Every season I’ve one this blogging thing, I’ve done a six part series on which players–one from each team–are going to be worth watching this year. Sometimes it’s a hot shot prospect, sometimes it’s a veteran looking to reclaim past glory, sometimes it’s just a guy I like. I’ll start, as I always do, in the NL West.
San Francisco Giants: Here, I’m tempted to go with Buster Posey (because he’s Buster Posey) or Jonathan Sanchez (I’ve always had a soft spot for him), but I’ll go with someone else: Pablo Sandoval. Kung-Fu Panda had a 41 game cup of coffee in 2008 that produced a .361 wOBA, getting everyone all abuzz. He followed that up with a .396 wOBA in 153 games in 2009. In 2010, he plummeted all the way down to a .316 wOBA. We’ll have to watch to see if Sandoval can regain that 2009 form…or at least rebound a bit.
San Diego Padres: Mat Latos. Even though he spells his first name wrong, the 23 year old is coming off a superb season. He had a 2.92 ERA; a 3.00 FIP; a 2.4 BB/9, and a 9.2 K/9 in 184.2 innings. Expecting a repeat performance is probably irresponsible and unrealistic, but it’s a great foundation off of which to build.
Colorado Rockies: Here comes the relatively obvious choice: Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez wowed us all last year, leading the NL in batting and hits while winning a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger and belting 34 homers. He’s hit all over the place, now let’s see him repeat it in 2011. I’m betting that he’ll have another strong season and that we’ve got a budding star on our hands.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Another fairly obvious choice here, and that’s Matt Kemp. After two and a half productive seasons, Kemp dropped down to a .323 wOBA in 2010. However, his walk rate (7.9%) was actually the best of his career, as was his .201 IsoP. He still managed to hit 28 homers and ended up with a 100 wRC+. What changed? There was a big BABIP drop from .345 to .295 (.361 in ’08). With everything else staying at an average to high level, is it possible that Kemp just had a tough luck year?
Arizona Diamondbacks: Last year I went with Ian Kennedy (because I freaking love Ian Kennedy) and I’m going to do it again this year. IPK had an up and down year in 2010, but it amounted to a respectable 3.80 ERA/4.33 FIP line, worth 2.4 fWAR and 2.7 bWAR. He finally got a chance (and performed well enough) to be in a big league rotation for an entire year and he pitched admirably. I’m hoping (and rooting for) Ian to do it again. It’s always nice to see guys you liked succeed but it’ll also be nice to see him do well so it can help put a stop to the “Yankees can’t develop pitchers” meme that’s been floating around baseball for the last decade or so (I’m not saying there isn’t any credence to this).
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