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 National League Central.
• Impact prospects: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West
Chicago: Victor Caratini, C/1B (No. 8 on Cubs' Top 30)
Opening Day 2018: Cubs
Chicago's stacked young lineup is ready for a run at another World Series championship, which won't leave many at-bats for Caratini. Nevertheless, he beat out veteran Chris Gimenez to win the backup catching job and his ability to play first and third base gives him some versatility. Acquired in a 2014 trade that sent Emilio Bonifacio and James Russell to the Braves, Caratini hit a career-best .342/.393/.558 in Triple-A last year and stands out most with his ability to make repeated line-drive contact from both sides of the plate.
Cincinnati: Jesse Winker, OF (No. 4 on Reds' Top 30; No. 82 on Top 100)
Opening Day 2018: Reds
He's hit pretty much everywhere he's been, including his 121 at-bat big league debut last year. So it should come as no surprise that he's hit .348/.415/.522 during Spring Training games as he prepares for his first full season in the bigs. He's part of a four-man outfield now, with Billy Hamilton, Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler, but look for Winker's bat to force its way into the lineup on a more regular basis.
Milwaukee: Brandon Woodruff, RHP (No. 3 on Brewers' Top 30; No. 96 on Top 100)
Opening Day 2018: Brewers
A hamstring injury delayed Woodruff's big league debut until August, and he pitched to a 4.81 ERA in eight starts once finally healthy. The 25-year-old righty hasn't been particularly sharp this spring but nonetheless earned a spot in Milwaukee's Opening Day rotation. Woodruff lacks overpowering stuff but confidently attacks hitters and mixes his pitches well, resulting in strong ground-ball rates and workhorse profile on the mound.
Pittsburgh: Colin Moran, 3B (No. 8 on Pirates' Top 30)
Opening Day 2018: Pirates
Part of the Gerrit Cole trade, Moran will be the Pirates' regular third baseman after a strong Grapefruit League showing. The Pirates are hoping that his new approach at the plate, with a greater focus on launch angle that led to him hitting 18 homers and slugging .543 in 79 Triple-A games before fouling a ball off of his face, will lead to consistent power production at the hot corner in Pittsburgh.
St. Louis: Jack Flaherty, RHP (No. 2 on Cards' Top 30; No. 38 on Top 100)
Opening Day 2018: Cardinals
Flaherty was dominant across two levels of the Minors in 2017, leading to his first taste of the big leagues at age 21. Always capable of commanding the baseball well, his stuff ticked up in the last year or two, which has allowed him to miss more bats. He's going to pitch in a big league rotation for a long time, and due to an injury to Adam Wainwright, Flaherty will begin the 2018 season starting Major League games.