a fever pitch heading into his first MLB start, and Tanaka did not fail to live up to expectations. He sawed through a difficult Toronto lineup with eight strikeouts and zero walks in seven innings, allowing just two runs to get the win. Tanaka has the upside to be one of the best pitchers in baseball and will be a clear favorite for Rookie of the Year if he can come close to what is expected of him.
Nick Castellanos was one of the best pure hitters in the minors last year and is the starting third baseman this year for the Detroit Tigers. Castellanos is off to a very strong start to the season, hitting .385 so far with a .928 OPS. In a loaded Tigers lineup, Castellanos has an opportunity to rack up the counting stats which may give him a leg up in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.
Xander Bogaerts was a top ten prospect in all of baseball heading into the 2013 season and did not disappoint, as he was promoted to the Red Sox at the end of the summer and played a role in their World Series Championship. Bogaerts is the starting shortstop for the Red Sox this year and has the potential to be a .300 hitter with 30 home runs annually. He is off to a strong start to 2014, hitting .310 with five runs scored and a .773 OPS.
Yangervis Solarte is 11-for-24 for the Yankees with an OPS of 1.227 while playing third base, second base and the outfield. Solarate put up decent stats for the Rangers' Triple-A team the past two years and has already knocked in seven runs and scored four through the first week of the season. If he can continue to work his way into the lineup he could be considered a long shot for Rookie of the Year.
No one in MLB throws harder more consistently than Yordano Ventura. With a fastball that routinely touches 101 MPH, Ventura has a special arm and it was on display in his first start of the season. In his only start so far, Ventura held the Rays to two hits with no walks and six strikeouts over six scoreless innings. There is no doubt that Ventura has the potential to be a breakout star in 2014 for the Royals.
Billy Hamilton has gotten off to a terrible start this season, as he has just two hits in his first 22 at-bats. Nevertheless, Hamilton possesses speed that comes along once in a generation, and as the summer goes on he has the potential to steal 50 bases with just a below average on-base percentage. If Hamilton truly figures it out at the plate this year, the sky is the limit as 100 stolen bases would not be out of the question.
Jake Odorizzi was the other half of the haul that the Rays received for James Shields (Wil Myers being the main piece). Odorizzi won the job of fifth starter in the Rays’ rotation out of Spring Training and opened the season with six shutout innings against the Texas Rangers. Odorizzi has strong command and compiled large strikeout totals in the minors, which gives him breakout potential in 2014.
James Paxton is a former top prospect, and he began 2014 with a dominant performance against the Angels, striking out nine in seven scoreless innings. Paxton faced the Angels again in his second start and gave up three early runs before settling in with four strikeouts to zero walks in four scoreless innings. He is now 2-0 on the year with 13 strikeouts in 12 innings, leading to a 2.25 ERA with a 0.67 WHIP.
Jose Abreu is a 27-year-old rookie signed by the White Sox out of Cuba for million. While playing in Cuba’s highest league, Abreu compiled jaw-dropping numbers, but it was unknown exactly how he would transition to MLB. So far, Abreu looks to have been a bargain for the White Sox as he has gone deep twice to go along with 11 RBI, five runs and an OPS of .921.
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