With Spring Training slogging along at a snail’s pace, I thought it’d be fun to discuss five AL West rookies worth keeping an eye on once the regular season gets underway.
Before going any further, I want to acknowledge not all of these players will make their respective club’s Opening Day roster. In fact, some won’t see the majors without an injury or trade clearing a roster spot for them.
As you’ll see, I didn’t necessarily select the most obvious names. However, these five young players intrigued me enough to write about them.
Willie Calhoun – Texas Rangers
The 23-year-old was the primary piece received in the deal shipping Yu Darvish to the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer. Calhoun was a second baseman in the Dodgers system, but Texas plans to use him in left field. The underlying reason for the move is the University of Arizona product’s poor reputation as a defender.
What makes Calhoun so appealing to the Rangers is the fact he’s one of the best hitting prospects in baseball. Last year, the left-handed hitter slugged 31 home runs, while slashing .300/.355/.572 with two Class-AAA teams.
With Texas not expected to contend, the club could keep Calhoun in the minors a little longer. Doing so would permit him to gain more seasoning as an outfielder. Moreover, such a maneuver would preserve service time and lengthen club control.
Whenever Calhoun does arrive in the majors, this hit-first prospect will have to deliver at the plate. Otherwise, it’ll be challenging for him to remain a factor in the Rangers’ plans.
A.J. Reed – Houston Astros
During several short stints with the Astros since 2016, Reed hasn’t impressed. But the sample sizes are too small to make any substantive conclusion about the former Kentucky Wildcat.
Still, the loss of Yuli Gurriel to hand surgery for 5-6 weeks means Houston will be without starting first baseman for several weeks into the season. Perhaps, Reed takes advantage of Gurriel’s unplanned absence and impresses enough to break camp with the club in late March.
Reed got off to a slow start with Class-AAA Fresno last season. But he posted a 1.061 OPS in 174 plate appearances during the second half. Overall, the 24-year-old slashed .257/.354/.519 with 31 home runs in the minors last year.
Reed faces stiff competition to replace Gurriel. Fellow rookie J.D. Davis and Tyler White are in the mix, plus super-utility man Marwin Gonzalez could be an option for manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow.
Eduardo Paredes – Los Angeles Angels
Paredes made his big league debut last season delivering mixed results during several stints with Los Angeles. Still, the 22-year-old and his power arm should be a factor in the club’s bullpen this year.
Last year, Paredes proved capable of missing bats with 10 SO/9, while assigned to the Angels’ AA and AAA clubs. That said; the right-hander permitted 4.1 BB/9 during 37 innings with Class-AAA Salt Lake.
Assuming Paredes proves to have better control; it’s highly likely he’ll be seeing lots of action with the Halos as a middle reliever in 2018.
Franklin Barreto – Oakland Athletics
Barring unforeseen circumstances, Barreto begins the season with Class-AAA Nashville. But the shortstop could be starting games for Oakland by August.
Second baseman Jed Lowrie a pending free agent, so there’s a distinct possibility the rebuilding Athletics move the veteran before the July 31 trade deadline. If that happens, Barreto could be the team’s new starting second baseman — he has 500-plus innings of experience at the position.
With Marcus Semien currently entrenched at shortstop, second base may be Barreto’s ultimate landing spot. Even if Oakland retains Lowrie through the end of the season.
Max Povse – Seattle Mariners
After beginning the season as a starter with Class-AA Arkansas, the organization experimented with Povse in a relief role — picture a Seattle version of Astros’ versatile reliever Chris Devenski. That’s when the ride got bumpy for the 24-year-old.
From that point forward, Povse endured three tough relief outings with the Mariners, a promotion to Class-AAA Tacoma, a hamstring injury, and was finally converted back to a starter.
Entering Spring Training this year, Povse is back in Seattle’s rotation mix and ready to go. Barring an unprecedented wave of injuries in Peoria, the 6-foot-8 hurler will begin the season with Tacoma.
Based on the club’s recent difficulties with starting pitching, it’s likely Povse gets another taste of big league action later this year.