Baseball is funny. There is so much in play that is beyond the control of the athletes involved, that it really does come down to contact between a round bat and a round ball. Different players have different levels of ability when it comes to their direct control over this process, and some of them have only been doing it at the Major League level. Namely, these are rookies.
We usually think of rookies as the team members who are tasked with carrying water coolers, getting the most scrutiny of ownership and management, and overall having a vastly different than the more experienced members of the roster. However in the 2015 MLB season, there are some rookies that are becoming quite influential regarding the influence they have over the team’s record.
The following rookies are simply getting it done. We are just a few weeks into the season and these rookies are doing wonders for their teams and the number of tallies in the “W” column:
5) Blake Swihart
The Boston Red Sox’s backstop took some big hits earlier this season, with Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan becoming the victims of significant injuries. Since then, the Red Sox have turned to 23-year old Blake Swihart at catcher. Management was afraid to rush Swihart into the majors but in baseball, sometimes an organization just had to trust in its drafting process and let the youngsters find their way off the farm. They do not have any regrets thus far.
The young switch hitter has come one strong at the plate. Just yesterday, Swihart was able to notch two hits against baseball’s king, Felix Hernandez when the rest of the Red Sox’s bats were pretty quiet. On the defensive side of the plate, Swihart is growing into his own with various members of the pitching staff praising his commitment to learning and his quick improvement. This collection of at-bat snippets from spring training shows us how compact is swing his, which probably helped him get to King Felix’s fastballs with good timing:
4) Mike Wright
It may seem a little overzealous to name a pitcher who just made his first start of the season as one of the most influential rookies in Major League Baseball. Nonetheless, he sits at #4 on the list as we have seen what Baltimore Orioles right-hander Mike Wright can do. With Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels in town, Wright took the mound for 7 1/3 scoreless innings where he would allow just four hits. Mike Trout loves those sinking fastballs but Wright’s sinker dropped way faster that Trout expected. Not to mention that he keeps his sinker in the low 90’s.
With the 3-0 win on Sunday, Mike Wright became the first Oriole since 2008 to record a shutout in his first career start. He has a lot of tools in the shed and can take the contact pitcher route or the strikeout pitcher route depending on what the other team’s lineup looks like. We are going to see a lot more of Mike Wright at Camden Yards and at various other ball parks across the country, which only means that things are looking upward for the O’s. This quick rundown of Wright’s skillset in a “Top Prospects 2015”review pretty much says it all:
3.) Noah Syndergaard
Noah Syndergaard got his first negative press since he came onto the scene as the New York Mets’ next big pitcher in line. During at intrasquad spring training game, David Wright and other teammates were enraged to find Noah Syndergaard in the clubhouse eating lunch and not on the bench with the rest of the team, to the point where Wright smacked the prospect’s lunch out of his hand.
Since then, we are back to praising Syndergaard and he has given us every reason to do so. In a 5 1/3-inning outing on the road in Chicago, Syndergaard struck out six, walked four, and allowed three earned runs. Aside from a big triple to left field from Kris Bryant (more on him later) and a couple other extra base hits, Syndergaard was actually on top of things. His second start, however would consist of six innings of one run ball, with five strike outs and one walk, and come at home against the Milwaukee Brewers, resulting in his first career win.
Noah Syndergaard has the velocity, the command, the steel nerves, and everything else that it takes to succeed as a big contributor in New York Mets rotation that already has a high concentration of aces. In losing Zach Wheeler to Tommy John surgery and Jonathan Niese to injury that landed him on the disabled list, Syndegaard has been provided ample opportunity to shine. Check out the Triple-A reel below starting at 3:27 for some behind-the-plate insight into why he will definitely seize those opportunities:
2.) Joc Pederson
There may be some concerns regarding his .233 batting average and his seeming lack of discipline at the plate, but no one is really expressing those concerns in Los Angeles. With 10 home runs and 24 RBI’s, Joc Pederson is backing up the hype that has surrounded every day of his minor league career.
Sure, his bat is hot and he is contributing offensively. Last season in Triple-A, he posted a 30/30 season with 33 home runs and 30 stolen bases, and it’s carrying over to his Major League numbers. But what the Los Angeles Dodgers really value is Pederson’s defense. He has added an element of versatility to the Dodgers’ outfield and his arm can reach the bases effectively from various positions.
In all of Major League Baseball, Pederson currently ranks sixth in home runs. That is quite a substantial position to be in. He ranks 3rd in walks, but 7th in strikeouts with a whopping 45. However, analysts point to some fancier stats that are going to eventually contribute to this ratio evening out. If Joc Pederson can be a little more patient and rely less on the home run, there is no reason that he can’t achieve National League Rookie of the Year status. The 4:58 mark of this fan-filmed video shows us Joc’s first career grand slam and how he can get under the ball with extreme power.
Unfortunately for Joc, there is another National League rookie standing directly in the way of the Rookie of the Year award.
1.) Kris Bryant
When the Chicago Cubs decided not to put Kris Bryant on their Opening Day roster for collective bargaining reasons, management was met with enough resentment to form a consoling billboard standing above the outfield.
When he was called up in mid-April, the fan base was so thankful to see their waiting time shortened. Bryant led the Major Leagues in home runs throughout spring straining. His power was incomparable and his perception at the plate makes him threatening in any game scenario. While there are certain parts of the strike zone that he likes better than others, he has the ability to move his bat around the strike zone with ease. Watch as he battles through his first spring training at bat to go yard at the 4:03 mark. The swing is great, but you can really see Bryant waiting for his pitch and not letting the pitcher dictate his at-bat:
Kris Bryant saw not making the Opening Day roster as motivation rather than sulking and letting it affect is his performance, showing us his maturity and poise. He raked in the minors until his Major League debut and thus far, his numbers are beyond impressive. Bryant is slashing .291/.476/.902 with four home runs and 24 RBI and two stolen bases. So many were excited for ace Jon Lester to take the mound in Chicago after signing a big offseason contract but Kris Bryant has stolen the show.
His first career home run was a strong shot to left center field that brought on the classic silent treatment. Bryant’s teammates also knew that this would be the first of many, many home runs so celebrating and congratulating might get old if they were to start now.