One of the best things about sports is if you have talent, you will be found. This has been the case early on in the Major League Baseball season; where unknown prospects are taking the major leagues by storm helping their teams get off to solid starts.
Many of these players are journeyman and are easy to root for because of their tenacious attitudes, not giving up on their dreams. Three players in particular that have stood out on this young season are Colorado Rockies’ shortstop Trevor Story, Houston Astros’ first baseman Tyler White, and St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker.
The Colorado Rockies had a bit of a tumultuous off-season involving shortstop José Reyes, who was arrested on domestic violence charges and was placed on administrative leave until the issue is resolved. Thus opening up an opportunity for young Trevor Story. Story was selected 45th overall in the 2011 MLB Draft out of high school.
Initially, former star Troy Tulowitzki blocked his path to the show, but when the Rockies decided to start a semi-rebuild they dealt Tulowitzki to the Toronto Blue Jays at the trade deadline last season. Couple that with Reyes’ legal troubles and an opportunity came knocking for Story. Ultimately, Story has taken the opportunity by the horns with a historic beginning to his career.
He is the first major leaguer in history to hit seven home runs in his first week, creating the best first impression possible. Many Rockies fans are saying Tulo-who and at just 23 years old, it looks like shortstop is taken care of for the Rockies in the foreseeable future.
Story has come back down to earth a little bit since the scorching hot start. This comes as expected once a scouting report begins to form on a hitter. That being said, Story is still hitting .292 with seven home runs and 13 RBIs in his first 11 games in the bigs. He has also turned a potential concern into a strength early on in 2016.
So far, Story has lengthened a pretty formidable lineup for Colorado. By playing in a hitter friendly ballpark at altitude in Denver. Coors Field provides the capability of many home runs to occur. If the Rockies can work around their pitching issues, mainly its starters, then a possible playoff spot in late September could be on the way.
The Houston Astros have been looking for an answer at first base for a while now since Lance Berkman. The Astros might have found it in the unlikeliest of players in Tyler White — a 33rd round selection in the 2013 draft out of Western Carolina, where he walked on.
White was sort of swept under the rug nationally by reason of the Astros containing so many top-flight prospects, which have all quickly become household names in baseball (2B Jose Altuve and SS Carlos Correa are the names that comes to mind).
White was given the opportunity in spring training to win the job and he has done that and more. In his first 11 big league games he’s hitting a robust .412 with three home runs and 10 RBIs.
This is a bad sign for the rest of major league because if the Astros are able to get this type of production out of a 33rd round pick. In addition to their current superstars on the roster, then Houston will be a perennial contender year and year out. The Astros’ fan base was very patient through several difficult years and now they’re seeing what can happen with great scouting, development, and great positions in the draft.
Tyler White is the prime example of what can happen if you just give a guy an opportunity to showcase his skills. It also shows it doesn’t matter if you’re the first pick in the draft or the last if you’re able to perform you will get a chance to prove yourself at the highest level of competition.
The big concern for the St. Louis Cardinals coming into spring training was how they were going to replace outfielder Jason Heyward, who opted to sign with the Chicago Cubs this off-season. The answer has come from an unexpected place in 28-year-old rookie Jeremy Hazelbaker, a guy who spent seven seasons in the minor leagues, over 1000 games just waiting for that chance to prove himself.
Hazelbaker was drafted in the fourth round by the Boston Red Sox in 2009 and eventually found his way to the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
He made the club in spring training, primarily used as a bench player, but in the first two weeks of the season he has forced his way into the everyday lineup for the Cardinals. He has showcased all of his tools: hitting .419 with three home runs and seven RBIs. He also provides blazing speed and is an above average arm in the outfield. His emergence has made the Cardinals forget about Jason Heyward a little quicker than anticipated.
Hazelbaker is the classic journeyman that comes out of nowhere and quickly becomes a pain for opposing teams to face. A common term that gets thrown around is a player who plays like a “Swiss Army knife”.
Pesky and annoying on the base paths, in the batter’s box and someone who possess good arm strength that opponents have to prepare for. Hazelbaker fits that mold and is another example of how the St. Louis Cardinals have developed a knack for finding cast-offs from past organizations and turning them into solid major-league players for a long time.