Remember those cool little trophies that Topps has put on baseball cards of the previous year’s best rookies? The card company began the practice in 1960 honoring the best rookies from 1959 — a group that included the likes of Pumpsie Green and Hall of Famer Willie McCovey.
Since that time, Topps has forsaken the trophies in a few years, but has continued to select an All-Rookie Team. Topps usually honors eight position players and two pitchers, one right-handed, one lefty. We prefer four starters and a closer.
Here’s our lineup of the top 2012 rookies we believe will be honored by Topps at the end of the season. Some are still in the minors, but you will know their names by the end of the summer.
Catcher Hector Sanchez, San Francisco
Sanchez won’t get as many plate appearances as other catchers because of some guy named Buster Posey. But as the Giants get Posey more time at first base, Sanchez will continue to impress with his bat and arm. Others: Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati; Wilin Rosario, Colorado
First Base Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
Rizzo is likely to make the scene by the end of May, and will immediately take his place in the middle of the Cubs’ lineup. The Cubbies need his bat, for sure. Other: Chris Parmelee, Minnesota
Second Base Freddy Galvis, Philadelphia
Given the full-time gig in Philadelphia until Chase Utley returns, Galvis’ bat has been slow starting this season, but he knows how to play the position — and there is little competition at the position. Other: Kolten Wong, St. Louis
Third Base Nolan Arenado, Colorado
The third baseman has hit well at every stop, including spring training this season. The hot corner in Denver will be his later this summer. He is among the best long-term prospects on this list as well.
Shortstop Tyler Pastornicky, Atlanta
Clearly, the deepest position for rookies this season, there are shortstops galore. Pastornicky isn’t the best defender of this group, but he is expected to hit close to .300 and steal 20-plus bases. Others: Zack Cozart, Cincinnati; Nick Franklin, Seattle; Marwin Gonzalez, Houston; Jose Iglesias, Boston
Outfield Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland
The Cuban defector has quickly proven he has power to spare and is not overmatched by big league pitching. It will be interesting to see how well he adjusts once opponents have more thorough scouting reports on him. Bryce Harper, Washington
I suppose if he doesn’t become a first-ballot Hall of Famer after all the hype, his career will be considered a colossal failure. But seriously, his bat is major league ready. The Nationals want him to get a little more comfortable in center field, and it never hurts to delay the major league service clock from ticking. Brett Jackson, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs need an infusion of youth and offense. Jackson has proven to be an all-around player in the minor leagues. With Chicago outfielders struggling offensively, Jackson could see an earlier promotion than originally expected. Others: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels; Kirk Nieuwenhuis, New York Mets; Leonys Martin, Texas
Designated Hitter Jesus Montero, Seattle
He has finally arrived. The much-publicized prized hitting prospect in the Yankees organization was traded to Seattle over the winter. Mariners fans will not be disappointed. The man can hit and will be the linchpin of Seattle’s offense for several years.
Starting Pitcher Yu Darvish, Texas
His large frame and velocity separate him from previous starting pitchers from Japan. Darvish will have the run support and defense to allow him to put up nice numbers, even when he struggles. Matt Moore, Tampa Bay
When a manager trusts a youngster enough for him to make the first start of his career in Game 1 of the ALDS, it makes you think the pitcher must be special. Moore is the next young ace for the Rays. Tom Milone, Oakland
He doesn’t overpower hitters, but much like Tom Glavine a couple of decades ago, Milone keeps hitters off balance and they rarely square him up. Manny Banuelos, N.Y. Yankees
The Yankees have questions in the their rotation and are dealing with a few health issues. Banuelos has a minor back injury, but is not expected to miss very much time, possibly just one start at Triple-A. He could be a fixture in the Yanks’ rotation by mid-summer. Others: Drew Pomeranz, Colorado; Julio Teheran, Atlanta; Drew Smyly, Detroit; Jacob Turner, Detroit; Brad Peacock, Oakland
Relief Pitcher Hector Santiago, Chicago White Sox
Santiago is the reason that the White Sox were so willing to part with Sergio Santos and his 30 saves from last season. Santiago has the demeanor and poise to close. Others: Addison Reed, Chicago White Sox; Ryan Cook, Oakland; David Phelps, New York Yankees