Fresh From The Minors
The start of every Major League Baseball season begins with the call-up of a fresh new set of faces found on every team in the league. These young men have been chomping at the bit waiting for that phone call that finally signals their chance to take the field in a Major League Ballpark. Here are the MLB Rookies to watch throughout the 2021 season.
In the American League let’s start with the Chicago White Sox because at the moment they are the team to keep an eye on as they continue to dominate the AL Central with 32 wins and just 20 losses.
And while he might not be considered a rookie anymore because he actually made his debut in 2020 let’s talk for just a second about Yermin Mercedes. Nicknamed the ‘Yermin-ator’ and for good reason, this DH has taken the field by storm this past year in more ways than one.
We won’t go into too many details about his recent home run controversy with Manager Tony LaRussa because it’s still fresh on the minds of many but we will talk about the recent May 27 game against the Baltimore Orioles.
As of that game Mercedes had four at bats with two hits and one run. His average? .340 which isn’t his highest of the season but it’s close.
After spending five years in the minor leagues, White Sox second baseman Nick Madrigal made his debut with the team in 2020. He’s currently batting .300 and in the latest match up against the Orioles he had four at bats, two HR’s, one RBI and one run.
He’s also good friends with Dylan Carlson who recently made his debut with the St. Louis Cardinals. The two played together at Elk Grove High School in Elk Grove, California where they were coached by Dylans’ father, Jeff Carlson.
Last but not least there’s RHP Michael Kopech who was recently placed on the bereavement list after injuring his left hamstring during last Wednesday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals. He took an awkward tumble after losing track of the ball and is expected to be out at least three games but not more than seven. As of the series against the Orioles, Kopech was still out nursing his injury. As of May 26 he had an ERA of 1.72 but he hasn’t played since.
At just twenty-two years of age, Akil Baddoo joined the Tigers earlier this year after spending a brief period of time with the Minnesota Twins. In just one plate appearance at the beginning of April the man who plays center field took the first ball that he saw and he turned it into a home run. It’s projected that he may sit on the bench most of the season but when he does come to the plate be prepared for him to do great things.
Watch out, as well, for Casey Mize who’s been preparing for his time in the MLB since he was a young boy who started playing traveling baseball at the age of nine. His parents never pushed him towards a career in the majors; it was just something he felt he was destined to do so they let him chase his dream.
He was the Number 1 draft pick by the Tigers in 2018 but he started the season rough and was forced to make an adjustment to his pitching style. After pitching coach Chris Fetter suggested Mize move from the right side of the mound to the middle his ERA improved. In April it was 5.06 but after making the change it dropped to 1.73.
Pitcher Dane Dunning made his debut with the Chicago White Sox in 2020 but he now has a promising future with the Rangers after being traded last summer to a warmer climate down south. One reason he holds so much promise as a rookie is that he’s capable of throwing sliders, changeups and curveballs–he knows to toss them low when he wants to strike a man out.
Despite that fact, however, he recently struggled against his former teammates because of the weather. It’s harder for Dunning to feel his pitches when his fingers are cold and in a recent game against the White Sox, in the Windy City, he wasn’t able to bring home a win. He wasn’t able to get a good grip on the ball and his pitches were all over the place.
As the weather continues to warm up this shouldn’t be an issue anymore and fans of Dunning will see him gain greater control over the ball.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Zach McKinstry recently returned to the Dodgers’ lineup after spending six weeks on the IL with a strained right oblique. He spent most of May at the Dodgers’ facility at Camelback Ranch before heading to Triple-A Oklahoma CIty where he took a minor league rehab assignment to finish healing.
Before injuring himself McKinstry was second on the team with three home runs and 14 RBI. He also proved that he was versatile on the field because he’s capable of playing almost any position–he’s started games in right field, left field and he even played a few innings at third base. While in the minors he proved he could even hold his own while playing shortstop as well as centerfield.
Phillip Evans signed a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019 and he took the field by storm. In 76 plate appearances with the team he batted .373 with 4 HRs, 13 RBI, 3 Doubles and 7 Walks. His time was cut short, however, in August 2020, when he collided with Gregory Polanco and he was forced to leave the field on a stretcher. He suffered a broken jaw and a concussion that ended his season.
He began 2021 on the bench for the Pirates but when teammate Ke’Bryan Hayes found himself on the ten-day IL, Evans got the opportunity to start at third base. This season Evans has had 31 plate appearances with 11 hits, 3 HR, a double and two walks. He’s worth signing but the difficulty in doing that means that there may not be a place in the lineup for him once Hayes returns from the IL.
Rookie Trevor Rogers is off to a great start with the Marlins with the fourth lowest ERA in the MLB. It currently sits at 1.29. He also has 38 strikeouts which means he’s tied for eighth in all of baseball sitting right among the greatest of the great who pitch left handed.
That being said, his ability to keep his strikeouts under control has always been there but he’s struggled with the speed of his fastball until recently. This season he’s been a bit more consistent with his throwing. He’s thrown more than 61 balls at 96 MPH or higher which is more than the seven he threw in 2020.
Rogers’ teammate Jazz Chisholm credits his “It” factor to his grandmother who was a former infielder herself. She’s now 77 but in her younger years she played in the Bahamas for the Bahamain National Softball Team. He calls her Grammy Pat and she calls him one hour after every game to let him know how good, or how bad, he played that day.
Over the years, whether he wants to or not, he’s learned to take her advice. In 2019 he was traded from the Diamondbacks to the Marlins where he began playing for the Double-A Shrimp. He went 0-4 with four strikeouts. He said his mom did his hair back at the hotel and his grandmother coached him on how to hit the ball.
She notices things like the fact that he looks tense when he’s at bat and she reminds him of what got him to the MLB in the first place.
She reminds him to Hit The Ball Harder Than Everybody And You Run Faster Than Everybody. That’s all she wants him to do–that and he needs to answer his phone an hour after he finishes every game.