GRAND SLAMS: ROOKIE EXCITEMENT
A lot has been made of the supposed “Year of the Pitcher” that we’ve been experiencing for the third year in a row. Fantasy baseball gurus are all showing how each year less runs are being scored, less homeruns are being hit, yada yada yada. But let’s focus on a more exciting story: rookies. This has to be the best crop of rookies since the year Chipper Jones lost the Rookie of the Year award honors to not-really rookie Hideo Nomo. Who? That’s right, that twisting Japanese star is history. And after this year, Chipper will be too. As a lifelong Braves fan, I’m shedding my tears now.
So, the rookies. Have you guys been seeing these studs? Mike Trout is absolutely astounding out there in L.A. The much-hyped Angels only started playing up to their potential when he came up from the minors. I’m having a blast watching this guy! Every night seems to be a stat line of 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 SB or something ridiculous like that.
And then there’s Bryce Harper, the 19-year old Washington Nationals monster that stole home on Cole Hamels. That’s right: stole home. You can name stats all day long, but what 19-year old ever stole home (on an elite pitcher, no less) in the major leagues? Sheesh.
Will Middlebrooks has been hitting well when Bobby V. lets him play. Obviously he’s the 3B of the future for Boston, but man, I’d enjoy seeing more of him in the not-future – namely, in the present.
Yoenis Cespedes hasn’t been completely disappointing for Oakland. He’s been decent when not injured and could be a foundation the Athletics can build on in the future.
On the pitching front you’ve got Yu Darvish (like Nomo, not really a rookie since he’s pitched professionally in Japan for years), whose mad bag of slip-sliding pitches is baffling batters left and right.
So what else is going on in the world of baseball? MLB had their draft recently, which isn’t nearly as hyped as the NFL draft or the NBA draft. Baseball players typically have to go through so many levels of minor league play and years of development that the time between a player’s draft and his MLB debut can be too long to maintain much fanfare, whereas when the Cavs drafted LeBron out of high school he instantly showed success at the professional level. Could that dynamic be changing, though, with the quick success of guys like Strasburg, Harper and Trout?
Also, we’re nearly at the halfway point of the season, which means the All Star Game is just around the corner. I’m never huge on All Star Games in any sport, but at least it has a bearing on the real season: the league that wins the ASG gets home field advantage in the World Series.
Being almost halfway done with the season, it’s surprising that there are still a couple high-profile teams floundering. The Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers all still have losing records as of this writing. There are still teams performing above their expectations as well, obviously, but considering that last year several teams did surprisingly well through the All Star Break and then bottomed out, we should probably wait a little longer to see if this year proves any different. Teams such as the Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals and Chicago White Sox are good stories right now. I hope at least one or two of them keep playing good ball the rest of the way and shake things up in their respective divisions.
And that wraps it up for this edition of Grand Slams. Are you guys digging this style of the column? I’m trying to avoid the sabermetric/uber-number-crunching style of fantasy baseball and ESPN (sometimes) and trying to keep a more fun atmosphere. I feel a less numbers-heavy version of MLB reporting is more enjoyable. Do you agree? If not, what do you want more of in this column?