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This spring there are 640 names on the rosters of the 16 major league clubs. Of these, 225 are classified as rookies, according to a generally accepted definition of the word. A rookie, that is to say, is any player who has not had more than 45 days of big league service the previous year.
Once the baseball season gets fully under way, the total number of places available on the major league rosters is reduced to 400—a limit of 25 players to each team, not counting a scattering of recently discharged veterans who can be carried on the rosters as surplus for one year.
Since most of the 240 players who must be dropped by opening day are rookies, any one of them who manages to survive spring training and remain on a major league roster is an extraordinary fellow indeed. If he lasts through the season, he is something of a wonder. If he blossoms into a star—well, obviously, it's an actuarial miracle.
Yet some rookies do it every year, defeating the laws of probability with the determination of an occasional crocus pushing its way up through a macadam road into the sun. Wally Moon, the St. Louis Cardinal outfielder, wasn't even on the Cardinal roster in the spring of 1954, and yet he did so well that he forced the Cardinals to sell the sainted Enos Slaughter to make room for him. Just last season the unheralded Frank Robinson of the Cincinnati Redlegs, who had been a sore-armed outfielder in a Class A minor league the year before, did much the same thing and ended up, as Moon did, with the title Rookie of the Year. Tony Kubek of the New York Yankees, who is discussed below, may prove to be another of this truly exceptional breed, for he was not on the Yankees' roster when spring training started even though he appears likely to be the brightest of the brilliant Yankee rookie crop.
Of the more than 200 rookies in spring training, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S baseball team focuses on only 10, and of the 10, it will be remarkable if three develop into thoroughly reliable major leaguers. Those shown here are undeniably the eye catchers, the fortunate few who have either the exceptional talent, like Pizarro, or the exceptional opportunity, like Bouchee. This, then, is offered as a scratch sheet. These are the best bets.
JIM LANDIS, LF
BOB ANDERSON, P
HAYWOOD SULLIVAN, C
ED BOUCHEE PHILADELPHIA, 1B
BROOKS ROBINSON, 3B