Every year some hitters perform better than the experts predicted. Many experts try to stay conservative in their projections for players with little major league experience. In recent year, guys like Josh Hamilton and Dan Uggla come out of nowhere to hit for power and play everyday. Sometimes the difference between winning a league title and not is finding these players who will break out...the sleepers. Everyone can tell you who the top 10 hitters will be, but it is difficult to find the Ugglas to help win a title.
Here are a couple names that I think can surprise next year:
Andy Laroche-3b-Laroche joined his brother in Pittsburgh in the 3-team deal that netted the Dodgers Manny Ramirez and the Red Sox Jason Bay. Laroche never was given the proper chance to play everyday in LA, which is contrary to what all the experts (Callis, Law, Goldstein, Neyer) thought of his potential.
Here's what Baseball America said about Laroche:
Laroche has plus raw power and a good feel for hitting.He profiles as an everyday 3bman with the potential to bat in the middle of the lineup.
Laroche has hit for power at all levels in the minors and was a career .376-.525 OBP/SLG coming into this season. Laroche finally gets his chance to play everyday in Pittsburgh next year, and, should he stay healthy, has a chance to show the potential all the experts have written about for the past two years.
Ian Stewart-3b-Coming into this year, Stewart was beginning to drop in alot of top prospect lists. After his breakout 2004 season where he hit 30 HR and drove in 101 in Single A ball, he has yet to break the 20 HR mark in the last three seasons, leading some to think his 2004 season was an aberration. Last year in AAA Colorado Springs, he only hit 15 HR with 65 RBI, but he cut down on his strikeouts, and maintained his walk rate finishing with a .304-.379-.478 slash line. This year, in 257 ABs in AAA he almost topped his stats from all last year, hitting 19 HRs, 57 RBI and .280-.373-.607 avg./obp/slg line. He was called up on July 19th, and has mashed ever since. Since the callup, he has hit 6 HR, 32 rbi, and hit .333-.451-.606. With the chance that the Rockies might trade Garret Atkins in the offseason, Stewart may be handed the 3b job in Spring training.
Ryan Spilborghs-OF-with the likelihood that the Rockies may trade at least one OFer-Willy Taveras, and possibly two-Matt Holliday-in the offseason, Spilborghs has a good shot at having an everyday job in CF or LF next season. In part time duty before he got hurt, he hit 6-33-32-7-.319-.420-.497 in 185 ABs. If you multiply those number by 3, you can an idea what he is capable of in a full-time role. Should the Rockies give Dexter Fowler another season in the minors, Spilborghs could shine. John Perrotto from Baseball Prospectus wrote before Spilbirghs got hurt that the Rockies were considering playing him everyday, and shopping Willy Taveras. Well, they are still rumored to be shopping Taveras, but most likely in the offseason. I just traded for him in one of my keeper leagues, so maybe I am bit biased.
Emilio Bonafacio-2B-Bonafacio was traded to the Nationals in the deal that sent reliever Jon Rauch to the Diamondbacks prior to the trade deadline this year. Many baseball writers thought Jim Bowden sold Rauch cheap...and maybe he did...especially since he is signed cheap through next year. Bonafacio, the D-backs 6th best prospect according to Baseball America in 2008, has two main skills, he can play an above average 2b with good range and something that can't be taught-he has above average speed. In his last 4.5 years in the minors, he has stolen 40, 55, 61, 41 and 17 bases. With his speed, he could be a $25 player in NL-only drafts next season should he get an everyday gig, and not become the 2009 version of Eugenio Velez.
I am sure I missed some other hitters who may break out. Let me know who you think I missed, and if I am off my rocker or not.
OT-was listening to XM Radio's afternoon baseball show hosted by Rob Dibble and Kevin Kennedy yesterday, and they mentioned some stories about how big a drinker former WWF wrestling star Andre the Giant was. Well, I googled him and found a lengthy article about his drinking binges. The definition of a drinking binge is drinking like 6-8 beers in one night. Well, what would they call drinking 119 beers in 6 hours?? Yes, you read that right, Andre drank 119 beers in 6 hours!!! That's almost 5 cases of beer in 6 hours. Absolutely. Amazing.