We have been blessed with some seriously impressive rookies the last several years in baseball. Buster Posey, Mike Trout, Jose Abreu, Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant and others have stepped in and looked like veteran studs right out of the gate. They have made their teams better and have delivered real value to bettors that can trust their level of play without doubting their inexperience.
As we head into spring training, here are six rookies from five teams that have a chance to step up and make their own mark this year. If they can be half as good as the guys I mentioned earlier were then they could create some big days for bettors:
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Corey Seager, SS, L.A. Dodgers: We saw a sneak peek of what Seager is capable of over the last 27 games of last season, and it was impressive: .337/.425/.561 with 17 RBIs in just 98 at-bats. He isn't likely to maintain those numbers this year in a full year, but he should have a very strong rookie year nonetheless. The Dodgers are counting on him to do so - they don't really have any other option at shortstop that is worth talking about. He's only 21, but aside from the flashes of brilliance he showed last year he has a pedigree we can trust - his brother, Kyle, starts at third base for the Mariners. He's the No. 1 prospect in baseball playing in an intense media market, so expectations are astronomical. He may not quite live up to those expectations, but he should still have a strong season.
A.J. Reed, 1B, Houston Astros: Unlike Seager, Reed faces some real competition at both first and DH with the Astros. The way he hit in the minors last year, though - .340 with 127 RBIs in 135 games - Houston will be motivated to find a way to give him an opportunity. His rise has been meteoric - he started last year in Single-A and has never played a game in Triple-A. He may play a bit there this year to start off if the team wants to try to extend his affordability, but Reed has given every indication that he is ready for at least a close look. On a team that is looking to compete from the starting gun this year, Reed could be a valuable piece of the picture.
Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals: The Nationals have been very disappointing the last couple of years. Talent obviously isn't the issue, but the lineup they have just hasn't managed to do nearly what they should be able to. The Nationals have other options in the middle of the infield but none are particularly inspiring. If Turner were to get off to a strong start then he would have the chance to win the starting job. Turner hits for average - .322 in Double-A and Triple-A - and his 29 stolen bases is just one indicator of how fast he is. That speed especially helps him in the field - he has the skills to really lock down the middle of the infield for the team.
Byron Buxton and Max Kepler, CF, Minnesota Twins: The Twins are going to have a new starting center fielder this year, and it is going to be one of those two youngsters, in all likelihood. Kepler had a small cup of coffee with the team last year, and Buxton played more. Buxton likely has the edge going in, and he probably has a higher ceiling, too, but it's still an open race. Buxton was the second overall pick in 2012, and he has no real weaknesses in his toolbox. He struggled at the plate in his 129 at-bats with Minnesota last year, though - he hit just .209 and struck out 44 times. Hopefully for the sake of the Twins that experience plus an offseason to prepare has Buxton ready for a bigger year. If not then perhaps Kepler - a rare major leaguer from Germany -- could be the man to watch.
Steven Matz, LHP, New York Mets: He's technically a rookie, but he is familiar to most fans last year - he started six games for the Mets at the end of the season last year and three more in the playoffs, including Game 4 of the World Series. He looked very solid - the team was 5-1 in his regular-season starts, and he deserved better than a 1-2 postseason record based on how he played. The Mets have an embarrassment of pitching arms, so Matz has the luxury of not having to carry too much of the burden by himself thanks to the three young aces and Bartolo Colon. There also isn't going to be a lot of pressure from other guys trying to break into the rotation - at least not until Zack Wheeler comes back from his Tommy John surgery in the summer. If Matz can pitch this year like he did last fall then he'll be a difference maker who delivers some betting value.
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