BASEBALL 2009: Rookies to watch
By JAY COHEN
AP Sports Writer
By JAY COHEN
NEW YORK — The Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays each got valuable contributions from rookies on their way to the World Series last year. Here are a handful of rookies that could have a major impact on their teams in 2009:
LHP David Price, Tampa Bay — The No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft breezed through the Rays' minor league system last year before helping the new AL East powerhouse reach the World Series after a September call-up.
The ex-Vanderbilt star lost a spring competition for the fifth spot in the rotation and was sent to Triple-A Durham, but the Rays are going to need him at some point if they are going to duplicate last year's success.
C Matt Wieters, Baltimore — The switch hitter will start the season in the minors, but could be Baltimore's everyday catcher by the All-Star break. In 2008, the Georgia Tech product batted .345 with 15 homers and 40 RBIs at Class A Frederick and .365 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs at Double-A Bowie.
SS Elvis Andrus, Texas — The Rangers love Andrus so much they moved Gold Glove shortstop Michael Young to third to make room for the touted 20-year-old prospect, who hit .295 with four home runs, 65 RBIs and 56 stolen bases in 118 games for Double-A Frisco last season.
CF Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh — The 2005 first-round pick batted .283 with nine homers, 50 RBIs and 34 steals for Triple-A Indianapolis last year. He could crack the Pirates' lineup this summer.
RHP Jordan Zimmermann, Washington — The Nationals' minor league pitcher of the year in 2008 dazzled during spring training, forcing pitching-starved Washington to put the 22-year-old right-hander in its rotation.
LF Chris Dickerson, Cincinnati — The speedy Dickerson showed surprising pop in a brief stint with the Reds last year, hitting six homers in 102 at-bats, and likely will start on opening day after a solid spring.
RHPs Tommy Hanson and Kenshin Kawakami, Atlanta — Hanson dominated for two different minor league teams last season, became the first pitcher to win the Arizona Fall League MVP award and will start the year in the minors after an impressive spring this year. Bobby Cox said his slider is a lot like the one thrown by John Smoltz, a pretty glowing compliment from the longtime Braves manager.
Kawakami, the first Japanese player signed by the Braves, is expected to be a key part of Atlanta's refurbished rotation. The 2004 Central League MVP won 112 games in 11 seasons in Japan.
LHP Brett Anderson, Oakland — The talented lefty has all the makings of a front-line starter for Oakland, which acquired him from Arizona in the Dan Haren deal. He went 11-5 with a 3.69 ERA pitching for Class A Stockton and Double-A Midland last season, striking out 118 in 105 innings.
RHP Koji Uehara, Baltimore — The Orioles' first Japanese-born player went 112-62 with a 3.01 ERA and 56 complete games in 10 seasons with the Yomiuri Giants before coming over to the majors for a $10 million, two-year deal. He is expected to be Baltimore's No. 2 starter behind Jeremy Guthrie.
OF Cameron Maybin, Florida — The Marlins' likely leadoff hitter batted .500 with four steals in eight September games last year, perhaps signaling he's ready to live up to the lofty expectations that accompanied him when he was acquired from the Detroit Tigers in the Miguel Cabrera trade.