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Baseball’s Best Rookies at Each Position

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It’s tough to gauge just which rookies will emerge this season. Some players—like the Rays’ Wil Myers—are expected to become stars, but the Rays haven’t called Myers up from Durham yet. Others, such as Evan Gattis of the Braves, have an excellent opportunity to show what they can do now, but once regular catcher Brian McCann returns from injury, Gattis’ playing time will all but disappear. 

Here are our projections for the best rookie seasons in 2013 at each position.

Catcher

Mike Zunino, Seattle

He hasn’t been called up to the big leagues yet, but the Mariners are high on his potential and believe he will be a star for a long time. The 2012 first-round pick batted .360 and slugged .689 last season between Single-A and Double-A. 

Other names to watch: Rob Brantly, Miami; Evan Gattis, Atlanta

First Base

Matt Adams, St. Louis

Known as both “Big Country” and “Big City” for some strange reason, Adams won’t get a huge number of at-bats, but Mike Matheny will have him face pitchers he can handle. He’s made just six starts, but has at least two hits in five of them. His early .542 batting average certainly won’t last, but he’ll have respectable numbers at season’s end.

Other name to watch: Mike Olt, Texas

Second Base

Jurickson Profar, Texas

At some point, the Rangers will figure out how to get this kid in the lineup every day. With shortstop Elvis Andrus signed long-term, the best option appears to be at second base. As soon as Texas can find another home for Ian Kinsler (perhaps at first base), we will see Profar on a regular basis. The other possibility is that Profar is traded. 

Other name to watch: Jedd Gyorko, San Diego

Third Base

Nolan Arenado, Colorado

A strong defender at third base, Arenado is hitting better than .400 through the first few weeks at Triple-A this season. It’s only a matter of time before the future star takes over the hot corner full-time at the big league level.

Other name to watch: Conor Gillaspie, Chicago White Sox

Shortstop

Pete Kozma, St. Louis

Since taking over the position late last season after the injury to Rafael Furcal and keeping it through the playoffs, it doesn’t seem like Kozma is still a rookie. But technically, he is. His defense is improving and his even-keel demeanor helps him stay focused offensively as he hit .333 over the last 26 games in 2012.

Other name to watch: Adeiny Hechavarria, Miami

Outfield

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Wil Myers, Tampa Bay

The Rays haven’t recalled him yet. But remember, the Nats and Angels called up Bryce Harper and Mike Trout for the final weekend of April last season. With Tampa Bay’s offense struggling, Myers may be summoned sooner than that.

A.J. Pollock, Arizona

In order to make All-Rookie teams, there must be an opportunity to play. And Pollock is enjoying that in Arizona with fellow rookie Adam Eaton injured. He’s made 14 starts, mostly in center, is batting over .300 and leads the NL with nine doubles.

Logan Schafer, Milwaukee

The Brewers are high on this youngster, and manager Ron Roenicke is searching for ways to get him in the lineup. Unlike Pollock, Schafer doesn’t have an immediate opportunity and is currently the fourth outfielder.

Other names to watch: Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston; Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati; Aaron Hicks, Minnesota

Starting Pitchers

Jose Fernandez, Miami

There isn’t much positive baseball news coming out of South Florida this season, but Fernandez will be an exception. The Marlins just hope they can give him enough run support to keep him enthused. In 11 innings over his first two starts he allowed just one run, yet got no wins.

Shelby Miller, St. Louis

With Chris Carpenter’s injury woes, Miller has become an integral part of the Cardinals’ rotation. And this for an organization that expects to compete in the playoffs every year. So far this season he’s allowed 11 hits, five walks and has 18 punchouts.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, L.A. Dodgers

The Dodgers forked over a $25.7 million posting fee and another $36 million to sign the Korean pitcher. With Zack Greinke out, the Dodgers will ask Ryu to do some heavy lifting.

Dylan Bundy, Baltimore

Whether in contention or not, the Orioles could use another starter down the stretch. Expect to see Bundy in the second half.

Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati

Before his recent call-up, the 23-year-old lefty had a 0.349 WHIP and 14.1 shutout innings over three starts at Louisville.

Other names to watch: Brendan Maurer, Seattle; Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay; Brad Peacock, Houston; Wily Peralta, Milwaukee;

Julio Teheran, Atlanta

Closer

Jim Henderson, Milwaukee

The Brewers’ bullpen has been a mess. Ron Roenicke will take a committee approach for now, but eventually, Henderson will settle in as closer.

Other names to watch: Paco Rodriguez, Los Angeles Dodgers; Bruce Rondon, Detroit; Justin Wilson, Pittsburgh