Rookies usually come in two flavors: the highly touted (e.g., Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals) and the unexpected (e.g. Freddie Galvis of the Philadelphia Phillies). Years ago when coverage of baseball was so much more limited (your basic source was the venerable Sporting News, The Bible of Baseball) your own favorite team’s minor leagues and who the prospects were was something the average fan knew little about. Today we are presented with lists of “Top 50” prospects, “Top 10” by team, etc. etc. It is very difficult to fly under the radar today.
Harper, of course, is a special case since he is only 19 and in his brief tenure he is showing he is going to be a force to be reckoned with for quite some time. You have to go back to Ken Griffey Jr.’s premiere season in 1989 to find such a highly-anticipated teenager, and in Junior’s case he was well-known due in no small part to his pedigree. Harper, on the other hand, has been watched and studied for almost four years now and was the top pick in the 2010 draft. His rise has been meteoric and while many urged caution and “not rushing” him to the big leagues, so far it’s clear he can handle it. He possesses the physical talent and the mental makeup.
In the case of Freddie Galvis, his arrival was unexpected in 2012. Galvis is 22 and was signed by the Phillies at the age of 16 in his native Venezuela. His rise has been steady and he has been presented as a glove man, a defensive player who was offensively limited. His position is shortstop and the Phillies have had Jimmy Rollins patrolling the position since 2000. Truth be told the Phillies did not think that Galvis was ready for the major leagues in 2012, leading them (in part at least) to sign Rollins to an additional three years (plus an option) in the off-season.
When the Phillies arrived at Clearwater for spring training, however, they discovered that their non-pareil second baseman, Chase Utley, was once again battling chronic knee problems; Utley has yet to appear this season. Galvis made an on-the-fly transition to second base (and has since shown he can play third, too) and now he is proving that he is not overmatched at the plate, either. I am not surprised. I saw Freddie play in 2010 and felt even then he was defensively capable, but pitchers at AA were knocking the bat out of his hands; last year I saw him again, and that wasn’t the case. He got off to a slow start, but he is picking things up on a daily base, figuring out an approach at the plate that is working, and as of today he ranks in the top five of all MLB rookies with at least 150 At-bats and leads all rookies with 23 rbi. He also ranks fourth defensively among all second basemen, with an excellent Range Factor of 5.11 (that’s a measure that means he gets to a lot of balls and makes a lot of plays).
Some of the other top offensive rookies so far are first baseman Yonder Alonso of the San Diego Padres (who was traded for pitcher Mat Latos with the Cincinnati Reds), outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis of the New York Mets, catcher Jesue Montero of the Seattle Mariners (traded for pitcher Michael Pineda with the New York Yankees), and shortstop Zack Cozart of the Reds.
Next week we’ll look at the pitching wunderkinden.