Jemile Weeks: Will He Rebound or Flame Out?

Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

Jemile Weeks was supposed to build on his promising rookie year, but instead he fell apart and ended the season out of a starting job. He's now a major question mark for fantasy owners, but the potential to be an impact player is still there.

There are sophomore slumps, and then there are seasons like the one Jemile Weeks just had. After a promising rookie season where it looked like Weeks had cemented himself as Oakland's starting second baseman, Weeks had a disaster of a 2012 that put his future outlook in doubt. Weeks had fantasy owners hoping he could turn into a top ten fantasy second baseman, but instead he was one of the worst players in the league and he found himself banished to AAA in August. He was eventually called back up, but by that time he'd lost his starting spot to Cliff Pennington and had to watch the A's playoff run from the bench.

Weeks made just one start in September, which probably served as a sort of mercy killing for fantasy owners who spent all season hoping he'd string some good at-bats together. Weeks finished the year with a line of .221/.305/.304, with just two home runs, 20 RBIs, and 54 runs scored. He never hit above .250 in any month (unless you count the .286 he hit in seven September plate appearances). The sharp spike in his walk rate was certainly nice, as was the improvement in his strikeout rate, but his fantasy owners were expecting some better counting stats. Sure, Weeks's BABIP was a paltry .256, but his struggles can't be explained away that easily. He simply wasn't hitting the ball very hard, as the sharp drop in line drive percentage and extra base hit percentage indicates.

To say that Weeks was a disappointment is a pretty massive understatement. Weeks excited fantasy baseball owners in 2011 by arriving in the majors and hitting .303/.340/.421 with 22 steals. Most preseason fantasy mags had him closing in on the top ten at his position, and the future looked very bright. He hit just two homers, but most scouts expected his power to develop, and he appeared to be a natural .300 hitter even in the average-squelching environment of Oakland Coliseum (or whatever they call it).

Weeks was drafted twelfth overall by Oakland in the 2008 draft and scouts generally loved his tools. Weeks, of course, had a major league pedigree, as his brother Rickie was a similarly talented athlete with five-tool potential. The younger Weeks brother looked on the fast track to the majors, but his development stalled when it seemed he had also picked up his older brother's knack for getting hurt. Weeks never managed to play in more than 80 games in any minor league season, but when he was on the field, it was clear the talent was there. His game offered a nice mixture of speed, patience, and the ability to hit for average.

The question now is if Weeks can recover from his abysmal year, or if he's destined to turn into yet another failed Oakland hitting prospect. Over the past half decade, the A's have been downright miserable at developing hitting talent, so it's scary to see such a regression in Weeks's performance. There haven't been many success stories from the A's system on the offensive side of the ledger lately, so Weeks's fantasy owners have to be a little concerned that this might be some systemic failure that will see Weeks crap out of the majors.

Luckily, he has youth on his side. Despite Oakland's reliance on other options during their 2012 playoff run, the team still figures to have Weeks penciled in as their starter at second base. He definitely has more offensive potential than any other current option the A's have, and if his BABIP does return to more league-average levels, he'll be greatly improved just based on that alone. Also encouraging, once again, was the sharp improvement in his ability to draw walks, as his walk rate shot up from 4.8% to an impressive 9.8%. If he starts hitting the ball hard again while maintaining this kind of patience at the plate, he'll be one of the better leadoff hitters in the game.

So Weeks's poor season was discouraging, but it's not the end of the world. Heck, even his brother Rickie had fits and starts (and injuries) before truly breaking out. Weeks will probably never be a fantasy star and I'm not sure I see the power that some scouts projected for him (especially not while hitting in Oakland), but he's definitely capable of being a top ten second baseman one day. Our rankings listed him at #22, but he has way more potential than the four guys listed above him and, at the very least, should be a nice source of stolen bases. He could easily be the steal of the draft if he goes in the very late rounds.

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