Most of us love to roster the youngsters, but often times it doesn’t pay off. We’ll consider the case of a third baseman and an outfield in today’s piece. We’ll also hit on a third baseman who is heating up and a starting pitcher who seems to be cooling just a bit.
BE WARY OF YOUNGSTERS
I say it all the time. For every Mike Trout that we see there are, literally, 75 youngsters, if not more, each year who fail to live up to the hype. One of those players this year is destined to be Nolan Arenado of the Rockies.
The minor league leader in RBI last season with 122, Arenado was hyped to all hell by the baseball establishment. Some thought he would open the season as the Rockies third baseman given that they didn’t really have an elite option there. Even those that took the moderate road said that, worst case scenario, Arenado would be starting at third for the Rockies by the All-Star break.
Then there were folks like me who pointed out the obvious.
(1) Arenado is 21 years old.
(2) Though he had 122 RBI last season, it was at High-A. Think about that. Were you really expecting a guy who didn’t have a single at-bat even at Double-A to be in the big leagues quickly? ‘But wait Ray, Bryce Harper didn’t have a lot of upper level minor league work, and look how good he has been.’ There’s a huge problem with this line of thought, and it’s everywhere. Just because Harper and Mike Trout have exploded on the scene people assume that it’s fairly normal for elite prospects to do this. Flat out â€“ it simply isn’t. Consider some of the top-10 prospects from recent seasons… did any of them immediately explode at the big league level?
And these guys were top-10 prospects.
I could go on, but you should just stick this in your memory banks and remember it always. IT IS RARE FOR ANY YOUNG PLAYER TO BE A STAR FROM THE START OF HIS CAREER. It happens, but you’re never going to win a fantasy league if you build your team around players with no big league experience â€“ the odds are extremely against that move ever paying off with a championship.
(3) Arenado is not a finished product. He hit two homers in 54 games in 2009. In 2010 he hit 12 homers in 92 games. Even last season, with all his success, he had only 20 homers in 134 games. This season, at Double-A, he’s hitting .293 but he has only seven homers and 38 RBI in 75 games. He’s done a great job with pitch recognition with a 0.89 BB/K mark, but he’s just not driving the ball with authority. As a result of that, and a few other things it seems, the Rockies announced that he is likely to spend not the rest of the first half but the entire 2012 season in the minor leagues. Here are the words of GM Don O’Dowd.
â€ťNolan Arenado’s maturity level has not yet reached his talent level. He will probably finish the season at Double-A, unless there are injuries or other circumstancesâ€ť.
Yes, there is more to being a big leaguer than just knocking in runs.
Hopefully you took the moderate path with Arenado and weren’t counting on him to be a savior in the second half of the 2012 season.
Before leaving this topic, a brief note about the man who is currently manning third base for the Rockies. Jordan Pacheco hasn’t flashed any power at all with one homer and eight doubles in 173 at-bats, but he’s struck out only 22 times and is hitting .306 on the year giving the Rockies a cheap, moderately effective option at the hot corner who is paying big time dividends for those that rostered him in NL-only leagues.
PIRATES YOUNGSTER IN TROUBLE
Jose Tabata took the league by storm as a rookie in 2010 hitting .299 with 61 runs scored and 19 steals in 102 games. Since then, he’s been a disappointment. Limited to just 91 games last season because of injury, he still stole 16 bags but hit a mere .266 while knocking in 21 runs left him as a spotty play even in NL-only leagues. This year his performance has worsened, dramatically, as he’s hitting .226 with a .288 OBP and .339 SLG through 68 games. He’s also stolen a mere eight bases while somehow being caught eight times. And, 11 RBI in 68 games â€“ is he even trying? “One thing you can bring every day is your attitude and your effort. I demand that, and I think we’ve had some disconnects with that,” manager Clint Hurdle said. He also hinted that a demotion to Triple-A could happen for Tabata in the near future. A stalled prospect, at this point there’s no reason to be paying any attention to Tabata unless you are in that aforementioned NL-only league, and even then, his star is clearly dimming.
Ryan Zimmerman has been awful for most of the year, and part of that blame has to go to the fact that he is trying to play through a shoulder injury. It’s always darkest before the dawn though, and perhaps a recent injection in his shoulder will allow this proud athlete to return to the level of relevance. He’s been hot in Colorado of late, an over his last 17 at-bats he’s gone for eight hits and he has two homers in his last two contests. Ryan Z also has an RBI in 4-straight contests and he’s only struck out once in five games. He’s still light years away from being someone you just plug and play in a 10 or 12 team mixed league at third base, but maybe we’ve written him off to early in terms of him being a solid fantasy contributor for the 2012 season.
Jason Hammel likely wasn’t even drafted in your mixed league this season. Through his first 15 starts this season he is 8-3 with a 3.29 ERA and 1.19 WHIP which are stupendous numbers from a waiver-wire addition. Still, there are some warning signs that should be headed with Hammel.
(1) Though skilled, let’s not forget that the past two years his ERA was over 4.75 and his WHIP in the 1.40′s, and that for his career he owns a 4.80 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. You can partially blame Colorado of course, but those are still worse than big league average numbers.
(2) Though he’s up to 93 innings and 15 starts Hammel has never been able to throw 180 innings in a big league season, though he has been in the 170′s each of the past three years.
(3) He allowed eight runs Wednesday night and has allowed at least four earned runs in five of his last nine outings. The other four times he’s allowed one or zero earned runs. That’s not exactly the type of consistency that we’d like to see.
(4) His current K/9 of 8.61 is two batters above his career rate.
(5) His current BAA of .227 is .043 points lower than it has ever been before. Part of the reason for that is that his line drive rate is currently 16.7 percent. Can a guy who owns a career mark of 20.3 percent, and one who has failed to better than rate in any of the last four seasons, keep the mark that low over the course of an entire season? Can a guy with a career 46 percent ground ball rate have a season where that mark is 54 percent?
I’m not saying it’s panic time with Hammel, but even if I was you got this guy for nothing meaning anything positive he has done is just gravy. What I am saying is that the best is likely already in the rear view mirror so it would be wise to kick the tires on the trade front and see what his value currently is on the trade market.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray’s baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys’ Twitter account.