Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What Stars Will Shine?

Players Who May Have Great Comebacks in 2012

Not that the Cardinals missed him all that much last year, but Adam Wainright had 11-3, 19-8, and 20-11 seasons before missing all of 2011 with Tommy John surgery. Could the 6 foot 7, 30-year old rightie be the Comeback Player of the Year? So far in Spring Training he ranks 5th among all hurlers with a 1.45 ERA, opponents are batting just .169 and his WHIP is 0.91. Looks like he's back.

Minnesota's Joe Mauer missed half of last year with injuries and hit just .287 when he played. Though he may never have a season like 2009 (28, 96, .365) he may rebound to 2010-type stats (9, 75, .327.) For the Spring he's hitting .358 with an .819 OPS.

Stephen Strasburg, Washington's 2010 phenom, had reconstructive elbow surgery last year. Surprisingly, he will pitch on Opening Day. He apparently has a good fastball and has struck out 17 in 23 innings this Spring. But he is also 1-4 with a 4.18 ERA. Should be interesting.

The Red Sox did not get a Carl Crawford performance from Carl Crawford in 2011. A career .296 when they got him from the Rays Crawford slumped from 19, 90, . 307 in 2010 to just 11, 56, .290 in his first year of Fenway Fever. He did manage to keep up his 104 strikeouts, however. Look for him to rebound, though it won't be before May as he underwent wrist surgery in January and hasn't played in Florida.

When you make the All-Star team, win a Gold Glove, and hit in 30 straight games you wouldn't necessarily expect to improve. But Dodger right fielder Andre Ethier (right) had knee troubles last year and, after 31 and 23 home run seasons he hit just 11 last year with an OPS under .800 for the first time. This Spring he's hitting .392 with a 1.292 OPS.

A 37, 99, .299 season wouldn't be considered an off year for many players, but it was for Albert Pujols. It was the first time he'd hit below .300 and his slugging percentage, OBP, and OPS were his worst ever. He also had the fewest hits, doubles, triples, and RBIs of his terrific career. That's why he got such a lousy contract. It will be interesting to see how the American League pitchers can handle him. If the Spring is any indication they may be in for trouble. He's hitting .407 with 6 home runs and 17 RBIs.

Question Marks

We know Miguel Cabrera can hit. With Prince Fielder taking his spot at first can Miguel play third? He has struggled at the hot corner in Florida.

Can Roy Halladay get his fastball back? He was reported to have lost 3 or 4 mph in spite of racking up 220 K's last year. Well, his Spring ERA is 5.54 but he has struck out 27 in 22 innings.

The Most Anticipated Debuts – Yu Who?

Due to the Royals' depth in the outfield Lorenzo Cain spent all of last year in Triple-A where he hit .380 and compiled an .877 OPS, but with the departure of Melky Cabrera to the Giants there is now an opening for him. For what it's worth, he ranks among the top performers in Spring Training with 11 doubles and 5 home runs in 66 at bats. He's hitting .394 and his OPS is 1.255. I think he'll get a chance to play this year, though his 12 strikeouts are a bit of a concern. Of course I checked his strikeouts last year in the Pacific Coast League – 102.

The Texas Rangers spent a lot of money on 25-year old Yu Darvish. No wonder... he had a 1.99 career ERA with the Nippon Ham Fighters. In his last season in Japan his ERA was 1.44, he allowed just five home runs, and he held batters to a .190 average. Darvish gave up six hits and three runs in six innings on Friday in his last start of the Spring - but he also struck out 11. Whether he's a Whirling Darvish or not, Yu should sell a lot of tickets.

When he was just 15 Washington's 19-year old phenom Bryce Harper hit a 570-foot home run. At 16 he was throwing 96 mph fastballs and made the cover of Sports Illustrated as a "once in a generation" talent. (To save you looking it up, Harper ranks number two on mlb.com's Top 100 Prospects List.) Harper obviously has a great arm, especially for a center fielder, can steal bases, and certainly hits for power. Don't look for him to be with the big club on Opening Day though as the Nationals will probably want to keep him under contractual control for an additional year. Besides, he struck out 11 times in 28 at bats in Spring Training and suffered an injured calf. But his debut later this Spring is much anticipated to say the least.

The top pitching prospect according to mlb.com is Tampa's Matt Moore, whose 94-98 mph fastball helped him strikeout 700 batters in 497 innings in the minor leagues. He struck out 11 Yankees in one start last September and 2-hit the Rangers over seven innings in another. He had abdominal pains during March but last Friday gave up just three hits in six innings. For the Spring he's held batters to a paltry .147 average. Watch for much Moore.

Second-Year Player Most Likely to Emerge as a Star

On March 16 Canadian-born Blue Jay Brett Lawrie pulled a groin trying to score from second. Prior to that the almost a rookie third baseman had seven doubles and two triples, a 1.371 OPS, an .821 slugging percentage and he was hitting .538. Though he tailed off a bit toward the end of his major league debut last year Lawrie seems poised to tear up the American League in 2012.

As you may have read here last year, lots of 'can't miss' prospects have missed badly over the years, it should be fun to see how these guys do.

1 comment:

Rick Blechta said...

I think the biggest of the players you mentioned for this year will be Tampa’s Matt Moore. Plus, plus fastball, terrific curve and change, control out the wazoo, but most importantly, poise under fire. He's got everything he needs to be a great one. That play-off win against Texas last fall was just spectacular and is a hint of what to expect from Moore.