Hardcore MLB fans are always on the lookout for the next Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, or Stephen Strasburg. Whether it is for their own team's benefit late in the season during a fantasy baseball playoff push, or to get a glimpse of what the future may hold for a struggling franchise hoping to be on the brink of better days, late season prospect call-ups always bring buzz. 2013 proved no differently, with a bevy of youngsters making their major league debuts. Some MLB prospects start off gangbusters, immediately impacting their teams, or at a minimum giving front offices and fans hope. Other rookies getting that first cup of coffee struggle to adjust to the Major League level, and use it as a measuring stick for the upcoming MLB season. Here are five 2013 prospects call ups that should make immediate impacts for their teams in the 2014 season.
5 Fantasy Baseball Prospects from 2013
Sonny Gray - SP, Oakland Athletics
The A's think very highly of Sonny Gray. In fact, they trusted their young pitcher so much, that he was given the starting nod in the deciding fifth game of the American League Division Series against Detroit. While he was out-dueled by the incomparable Justin Verlander, Gray's late season performance (5-3, 2.67 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 67 strikeouts in only 64 innings) left a lot to look forward to in Oakland. With expectations justifiably high after that kind of line, look for Gray to be a top of the rotation guy for what has become a perennially not just competitive, but contending, Oakland A's squad.
Billy Hamilton - OF, Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds were a long shot to re-sign recent leadoff man extraordinaire, Shin-Soo Choo. They simply couldn't compete with what big spenders like Texas and Detroit were willing to shell out. But Reds GM Walt Jocketty has a proven track record of finding talent within the organization, and has a contingency plan to attempt to fill the void atop the Reds order, and in center field. That plan is Billy Hamilton. Hamilton has already built up a bit of legend at the minor league level, stealing 395 bases in five minor league seasons, including breaking Vince Coleman's single season record in 2012 with 155 swipes. The Reds are already considered a formidable major league offense. They trust Hamilton's defense, and his speed is unquestionable. If he can continue to get on base at a rate close to his minor league numbers, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and Todd Frazier should have no problem bringing Hamilton across home plate, especially when he will likely be causing havoc on the base paths and giving opposing pitchers fits.
Kevin Gausman - SP, Baltimore Orioles
While the 2013 season didn't lead to the Baltimore Orioles' second consecutive playoff appearance, it did prove that the young and hungry O's are there to stay in the always competitive AL East. Their formidable core of phenom Manny Machado, slugger Chris Davis, powerful backstop Matt Wieters, and face of the franchise Adam Jones leave no doubt the offense will put up runs. The big question for Baltimore is whether or not they'll be able to hold the other powerful AL East offenses down enough with their pitching. With a ton of question marks surrounding the not quite filled potential of recently acquired Bud Norris, the over-achievement of Chris Tillman, and the up and down play of Wei-Yin Chen, the Orioles will be counting on a pair of heralded young prospects in Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. With only a handful of spot starts early in the season, the O's now number one prospect Gausman got his proper call up late in the season to help shore up an ailing Baltimore bullpen. Results were mixed. Perhaps it was an adjustment to Major League hitting. Perhaps it was taking on an unfamiliar bullpen role. Either way, he has MLB experience under his belt now, and is looking to shore up a spot in the Baltimore rotation this spring. His size, plus fastball, and continually improving changeup will prove to make him a young arm to watch in 2014, and help the Orioles attempt to push their way to the playoff promised land again.
Kolten Wong - 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have the best farm system in baseball. Their major league squad is stacked with home grown talent. For that reason, it allowed the Cardinals to do the unthinkable this off season, and trade hometown World Series hero, David Freese. Matt Carpenter took over 2nd base for the Redbirds in 2013 - a position he'd never played before, and dazzled. Carpenter excelled in the leadoff spot, became an All Star, and finished fourth in National League MVP race. Here's where the Cardinals "problem" lies. They are stocked with so much major league ready talent in their system, without major league spots available. One team's problem is another team's flexibility. The ability to move Freese to Anaheim allows the Cardinals to keep Carpenter's bat at his natural position of 3B. In turn, the Cardinals are able to move the number two prospect in the organization, Kolten Wong, in to the starting 2B spot. Wong got his call to the big club in early October. While his Major League performance was more than underwhelming in his short stint, the assurance of a starting gig, playoff experience, very translatable BA and OBP, and serviceable pop for a middle infielder, should lead to an early season payoff for the Cardinals and their fans in a lineup that is sure to put up runs and create opportunities for Wong.
Nick Castellanos - 3B, Detroit Tigers
The Tigers once again were in contention for an American League Championship. And as is the case in baseball much of the time, the rich keep getting richer. With Prince Fielder being moved to Texas in exchange for Ian Kinsler, the Tigers successfully found a way to slide Miguel Cabrera's less than stellar glove at the hot corner to 1B, and will attempt to make up the for loss of power with Castellanos at 3B, and Kinsler at 2B. Castellanos had his shot the last month of the MLB season in 2013, and performed adequately. He has yet to show what he is really capable of though (.276, 18 HR, 76 RBI at AAA Toledo 2013). Those numbers seem to be just the tip of the iceberg of what Castellanos' potential is. An essentially guaranteed spot in the lineup on a very good offense coming in to 2014 can do wonders for a young players confidence, and he'll look to capitalize out of the gate.