My name is Dickerson…Chris Dickerson

, Saturday, February 7, 2009 at 6:41 PM Comments (2)

My secret is that I use two bats...

My secret is that I use two bats...

A couple of weeks ago I did a column on rookie pitchers that debuted in 2008 and analyzed what their prospects were for future success. I thought I might follow that up with a column on the rookie hitters that debuted in 2008. To do this, pilule I took a look at the 119 hitters that debuted last year and to minimize the analysis, pills I looked only at those hitters with at least 100 AB’s and an OBP at least .325 and a SLG of at least .375. To make sure that I didn’t miss anyone, I also looked at anyone with an OBP over .350 or a SLG of at least .425. Here are the top 10:

Player

OBP

SLG

OPS

Chris Dickerson

0.413

0.608

1.021

Chris Davis

0.331

0.549

0.880

Evan Longoria

0.343

0.531

0.874

Daniel Murphy

0.397

0.473

0.870

Denard Span

0.387

0.482

0.869

Pablo Sandoval

0.357

0.490

0.847

John Baker

0.392

0.447

0.839

Matthew Joyce

0.339

0.492

0.831

Alexei Ramirez

0.317

0.475

0.792

So, in the same fashion that we did the pitchers, lets take a look at the hitters (and this chart proves I am unbiased, as there are no Yankees on the list)

Chris Dickerson-26 years old, left-handed, plays the outfield, and debuted in August for Cincinnati. In 102 AB’s he hit .304 with 6 HR’s, 9 2B’s and 2 3B’s. He also stole 5 bases and knocked in 15 runs. His OPS+ of 160 (OBP+SLG adjusted for league and park) was phenomenal and shows that there is some tremendous ability there. It is concerning that he broke through for the first time at 26, as there was not exactly a logjam of superstars patrolling LF for the Reds. If there is one other crack in the armor, it’s that he strikes out at a pretty high rate, with 35 k’s in just 122 plate appearances. The good news is that the Reds have him penciled in to be their starter in LF, and he is going to get a chance to show if he can put up successful numbers for a whole season. There are definite signs of promise with Dickerson, but most of the projection systems are very pessimistic on his chances to be very successful. The baseline average projection seems to be that he will post an OBP/SLG of .330/.419, which would make him about 4 runs better than the average replacement player (which equals about .4 wins)

Chris Davis-22 years old, bats left and throws right, played 51 games at first and 32 at third, debuted in June for the Rangers. Davis was another player with a solid first year. He showed some significant power with 17 HR’s in 295 AB’s along with 55 RBI’s and 23 2B’s. His defensive numbers were better at first than they were at third, and the Rangers have him penciled as the starter at first. He did strikeout a lot, 88 times in 317 PA’s. The Rangers and their fans are very excited about this kid, and he has a chance to be a dominant force in that lineup for a long time. The average projection has him posting an OBP/SLG of .316/.492, with the high end being .368/.604. That means if he hits his average projection he will be worth about 2 wins above a replacement player (WARP), with the top end being about 6 wins. This kid has talent, he is country strong, and as long as he doesn’t suffer from a sophomore slump, he will be a big part of any Ranger success.

Evan Longoria-22 years old, right-handed, plays third base, and debuted in April for the Rays…and you know what, forget all the numbers, just read this story about Longoria. On Baseball Tonight the other night, Tim Kurkjian described a game that Longoria plays in batting practice. They fire tennis balls from the mound at 120 mph, some with a black dot, and some with a red dot. As the pitch is coming he yells out what color it is and hits the black dots to rightfield and the red dots to leftfield. Think about that, and you will feel better about your man crush on this kid.

Daniel Murphy-23 years old, bats left, throws right, plays LF, and debuted in August for the Mets. In 131 AB’s he displayed good gap power collecting 9 2B’s and 3 3B’s. He also didn’t strikeout too much, just 28 times in 151 plate appearances, while posting an OPS+ of 120 . He is penciled in as the starting LF, with an average projection of OBP/SLG .336/.410, which would give him a WARP of 1. However, I am predicting a better performance than that from Murphy, something closer to his 70% projection which would make him almost 3 wins better than a replacement. Mets fans, he will be the reason you can still be excited as your team struggles to remove its own hands from its throat in September.

