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Future Is Wow

March 22, 2010
March 22, 2010

Table of Contents
March 22, 2010

GOLF PLUS
LEADING OFF
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PREVIEW 2010
Departments

Future Is Wow

Strasburg and Heyward are the new household names, but they aren't the only stars on the rise

This has been the spring of the newcomer, and it goes beyond pitching phenoms Stephen Strasburg, 21, of the Nationals and Aroldis Chapman, 22, of the Reds, and the Braves' power-hitting rightfielder Jason Heyward, a physical specimen with an All-Star's plate discipline who, at age 20, looks almost too good to be true. Those names have dominated the headlines from camps, but several less-heralded rookies are also wowing scouts, opponents and fans in Florida and Arizona. Here are some of this spring's best breakout stories not named Strasburg, Chapman or Heyward.

This is an article from the March 22, 2010 issue

Starlin Castro, Cubs SS

The Cubs are saying that incumbent Ryan Theriot remains their shortstop, but the buzz in Arizona is that Castro, 19, is close to being ready for the majors. Yes, he made 39 errors in 127 games last year at high Class A Daytona and Double A Tennessee. But he has shown surprising maturity and an ability to handle the bat. (He's hit .302 in 665 career minor league at bats and went 10 for his first 22 this spring.) One scout says Castro reminds him of Elvis Andrus, the rookie shortstop who broke out last year for the Rangers; another likens Castro to Marlins star Hanley Ramirez. Says Cubs bench coach Alan Trammell, a former All-Star shortstop himself, "His actions already are those of a major league shortstop.''

Estimated arrival: mid-2010

Jenrry Mejia, Mets P

Mejia, a 20-year-old righthander, has a 95-mph cutter and a sharp curve; even though he put up some ugly numbers in the Arizona Fall League last year (a 12.56 ERA in 14 1/3 innings), one scout calls him "the most impressive young arm in that league.'' Mejia was thought to be at least a year away from the majors, but his stunning spring (eight strikeouts, no walks in his first 7 1/3 innings) has the Mets leaning toward bringing him north as a reliever rather than having him start in the minors.

Estimated arrival: early 2010

Drew Storen, Nationals P

The other pitcher picked in the first round by the Nationals last year is turning heads with, in the words of one scout, a "plus, plus fastball'' and a hard slider that gives the righthander elite-closer-level stuff. Storen, 22, is relatively short (6'1"), and some around the game thought the Nats took him at No. 10 only for his signability. (The righthander received a $1.6 million signing bonus.) But Washington seems to have found its closer of the future.

Estimated arrival: mid-2010

Mike Stanton, Marlins OF

One scout sums up Stanton, 20, with the words "raw power," and the former high school football star who turned down a scholarship to USC is showing it. He hit two quick home runs in the Grapefruit League, including a bomb off the Astros' Wandy Rodriguez that landed on an adjacent practice field at Osceola County Stadium. Some scouts are comparing Stanton with Heyward for his athleticism and overall ability, but he still lacks the Atlanta slugger's plate discipline. Stanton was a long shot to make the Marlins' Opening Day roster, but his performance and injuries to outfielders Cameron Maybin and Cody Ross could help him win a spot.

Estimated arrival: mid-2010

Domonic Brown, Phillies OF

Brown has long been an untouchable in the Philadelphia farm system; if the Phillies had been willing to trade him, they could have landed ace Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays last summer instead of in December. Brown, a 6'5", 204-pound former high school wide receiver who passed on a football scholarship offer from Miami, is an all-around athlete with what one scout calls "really impressive bat speed.'' (He went seven for his first 19 this spring.) Brown's combination of strength and power has some scouts envisioning the next Darryl Strawberry. The Phillies have more realistic expectations: They see Brown, 22, as a possible replacement for current rightfielder Jayson Werth, a budding star himself who will be eligible for free agency after this season.

Estimated arrival: late 2010

Jose Iglesias, Red Sox SS

The position has been a black hole for Boston recently (the team has used 14 players at short since the beginning of 2005), but the Red Sox have their shortstop of the future. Iglesias, 20, a Cuban native who signed a four-year, $8.25 million contract in September, has been the talk of Boston's camp for his smooth fielding and maturity. "Defensively, he's major-league-ready," says one scout. "He reminds me a lot of Omar Vizquel in terms of body control and footwork.'' Iglesias was assigned to Double A on Sunday, but his stay there won't last long.

Estimated arrival: 2011

Now on SI.com

For more on the best prospects this spring from Joe Lemire, go to SI.com/baseball

PHOTOJOHN BIEVER (CASTRO)STARLIN, THE MAKING Only 19, Castro has skills at short and at the plate that could soon put him in the Cubs' infield.PHOTONICK LAHAM/GETTY IMAGES (BROWN)THREE PHOTOSDOUG BENC/GETTY IMAGES (MEJIA, STOREN, STANTON)PHOTOGREGORY SHAMUS/GETTY IMAGES (IGLESIAS)