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
This fine defensive outfielder with a strong arm was never noted for his hitting ability (.257 with Memphis last year) but he has startled everyone with his sensational slugging this spring. White Sox Manager Al Lopez hopes that, at 23, the California ex-G.I. has arrived. If so, Veteran Minnie Minoso may be switched from left field to third base in order to make room for him.
BOB ANDERSON, P
At 21 he could become the youngest full-time relief specialist in the majors. A star reliever at Los Angeles last year (12 wins, 28 saves) after one full season in the minors, he will be used in same capacity for the Cubs. Big (6 feet 4½ inches, 207 pounds) and strong, his fast ball and good control should be rough on tiring National League batters when he appears in the late innings.
HAYWOOD SULLIVAN, C
This PCL All-Star catcher (with San Francisco last year) batted .296 with 77 RBIs, and with his right-handed power he should find the Red Sox' short left field wall much to his liking. Is polished receiver, has excellent arms and despite his size (6 feet 4 inches, 210 pounds) runs with amazing speed. His aura of confidence could lend spark to perennially underconfident Red Sox.
ED BOUCHEE PHILADELPHIA, 1B
This burly, broad-backed, left-handed slugger has been given Philadelphia's first base job and dared to lose it. Hits for distance (94 RBIs with Miami last year), has excellent eye for strike zone and therefore walks a lot. Pronounce his name Boo-shay.
BROOKS ROBINSON, 3B
Only 19 with but a year and a half of pro ball behind him, he is heir apparent to George Kell at Baltimore's third base. Lean and loose, with average speed and arm, he possesses fast reactions, wide range and gets the ball away quickly. "There's little I can teach him," Kell observed. But having batted only .272 at San Antonio in 1956, the big question is: can he hit in the majors?
ANDRE RODGERS, SS
Just a few years ago he was playing schoolboy cricket in his native Nassau. Tall (6 feet 3 inches) and rangy, he covers the short field with the gracefulness of the former Cardinal star Marty Marion, whom many baseball people compare him to. His strong, riflelike throws from deep in the hole at short have impressed all who have seen him in spring training. He hit with power in the minors (49 home runs in last two seasons) and has continued to show this power in preseason exhibition games. He could add punch to a weak-hitting Giant infield and help ease Willie Mays's batting burden.
JUAN PIZARRO, P
Baseball men have described this 19-year-old left-hander from Puerto Rico as another Herb Score. His fast ball is overpowering, his curve ball sharp and, most surprising, considering his single year in organized ball, he has developed remarkable pitching poise. He won 23 games with Jacksonville last season, struck out 318 and had a 1.77 ERA, and in view of the aspirin tablets he has been throwing at batters this spring Milwaukee may decide to keep him despite their plethora of outstanding pitchers.
DON LEE, P
The son of the former White Sox 20-game winner Thornton Lee, he has a big major league head start due to his father's early coaching. A right-hander—unlike his father—he pitched U. of Arizona to NCAA finals last June, then went straight into Class A ball (7-3, 2.51 ERA at Augusta). Big (6 feet 4 inches, 200 pounds) and mean on the mound, with poise beyond his 23 years, he throws hard and has a good side arm curve. Control is excellent. Looked impressive in Detroit's early exhibition games in Florida.
TONY KUBEK, LF
Here is this year's most publicized Yankee rookie. Twenty-one years old, tall (6 feet 3 inches) and broad-shouldered, he was Rookie of Year in American Association last year when he batted .331 (for Denver). Is good infielder with very quick hands, but may be used in left field where Yanks are "weak." Lacks power at plate, but smooth swing produces line drives to all fields.
ROGER MARIS, LF
Here is the youth who could add needed speed to a lead-footed Cleveland offense. Extremely fast, he can bunt—or pull the long ball to right. His .293 BA and 75 RBIs at Indianapolis last year do not show his usefulness in the clutch. Moved up from Class C to Triple A in four years and, at 22, improving all the time. Has strong, accurate arm and wide range in outfield.