People get giddy when they are around greatness. They also loose their minds when they think they have a chance to be in on the ground floor of something big. That’s why all we’ve heard about lately is Brett Lawrie, Anthony Rizzo, Desmond Jennings and Dustin Ackley (I wrote about three of those guys in The Prospect Trinity). I’ve been preaching caution with the expectation train with those four players, and to illustrate how precarious the path to greatness is I thought I would discuss four second year players that are having varying degrees of success this season.
Starlin Castro is hitting .301, one point better than the .300 mark he attained as a rookie. However, after hitting .348 in April he has managed to post a mere .261 mark over his last 134 at-bats. As for his power stroke – it still is MIA. Castro is displaying no power with only one homer in 249 at-bats. So much for the power surge we saw in the post-season (I said he wouldn’t be able to keep that up to anyone that would listen). Castro hasn’t been able to translate his speed into stolen bases either as he has five steals on the year but only o-n-e since April 26th. I wrote about Castro back in February in Second Year Players and warned everyone not to overvalue a player who would likely only offer a boost in the batting average category. You didn’t listen did you?
Aroldis Chapman is struggling – big time. The guy might throw 100+ mph and illicit outright joy in fans who get to watch the radar gun with every blazing pitch, but the results just haven’t been there this season. In 13 innings with the Reds he walked an utterly amazing 20 batters leading to a 13.85 BB/9 mark and a 6.92 ERA. In 5.1 innings since he was sent down to “rehab” a shoulder injury (I’m not buying he is really hurt), Chapman has walked only three batters but he’s allowed 12 hits and 10 runs leading to a 16.88 ERA and 2.81 WHIP. The Reds have to get this guy “fixed,” but with the way he’s throwing right now they clearly aren’t even close to meeting that goal.
Jason Heyward is soft. That’s the prevailing thought amongst baseball people, and he did nothing to quiet that belief when he stated that he wouldn’t return to the field until his shoulder was 100 percent. Well, count Chipper Jones as a guy who thinks it’s time for the youngster to buck up. “I think where Jason might have erred was the comment that he made, ‘I’m not coming back until it doesn’t hurt anymore,” Jones said. “…there are a bunch of his teammates that are out there playing with discomfort and not healthy, and still going at it.” Heyward hasn’t played since May 21st, and what was supposed to be a relatively minor issue with his shoulder has now stretched on for a much greater length of time than anyone thought. When you’re being called out in the media by the greatest infielder in team history as Heyward is, it might be time to give yourself a long, hard look in the mirror. Hopefully Heyward will listen and do his best to get back out on the field.
Carlos Santana is hitting .227 and everyone is disappointed in the guy who was supposed to be the breakout star at the catchers position. However, there are plenty of reasons to turn that frown upside down. First, Santana is on pace for about 15 homers, a strong total for a catcher. He’s also on pace for 60 RBI and 60 runs scored. It may not sound like much, but 15-60-60 are totals that only Victor Martinez and Brian McCann matched last season at the catchers position. In addition, Santana has two more walks than strikeouts leading to a .361 OBP, a fantastic mark give his batting average. Trust me, you don’t walk more than you strike out and hit .227. He’s already turned things around the past two weeks as he’s hit .324 with nine RBI, thanks in part to a slight change in his batting stance (he eliminated a toe tap). Santana seems primed to still meet expectations this season.
By Ray Flowers