Thursday, May 2, 2013

Baseball's Rising Stars: The American League

The Red Sox are expecting big things from Felix Doubront

By Bennett Corcoran

New SuiteSports contributor Bennett Corcoran continues his look at baseball's rising stars with the American League's best up-and-coming players. You can check out his look at the National League here.

Baltimore Orioles
Manny Machado, 3B, Age 20

Although he has struggled somewhat at the plate to start off the season, there is no doubt that Machado is a star in the making. A natural shortstop, Machado proved to be a vital piece of one of the most surprising teams in baseball last season. Now, he will look to continue providing solid defense at the corner and a reliable option at the plate, despite a lack of patience at times. If the Orioles have any magic left this year, Machado will certainly be in the mix.

Boston Red Sox
Felix Doubront, SP, Age 25

As Will Middlebrooks endures a difficult start to the season after returning from injury, I felt Doubront deserved the nod here. With so many injuries and inconsistencies in Boston’s rotation last year, Doubront may have been the most stable option on the mound for the Red Sox. The lefty doesn’t have numbers that blow you away, but he has done a solid job for Boston so far. If he can start pitching deeper into games to take some pressure off of the bullpen, the effective Red Sox rotation might be back for good.

Chicago White Sox
Chris Sale, SP, Age 24

He hasn’t quite looked like his dominant self this season, but after anchoring Chicago’s rotation last year as the team contended for a spot in the postseason, it is evident that Chris Sale has the ability to flourish. While he did fall off a bit to end the season last year, a 3.05 ERA and 1.14 WHIP are certainly indications of good things to come.

Cleveland Indians
Carlos Santana, C, Age 27

The Indians may have some promising prospects in the minors such as Trevor Bauer and Francisco Lindor, but few of their young players are currently major-league ready. One of only two 27 year-olds to make this list, I figured it was acceptable to include Santana as he continues to carve up opposing pitchers to begin the season. Cleveland’s catcher is batting .352 with an impressive .435 OBP.  If he continues to improve, combined with the free agent acquisitions of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, the Indians might have a surprisingly potent offense.

Detroit Tigers
Drew Smyly, RP, Age 23

Admittedly, I thought Bruce Rondon would occupy this spot, but an inconsistent spring landed him in the minors. With prospect Nick Castellanos waiting in the wings, there is plenty of hope for Tigers fans, especially given their current roster. Although Smyly has been unable to find a role within Detroit’s crowded rotation, he can still be a capable starter and has shined in relief in six appearances so far. With Rick Porcello struggling mightily, it may be only a matter of time before Smyly earns a role in the rotation, or at the very least is traded somewhere else where he can prove himself.

Houston Astros
Jose Altruve, 2B, Age 22

Seemingly the only player with any value that hasn’t been actively shopped by the Astros, Altruve has shown why he deserves to stick around. The undersized infielder is currently fifth in the MLB in batting average, hitting an astounding .377 with a .429 OBP. If Houston hopes to stay afloat in the competitive AL West, it will have to lean heavily upon the production of Altruve.

Kansas City Royals
Salvador Perez, C, Age 22

I fully expect a bounce back year from first baseman Eric Hosmer, but felt the need to acknowledge the lesser-known Perez. While the 22 year-old catcher has shown some clear weaknesses this season, such as impatience at the plate and a strikeout-prone approach, there is no denying his upside. Hitting .304 for his young career, Perez has the potential to help carry a Royals lineup featuring some quality bats such as Hosmer, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas.

Los Angeles Angels
Peter Bourjos, OF, Age 26

Although Mike Trout deservedly garners a lot of the spotlight in Los Angeles along with Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, Bourjos has been a reliable outfielder for the Angels. While he was always a great fielder who used his quickness patrol the outfield, his bat is finally starting to develop, as he is currently hitting .304 with a .355 OBP. The subject of trade rumors last offseason, the Angels are probably relieved they decided to hang onto their young center fielder.

Minnesota Twins 
Aaron Hicks, OF, Age 24 and Vance Worley, SP, Age 25

The Twins were a difficult team to pick a young and promising player for, as Hicks and Worley are both posting horrifying numbers to start the season. Regardless of Hicks’s batting average of .057 (not a typo) and Worley’s 7.11 ERA, both can succeed at the major league level. Worley showed promise with the Philadelphia Philles last year, and the Twins are praying that this will translate to future success. Considering Minnesota traded both Denard Span and Ben Revere in the same offseason, the Twins clearly have faith that Hicks can bounce back. If not, at least top prospect Byron Buxton is looking promising.

New York Yankees 
Francisco Cervelli, C, Age 27

While the Yankees have some solid prospects such as Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams, the injury-riddled Bronx Bombers do not have a ton of major-league ready young assets. Therefore, the nod goes to Cervelli, the other twenty-seven year old catcher to appear on this list. While many questioned whether Cervelli could handle full-time catching duties after the departure of Russell Martin, Cervelli has shown that he can be a capable starting catcher so far. His .289 batting average and .389 OBP is certainly impressive for a catcher, and the Yankees will need him to continue to produce given their long list of injuries if they want to remain competitive in the dreaded AL East.

Oakland Athletics 
Tommy Milone, SP, Age 26

In last year’s remarkable run to the postseason, Oakland leaned heavily on its starters to pitch effectively. While the A’s are respectable, their pitching has struggled, specifically last year’s ace Jarrod Parker. Therefore, I’ll credit Milone for keeping the rotation afloat with a solid 4.26 ERA. The twenty-six year old doesn’t have as much potential as Parker, but can still provide a solid arm that can help lead the Athletics back to October.

Seattle Mariners
Kyle Seager, 3B, Age 25

Between Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, and Mike Zunino, Seattle has plenty of young prospects awaiting the call. But for now, the twenty-five year old Seager is doing his best to help a team starved for offensive production. Hitting .273 with a .333 OBP, Seager has served as one of the few consistent hitters in Seattle even though his contributions at the hot corner can get overlooked.

Tampa Bay Rays
Matt Moore, SP, Age 23

The Rays are desperate for a young hitter to spark their deflated lineup, and it feels like they need to call up Wil Myers more and more with every passing day. But for now, Moore has been exceptional. Tampa Bay’s rotation was left with a huge void after James Shields was traded to the Kansas City Royals, but Moore has stepped up and provided a strong start to the season. With a 1.04 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, the lefty has arguably been Tampa Bay’s best pitcher so far, especially given the perplexing struggles of reigning Cy Young winner David Price.

Texas Rangers
Martin Perez, RP, Age 22

Elite prospect Jurickson Profar seems like the future of the organization, but it would be foolish to overlook Perez. While he has started the season on the disabled list, the twenty-two year old lefty still has plenty of potential to thrive for the Rangers. If injuries hit the rotation, he could also be called upon as a starter this season.

Toronto Blue Jays
Brett Lawrie, 3B, Age 23

While Lawrie has yet to perform at the plate this season, currently posting a .143 batting average, the twenty-three year old will likely bounce back to his career .274 average. Lawrie provides great defense at the hot corner, and after the Blue Jays traded so many top prospects this winter, his youth is definitely seen as a positive. Despite his slow start, Lawrie’s career in Toronto remains promising.