Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday Morning Musings

Some random thoughts around the baseball universe.

Top prospect Bryce Harper is heating up. Playing for the Single-A Hagerstown Suns, Harper last night went 3 for 3 with a double, homer, 6 RBI and two walks. That brings him to a .306/.414/.551 line for the season, against competition generally three to four years older than he. He's spent the past three days abusing the poor Hickory Crawdads, going 6 for 10 with two walks, two doubles, two homers, 7 runs scored and 7 RBI.

Jed Lowrie, through 630 career plate appearances, has a .267/.346/.447 slash line, with 44 2B, 16 homers and 93 RBI. In a league with a very weak pool of shortstops, the Red Sox will be thrilled to get that sort of production. In 2010, only three shortstops had an OPS over Lowrie's career .793 - Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez and Stephen Drew. Marco Scutaro has been mentioned in trade rumors, but I expect him to remain on the roster all season, getting spots starts and acting as a serviceable injury replacement if any of the infielders go down.

Remember the rookie of the year race in 2007 between Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki? Braun's slugging beat out Tulowitzki's balanced game in the eyes of the voters in an extremely close 128-126 vote. So far this year, they've been the two best players in the National League (with apologies to Matt Kemp). Braun has a .382/.494/.691 line, while Tulowitzki is not only hitting .329/.435/.729, but is also supplying what may be the majors' best defense.

It's nice to see that Alex Gordon may finally be having that breakout season that everyone hoped he would, but keep in mind that his BABIP right now is .439. Bring that down to a still-above-average .333, and his overall line drops from .361/.404/.542 down to .277/.326/.458 - much closer to his career .244/.328/.405 entering the season. In other words, if you have him on your fantasy team, ride the hot streak--but don't trade Carlos Quentin.

Jose Bautista has been doing everything in his power to prove that 2010 wasn't a fluke, leading the AL in OBP and ranking 3rd in SLG early on.

With the help of Petco Park, Aaron Harang has looked good early on. Harang was one of the most underrated players in the league from 2005-2007, actually leading the NL in both strikeouts and wins (though with only 16 in a kind of fluky year) in '06. Then, with some of the zip seemingly lost from his fastball, Harang went through three years marked by mediocrity and injury. There's no way of knowing how his arm will hold up, but the pitching quality seems to have returned - through 4 starts, he's thrown 24 innings with a 1.88 ERA, 21 strikeouts and only 5 walks. Again, it's very early, but it's a story to watch.

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