In the closing days of March annually, I poll general managers, scouts, managers and other baseball sages on a number of spring training observations. The first was: “Were there any young players you watched and said, ‘this guy has a chance to be a star?’”
The top ten in terms of responses:
- Carlos Correa, SS, Houston. 19 years old. Scary skills, highly intelligent, work ethic off the scales, 6-3, but putting him in Lancaster may create bad hitting habits that set him back.
- Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston. One of those rare anxiety-free players whose m.o. is to continually get better, which means long at-bats, power, explosive defensive athleticism.
- Byron Buxton, CF, Minnesota. One very good evaluator thinks “George Springer’s best six years will be better than Buxton’s six best but Buxton’s career may be 15 years of excellence.”
- Kris Bryant, 3B-OF, Chicago Cubs. The Troy Glaus comps may be pretty accurate.
- Javier Baez, 2B-SS, Chicago Cubs. The position is to be named later, the batspeed astounding. I just wish I’d seen the back fields home run hitting contest against Mike Olt. They can hit for miles and miles and miles and miles…
- Addison Russell, SS, Oakland. No player—not Russell, not Bogaerts—should be compared to Derek Jeter, but it’s easy to get the physical resemblance. Too bad he’ll have to break into the big leagues in Plumber Park.
- Albert Almora, CF, Chicago Cubs. The very smart people in that organization think he is the players’ player, with instincts and aptitude and makeup.
- Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh. Big second half key for Pirates. “His tool set is defense, speed…everything,” says one GM. “They’re shooting for the three center fielder outfield.”
- Rosell Herrera, SS, Colorado. Walt Weiss, who knows a little something about playing the position, believes he’s a shortstop and was the first to say, “he’s going to be a star.” Got a lot more of those this week.
- Micah Johnson, 2B, Chicago White Sox. Incredible speed and athleticism, with a cornerback body. “Think about an infield in 2016 with Jose Abreu, Johnson, Tim Anderson and Matt Davidson,” says one GM. “The White Sox will be back in a hurry.”
Also receiving multiple votes: Dodgers OF Joc Pederson; Cleveland SS Francisco Lindor; Boston C Christian Vazquez; San Diego C Austin Hedges; St. Louis OF Oscar Taveras.
(Tomorrow, pitchers who have that star factor)