I’ve come to a realization recently – no one gets caught up in the hype of young baseball players more than I do. Take a look at this list of disappointing youngsters:
Carlos Quentin – Maybe the shoulder injury is to blame, but a .210/.299/.350 line is about as bad as it gets. So bad he’s currently in Triple-A. But worst of all, he was a last-minute no show on Chris Liss’ radio show, demonstrating complete disregard for tact and decorum. Future outlook: Go ahead and write off 2007, but he’ll be fine, especially with Chase Field at his disposal. However, he probably only possesses 25-homer type power.
Conor Jackson – The 28:38 K:BB ratio is impressive, but he’s been an overall disappointment. Future outlook: He doesn’t figure to ever reach much more than 20 homers, but with a nice OBP, he could be a threat to score 100 runs while projecting as a No. 2 hitter.
Chris B. Young – My preseason favorite to win the NL ROY, Young hasn’t been a total bust with 14 HRs and 11 SBs, but the rest of his counting stats are down, and the .232 BA is ugly. Future outlook: Still very bright. He plays a terrific center field and should be a 25/25 or even 30/30 type at his peak. A great “post-hype sleeper” target entering fantasy drafts next year.
Stephen Drew – Notice a theme here? Imagine how tough the Diamondbacks will be once these kids start reaching their potential. With the surname Drew, injuries figured to be a problem with the young shortstop, but it’s been production instead. Future outlook: With 25-homer upside, Drew can be a very valuable middle infielder for years to come, it’s just going to take a little longer than most anticipated.
Homer Bailey – I’m staying away for the rest of 2007. Look at the numbers. Even while in the minors this season, the ERA was fine, but the strikeouts weren’t there. Combine that with poor command and a hitter’s park as home, and you are going to get some unsightly results. Future outlook: Not sure if the Kerry Wood comparison is apt, and I’d certainly rather have Yovani Gallardo or Tim Lincecum, but Bailey will eventually settle in as a nice No. 2 starter in the big leagues, with ace potential.
Alex Gordon – 79 strikeouts in 313 at-bats. That pretty much sums up Gordon’s lackluster rookie season. Sometimes it just takes a while for it to click. I don’t view him any worse than I did before the season started. Future outlook: A fantasy monster. Gordon combines big time power with the ability to swipe 20 bases from a corner infield spot. If held at gunpoint, I’d rather Ryan Braun moving forward, but it’s awfully close.
Kevin Kouzmanoff – Kouzmanoff isn’t exactly that young, but he is in terms of major league experience, and many expected much more out of the third basemen this season, myself included. A power-hitting right-hander who strikes out a lot is far from an ideal fit for Petco, but Kouzmanoff is a better player than he’s shown so far. Future outlook: Petco Park limits his upside, but he’ll be a serviceable CI in fantasy leagues next season.
Kevin Slowey – There’s nothing left for him to prove in the minors. Now, it’s just a matter of finding out if he’s a “quadruple-A” player or not. My money is on “yes,” unfortunately. He allowed 13 home runs in 37 big league innings this year, an unfathomable amount. While that can largely be chalked up to bad luck, Slowey strikes me as an Anthony Reyes/Dave Bush type, with a lot less upside. He’s always around the strike zone, so his WHIP will be solid enough with so few walks allowed. But with an average at best 88-89 mph fastball, he’s going to be eminently hittable. Future outlook: I’m not optimistic he’ll ever be much of a big league pitcher.
Matt Cain – Remember, Cain is still just 23 years old, younger than teammate Tim Lincecum. Cain’s stuff is legit, there’s no doubt about that. However, his decrease in strikeouts this season (6.6 K/9 IP this year, 8.45 K/9 IP last year) is a major concern, especially when you factor in his horrendous control (4.47 BB/9 IP). People say his record (3-11) is unlucky, but his ERA (3.87) is equally as lucky considering his poor peripherals. Future outlook: He’ll be a stud – he had a stretch last season in which he allowed just one run over 40 innings – so try to get him at a discount next year.
Felix Hernandez – He hasn’t been terrible, but a 1.42 WHIP isn’t what many were looking for. Especially after he started the season with back-to-back gems. Maybe an injury is partially to blame, but the King is very hittable when balls are put into play for some reason. His .354 BABIP is literally the worst in all of baseball. And that number was .322 last year as well. However, he’s getting more ground balls and walking fewer batters, so there is reason for optimism here. Future outlook: At least two, and maybe three or four Cy Youngs.
Tim Lincecum – Are we entirely sure Lincecum isn’t really 16 years old? Good god, he looks like he just passed his driver’s test. Anyway, after a rough June (7.71 ERA, 1.75 WHIP), he’s responded with a terrific July (1.86 ERA, 0.98 WHIP). There will likely continue to be bumps in the road (mainly, command issues) but the 10 K/9 IP reveals the makings of a future ace. With a two-seam fastball that reaches 98 mph (unheard of) and AT&T Park behind him, there’s a lot to like here. Future outlook: In a keeper league, I’d draft him in the first round.
Of course, there’s Justin Verlander, Hunter Pence, etc., who played extremely well right out of the gate, but for the most part, the allure of upside and potential hasn’t been worth the risk when it comes to youngsters these days. It’s just too bad Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo are doing so well for me, making it all the more likely I’ll be drafting Justin Upton too early next year.