My NL Rookie of the Year pick was Kevin Kouzmanoff.
Anyway, we continue our Rotten Rookies series today with a look at the San Diego third baseman.
THE DAMAGES: Kouzmanoff is hitting .132/.207/.226. He has a 17/4 K/BB. Heís driven in just four runs. Starts donít get much worse than this.
CAN HE IMPROVE SOON? As with the other rookies Iíve discussed so far, I expect improvement to take awhile. Kouzmanoffís poor strikeout-to-walk ratio indicates heís been overmatched; this isnít a case of a rookie hitting into bad luck early in the year. Kouzmanoff has a ways to go just to become adequate, never mind good.
There are other things working against him, too. Lack of experience at the upper levels of the minors -- just 102 at-bats at Triple-A -- hurts him. So does his home ballpark. Kouzmanoff isnít hitting anywhere right now, but if and when he gets to a point where heís making good contact and driving the ball, Petco wonít do him any favors.
But even if Kouzmanoff is on the brink of a breakout, he might not get the chance. Russ Branyan has seen plenty of time at third base lately. Bud Black keeps insisting Kouzmanoffís the guy at third, but one has to wonder how long this can continue. San Diego hopes to contend, so how long can they stick with Kouzmanoff at third if he isnít producing?
WHAT DOES THE LONG-TERM FUTURE HOLD? Kouzmanoff has shown fine plate discipline and power in the minors. Last year, he hit 22 homers and boasted a 46/33 K/BB between Double-A and Triple-A. The skill is there. Heíll be fine in the long run.
I donít think Iíd drop Kouzmanoff yet in a seasonal league, but you better have a Plan B. If he doesnít start hitting very soon, he could easily wind up playing less than he already is -- and heíll be next to worthless if that happens.