Rookie Status gone, but not Forgotten!
By Adam Cohen
This is a list of players that have lost their rookie status but should not be forgotten. Basically they are going to be players who did not fair well in their first try at the major leagues but still have the ability to succeed as early as this year. These are guys you could take a late round flier on in your league and come out looking like a genius.
Jeff Clement: He got 204 at bats this season and managed to just barely stay over the Mendoza Line, batting .227. In that time he only hit 5 HR while slugging just .360. There is no question he struggled more than many of us would have liked to see. Word out of Mariner world is that Clement is going to get plenty of run at catcher and will be the DH when he isn’t behind the plate. That is exciting news from a fantasy perspective. It means that when he gets a day off from behind the plate to rest his knees, he will still be in the lineup. Eventually he may move to 1b, but for now the Mariners plan to keep him at C and he has an amazing power bat for a C. If this guy gets 500 at bats this year he is a definite 20 HR candidate, he could also find himself batting near the middle of this lineup if he starts hot. Odds are he’ll hit for a lower type average in the .250-.260 range, but for a catcher with 20 HR ability, that is great.
Wladimir Balentien: Another Mariner with great power. This guy has been touted throughout the minors as a guy who could hit 30 in the major leagues. This guy literally flirted with the Mendoza line in his 243 major league at bats last season. He finished with a .202 batting average. As of now Endy Chavez is penciled in as the left fielder, however this team is so bad they have to give their young guys a shot and see what they got. Baltentien may start the year as the 4th OF, but he should get plenty of at bats and could figure in at DH while Clement is behind the plate. If he can get 500 at bats this year he as the ability to hit 25 or more HR, the problem is that it will likely come with a .230-240 average. He will not be a fantasy stud, however can be a very cheap source of power if you need it. Keep an eye on him in spring training, if he gets a job from the get go, he’ll likely be a fantasy impact.
Delmon Young: Many fantasy people are down on Young. Here is what you do know: he was projected to be a 30/30 type player, and has fallen far short of that each year of his career. What you may not realize is that he has still averaged a .289 batting average, with 12 HR and 12 SB while averaging over 80 RBI a season. What this means is that he still hits well in the middle of the lineup, just hasn’t developed his home run power yet. With young hitters, power is usually the last thing that develops in terms of their tools (generally plate discipline is the hardest thing to find in a youngster). This guy could be poised for a break out season in power. He will be hitting near the middle of the lineup again and even if he does not break the 20 HR threshold for another year, he should be counted on for double figures in HR and SB while holding down a nice batting average and a good total of RBI.
Alex Gordon: This was another can’t miss prospect that has so far missed. Many people around fantasy baseball consider this guy a bust. I am not ready to give up on him yet. He was rushed to the majors, sure he performed well, but we was rushed. Not only that, he was rushed with tremendous pressure. He was the franchise savoir. Over his two full seasons in the majors he has averaged just 66 runs, 15 HR, 60 RBI and 12 SB, while batting just .253. He has been very pedestrian compared to his hype. Bottom line is that he is only 24 years old and now has 2 years of experience in the major leagues. His team is starting to get better, he is getting more protection. He was supposed to be a carbon copy of David Wright, and although I don’t see this as a reality at this point, he can be a Wright-lite type player. He had a great second half of the season although it was cut short by injury, his batting average was .277 and raised his slugging percentage to .496 from .407 pre all-star break. He also snagged 6 of his 9 stolen bases in his shortened second half. I’d predict that a .275-70-20-80-10 type season is not a stretch for this kid in 2009.
Billy Butler: Another Royal who had big things expected of him for 2008, who fell quite short. He struggled so badly in the first half of the season that he was actually demoted. Before being demoted he hit just 2 home runs and slugged just .330. He went down the minors and figured things out and came back to the majors and went on a terror. His average climbed to .305 while he slugged .476. This translated into 9 HRs in just 210 at bats. If you take just his second half numbers and translate it into a full season of 600 at bats, he was on pace for 26 homeruns with his above .300 average. The news for him during the off-season is that Kansas City traded for Mike Jacobs to come in and play the 1b position. This moves Butler to DH for good which hurts his value some in fantasy leagues. This guy will realize his potential this year though so take a late round flier on him. .300-70-25-90 type season is coming.
Steven Pearce: He has been touted as a 30 HR potential bat for a few years now. However, the Pirates outfield has been a little crowded and has not provided the opportunity for him to get sufficient playing time. In his limited time in the majors he has yet to show the 30 HR power we heard of, however continued to show it during his time in the minors. With Nady now out of Pittsburgh, Pearce is penciled in by many to play right field. If he does win the job out of spring training look for him to be a possible power supply during your season. I’d say it’s a bit early in his career to say he’ll hit 30 HR, but 20 is not out of the question. Assuming he wins the starting job I’d expect a .270 average with 21 HR.
Jeff Francis: Coming off the best season of his career, Francis found himself hitting the DL for the first time in his major league career. This landed him quite short of the near 200 IP we have come to expect from him. He showed that his 6.9 K/IP strike out rate from the year before was a little fluky as he returned closer to his career average with a 5.9 posting this past year. Going into this year he will not be the ace of staff, as Aaron Cook has taken that over. This should lead to a little less pressure on Francis and I fully expect him to take advantage of that. I doubt he will reach his career high of 17 wins or beat the 165 Ks he had that year either. However I think he could end the year with 13-14 wins and 140 Ks. He’s never had a season with an ERA under 4.16 or WHIP under 1.29, and that won’t change this season. Don’t expect anything much higher than those two numbers though.
Anibal Sanchez: The key for this guy is to stay healthy. If he can stay healthy he will be in a position to contribute for fantasy managers. With the emergence of other starting pitchers in the Florida rotation, he is penciled into the fourth spot in the rotation, which will take the pressure of pitching at the top of the rotation off of him. Throughout his minor league career he has been a great strikeout pitcher and I see no reason that this will not translate into the majors. In his two previous stints in the majors he had pedestrian strike out rates, however last season in 10 starts he was up at 8.7 K/IP. This is not the 22 year old kid who through a no-hitter a few years ago, he is 24 and has battled through injuries each of the past two years. He won’t be as good as he looked that rookie year where he posted and ERA under 3.00 in 17 starts. He should be able to keep his ERA under 4.20 and contribute nicely in strikeouts. This Florida team surprises people every year with their win total so this guy reaching 14 or more wins this season would not be a complete stretch.
Hopefully you guys enjoyed this article, let me know if there are any others you guys can think of by leaving a comment below...