Tag Archives: OF

Andre Ethier and Matt Joyce two big surprises in young season

Andre Ethier is benefiting from Matt Kemp's Superman start to the season - and if it continues, he could be one of the biggest surprises of the season come September.

McGILLIGAN: This season has been full of surprises. It’s May and the Baltimore Orioles are still playing well, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim look terrible and none of the early season favourites – the exception being the Texas Rangers – look like the teams everyone expected them to be.

I know it’s early, but here are two players having surprising seasons that aren’t getting a lot of talk for different reasons.

The first is outfielder Andre Ethier. While he’s a been a solid major leaguer for several years, he’s off to a great start in 2012. While his solid play is not shocking, the tiny amount of fanfare its received is.

With Matt Kemp playing like Clark Kent’s alter ego, Ethier has been in the shadows hitting in the slot behind Kemp. Ethier is benefiting from Kemp’s great start, but has also played an intricate role in it. His ability to drive in runs means pitchers simply can’t intentionally walk Kemp because Ethier will burn them. His average with runners in scoring position this season is .391. He’s also amassed the National League’s second most RBI with 24, just one behind Kemp.

Ethier is on pace to break his personal best season of 2009 when he lit up NL pitching with a .272 batting average, 31 home runs and 106 RBI.  If it weren’t for the all-world numbers of Kemp, it’s likely more people would be raving about Ethier’s play.

If the Dodgers keep on winning, is possible the Kemp-Ethier combination might become the most formidable in NL and MLB this season.

The second surprising start of the year is outfielder Matt Joyce of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Hitting .294 with five homeruns and 9 RBI, Joyce has been a revelation in Tampa. Having never got a chance for a full season of steady at bats, Joyce mashed the ball when he got his opportunity this season. However, the return of BJ Upton to the lineup and Joyce’s career struggles against left-handing pitching will see him ride the pine when the Rays face a southpaw.

Far be it for me to question Joe Maddon, the guy is one of the best managers in the game, but how does a guy ever get better at hitting left-handers if he doesn’t face them. Joyce’s career numbers are not good versus lefties (.198 in 162 at bats). But he’s only faced a lefty in 15 percent of MLB at bats.

The Rays have a potential break out star on their hands, maybe an everyday outfielder in the making, but he won’t get to that stage without letting him learn against MLB-calibre left-handers.

*All numbers current as of 8 a.m. EST

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Josh Hamilton’s hot start: will Texas re-sign him?

Josh Hamilton, if he stays healthy, will put up a mammoth year going into a contract off-season. Question is: will the Rangers spend money to keep him?

LIVINGSTONE: We’re just about an eighth of the way through the season and the American League doesn’t look like the league preseason analysis expected it to be. Add Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, New York picked up Michael Pineda to solidify their pitching staff, Pujols and co. looked like the perennial favourite to win the AL and the World Series, and the AL East had the look of a four-team race.

Well, that, to this point, is all out the window. But what I really want to get at is Josh Hamilton. His story is well-known to everyone, how he rose from the darkness of drug and alcohol addiction to come back to professional baseball and become the elite hitter he was expected to be when drafted first overall in 1999 by the Tampa Bay Rays.

He never played a game for them and it wasn’t until 2007 that he made his debut for the Reds. It’s been all history from there. When healthy, Hamilton has been a force at the plate in four seasons with the Rangers (Cincy traded him for Edison Voloquez after the 2007 season – wonder who won that deal). He’s helped lead the team to back-to-back World Series appearances, and if all continues the way the season has started for the Rangers, it could be a third appearance.

Hamilton is in the last year of his contract and it’s unclear whether or not the Rangers will even attempt to sign him in the off-season. With big contracts just doled out to second baseman Ian Kinsler (five years, $75-million), catcher Mike Napoli (one year, $9.5 million, likely to turn into a multi-year if he continues to mash the ball like he has this season), Yu Darvish (six years, $60 milion, on top of the $50 million-plus they paid to negotiate with him), Nelson Cruz (2-years, $16 million) and Elvis Andrus (three years, $14.4 million) and third baseman Adrian Beltre (six years, $96 million) – you can obviously see it, is there even any money left to sign Hamilton?

The team seemingly has spent a lot of cash to lock up everyone but Hamilton. Sure, his health is always a question and has only played 133 games maximum in the last three seasons (121 in 2011 and a mere 89 in 2009). The off-field problem involving drinking this past off-season seems to have scared the Rangers a bit in their willingness to sign up to a long-term deal. To be able to become the player he has become, Hamilton has to work three, maybe even four times as hard as everyone else. Staying sober is no easy task, especially coming off the life he lived for four or five years.

So let’s look at why the Rangers would be insane to not re-sign this guy to a long-term deal.

2012 stats: 82 AB, 31 Hits, 3 doubles, 9 HRs, 22 RBI, .378 AVG, .418 OBP, .744 SLG and a sickly OPS of 1.161.

This is only 20 games into the season. While he’s on-pace to hit 75 HR and 180 RBI, it’s not likely he will keep it up to that impossible expectation – but if he stays healthy he could put up 45/140/.350 – a definite AL MVP season. The Rangers would be crazy not to re-sign him if he puts up a big year like he is on pace to do. However, they might not be able to afford what he’ll be asking for. It’s going to be one of the more intriguing story lines as the season progresses. If Hamilton continues to lead the red hot Rangers atop the American League, and he stays healthy, will he stay in Arlington, or will he move on to another team?

Nolan Ryan, don’t be crazy. Get that man a contract.

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D’Arnaud and Marisnick – two faces of the Jays future

Blue Jays prospect Jake Marisnick is one of the young faces expected to be an integral part of the future of the Toronto team.

