Handicapping the Rookie of the Year candidates in March is a bit like calling a presidential race before the primaries are over. It's a fun exercise but one that can often prove to be futile.
Keep in mind, at this time last year, Bryce Harper had already been sent down and Mike Trout was about to be optioned to Triple-A. Little did anyone know then that they'd be back up in plenty of time to win Rookie of the Year honors in their respective leagues.
Harper and Trout did much more than just win awards, of course. It's difficult to imagine any two rookies, this year or in the future, coming close to matching that dynamic duo in terms of star power and wow factor. That doesn't mean there aren't some exciting rookies to watch for this year, as many of them hope to use a strong big league camp to springboard into contention for some hardware at the end of the season. There appear to be more intriguing names in the National League, but there's time for others to emerge.
Here are some candidates to consider (read all about them on Prospect Watch), including some who will start the year in the Minors. Hey, it worked for Trout and Harper.
Conor Gillaspie, 3B, White Sox: Chicago got Gillaspie from the Giants at the start of Spring Training. He's a bit of a dark-horse candidate to land a full-time job. Then again, White Sox prospects tend to be undervalued, so why not?
Aaron Hicks, OF, Twins: Joe Benson has been sent down and Hicks has been named the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter, with Darin Mastroianni penciled in as the fourth outfielder. Hicks has the ability to hit for some power and steal some bases.
Brandon Maurer, RHP, Mariners: Seattle's system gets a lot of buzz, and deservedly so, for pitchers like Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton. Maurer flies under the radar as a result. But he's the only one who has a chance at a big league gig on Opening Day.
Bruce Rondon, RHP, Tigers: Rookie closers are always popular (see Kimbrel, Craig; Feliz, Neftali; Bailey, Andrew; and Street, Huston for examples). The Tigers might initially use a committee but if Rondon grabs hold of the job, he could grab hold of the award.
Dan Straily, RHP, A's: He began last season as an unheralded prospect in Double-A, but he finished it in the big leagues and held his own. If Straily can win a rotation spot, he could run with it to Rookie of the Year contention.
Keep an eye on:
Trevor Bauer, RHP, Indians: Most thought he'd win a job this spring, but he'll be back. Do you think Scott Kazmir's for real?
Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, Red Sox: Even if he gets sent down eventually, after the impression he's made, Boston won't hesitate to call Bradley up.
Wil Myers, OF, Rays: If he does what everyone thinks he will to start the year in Triple-A, Myers could be this year's Trout/Harper-type choice.
Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers: If he could break into the Texas lineup, Profar could be the favorite. But that's a big if.
Mike Zunino, C, Mariners: The 2012 draftee impressed in big league camp. Zunino is another "when, not if" candidate for a callup this season.
Rob Brantly, C, Marlins: He has never been thought of as an elite-level prospect. But Brantly has always had a good line-drive stroke at the plate and a strong arm behind it. Plus, he has an everyday job, one he's not likely to relinquish.
Jedd Gyorko, 2B, Padres: He has hit, for average and power, pretty much everywhere. Now Gyorko is ready to be a highly productive offensive-minded second baseman every day in San Diego.
Shelby Miller, RHP, Cardinals: He's won the No. 5 job in the rotation. His struggles last year will help him deal with adversity during this season.
Julio Teheran, RHP, Braves: If this spring is any indication, he's put last year's struggles behind him. Teheran will begin the year as the No. 5, but with a revamped arsenal, he might be considered much more than that by year's end.
Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, Cardinals: It's not often that a setup man ends up as a Rookie of the Year candidate, but Rosenthal has a chance to be a real impact reliever. If he ends up throwing 90 innings and racks up the strikeouts for a competitive team, he'll get noticed.
Wily Peralta, RHP, Brewers: His September callup offered a glimpse of what Peralta is capable of at the big league level. Manager Ron Roenicke believes he has the stuff to be a front-line starter. He might be right.
Keep an eye on:
Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies: While he's still in camp competing, there's a good chance he gets some time in Triple-A first. But when Arenado gets the call, watch out.
Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pirates: He's ready to get big league hitters out. A little more Triple-A time, and getting past Super Two status, is all Cole needs.
Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets: He got a lot more playing time this spring with John Buck banged up. Buck will keep the spot warm for him until the Mets are ready to call him up.
Adam Eaton, OF, D-backs: He would've been on the list above if not for the elbow injury that will keep him out for about six weeks. When Eaton returns, look for him to keep on raking.
Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers: He's been virtually impossible to get out this spring, making things very interesting for the Dodgers. At the least, Puig should work his way to Los Angeles sooner rather than later.
Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals: It might take an injury, but it would surprise no one if Taveras hits his way into St. Louis' plans at some point in 2013.
Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins: A good argument could be made that he's been the best hitter in Marlins camp. Give Yelich a little time at the upper levels and his bat will force Miami's hand.