Every draft seems to give us at least one player that has no problem rocketing up to the big league level. Most recently, we’ve seen it from 2010 first rounder, Chris Sale, as he made an impact with the White Sox the very same year he was drafted. While there may not be someone that does what Sale did from the 2011 class, there are some players we could see in the big leagues as early as 2012.
(Note: These are best case scenarios for these players, not necessarily the most likely)
Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia | Picked By: Seattle Mariners
There is no pitcher in the 2011 draft class more polished than the Virginia southpaw. This is a young man that also has aspirations of going to medical school and is unquestionably very bright and mature. And, that maturity plays a big part in being nearly big league ready. Hultzen absolutely has quality raw stuff in his arsenal, but he’s a pitcher that succeeds because of his advanced feel for pitching and smarts on the mound. He already uses all his pitches and attacks college lineups the way big league pitchers attack professional lineups. Not having to make that adjustment in approach is going to help him greatly.
Like most of the high picks, there figures to be a drawn out negotiation process between the two parties. Ultimately, the Mariners are likely to land their prized lefty, however, and then the countdown begins to his big league debut. There is even a chance that Seattle would give him a token call-up in September. Given his maturity and plus command, it isn’t something he wouldn’t be ready for. And, come 2012 it may not take him long to prove himself in the upper levels of the minors and make it to the show by mid-season.
Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA | Picked By: Arizona Diamondbacks
Having talent is one thing, but there’s also something to be said for having a track record of winning. Trevor Bauer has that track record. Bauer’s stuff is undeniable, as he works at 92-94 mph, has a true swing and miss hammer curveball, and an outstanding changeup, but it’s his ability to pitch deep in games and turn over a lineup that make him so advanced.
If you put Bauer in the big leagues at this very moment, he would probably hold his own. Of course, for development purposes he needs to spend some time in the minors. But, while other talents like his college teammate Gerrit Cole, have electric stuff, they don’t command those pitches and utilize them like Major League pitchers. Bauer is already doing that. He can set hitters up, put them away and has the confidence to spot all of his pitches. For these reasons, we could see the 6-foot-2 righty sometime mid-season in 2012 pitching in Arizona.
Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas | Picked By: Milwaukee Brewers
Of everyone on this list, it’s the least likely that we will see Jungmann pitching in the big leagues in 2012. His track record pitching at a major program like Texas is a major feather in his cap, and he has good command, but the fact remains that the Milwaukee Brewers are not a team that would be inclined to really push him faster than they want to. But, make no mistake, the way Jungmann figures to dominate the lower levels, he’s probably going to make keeping him down throughout the 2012 season very difficult for the Brewers.
Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt | Picked By: Oakland Athletics
There are a couple schools of thought when it comes to Sonny Gray. Oakland doesn’t seem to subscribe to the thought of putting Gray in the bullpen and advancing him quickly. There is another school of thought, however, that says given Gray’s size it might be wise to get him to the big leagues quickly and get the best out of him as soon as possible just in case he doesn’t hold up over a number of years.
Gray is not ready for the big leagues right now, but he is as Major League ready as any pitcher in the 2011 draft class. He works with a three pitch mix that includes a potential plus-plus curveball and a 92-95 mph fastball, and he has above average command of these pitches. Considering his feel for pitching, most scouts expect Gray to cruise through the lower levels of the minor leagues. It’s difficult to say when he’ll get his pro career started, but Oakland will likely start him in High-A ball and advance him very quickly. And, looking far down the road, he could be a serious weapon for them in the second half of the big league season in 2012 if all goes well.
Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice | Picked By: Washington Nationals
Given the doubts about Rendon this spring over his medical reports, what seems to get lost is just how advanced a hitter he is. And, given Washington’s willingness to bring along their best prospects quickly, it’s not unrealistic to think we could see the righty slugger as early as next year. What will likely happen is that his negotiations will take him right up to the August 15th signing deadline. Assuming he does sign, he’s likely to see action in the instructional league and potentially debut in the Arizona Fall League. If he performs well there, Washington could choose to start him as high as Double-A in 2012.
Rendon’s swing, approach, and massive power potential lead me to believe he would have no trouble handling the immediate jump to High-A or Double-A as long his injuries are now behind him. If he does get acclimated quickly offensively, the only thing that could slow his ascent is his position. Washington has Ryan Zimmerman locked in at third base, so it will be interesting to see exactly where they decide to shift Rendon. He's a good athlete with a quick first step so a move to second base likely wouldn’t give him too much trouble. If he proves capable there, and swings the bat well it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Rice star in the big leagues by August of 2012.
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