Top 5 MLB Rookies with the Most to Gain in Season’s Final Weeks

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With nearly two weeks left in the 2012 MLB regular season, every organization continues to evaluate their call-ups as a means of offering experience and determining a player’s role for next year.

Furthermore, there are are a number of prospects with the potential to be key contributors over the home stretch and possibly guide their respective organization into the postseason.

Here’s a look at five very talented rookies with the most to gain over the remainder of the 2012 season.

Tyler Cloyd, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

After going 15-1 with a 2.26 ERA this season between Double-A and Triple-A, Tyler Cloyd was called up by the Phillies to make his professional debut on Aug. 29.

Believe it or not, the 25-year-old right-hander has played a major role in the team’s late-season surge for the second wild-card spot.

With a 2-1 record, 3.86 ERA, 26 strikeouts and five walks after five starts, Cloyd is fresh off his best big league start of the season: W, 8 IP, 3 H, ER, 6 K, 2 BB on Sept. 20 against the Mets.

Cloyd isn’t just attempting to pitch the Phillies into the postseason; he’s also hoping to secure a spot as either the No. 4 or 5 starter in the 2013 rotation.

Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Kansas City Royals

Jake Odorizzi hasn’t thrown a pitch in the major leagues this season, but after the right-hander makes his big league debut on Sunday, his highly anticipated career will be underway.

If everything goes as planned and the team sticks with a definitive five-man rotation down the stretch, then Odorizzi should make two more starts: Friday, Sept. 28 and Wednesday, Oct. 3—the final day of the 2012 regular season.

Although I believe he could use some extra time in the minors next year to refine his overall command, a strong September showing could make Odorizzi a contender for a spot in the Royals’ 2013 starting rotation.

Adam Eaton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

After batting .375/.456/.523 with 130 runs, 198 hits, 59 extra-base hits, 44 stolen bases and 76 K/59 BB in 130 games between Double-A and Triple-A, Adam Eaton was named the Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player.

The left-handed hitter made his big league debut on Sept. 4 and hasn’t stopped hitting. Having played in only 13 games thus far, Eaton already owns a 0.8 fWAR and 127 wRC+ (via Fangraphs), has scored 13 runs and walked more than he’s struck out.

There’s a lot to like about Eaton as the team’s everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter. Having said that, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s the Diamondbacks’ opening-day center field in 2013—not Chris Young, Gerardo Parra or even A.J. Pollock.

Jarrod Parker, RHP, Oakland Athletics

With a 3.5-game lead over the Angels for the second wild-card spot, it’s likely that the A’s have already held internal discussions about their potential starter for the play-in game.

After losing Bartolo Colon to a PED-related 50-game suspension, and Brandon McCarthy to a serious head injury, the A’s will now be without one of their top hurlers, left-hander Brett Anderson, who will miss the remainder of the 2012 season with an oblique strain.

Considering Jarrod Parker’s excellent rookie campaign—11-8 record, 161 IP 3.51 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 6.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 26 starts—I advocate that he starts the play-in game.

Since Sept. 1, Parker has been pitching extremely well with a 2-1 record, 2.14 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, all of which has resulted in a 3.3 WAR this season. The right-hander continues to prove that he’s Oakland’s best big-game pitcher, and the play-in game could serve as the ultimate test.

Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

Enjoying one of the best overall seasons in baseball history, 21-year-old Mike Trout is poised to become the first player to win both the American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Award since Ichiro Suzuki did it with the Mariners in 2001.

He current owns a 10.1 WAR, while his competition for the MVP, Miguel Cabrera, is well behind him with a 6.5 WAR (via Baseball Reference). Although those who value sabermetrics will undoubtedly favor Trout, Cabrera continues to make a strong case in his pursuit of the Triple Crown.

After going nuts in July and posting a 1.259 OPS in 28 games, Trout has seemingly normalized, highlighted by his .866 OPS in August and .721 OPS through 18 games in September. And until his home run on Friday night, Trout hadn’t jumped the yard since Sept. 9 against the Tigers.

Hopefully this a sign that he’s regained some comfort at the plate and, if that’s the case, a strong finish to the 2012 season should secure a host of accolades for the talented rookie.

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