STRADER: Didn’t exactly keep up the every two day commitment, but I’m sure all the other young fathers out there will join me in saying…leave it alone…

The MINOR LEAGUE REPORT will look at intriguing bats this week, and to me, there are four young Jay bats everyone wants to know about.

With apologies to Mike McDade and Moises Sierra, sorry guys, but one more consistent season please, then we’ll talk.

And for all those Adeiny Hecchevaria fans (I’m one too!) we’re gonna give him his own page later this week.

Anthony Gose – Born: August 10, 1990. 6’1” 190 pounds. Bats left.

Drafted: Second round (51st overall) of the 2008 first year player draft.

Is there a more intriguing talent in the outfield? I’m going to argue yes later in this piece, but boy, you’ve got to be something to outduel this guy for the front page of “I can’t wait to see him in Toronto” magazine.

Gose runs. I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually his nickname has something to do with Forest Gump, ‘cause man, the stories of the speed. In the 2012 spring session, Gose was said to have scored from second on a 55-foot groundball to the opposing third baseman.

WHAT??

But what has always marred the speedster are questions about his bat. Defense is not a struggle for this kid. Scouting reports call him one of the best defensive outfielders in the minor leagues.

Ok, so can he hit?

He answered that last year in AA with a resounding, yes I can, but his strikeout to walk ratio is still going to need some work, and appears to, at least so far, still a-hunt him this season.

In 2011, Gose hit .253, .349, .415 in New Hampshire with 20 doubles, 7 triples, 16 home runs and 59 RBI’s in 509 plate appearances. Couple that with 70 stolen bases in 85 attempts, and scouts and fans begin to drool.

However, mark him down for 154 strike outs compared to 62 walks, and the scouts begin to flinch.

This season, Gose is batting .224, .313, .306 in AAA Las Vegas with 3 doubles, 2 triples and nine RBI’s in 85 plate appearances. The averages can’t be critiqued until we see at least 200 AB’s, but the power is still there, and six stolen bags in nine attempts isn’t terrible.

It’s the 26 strikeouts to 10 walks that need to be monitored.

Travis Snider – Born: February 2, 1988. 5’11” 230 pounds. Bats left.

Drafted: First round (14 overall) of the 2006 amateur entry draft.

He’s out of options, so the Jays have to be careful, and a lot of voices like to call him AAAA, but I really want to see this kid for a full season.

We’ve seen what confidence can do. Jose, you’re going to start, everyday, go to it….

Adam, you’re my guy, no more up and down, go to it….

Man I want to hear those words spoken to this kid.

Rushed to the Majors and dubbed “The Franchise” by some of his teammates, things looked great one April when Travis began slugging the ball (anybody see those two jacks into the upper deck of the Metrodome?) like he was supposed to. But the curveball began to baffle him, and down he went.

Scouting reports detail power to all fields. A quality base runner that could get better, and a better defender then most would expect from a power hitter.

But Sniders’ professional life has been filled with ups, and downs, and now, we as fans have to wait again while Thames toils in the field, and Snider toils in AAA Las Vegas.

His numbers, again, are awesome.

Will they finally translate to the Majors? I have a feeling we’re going to find out soon.

In 74 plate appearances in 2012, Snider is hitting .405, .476 and .703 with 10 doubles, four homeruns and 23 RBI’s.

Tack on two stolen bases, and it looks again as if AAA is simply going to do nothing for this guy.

Earlier this season I wrote that left field may be the only place for Anthopolous to add the impact bat he’s hinting at. I hope Snider is it.

While I prophesized that Alfonso Soriano would be the best of the vets, the patient fan in me would like to see Travis get a full season.

Take another look at that birth date. It feels like we’ve been waiting for him forever, but this young talent is only 24.

Travis D’Arnaud – Born: Febraury 10, 1989. Bats right.

Drafted: First round (37 overall) of the 2007 first year player draft.

Earlier this season, critics were calling for Arencibia’s head and D’Arnaud to be called up. Arencibia’s average was low, and D’Arnaud was coming off an MVP season in AA, and looked like the second coming of Pudge with a .311 avg, 21 HR’s and 78 RBI’s.

But Arencibia, it would seem, isn’t the only young catcher to suffer from a slow start.

D’Arnaud is batting .239, .333, .373 with one homerun, six doubles and seven RBI’s in 67 plate appearances.

It’s not too bad, but considering he is in offense friendly Las Vegas, it’d be nice see Snider-like numbers from the A plus prospect.

He’s described very simply in all scouting reports.

More than enough defense to play everyday, and a bat that will one day feature in the middle of a lineup.

Considering the pitcher he was traded for, let’s hope so…

Jake Marisnick – Born: March 30, 1991. 6’4” 200 pounds. Bats right.

Drafted: Third round of the 2009 draft.

This is the guy I can’t wait to see. His line is constantly that of a basketball player. There are simply numbers everywhere, and that has been the book on him since Toronto scouts began drooling about his ceiling.

Jake does it all.

He’s minding centre field in single A Dunedin, but I would look for a promotion to double A (where we know all the quality arms are) this season to see what he can really do.

Marisnick is the definition of five tool, and comparisons to Brett Lawrie will begin once he gets closer to the show and more people see the athletic ability that he brings.

His defense is sound, and his all around athletic ability, well that’s going to translate into a guy who can do it all. Maybe one day he becomes a corner outfielder and focuses on power, but with a bat like his, who cares?

Let’s look at the line so far in 2012.

Marisnick is batting .266, .372, .481 with seven doubles, two triples, two homeruns and 10 RBI’s in 79 plate appearances. Add in four stolen bases, as the giant of a kid also has supreme wheels.

Marisnick is the once in a lifetime prospect every organization hopes for, now it’s time to cross fingers, toes and whatever else that this isn’t Billy Beane, and he will translate that talent to the pros.


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