Everyone loves rookies. Everyone but me it seems. Today, I'll review five of the biggest rookies in the game in 2013 and survey how they have performed to this point and what they should they be expected to do as the season moves on to the second half. We've got a power fastball throwing lefty from the Reds. There's a middle infielder for the Mariners that has been dynamite since being called up. What about the Minor League Player of the Year from last season – how is he performing in Tampa? The Rangers seem to have bungled how they've handled their phenom, and every pitcher in baseball seems to have missed the memo on how to attack the Dodgers' messiah.
Tony Cingrani is filling in yet again for the seemingly continually injured Johnny Cueto. Until Cueto returns from a lat issue, and he's likely to miss all of July and maybe longer, Cingrani will take the ball every five games for the Reds. The results this season have obviously been positive, he has a 3.40 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and is 3-0, and I haven't even noted his most impressive number – that 10.53 K/9 mark. However, there are some cracks in this foundation. First off his walk rate is up to 3.57 per nine, and that's a growing problem. The last time he was sent to the minors he walked nine batters in 17 innings, and in his last two starts he's walked a total of 10 batters over 9.2 innings. He's just not locating his pitches well. As a result his pitch count is getting up, he's not being able to work deep into games, and the result is that he's not sticking around long enough to increase his chances at victories. I watched his last outing closely when he twirled the ball against the Giants, and the fact is that he's basically a one pitch pitcher. His breaking stuff looks forced, he seems to slow his mechanics a bit when he throws his curve ball, and he was having a lot of trouble location any off speed stuff. Batters know all of that so they just sit on his fastball. He throws the heater too much – 82 percent of his pitches are fastballs – given that it's a “riding” fastball and not a sinking one. The result is that batters spit on his off speed stuff, wait for him to come into the strike zone, and then they often hit him hard (his line drive rate is 22 percent and his HR/9 mark is elevated at 1.53). The kid has a great arm, but until he develops his secondary stuff he's going to struggle whenever his location is off. I still think he'd be best served by serving as a setup man at this point of his development.
Nick Franklin has some soreness in his knee, but the rookie has vowed to play through it (he fouled a ball off his knee Friday, and having done that myself let me tell ya, it hurts like a mutha). He's been a dominating force, yeah I called a non-Puig rookie a dominating force, since he was called up. Franklin has appeared in 37 games, and if we give him a full season of at-bats we'd be looking at a middle infielder who hit .287 with 24 homers, 72 RBIs, 64 runs scored and 20 steals. That's right, he's on a 20/20 pace while hitting nearly .290. Hard to think he will be able to maintain his 26 percent line drive rate though, but this is a youngster who has the look of being a solid option in mixed leagues in the second half.
Wil Myers has had a nice start to his big league career. Myers has been a solid run producer with 13 RBIs and 10 runs scored in 20 games, and he's also gone deep three times. Like I said many times though, even though that level of production is nice, we'd be looking at a 140 game pace of .256 with 21 homers, 91 RBIs and 80 runs and that really isn't much different than what a guy like Nick Swisher usually does. Honestly, .250 hitting 20 homer bats are pretty prevalent in the outfield aren't they? People have overestimated what Myers brings to the table at this time. He's not a speed demon so you can forget about steals being a big factor (he's 0-for-1 on steal attempts). His average isn't likely to be very good either. 'But Ray, he hit .300 in the minors last year, so how can you say that his average isn't going to rebound from that current mark of .256?' Easy. He strikes out too much and never walks. Oldest story in the world actually. Myers has 25 Ks in 82 at-bats which obviously means he strikes out in nearly a third of his at-bats. It's very, very difficult to be a big time average type if you strike out that much. Some context. Last year how many batters with a K-rate of 28.7 percent, Myers current level, hit .300? None. How many hit .290? None. How many hit .280? None. How many hit even .250? One. The only man with a K-rate over 28 percent who hit better than 250 was Chris Davis at .270 (minimum 502 plate appearances). See why that .256 average that Myers is currently sporting fits right in? Second, because of all the Ks you know that his BB/K ratio is going to be poor. In fact though, it's hideous at 0.12 as Myers has walked three times in 20 games this season. Three. Among batters who qualified for the batting title last season NO ONE had a mark that low (Delmon Young was the worst at 0.18). Myers needs to cut down the whiffs and start taking some pitches or he is going to have a hard time even hitting .256.
Jurickson Profar was supposed to be a star right away according to many. It hasn't worked out like that at all (not that I'm shocked since I've been warning people about him since January). The kid is immensely talented, but he's a kid – he's not even able to legally drink at 20 years of age (I'm sure he's still pulled back on a few at times though. No one's perfect). Here are the issues. (1) Profar is 20 and he has very little professional baseball experience. Last year he appeared in 126 games at Double-A and this year he had 37 games at Triple-A. That's a season worth of games above A-ball. Seasoning is something he could use more of. (2) The Rangers have totally bungled this situation. When Ian Kinsler returned from the DL they should have sent Profar back down to the minors so that he could play everyday. Instead, they kept him in the big leagues as a spare part giving him 17 plate appearances over the past nine games. Newsflash Rangers – this guy has never sat on the bench in his life. Veterans of 10 years often have a hard time adjusting to sporadic playing time and you're asking a 20 year old to try it? Not a good idea. (3) Lance Berkman has been placed on the DL, and the result is that Profar should get a chance to play regularly for the next two weeks. Still, and this is another issue, their taking a middle infielder, who is 20, and asking him to learn how to play the outfield. Does this make sense to you? It's like the Rangers are doing what they can to make things as difficult as possible on Profar. As for his on the field work, Profar is batting .2346 with a .320 OBP and .360 SLG. He's gone deep three times in 34 games, but he's also 0-for-3 on the base paths. His future is bright, but he may be nothing more than a fringe player in most mixed leagues the rest of this season.
Yasiel Puig is batting .409 with a 1.114 OPS, and in 32 games he's had at least two hits 16 times. Truly remarkable. I keep warning of the pull back, his 27 percent fly ball ratio is well below the league average of about 35 percent meaning he just doesn't put the ball in the air very often. So why they eight homers in 32 games? You can thank his 32.0 percent HR/F ratio, an unsustainable pace. Last season no batter in baseball that qualified for the batting title reached 30 percent with their HR/F ratio (Adam Dunn led the way at 29.3 percent). Talk about an unsustainable pace... check out that .494 BABIP mark. No not .394 but .494. Last season no one in baseball had a mark of even .394 (Dexter Fowler led the way at .390). Regardless, I find two aspects of his effort utterly fascinating. First, when the bases are empty this year his slash line is out of a video game (.482/.511/.783). However, when there are runners on base he looks a lot like Jason Kubel (.273/.298/.477). Second, in the 23 at-bats this season in which he has put the first pitch he saw in play he's produced, and this is amazing, 18 hits. That's a .783 batting average. Four of those 18 hits have been homers and his OPS in those 23 at-bats is 2.130. WHY ON EARTH IS ANY PITCHER THROWING A BALL IN THE STRIKEZONE TO PUIG ON THE FIRST PITCH? I just don't get it.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 5 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone's questions.
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