Not every rookie will leave his mark on baseball like Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger did a year ago, but each club has a prospect or prospects who should crack its big league roster in 2018. Below are MLB Pipeline's choices for the rookies who will make the biggest impact
Not every rookie will leave his mark on baseball like Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger did a year ago, but each club has a prospect or prospects who should crack its big league roster in 2018. Below are MLB Pipeline's choices for the rookies who will make the biggest impact on each team in the American League Central.
• Impact prospects: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West
Cleveland: Francisco Mejia, C (No. 1 on Indians' Top 30; No. 11 on Top 100)
Opening Day 2018: Triple-A Columbus
There is no question about Mejia's hitting ability, as scouts widely view him as one of the Minors' best pure hitters. Whether the Indians can work the 22-year-old switch-hitter into their lineup organically this season could pose a challenge given the Tribe's depth behind the plate, though it's for that same reason Mejia is expected to see time in the outfield early this season in Triple-A.
Chicago: Michael Kopech, RHP (No. 2 on White Sox Top 30; No. 10 on Top 100)
Opening Day 2018: Triple-A Charlotte
In Eloy Jimenez and Kopech -- both acquired in trades -- Chicago has the game's best combo of hitting and pitching prospects, and both should surface at Guaranteed Rate Field sometime this summer. Part of the Chris Sale deal with the White Sox at the 2016 Winter Meetings, Kopech may get there first, thanks to his upper-90s fastball with late life and wipeout slider. His unhittable stuff has prompted comparisons to Noah Syndergaard, though his control and command aren't in the same class.
Detroit: Mike Gerber, OF (No. 11 on Tigers' Top 30)
Opening Day 2018: Triple-A Toledo
Gerber has some power, some speed and can hit, although he's not plus in any one category. But he can do a little bit of everything, plus play all three outfield positions. As the Tigers try to rebuild, some of the impact talent is a little farther away, but Gerber should be a steady contributor at some point this year.
Kansas City: Hunter Dozier, 3B/OF (No. 7 on Royals' Top 30)
Opening Day 2018: Triple-A Omaha
A surprise pick at No. 8 overall in the 2013 Draft, Dozier would have gotten at-bats in Kansas City last year had he not been waylaid by hamate and oblique injuries. He's capable of playing either infield corner and has seen action at both outfield corners, though the offseason signings of Lucas Duda, Jonathan Jay and Mike Moustakas eliminated his chance to get regular big league playing time at the start of 2018. Dozier's best tools are his power, which he creates with his strength and loft in his right-handed stroke, and his arm, which once produced low-90s fastballs as a reliever at Sam Houston State.
Minnesota: Fernando Romero, RHP (No. 2 on Twins' Top 30; No. 68 on Top 100)
Opening Day 2018: Double-A Chattanooga
All Romero did this spring was throw eight hitless innings, walking one and striking out eight. But it was never in the plans for him to break camp with Minnesota. He can continue to get innings and remain healthy in Triple-A for whenever that phone rings. He has frontline starter potential, but also does have the power repertoire to help out short-term in the bullpen if needed.