Denard Span-24 years old, left-handed, outfielder, debuted in April for the Twins. Let me just put this out there right now, I love this kid (but I do wish he went by his first name, Keiunta). As a Yankee fan, I would offer the Twins almost anything to get him. He has great speed (stole 18 in 25 tries), walked 50 times in 411 plate appearances, and only struck out 60 times. He showed an ability to bunt with 8 sacrifice bunts and posted an OPS+ of 125 (which means adjusted for park and league he was 25% better than an average player). He showed a great ability to get to balls in the outfield and a penchant for being a game changer. The average projection is OBP/SLG .343/.377, but I think the better way to think of this kid is a rich man’s Curtis Granderson. Let’s hope this kid continues to improve and beats his projection, he is fun to watch.

Pablo Sandoval-21 years old, switch hitting righty, played almost equal time at first, third, and catcher, debuted for the Giants in August. Interesting kid here; he is obviously very young, but in 145 AB’s he hit .345, while striking out only 14 times in 154 plate appearances. That low strikeout rate suggests good things for someone so young, and leads me to believe he could contribute in 2009. For now, the Giants have him penciled in as the starting third-baseman and the backup catcher. He does need to learn to walk more, as he only walked 4 times in those 154 plate appearances. His OPS+ of 118 was good, and is very good if you think of him as a catcher. With Bengie Molina not getting any younger, this kid could have a future in San Francisco if they can just settle on a position for him. As long as the time split between the plate and third doesn’t hurt him, he should be an above average player, with the potential to post a WARP of between .6 and 4.

John Baker-27 years old, bats left, throws right, plays catcher and debuted in July for the Marlins. He is currently projected to be the starting catcher for Florida, and he posted a respectable OPS+ of 121, along with a .299 batting average. He does strike out a little bit on the high side, with 48 K’s in 233 plate appearances. He does know how to take a base, collecting 30 walks in those 233 plate appearances, and that ability will serve him and the Marlins well. He will probably hit near the bottom of the lineup, and if he can continue to get on base at a good clip, the guys at the top of the order will enjoy watching him cross the plate as they drive the ball all over the ballpark. He is not a superstar, and his is not a young kid, but he could be an asset to the Marlins. His main task will be to handle the plethora of young fireballers the Marlins will have on the mound.

Matthew Joyce-23 years old, bats left, throws right (what is with so many of these young guys doing that?), plays corner outfield, and debuted in May for the Tigers. (He was traded to the Rays in the offseason). In 277 plate appearances, he struck out 65 times, which was a bit on the high side. He did hit 12 HR’s along with 16 2B’s and 31 BB’s. He is currently slated to start in LF for the Rays and split time at DH with Pat Burrell. I don’t have high hopes for this kid, he did show some promise, but I think he really doesn’t have a solid hold on his spot in the OF, with a ton of talent on that team and not enough positions to go around. His projections disagree somewhat, expecting him to play 129 games and be worth a WARP of 1-4 wins. I don’t expect him to approach the high end of those numbers, and I expect that his defense will not improve (which it needs to), and he will most likely be a complimentary bench player by the all star break.

Alexei Ramirez-26 years old, right-handed, played 121 games at second, 16 at short, and 11 in centerfield, debuted on opening day with the White Sox. Out of all of kids on this list, Alexei probably is probably the most controversial. White Sox fans are desperately in love with him and his .290 BA and 13 steals. If you read one of their fan blogs about him you will find fans just gushing over his dynamic play and the energy he brings to the team. The only problem is, it’s not really true. He did steal 13 bases, but he was caught 9 times. He did have 77 RBI’s, but he also posted an OBP of .317 and walked only 18 times in 509 plate appearances. He also committed 11 errors at second, with one each at short and center. Finally, the most objective measure we have, OPS+ came in at 103. Simply, that means he was 3% better than a replacement player…not the stuff of legend. His average projection is an OBP/SLG .324/.473, which works out to a WARP of 1.5 He will probably be a little better than that in 2009, but he will play all of 2009 at 27 years old, and most likely doesn’t have too much development left. He will be good, but fans of the pale hose need to temper their expectations.

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