First basemen lead the way for the position-player rookies, with three of the top four on the list, including newly promoted Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals. None of the position players are lighting it up, but the talent is there. Here are scouting reports on the top 12 (click on the player links for updated stats):
1. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City -- Hosmer has great hand-eye coordination, which allows for above-average pitch recognition. He has light-tower power to all fields that comes from explosive hip torque and strong wrists and forearms. Hosmer will be a high OPS player who someday could have 30-40 home run production and compete for the Triple Crown. Also, he will eventually compete with Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez for a Gold Glove at first base.
2. Hank Conger, C, LA Angels -- Conger is the Angels' best offensive catcher, with potential for 15-20 home run power from both sides of the plate. He has great makeup and aptitude, and his ability to call a game and his pitch sequencing continue to improve. He has a strong arm and in time will end up as the Angels' No. 1 catcher. Having the opportunity to learn from Mike Scioscia and Jeff Mathis will expedite his development behind the plate.
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta -- I am not sure if there is a better defensive first baseman in terms of stretching and scooping the ball in the dirt than Freeman. Although he’s off to a slow start offensively, he’s still giving quality at-bats and will eventually develop into a .300 hitter with 20-25 home run power. He is another great makeup player who’s adjusting very well to the pressures of playing in the major leagues at the young age of 20.
4. Mark Trumbo, 1B, LA Angels -- Trumbo has tremendous power and is adequate defensively at first base. Although he has holes at the plate, he will grind at-bats. Good pitching can punch him out, but if you make a mistake, he’ll make you pay. He should hit 25 home runs this year, but he will not be able to compensate for the loss of Kendrys Morales' RBIs with runners in scoring position.
5. Darwin Barney, 2B, Chicago Cubs -- A former fourth-round pick in 2007, Barney's uniform is dirty by the national anthem. You can throw all the clichés out -- dirt bag, gamer, plays the game hard, hard-nosed. Keep them coming. He’s a winner and an overachiever. He makes plays at second base and can turn a double play. He is presently the only rookie in baseball hitting over .300 and is first in runs scored and second in RBIs.
6. J.P. Arencibia, C, Toronto -- Arencibia is tied with Mark Trumbo for the most home runs of all rookies with six. Although he’s struggling in term of OBP and OPS, he’s done a solid job behind the plate and continues to improve in calling and framing pitches.
7. Danny Espinosa, 2B, Washington -- Despite hitting only .196, he leads all rookies with 22 RBIs. Espinosa is the best defensive second baseman of all rookies in baseball, with a rifle for an arm. Although better suited for shortstop, he has done well in his transition to second base. He can bunt, hit and run, and is a tremendous person. He eventually will develop into a .270-.280 hitter with 15 home run power.
8. Wilson Ramos, C, Washington -- Ramos gives one of the best targets of any catcher in baseball. He is holding his own offensively and defensively, and by season's end he will be the Nationals' everyday catcher.
9. Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco -- After drafting Belt out of the University of Texas, the Giants had a plan to change his stance and trigger. They did so immediately in instructional ball, and the results were astounding. He blew through their farm system from A ball to Triple-A, including an eye-opening performance in the Arizona Fall League. In spring training, he was so impressive that he made the major league team. However, after a few weeks of struggling, he was optioned back to Triple-A where he is tearing it up again. Belt can hit, hit with power, and is an above-average defensive first baseman. They moved him to the outfield after being optioned out, realizing they had a better chance to win with Belt in the outfield and Aubrey Huff back at first base. In his next opportunity in the big leagues, expect him to break out and become a Rookie of the Year candidate. I love his makeup.
10. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2B, Minnesota -- Nishioka broke his left fibula in early April when Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher came in hard to break up a double play with a clean slide. Nishioka was supposed to be the Twins' everyday second baseman, but with Alexi Casilla struggling at shortstop, there have been whispers that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is considering playing Nishioka at short when he returns. Nishioka has above-average speed, soft hands and quick feet. He can turn the double play, but did not show me a strong arm in spring training like various reports had indicated. He gets good jumps and reads off the bat. He is a front-foot hitter who can take the ball the other way. In spring training, I saw him hit Josh Johnson's good fastball on the inside and outside part of the plate. Had he stayed healthy, Nishioka could have been an AL Rookie of the Year candidate. The Twins really miss him in the middle of the diamond.
11. Brent Morel, 3B, Chicago White Sox -- Morel has a short, quick, compact swing. He has gap-to-gap power and is a good defender with an above-average arm. He’s off to a slow start with the bat but should develop into a .280 hitter with 15-home run power and significant double numbers.
12. Jerry Sands, LF, L.A. Dodgers -- Sands is raw, with a strong arm and good power. He’s adequate in left field and a solid kid. He has some holes at the plate that are being exposed, but Sands has loud sweet-spot contact when he gets the barrel to the ball. He was rushed to the major leagues because the Dodgers did not have any other better offensive alternatives.
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