Baseball: Who is NEXT?

Travis d'Arnaud

Despite never having played a major league inning, Travis d'Arnaud can claim the distinction of being trade bait for a Cy Young winner. Moved this month from the Blue Jays to the Mets in the deal that sent R.A. Dickey to Toronto, d'Arnaud is on the fast track to rivaling Buster Posey as the game's best catcher. D'Arnaud spent all of 2011 in Double-A, finishing the season as the Easter League MVP. "He's a complete package," says Tony LaCava, Toronto's vice president of operations and assistant general manager. "An above-average defensive catcher and an above-average offensive player. To find a guy like that is rare." After the 2011 season, Baseball America named d'Arnaud the Best Defensive Catcher in the Eastern League and the No. 2 Eastern League prospect (behind a certain kid named Bryce). "He's always been a leader and a student of the game, but that was his breakout year, when he put it all together," LaCava says. Last year d'Arnaud hit .333/.380/.595 at Triple-A and was on the verge of a midseason call-up before a knee injury kept him out the rest of the season. Now that he's healthy again, expect to see him on Opening Day in New York. -- Amy Brachmann

Manny Machado

The Orioles called up Manny Machado on Aug. 9 and didn't regret it. "He conquered the speed of the game and adjusted to it better than any kid I've seen," says O's hitting coach Jim Presley. "Most guys are not ready to play in the big leagues at 20 years old, but he wasn't overmatched at the plate or in the field." He hit his first and second home runs in his second MLB game , making him the youngest Oriole and the 12th youngest player since 1918 to have a multi-homer game. The Orioles shortstop then slammed six more home runs and knocked in 26 more runs in the course of Baltimore's surprising second half. But what really stood out to the organization was how Machado boosted the team defensively, logging a .967 fielding percentage while playing third base -- not his natural position. "He moves his feet really well and also has a great arm," Presley says. "He's got a mind for the game." The youngest star on a young team, Machado will be a guy to watch. -- Amy Brachmann

Matt Harvey

The Mets might have finally found the ace they've been searching for. A series of injuries to New York's starters led to Matt Harvey's July 26 debut, in which he pitched 5.1 innings, allowing three hits and three walks and striking out 11 (a franchise record for a first start ). Oh, and he got a couple of hits too, making him the first player since 1900 to get 10-plus strikeouts and two hits in his first major league game. The rest of the season, Harvey dominated, finishing with 70 strikeouts, a 2.73 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. "Matt Harvey was better than advertised," Mets manager Terry Collins says. Noticed by teams as a high school pitcher, Harvey was drafted by the Angels in the third round in 2007 but opted to pitch for three years at the University of North Carolina. Now, even though he's with the Mets, he hasn't stopped studying. "On the games he doesn't pitch, he's on the bench trying to learn -- talking to catchers, looking at stats, questioning our pitching coach," Collins says. "When we shut him down last year for innings, he was like a caged lion." -- Amy Brachmann

A.J. Griffin

In one of the youngest rotations ever (the 2012 A's set an MLB record for wins by rookies), A.J. Griffin was the biggest surprise in a season full of them. Drafted by Oakland in the 13th round of the 2010 draft, Griffin worked his way from rookie ball to Triple-A in just two seasons. He debuted with the A's on June 24, throwing six innings, striking out four, walking one and giving up just two runs on three hits to the eventual World Series-champion Giants. "A.J. is energetic and confident," says Scott Emerson, Oakland's minor league pitching coordinator. "He has great energy, passion for the game, the ability to learn, a fastball to both sides of the plate and the ultimate equalizer with a devastating changeup." He went 7-1 with a rotation-best 1.13 WHIP and 7 K/9 on the season, logging two wins over the Yankees. Just wait to see what he does in a full season. -- Amy Brachmann

Jurickson Profar

Profar can claim the title of "first person born in 1993 to play in the majors." The two-time LLWS championship participant saw interest from teams as a pitcher before signing with the Rangers as a shortstop in July 2009. "He's the epitome of a dynamic player," Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine says. "Offensively, defensively, leadership, on the bases. He's the type of player who helps the team win in a variety of ways." Baseball America ranked Profar its 7th-best prospect in 2012. In 2011 he was selected to the All-Star Futures Game, thanks to his .286/.390/.493 batting line, 12 home runs and 65 RBIs. "He's been one of the youngest players at each level, and he's emerged as a guy who has captain leadership qualities," Levine says. Profar spent the first half of 2012 playing Double-A ball, where he hit .281/.368/.452 while succeeding defensively at second base (.992 fielding) and shortstop (.950), then was called up in September. With just a 45-minute heads-up from Ron Washington, he started at second on Sept. 2, filling in for an injured Ian Kinsler. The result? A 388-foot solo bomb in his first at-bat . -- Amy Brachmann

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