CHICAGO (AP)Baseball’s 60-game season is plenty of time for a young slugger or pitcher to play a pivotal role in a playoff run. Here is a closer look at a handful of rookies who could grab a starring role this year:
-OF Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox: The 22-year-old Robert joins a formidable White Sox lineup after agreeing to a $50 million, six-year contract in January – ahead of his major league debut. The athletic Cuban slugger batted .328 with 32 homers, 92 RBIs and 36 steals over three minor league stops last season.
-INF Carter Kieboom, Washington Nationals: Anthony Rendon’s departure in free agency created an opening at third base for the Nationals, and the reigning World Series champions are looking to Kieboom to fill the role. Kieboom spent most of last year with Triple-A Fresno, hitting .303 with 16 homers and 79 RBIs in 109 games.
-LHP Brendan McKay, Tampa Bay Rays: The delay to the start of the season created plenty of time for McKay to prepare after he was hampered by shoulder stiffness early in spring training. The No. 4 pick in the 2017 amateur draft could take on a more prominent role after the two-way player made his major league debut last year, going 2-4 with a 5.14 ERA in 13 games and 2 for 10 with a homer at the plate.
-OF Dylan Carlson, St. Louis Cardinals: The switch-hitting Carlson is on the brink of his major league debut after an impressive 2019 season. The outfielder, who doesn’t turn 22 until October, batted .292 with 26 homers and 68 RBIs over two minor league stops. He was selected by St. Louis with the No. 33 pick in the 2016 draft.
-2B Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers: The loaded Dodgers have a couple of promising rookies who could help the club this year, led by the sweet-swinging Lux. The No. 20 pick in the 2016 amateur draft hit .347 in the minors last season. He made his big league debut in September, batting .240 with two homers in 23 games.
-LHP Jesús Luzardo, Oakland Athletics: Luzardo broke into the majors in September, striking out 16 in 12 innings and recording two saves in six relief appearances. But the A’s think his future is in their rotation. The left-hander went 1-1 with a 3.19 ERA in seven starts for Triple-A Las Vegas last year.
-RHP Deivi Garcia, New York Yankees: The development of the 21-year-old Garcia took on added significance for the Yankees after Luis Severino was lost for the season with an elbow injury. Now Garcia could begin the year in New York’s rotation after he struck out 165 in 111 1/3 innings in the minors in 2019.
-2B Nico Hoerner, Chicago Cubs: The 23-year-old Hoerner became the first member of the 2018 draft class to join a big league roster when he was promoted in September. The former Stanford star looked pretty comfortable with the Cubs, batting .282 in 20 games. He is in the mix for the second base job, but he also could back up Javier Báez at shortstop.
-RHP Casey Mize, Detroit Tigers: It’s a big season for the 23-year-old Mize, who threw a no-hitter in his Double-A Erie debut last year, but also was hampered by shoulder inflammation. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft went 6-3 with a 3.20 ERA in 15 starts with the SeaWolves.
-LHP MacKenzie Gore, San Diego Padres: The 6-3 Gore is one of baseball’s top pitching prospects. He went 9-2 with a sparkling 1.69 ERA in 20 minor league starts in 2019, striking out 135 in 101 innings. He turned 21 in February, and San Diego is hoping he will help anchor its rotation for years to come.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports