Most players take a year or two of seasoning before fully blossoming—think of the stars who emerged this year, like Royals first baseman-designated hitter Mike Sweeney (.333 average, 144 RBIs), Astros rightfielder Richard Hidalgo (44 homers, 121 RBIs) and A's righthander Tim Hudson (20-6, 4.14 ERA), each of whom was in at least his second big league season. Here are five players who, based on their 2000 performances, seem primed to join the elite in '01.
Adrian Beltre, 3B. Dodgers, age 21 Stats: .290, 20 HRs, 85 RBIs
Signs of Emergence: Improved patience and shortened swing in second half led to .331 average and 12 homers after the All-Star break.
Gabe Kapler, OF, Rangers, age 25 Stats: .302, 14 HRs, 66 RBIs
Signs of Emergence: Adding leg kick to swing jump-started hitting streak of 28 games and .344 average in second half.
Tomokazu Ohka (right), RHP, Red Sox, age 24 Stats: 3-6, 127 ERA, 265 opponents' BA Signs of Emergence:
Allowed more than two runs only twice in 11 starts; composure belies his inexperience.
Ramon Ortiz, RHP, Angels, age 24 Stats: 8-6, 5.09 ERA, .236 opponents' BA Signs of Emergence:
Called Little Pedro because of stature and style similar to Red Sox ace's; showed better command and calmer demeanor in second half.
Juan Pierre, OF, Rockies, age 23 Stats: .310, 62 hits in 51 games
Signs of Emergence: Demonstrated fleetness with seven steals as leadoff man, prompting Brewers coach Bob Apodaca to say, "Might be one of those pain-in-the-butt types who gets on base and runs around."