Mike Trout of the Angels and Bryce Harper of the Nationals led a strong class of rookies that had quite the impact last season. Here’s a list of newcomers hoping for an encore:
• SS Jurickson Profar, Texas: The switch-hitting infielder made quite the impression last summer, when he became only the third teenager in major league history to homer in his first at-bat. He also hit .281 with 14 homers and 62 RBIs in 126 games for Double-A Frisco.
Widely considered one of the top position prospects in baseball, Profar is blocked at the major league level by All-Stars Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler. The Rangers decided to send him down to Triple-A Round Rock toward the end of spring training, but the major league club appears to be headed for a difficult decision regarding its glut of talented middle infielders.
• OF Wil Myers, Tampa Bay: The 22-year-old outfielder with the sweet swing was acquired in the seven-player trade in December that sent James Shields to Kansas City. Regarded as Tampa Bay’s top prospect, he could team with Evan Longoria to give the Rays some thump in the middle of the lineup for years to come. He hit .286 in 17 spring games before he was sent down.
• RHP Bruce Rondon, Detroit: The Tigers gave Rondon the opportunity to win the closer’s job in spring training, and he struggled. Jim Leyland’s team will try closer-by-committee while Rondon will use his 100-mph fastball to close games for Triple-A Toledo.
Detroit is hoping to take the next step and win the World Series this year, so the 22-year-old Rondon could be back up quickly if he does well with the Mud Hens and the Tigers blow a couple of late leads early in the season.
• C Travis d’Arnaud and RHP Zack Wheeler, New York Mets: It could be a rough year at Citi Field, but there is some reason for hope in the Mets’ minor league system. The 6-foot-2 d’Arnaud, regarded as one of the top catching prospects in all of baseball, was acquired from Toronto in the trade that sent NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays. Wheeler had 148 strikeouts in 149 innings last year in the minors.
• RHP Shelby Miller, St. Louis: The 2009 first-round pick bulked up over the winter, adding nearly 25 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame. He is hoping the offseason work will add more velocity to his 96-mph fastball and increase his stamina. It seemed to work out during spring training, where he won the fifth spot in the rotation.
• RHP Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh: The former UCLA star will begin the year in the minors, but he might not be there for very long. Veteran catcher Russell Martin raved about Cole this spring, saying he had "phenomenal" stuff and was "pretty polished for a young guy."
• RHP Dylan Bundy, Baltimore: The 6-foot-1 righty made his major league debut in the middle of a playoff race last summer and tossed 1 2-3 scoreless innings over two appearances. Bundy, the fourth overall selection in the 2011 draft, was 1-1 with a 1.13 ERA in four spring games, but walked six batters in eight innings. The Orioles will give him more time to develop at Double-A Bowie at the start of the season.
• OF Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers: The 22-year-old Cuban slugger, who signed a $42 million, seven-year contract last year, hit .526 during an impressive spring training. Blocked by one of the majors’ best all-around outfields in Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, Puig will begin the season at Double-A Chattanooga, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly compared him to a Ferrari that just needed a little paint on the day he was sent down.
• OF Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati: The Reds’ top prospect is still learning how to switch-hit and play center field, but there is no concern about his speed. He set a minor league record with 155 steals last season. He will open the year in the minors again while Shin-Soo Choo keeps center field warm for him in Cincinnati.
• OF Aaron Hicks, Minnesota: The Twins traded away two center fielders over the winter, practically handing the job to Hicks. The 2008 first-round pick had a solid all-around year in the minors last season, then hit well over .300 in spring training to validate Minnesota’s decision to give him a shot.
• RHP Trevor Bauer, Cleveland: The overall No. 3 pick by Arizona in the 2011 draft was shipped to the Indians in a three-team offseason trade. The former UCLA star, who has an unusual training regimen, was 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA over two minor league stops last year.