In Part 1, we took a look at the Hot/Not players in each league — one of each per position. Granted, it is very early in the season, but let’s now turn our attention to other players doing well through Week 6, guys who are shaping up as potential 2006 Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player and Breakout Player candidates.
American League – Rookie of the Year candidates: Just to be clear, here is MLB’s official definition for determining rookie status: “A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list).”
Rookie of the Year? More like MVP. The Red Sox closer job was a question mark coming out of spring. Papelbon got first dibs, took the reins and has yet to let go — reminiscent of Eric Gagne in 2002. Papelbon’s ratios are sick-good and should creep up. But what’s realistic to expect? Here are his 2005 stat lines, both minors and cup of coffee:
Texas picked him up at the end of spring in a three-way trade with Oakland and the Cubs. He’s quietly paid dividends for the Rangers, for the quickest R.O.I. Very nice, but not spectacular ratios like Papelbon’s. Still he does pitch in homer-friendly Arlington where he has picked up 2 of his 4 wins. (Newsflash: Koronka rocked for 5 runs in 4.667 ip in the Bronx Tuesday night). Here are his 2005 stat lines:
Like the Tigers as a whole, he’s looking good so far. Respectable numbers, except for his winning percentage — he’s lost 3 games. Also, that sub-2.00 K/bb ratio could portend a “back to earth” scenario, especially when comparing to his ’05 ratio stats. Clearly, there’s a reason AA hitters ain’t big leaguers:
Personally, I’ve never been a fan of including players with multiple years “big league” Japanese experience in the RoY race, but by MLB’s rules they qualify. Johjima started out hot, homering in his first 2 games. Since then, not much happening — neither his average nor OPS are numbers that scream “Award winner!” To be fair, though, we’re only 6 weeks in.
American League – Comeback Player candidates: Guys who are hot this year and definitely were NOT last year. Of course, in order to be considered “comeback players,” they have to be coming back to something — valuable fantasy production in the past.
Now, there are some nice stories so far this year, like Mike Lowell 3b (BOS), Carlos Guillen ss (DET), Tim Salmon of (LAA), Corey Patterson of (BAL) and Kelvim Escobar. But the following guys have really made a resurgence in 2006:
Last year, Schilling won 8 games, but also lost 8. And blew 2 saves, granted he’s not a closer by trade. But his ratios were horrendous. This year they’re very nice, whip and K/bb returning to excellence, in fact.
Show of hands — who thought Thome’s career was perilously close to over? Yes, yes, my paw is a loft, I admit it. Through 25% of the season, Thome’s already eclipsed ALL of his 2005 stats. Forget Comeback Player, Jimbo is on track for MVP honors. And the thing is, we all know he’s capable of keeping this up all season long. Kudos to those who predicted the turnaround.
The power is back. Just look at the slugging percentage. While, interestingly, his batting average is almost exactly the same as last year’s. Same avg + jump in slugging = comeback.
American League – Breakout Player candidates: The updated, “My Rosters” personal watchlists available on fantasybaseballmoty.com now let you click back-and-forth between YTD numbers and 2006 Projections — both including MOTY#s and 25 sortable stat categories. So it’s really easy to examine what’s happening vs. what was expected. Making “breakout” players, like the following guys, readily apparent:
National League – Marlin of the … err, Rookie of the Year candidates: You’ll probably notice the omission of Ryan Zimmerman 3b (WAS) and Josh Barfield 2b (SD). Both deserve mention, but not quite in the same conversation (yet) as the following players:
Without Ramirez in the deal, the Lowell/Beckett-to-Boston trade probably doesn’t get done. And we’re starting to see why. As a rookie, Hanley tops ALL NL shortstops in the Weekly MOTY rankings … for YTD, MTD and Last Week. Not only that, he’s #3 overall in the YTD rankings for all MLB ss, trailing only Tejada and Jeter. It only gets better for MTD (2nd) and Last Week (1st). Still, keep a close eye on him — compared to his 2005 AA stats, he is playing over his head:
’05 AA: 66 runs, 6 hr, 52 rbi, 26 sb, .271 avg., .720 ops (.335 obp/.385 slg), .630 bb/K ’05 MLB: Goose eggs across the board in 2 ab
Came into the season as RoY front-runner in most people’s minds. And still looking that way. Though, taking a gander at ’05 AAA stats, his stolen bases this year aren’t as big a surprise as some seem to think:
Guess who can hit, and has at every level? Gotta love that catcher eligibility without the daily wear-and- tear of having to actually play the position, especially in the humid Florida heat. Not much power in his brief stint in the bigs last year, but the avg was there:
With his 2005 AA numbers, how is it that this guy came out of nowhere? Why was Pokey Reese even part of the early spring training equation? Possibly for defensive considerations, but hey, this is fantasy and “D” is of little consequence. Granted it was the minors, but given his stats last year, you’ da thunk one of the pundits would have mentioned him in the preseason:
’05 AA: 88 runs, 21 hr, 87 rbi, 15 sb, .297 avg., .880 ops (.378 obp/.502 slg), .500 bb/K ’05 MLB: No java for Dan last year, not even a sip
National League – Comeback Player candidates: Like the AL, the National League offers a lot of guys returning to form, but not all made the shortlist for Week 6. Some of the guys you might be missing below — Jose Vidro 2b (WAS), Edgar Renteria ss (ATL), Woody Williams sp (SD) and Scott Rolen 3b (STL). The following guys have made a noticeable resurgence:
Wow. That’s a turnaround, despite having going on the DL May 9th. Supposedly, the Cardinals are helping him get command of his life, which clearly includes his pitching — strikeouts are a little underwhelming, but look at those ratios. Seems he’s regained control in more ways than one. But let’ s keep an eye on him after he’s activated.
Not the greatest 2006 vs 2005 stat turnaround of the trio, but remember the Reds were so confounded by Kearns last year – exacerbated by a log jam of outfielders – that they sent him down to AAA Louisville. Well, he’s back and he’s producing. Gotta love the jump in avg and ops. And that he’s scored as many runs as he’s driven in.
National League – Breakout Player candidates: Everybody has spring training hunches. And usually a favorite sleeper or two they target for the draft. Were any of these guys, “your guy” for 2006?