Occasionally I go for the deep strike. Based on facts (as I see them) and analysis that makes sense in the moment, this is how I come to my conclusions for better or worse.
Sometimes they’re good: accurately calling the Giants making the playoffs in 2010 and the Diamondbacks disaster, to name two.
Sometimes they’re bad: thinking the Mets would have a drastic turnaround.
At the very least, I had a viable reason for them, right or wrong.
So, with that in mind, let’s have a look at some players whose stock may have fallen, who are still learning their trade, or are somewhat unrecognized for what they can do; players who are bust out candidates for 2011.
Matt Garza, RHP—Tampa Bay Rays
Garza just turned 27, he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time and the Rays have been listening to trade offers for him; he’s got three years to go before free agency, but he’s undoubtedly looking for his payday before then. He’ll be motivated to have a big year.
Having gone 15-10 in 2010, he’s primed to win 18-20 this year. His strikeouts dropped by 39 from 2009-2010; his hits allowed increased; but his walks diminished drastically, so he may have been pitching to contact by design.
He’s ready to step forward.
Joba Chamberlain, RHP—New York Yankees
I’m a believer in the freedom of diminished expectations.
For all the perceived disappointment surrounding Chamberlain, the Yankees have an opportunity to redeem him; he has a chance to redeem himself.
It seems so long ago that Chamberlain was treated with such paranoia; that the fan/media/baseball person debate was so intense as to whether he should be a starter or reliever that it was a war of attrition; it was unsolvable until it was resolved one way or the other on the field; the endless battle succeeded only in dismantling the Joba Monster that was created in the final month of the 2007 season and was advanced by the unreasonable expectations and babying that accompanied it.
Now, Chamberlain is an afterthought. He’s no longer untouchable in a trade; no one cares about the starter/reliever debate; he’s seen as a non-entity who isn’t even going to be trusted as the primary set-up man to Mariano Rivera.
This is freedom.
Freedom from the constraints of expectation and abuse masquerading as “development”.
The Yankees and Chamberlain now have the opportunity to use him correctly without worrying about injury. Since no one’s going to care one way or the other if he does get hurt now, they can let him pitch.
And that’s what I’d do.
I’d quietly tell him to prepare as a starter and give him every opportunity to win one of the open (gaping) spots in the Yankees rotation. Then I’d turn him loose. This doesn’t imply letting him throw 145 pitches in a start, but it means bagging those ridiculous and hindering rules that played a large part in his ruination.
If they let him pitch, who knows what they’re going to uncover? They can do what they should’ve done from the beginning; with that, they might get what they thought they had in the first place.
Kyle Drabek, RHP—Toronto Blue Jays
His motion and mannerisms are identical to his dad, Doug Drabek. He’s got similar stuff and more strikeout ability. And he’s mean.
Kyle Drabek is going to be a mega-star.
Chris Sale, LHP—Chicago White Sox
I’d trust Matt Thornton as the closer initially and work Sale into the role slowly, but the White Sox have no fear of throwing their young players into the fire. Sale has been dominant with blow-away stuff and he throws strikes.
Luke Hochevar, RHP—Kansas City Royals
Would someone please unlock this guy’s talent? Please?
Hochevar’s at the point where he could go either way. I’m thinking he’ll have a good year and start to develop into his gifts.
Dallas Braden, LHP—Oakland Athletics
He showed you the 209 in his dustup with Alex Rodriguez; this season, if he’s healthy, he could also show you the CYA (Cy Young Award).
Johnny Venters, LHP—Atlanta Braves
The Braves don’t have a veteran closer and Venters has the strikeout numbers and deceptive motion to handle the job. In fact, he can dominate. Most importantly, he only allowed 1 homer in 83 innings last season.
Ruben Tejada, INF—New York Mets
Why the “experts” question whether or not he’ll hit is a mystery to me. He was overmatched early in his big league trial, but didn’t get discouraged while the bat was being knocked out of his hands and, late in the season, started turning on pitches and showing more pop than one would think he should have at his size.
Defensively, he’s fearless; I think he’s going to win the 2nd base job in spring training and he’ll be playing shortstop by August when the Mets most likely will have traded Jose Reyes.
He looks and moves like a player.
Aroldis Chapman, LHP—Cincinnati Reds
I saw him once last year—on video—and wondered why the Yankees and Red Sox didn’t grab him.
Wandy Rodriguez, LHP—Houston Astros
Rodriguez aggravates me because every year I say he’s going to bust out; every year he shows flashes; and every year, he ends up in the same position of “potential” only to re-start the process again.
He’s a free agent at the end of the year, so perhaps money will motivate him.
Andrew McCutchen, CF—Pittsburgh Pirates
McCutchen is going to win an MVP one of these years.
Well, if he’s ever on a competitive team, that is.
Clayton Richard, LHP—San Diego Padres
He took the next step in 2010 as he threw 200 innings and went 14-9. Richard’s a 20-game winner waiting to happen.
Luke Gregerson, RHP—San Diego Padres
It’d have to be a doozy.
Clayton Kershaw, LHP—Los Angeles Dodgers
Let’s try this again.
Last year, I said Kershaw was going to blossom into an ace/Cy Young Award winner. He developed, but not to that degree. He went 12-10, but did pitch well enough to win 18 or so games. The strikeouts and hits/innings-pitched ratios show a potential for dominance. Kershaw’s control is wanting, but he’s going to be 23 in March.
The Dodgers need him to step up and take the reins. I think he will.