NEW YORK — This season's crop of rookies has blossomed nicely and several clubs are profiting from the production.
More than 60 rookies were on opening-day rosters this year and some clubs, like the Milwaukee Brewers, the Texas Rangers and the Pittsburgh Pirates, have tailored themselves around youth. The Rangers' pitching staff has three rookie starters and another rookie, Pete Incaviglia, is Texas' starting right fielder.
Of the three Texas pitchers, Jose Guzam was the only one to play on the Triple A level. Ed Correa, who at 20 is the youngest player in the majors, advanced from Double A. Bobby Witt, drafted out of Oklahoma last season, spent a few months at Tulsa of the Texas League.
Incaviglia, the NCAA home run champion at Oklahoma State, made the jump straight from college to the majors. Dave Winfield of the Yankees and Bob Horner of the Braves are the only other active major leaguers who made that trip.
There's always a question about fast rising rookies--whether they were uprooted too quickly and needed more time in the minors to mature.
Winfield, however, sees nothing wrong with teams bringing up players so quickly.
"It's a great opportunity for the kids," said Winfield, who went from the University of Minnesota campus to the San Diego Padres in 1973. "The names and faces change. Whoever heard of Wally Joyner? He leads the world in home runs and runs-batted in.
"I look at it from the player's standpoint. Go for the money and do what you've gotta do."
Winfield says the success of rookies such as Oakland's Jose Canseco, Seattle's Danny Tartabull and California's Joyner has helped revitalize the game and made for better competition.
"For a while the league was getting watered down," Winfield said. "The caliber of players is greater now. Things are changing. There are no more pushovers in the league."
One argument against bringing up players so early is they will not learn enough of the fundamentals and turn into one-dimensional players. Canseco breezed through three minor league levels in two years. Joyner spent three years in the minors, one on each level, before being promoted to the majors.
Winfield, a nine-time All-Star, says if a player is ready for the majors, he should be brought up.
"Nobody cares about fundamentals as long as they're producing," Winfield said. "Sometimes if you go to the minor leagues, your talent will break you. You can fail at the Double A level because you can become disenchanted with the competition. I went down to Mexico to play winter ball and I didn't do well because the talent there wasn't good enough."
Winfield, who was drafted as a collegian in three sports--baseball, football and basketball--said if a player works hard enough, he should be able to adapt to almost anything.
"I was a pitcher in college," Winfield said. "Three days after I signed (with the Padres), I was playing left field. You can be good if you work at it."