Evan Longoria proved that the opportunity doesn't necessarily have to be there on Opening Day. Several of this year's candidates for American League Rookie of the Year have been sent to Minor League camp, but that doesn't mean they won't see more than enough time in the big leagues to vie for this prestigious award.
1. Matt Wieters, C, Orioles: The most likely to follow the "Longoria plan," he'll spend a month or so in Triple-A before getting the job it's fairly apparent he's ready for. Remember, he's only played professional baseball for a year, so a little time at a level he's never played at to work on his defensive game won't hurt. After hitting .355 with a 1.053 OPS across two levels during the 2008 season, then hitting .301 in the Arizona Fall League, followed by a robust .343 average in big league camp, it's pretty apparent his bat is ready, and he'll show just how much once he gets the call.
2. David Price, LHP, Rays: There are doubtless many who saw his performance in last year's postseason, followed by the offseason trade of Edwin Jackson, who then assumed the No. 5 spot in the rotation belonged to Price. But keep in mind he's had less than one full year of pro ball, and spending some time refining some things -- command, for one -- in Triple-A might be a good thing. He was a victim of numbers to an extent, with some other viable rotation candidates out of options. But don't fret. There will come a time soon when Price will be called upon to start in Tampa and he'll immediately establish himself as one of the better lefties in the game.
3. Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers: There are skeptics who think that perhaps the Rangers are rushing the 20-year-old to be the starting shortstop, but he should win a lot of them over with a solid rookie campaign. People might need to think a little "outside the box" when considering him as a ROY candidate. He may not have the highest batting average and he's not going to hit for a ton of power just yet, but he's going to play outstanding defense at a premium position, he's going to steal a boatload of bases, and as he's shown an ability to do this spring, he's going to do a lot of little things -- like moving runners over, succeeding in hit-and-run situations, bunting -- to help the Rangers win more ballgames.
4. Travis Snider, OF, Blue Jays: Along with Andrus, Snider is the only one on this list with a real job on Opening Day, so perhaps he should be the front-runner. Clearly, the guy can swing the stick. The 2006 first-rounder is only 21, but he hit .301 in his brief callup last year after hitting 23 homers and 91 RBIs combined in the Minors. He'll need to cut down on the strikeouts (154 in the Minors, 23 more in the Majors), but as long as you don't mind the occasional whiff, he's the most likely candidate, aside from Wieters, to put up the sexy run production numbers.
5. Rick Porcello, RHP, Tigers: This one is a bit of a risk, but what's the fun of prognostication if you're not willing to go out on a limb? He's only 20, and he hasn't pitched above Class A ball yet. That being said, he's mature well beyond his years, and after leading the Florida State League in ERA, he's impressed with his stuff and his poise in big league camp. With the back end of Detroit's rotation far from cemented, it's looking more and more likely that Porcello will at least get a crack at it. He's the type for which age and experience may not matter. Pitching half of his games in that ballpark in Detroit won't hurt, either.
Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson, P, A's: With Oakland looking like it might break camp with both lefty Anderson and righty Cahill as surprise members of the rotation, a conglomeration of the two young hurlers seems to make the most sense in this category. Both of them have the ability to run with this somewhat sudden opportunity and take off as a result. Want a position player instead? Keep an eye on gritty White Sox second baseman Chris Getz.