This list is comprised of five names that baseball fans across the nation may not be very acquainted with just yet, but will by the end of the 2012 season. I tried to stay away from any former top prospects or players with more that just a few games played at the major league level.
Trevor Bauer, SP, ARI – BauerOutage, as he’s known on Twitter, is not only a tremendous talent on the mound, but he has the personality to keep fans – and teammates I’m sure – entertained in between starts. Though UCLA teammate, Gerrit Cole, was taken first over all before Bauer in last year’s amateur draft, Bauer put up the better numbers in college and is more of a finished product with an assortment of plus pitches. In addition to being major league ready right now, and with a chance to earn a spot in Arizona’s rotation out of spring training, Bauer adds to the entertainment factor by patterning his mechanics after Tim Lincecum.
Tyler Skaggs, SP, ARI – Add Skaggs to the list of potential 2012 impact arms for Arizona’s already young and talented rotation. All this young, tall lefty has done is dominate at each level so far in his career, ending 2011 with 57.2 innings at Double-A at 20 years of age. I’ve had the pleasure of personally watching this young man pitch over the last two seasons. His mound presence is outstanding and he absolutely attacks hitters with complete confidence in his stuff. His fastball still has some velocity projection left and his big curve is a swing-and-miss offering. Don’t be surprised to see Skaggs in Arizona just in time for another September playoff push.
Jarrod Parker, SP, OAK – I’ve just covered two potential impact arms in the Arizona system and Parker would have been the third if not for the fact that he was recently traded to Oakland for Trevor Cahill. Parker has a chance of breaking camp in the A’s rotation, however, he struggled to regain the feel for his pitches after his return from Tommy John surgery. The good news is that his velocity has already returned and it shouldn’t be long before the rest of his repertoire follows suit. Pitching in the wide open ballpark in Oakland could lead to a breakout year for Parker, who has been ranked as a top 50 prospect every year since being drafted 9th overall by the D-Backs in 2007.
Addison Reed, RP, CHW – Looking for the next Craig Kimbrel? Look no further. The White Sox traded away their 2011 closer, Sergio Santos, which leaves the door wide open for Reed to step right in and claim the job. Reed has put up stellar numbers in each every step of his minor league career, including a strikeout rate of over 38 percent and only 20 walks allowed in 108 innings. He goes right after opposing batters with a mid 90’s fastball, and a whiff generating slider and change offspeed combo. Reed might not quite have Kimbrel’s strikeout upside, but it’s close and his command/control is much better.
Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL – Finally, a position player! Arenado wasn’t on many, if any, top 100 prospect lists before the 2011 season, but after his High-A breakout, his name should skyrocket toward the top of such lists this year. Some might say his breakout may have been a byproduct of the hitter-friendly Cal League, but his raw skills (contact and line-drive power) suggest that he’ll hit no matter where he plays. Should he continue to put up numbers at Double-A this season, he might be playing his home games in hitter-friendly Coors Field by September. The Rockies added veteran Casey Blake this offseason, but he’s merely a hot corner seat warmer until Arenado is ready. The buzz on this young third baseman is just starting to build.