Rising Stars weigh in on who will be biggest star
Mariners' Zunino, Reds' Hamilton receive the most nods from teammates, opponents
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- On Saturday evening at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, 50 of the best players from Major League farm systems will take the field for the Arizona Fall League's Rising Stars Game. Most, as the game's six-year track record has shown, will spend time in the big leagues in the future.
But who among them will go on to stardom, becoming major contributors on the game's biggest stage? Who better to ask than the prospects themselves?
MLB.com conducted a survey of the participants in the 2012 Rising Stars Game, asking each a simple question: Who in the game, other than yourself, do you think is the most likely to become a Major League star? A total of 40 players responded, providing a wide range of responses.
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There was no runaway winner, though two up-the-middle players did tie for the most votes, one just starting on his pro career, another just starting on a new position. Mariners catching prospect Mike Zunino and Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton tied with five votes apiece.
Zunino, the No. 3 pick in last June's Draft and the No. 44 prospect among MLB.com's Top 100, made it to Double-A during his pro debut season. His play both at and behind the plate has made people take notice.
"I played against him when he got to Double-A," D-backs pitching prospect Chase Anderson said. "His approach is good at the plate. If you make a mistake, he's really going to make you pay. He's really mature with pitchers behind the plate, and he has a good arm. He's a big league catcher."
Any talk of Hamilton, who is making a shift from shortstop this fall, starts with the speed that allowed the No. 14 prospect to set a Minor League record with 155 steals this past season.
"He has the tools to impact the game," Rockies outfielder Corey Dickerson said. "As long as those tools are there, he's going to make a major impact."
"He can hit the ball on the ground anywhere and beat it out," Nationals reliever Aaron Barrett said. "He's such a threat on the bases. He makes the game that much harder. And he hit a home run against us, so he has a little power."
Christian Yelich wasn't far behind the two leaders. The Marlins outfielder, who ranks No. 17 overall, received four votes. Some came from his Phoenix Desert Dogs teammates, as their Rising Stars participants circled the wagons and only voted for players in their clubhouse -- though that doesn't mean Yelich didn't get support elsewhere. Barrett, who gave Hamilton the nod, mentioned Yelich in the same breath.
"He's going to be a big-time hitter," Barrett said. "He's a tough out with a good approach."
Eight other players received more than one vote. Astros first baseman-outfielder Jonathan Singleton received praise for his approach at the plate as well, getting credit for closing holes in his swing that were evident earlier in the year.
Tigers outfielder Nick Castellanos also got multiple mentions. Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon, pretty good with the bat himself, likes what he's seen.
"That guy can hit," Rendon said of Castellanos. "And no batting gloves, either. You have to like that."
East Division starter and Astros prospect Jarred Cosart, Mariners infielder Nick Franklin, Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong and Brewers prospects Johnny Hellweg and Hunter Morris rounded out the prospects who received two votes. Hellweg got some help from his Desert Dogs loyalists; Red Sox outfielder Bryce Brentz got a little help from someone who knows him well, too.
"He's one of my good friends," Rockies reliever Coty Woods said. "He's also a good ballplayer, so it's easy for me."
It wasn't so simple for everyone. Barrett rattled off the names of many deserving players. Rendon wanted to nominate several players.
"I can only pick one?" Rendon asked.
The AFL Rising Stars Game will be aired live Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius/XM Radio.