Ten players who took the long route from top prospect to major-league contributor this year.
With over a month remaining in the regular season, Mike Trout’s campaign already looks like it might be remembered as the best ever recorded by a rookie. But Trout’s 2012 may have another lasting legacy: spoiling future rookie seasons for the rest of us. While watching Trout run roughshod over opposing AL pitchers, it’s easy to forget how rare it is for first-year players to be stars, let alone leading MVP candidates. However, it takes time for most young players (including Trout himself last season) to find their footing: only one other rookie, 26-year-old Yoenis Cespedes, has amassed even a third of the value of the Angels’ outfielder this year.
Even highly rated rookies usually struggle in their initial exposure to big-league pitching, and those who find success at first often suffer in their second trips around the league or in their sophomore seasons, as opponents start to exploit their weaknesses. Some of them recover quickly from these setbacks. Others take years to adjust, and many never put together the production that was expected of them.
Not all glovemen are destined to stay hopelessly inept at the plate. Ben looks at defensive stars who have added offense to their games this year.
Plenty of weak-hitting players from baseball’s past and present have gotten by on good gloves alone. Most big-league benches boast a part-timer whose sole strength is an ability to play capable defense at premium positions. But despite Brendan Ryan’s best efforts, relatively few players become stars unless they can combine good gloves with big bats.
Fortunately, not every good-field, no-hit player is destined to stay that way. Legendary glove man Ozzie Smith was a good player who turned into a great one when he learned how to hit in his late 20s. Defensive players of Smith’s caliber are few and far between, but some of today’s finest fielders could follow a similar trajectory. This season, the following five defense-first players who entered 2012 with reputations as easy outs have become much tougher to retire, transforming themselves (at least temporarily) into all-around threats instead of one-dimensional talents.
The tater trots for April 24: Chipper's birthday blast, Wieters' accidental home run, and Gomez's confused (and speedy) trot.
From ten home runs on Monday to 32 homers on Tuesday, baseball's random nature shows itself again. Thankfully, we had plenty of interesting trots last night, with notoriously slow trotters and famously quick trotters all getting their turn. And, even though it's already the last week of April, we're still seeing the first home runs of such stars as Carlos Gonzalez (who hit two out Tuesday night to make up for things).
Events that have happened already this season after not happening for all of 2011 help explain why we're still hooked on baseball.
There were 2429 major-league games played last season.* Most of the things that can happen in a baseball game happened in one of those. With a few exceptions, teams and players will do all of the same things in 2012 that they did in 2011—they’ll just do them in a difference sequence and more, or less, frequently than they did before. When and how often they do those nearly identical things will determine which teams win divisions and which players win awards. We’re suckers for those things, so another season of the same, reshuffled, is enough to suck us in. But we're not completely content with repetition. We also watch in hopes of seeing something we didn’t see the season before.
*There would have been 2430, but no one felt like seeing another Dodgers-Nationals game in September. That missed game may have deprived us of history: Matt Kemp finished the season one home run away from 40 home runs, and Dee Gordon finished the season one home run away from one home run. For the alternate-history buffs: the man who would have started that game against the Dodgers, had it been played, was Tom Milone. Milone had the fifth-lowest home run rate among Triple-A starters last season, so that extra game might not have made Matt Kemp baseball’s fifth 40-40 man. Then again, that home run rate might not have meant much, since there weren’t many Matt Kemps in the International League. More on Milone a little later.
Extreme power and speed picks join a very exciting VP week for outfielders.
Value Pick outfielders performed like they'd been hit by a hurricane this past week, but the batter Ozzie Gullen calls “The Tank” (Dayan Viciedo) is up, causing belated relief in Chicago as Adam Dunn hasn't been striking out for a few days now. And this author risks becoming “Rocket Man” as yet another Astro gets featured in Value Picks. But really, who outside The 610 Loop has paid any attention to the Astros recently, anyway? And a lack of attention often leads to value.
Announced their buyout of RF-RJermaine Dye's option for 2010, and that Dye has opted for free agency; announced the receipt of $$-$ Fabulous Moolah from the Royals as part of the price of the Teahen trade. [11/6]