Detroit Tigers' catcher Ivan Rodgriguez is 36-years-old and holds the Spring HR lead with six, two more than teammate Carlos Guillen. Beyond the fact a 36-year-old is hitting so many HRs, I have interest in Pudge because he is playing for the last long-term contract of his career, and I would like to find some predictable way to identify the breakout fantasy players before they breakout.
To see what Pudge's 'breakout" would look like, I reviewed his 17-year career. Was I surprised. He has never been a big HR/RBI producer beyond a five-year span in the late 90s/early 21st century. Given the press, I would have thought he'd have been much more fantasy-friendly.
I was also surprised how few walks he drew over his career. His career-high is just 55 with the 40-walk mark crossed just one other time. This was important because Pudge drew just 9 walks last season, and there is a lot of teeth-gnashing over that near-impossible-to-believe total.
Pudge could provide evidence that contract-year surges in performance are based on that final push for a long-term contract. His 6 HRs so far this Spring lend credence to that hypothesis.
Yesterday's awful news on Rays' OF Rocco Baldelli has opened the way for Jonny Gomes to have a career-season as a 27-year-old (another indicator of career-seasons). He has consistently hit 20 HRs and driven in 50 runs in 350 ABs over the past three seasons. His AVG, though, has fluctuated from a fantasy-beneficial .288 in 2005 to a fantasy-killing .214 one in 2006 to a fantasy-scary .244 one last year. His SB totals have done the same going from 9 in 2005 to 1 in an injury-plagued 2006 to 12 last year.
If the Rays do not get a veteran to take his ABs, he could breakout in 2008. Unless he is too bone-headed to see this opportunity.
Charging in from RF to take on Shelly Duncan following yesterday's payback for the Francisco Cervelli injury may indicate Gomes won't be able to grasp it. Here is the video going from the Cervelli incident to Heath Phillip's "brushback to Duncan's hard slide.
You decide whether Gomes gets "it" or not.