Nearly three months ago, I listed eight players to follow in 2010 and sought reader proposals for the last two spots. As the weeks tick by and pennant races take shape, let’s take a peek at our 10 players.
2010 performance: .359/.476/.531
Preseason projection: .280/.374/.511
In the early going, Manny’s rate stats are well-ahead of what CHONE expected out of the 38-year-old slugger. Of course, the problem for the Dodgers is that Manny’s only played in 20 games due to injury, and the ghost of Garret Anderson has been dismal in his stead. Thin throughout the lineup, the Dodgers can hardly afford to miss Manny for another stretch of games, particularly with white-hot Andre Ethier battling injury problems himself. Ramirez’s strong performance has helped the Dodgers work back into the NL West race, and the slugger is certainly doing himself a favor as well; it is, after all, a contract year.
2010 performance: .302/.399/.446
Preseason projection: .301/.373/.484
I put Markakis on the original list because his waning walk rate puzzled me. Though he’s not hitting for as much power as he (and the Orioles) would like, he’s definitely got his on-base skills back on track. After cratering to 7.9 percent last season, Markakis’ walk rate has nearly doubled, currently sitting at 14.1 percent. His ISO, though, is at .144, which would be a career-low over the course of a season. If he can recover his power and maintain this walk rate, he’ll be the star we expect.
3. Billy Butler
2010 performance: .331/.371/.469
Preseason projection: .307/.372/.478
I’d say CHONE had Billy Butler pretty-well nailed, wouldn’t you? One of the few bright spots on a depressing Royals team, Bam Bam just keeps hitting. The only real mystery surrounding Butler is whether he’ll end up taking the next step, power-wise. He’s hit just four home runs thus far, so he’s a bit behind last season’s 21-homer pace. Considering his relatively mediocre defense, Butler will have to hit for more power to reach the next level of American League first basemen.
4. Brandon Wood
2010 performance: .170/.183/.236
Preseason projection: 246/.309/.453
Before the season, I wrote of Wood, “If [he] gets off to a nice start, he might have a 10-year career on his hands. If he doesn’t, he’s probably out of chances in Anaheim.” Well, you can’t say Mike Scioscia‘s been too quick to pull Wood; giving a player struggling this badly 111 plate appearances by mid-May takes patience. I’ve liked Wood for years, and always felt he never got a good enough look. Now, he’s had his chance and hasn’t come through. You have to wonder if it’s ever going to happen for Wood in Anaheim.
5. David Wright
2010 performance: .281/.406/.539
Preseason projection: .305/.391/.502
Score it another win for CHONE. A sky-high .258 ISO has fueled Wright’s excellent season (thus far), and those questions about his diminishing power are long gone. Wright, once again, looks every bit the promising young star we thought he was. Unfortunately for the Mets, he can’t solve the pitching problems plaguing the Mets. This is something of a different David Wright from the player we came to know; that 38.3 percent strikeout rate is shocking.
6. Roy Oswalt
2010 performance: 3.39 FIP
Preseason projection: 3.81 FIP
Looks like the reports of Oswalt’s decline might have been a little premature, no? Granted, there’s a long way left in 2010, and we’ll likely see how Oswalt responds to a trade, but one can’t help but notice his excellent start. Oswalt is striking our more batters per nine (8.51) than he has in any season since his rookie year, and his velocity has stayed steady. He’s throwing more changeups than ever before, and that has worked well: It’s been an excellent pitch in 2010.
7. David Price
2010 performance: 3.08 FIP
Preseason projection: 4.69 FIP
Holy breakout season, Batman! Now this is the David Price we’ve been waiting for. His strikeout and walk rates aren’t otherworldly, but he’s managed to surrender just two home runs on the young season. He’s getting a healthy amount of ground balls, and has leaned heavily on a curveball he had mothballed last season. Before the season, I wrote of Price, “There’s no question he’s got the talent to dominate hitters, even in the AL East. I’m excited to see whether he can overcome his early hittability and become the ace his stuff says he should be.” He is.
8. Derek Lowe
2010 performance: 4.87 FIP
Preseason projection: 3.95 FIP
Oof. CHONE projected (and I agreed) that Lowe was poised for a bounceback season. Looks like we were wrong. His strikeout rate, never a strength, has not recovered, and even a major improvement in his groundball-to-flyball ratio has not translated to success on the mound. He’s abandoned the slider, which was just a terrible pitch for him last year, but that hasn’t cured his several ills. This is not the sort of performance the Braves hoped for when tey awarded Lowe a fat contract. This is ugly.
9. Erik Bedard
2010 performance: has not pitched
Preseason projection: 3.58 FIP
Not much to say here. CHONE had him pitching 105 innings this year, and even that’s looking generous. Battling arm trouble, Bedard isn’t expected to make his 2010 debut until June at the earliest.
10. Yovani Gallardo
2010 performance: 3.29 FIP
Preseason projection: 3.62 FIP
Gallardo has been nothing short of excellent thus far, and he looks fully recovered from the freak ACL tear that cost him the 2008 season and briefly derailed his development. The major concern for Gallardo and the Brewers has to be his innings; after missing most of 2008, he threw 185 innings last season as a 23-year-old. The Brewers have been cautious with him; he’s averaging less than six innings per start this season, even though he’s been terrific. Figuring out just how many bullets are in a particular young pitcher’s arm is a fools’ errand, so the Brewers are really doing the best they know how.