With spring training around the corner, we’re taking a look at a couple of young players for each team that I think will have a larger impact in 2016. We’ll started with the American League East yesterday and will move through division by division. Today we look at AL Central…
Chicago White Sox
Carlos Rodon, LHP – The 23-year old first round (3rd pick) draft pick, had created a ton of buzz coming into last season. Rodon ultimately started out in Triple-A Charlotte before being called up to make his Major League debut on April 21st. Although shaky at times with control issues, Rodon really put it together at the end of the season in his last 9 starts; he was 5-2 with a 2.28 ERA, .209 average against with a 8.7 k per 9 rate. In total, Rodon was 9-6, with a 3.75 ERA, 1.443 WHIP in 139.1 innings, but it’s that last 9 starts that showed what he could really do.
Tim Anderson, SS – With the departure of Alexi Ramirez at shortstop, the White Sox don’t have a ton of viable options that are dual threats currently on their Major League roster. That’s where Anderson comes in, as he is the team’s top prospect on many lists and 1st round (17th) selection from the 2013 draft. In three minor league seasons, Anderson has batted .301 with little power but has knack for getting on base. He’ll probably start out in Triple-A, unless he has an amazing spring, as he only has 135 games at Double-A.
Francisco Lindor, SS – Lindor (22-years old) was a super prospect who was more known for his glove than his bat, but showed he could more than hold his own in the Majors, with a .313 batting average, 12 homers, 22 doubles, 12 steals, and an .835 OPS in 99 games in 2015. A full season of Lindor should produce highlight defensive plays, a .300 average, but that power isn’t expected to develop further at this point. We’re looking at an exciting youngster here!!
Cody Anderson, RHP – Anderson made his MLB debut last June, when the Indians were having health issues in the rotation. Anderson finished the 2015 campaign with 15 starts under his belt and a 7-3 record with a 3.05 ERA and 1.106 WHIP. He currently sits as the 6th starter on depth chart, however it is very feasible to see Anderson step over Josh Tomlinson for a rotation spot. What I like about Anderson, is that although he’s not a big strike out guys (4.3 per 9), he doesn’t need to be as he walks only 2.4 per 9 and strings out the hits at 7.6 per 9.
Daniel Norris, LHP – Norris is currently slotted in to the 4th/5th starter spot and adds a very nice lefty arm to staff. In 2015, at the age of 22, Norris was 3-2 in 13 starts between Toronto and Detroit. He showed flashes of brilliance and athletic ability on the mound, giving fans a lot to hope for in the key piece to the David Price trade. Norris had a 3.68 ERA in Detroit, was 2-1 with a 1.009 WHIP. Daniel’s low WHIP can be attributed to an abnormally low walk rate of 1.7 per 9, and although he only strikes out 6.6 per 9, if he limits the walks, he may not need to be saved by a strike out that often.
Nick Castellanos, 3B – A lot of people have given up on Castellanos after three seasons with the Tigers, however many forget that he’s just entering his age 24 season and already has close 1,200 plate appearances under his belt. He’s a heavy favorite to have a break out season after a strong finish in his last 40 games, where he hit .301 with 23 extra base hits and a .837 OPS
Kansas City Royals
Yordano Ventura, RHP – Tough to select young guys on this championship squad, however Ventura looks like the anchor of the rotation and won’t be 25 until June. His electric arm has seen a steady increase over his Major League career in strike outs per 9 (6.5/7.8/8.6). Ventura has also be able to manage the walks and WHIP consistent, and this could be the season where he puts it all together and gets to the 200 inning threshold leading stronger overall results. The ERA was up close to a run in 2016 (4.08), however the 2nd half of the season was encouraging where he went 9-2 with a 3.56 ERA and 9.7 k per 9, despite seeing an increase in WHIP
Salvador Perez, C – Ideally, this would be top prospect Raul Mondesi, but he’s blocked at shortstop currently, so we’ll go with Salvador Perez who is an absolute anchor behind the plate. Perez doesn’t turn 26 until May, has been a force both defensively and offensively for KC, and although we’ve seen his batting average drop from his first 3 seasons, the power has gone up. Now if can only mix in a few more walks, we’d see his .706 OPS rise, which I think will happen in 2016
Miguel Sano, OF – Miguel has been on prospect list radars since he was a 17-year old in 2010. Well, he finally his debut in July and never looked back. Finishing 3rd in the Rookie of the Year ballot, Sano crushed 18 home runs and 17 doubles in just 279 at bats. In the mindset of the classic power hitter, Sano will strike out a ton (119 times), meaning his batting average will suffer (.269), however he also walks a bunch (53) so the OPS will be up (.916). We’ve only seen the beginning of this 22-year olds power potential and am guessing he’s an easy 30+ homer guy this year.
Byron Buxton, OF – Buxton actually made his debut two weeks earlier than Sano and rightfully so, given that he’s been the #1 rated prospect in baseball the last two years (not in 2016 though!). Buxton however struggled through injury once again and only played in 46 games for Minnesota and struggled in doing so. For the season, Byron hit .209 with 2 homers, and a couple steals. At 22, could this be his year or where he shows off his 5-tool rating? I’m guessing the answer his tied to how healthy he can be…