Ryan Fay's First Half Rookie Review

July 15, 2009

Every season rookies make an impact and have a major effect on their team's season. Last year, Evan Longoria wasted no time adjusting to the majors and was a key cog in Tampa Bay's unexpected run to the World Series. We have another strong crop of rookies this season, and while none have made quite the splash that Longoria did, they have been impressive nonetheless.

The following 12 players are among the most interesting rookies this season:

Brett Anderson - LHP - Oakland Athletics

Despite just 31.0 innings above High-A, the 21-year-old was tossed into the Oakland rotation and he's held his own. Anderson has a 4.60 FIP, a solid 48% GB, and he's shown good command by walking 24 in 83.1 innings. His strikeout rate picked up in June (25 K in 27.0 IP) and he's seen a spike in his velocity. A low 90's guy coming up through the minors, Anderson has recently been clocked between 94-97 MPH. If that kind of velocity is here to stay, Anderson's long-term projections take a turn upward and he could become a top-of-the-rotation force. He's battled a couple minor injuries lately, including biceps inflammation at the end of June and a sore back ended his July 12th start

Andrew Bailey - RHP - Oakland Athletics

Bailey, 25, entered last season as a second-tier prospect in the Oakland system, but struggled as a starter for Double-A Midland (319 TBF, 5.53 FIP, 5.57 BB/9). Once he was shifted to the pen, he was lights out, lowering his FIP to 2.46 (158 TBF) and cutting his walk rate while striking out a batter an inning. Instead of opening this season at Triple-A Sacramento, Bailey made the big league team out of the gate and he has been one of the more impressive relievers in the game with a 2.64 FIP and a 29.5% K. He eventually overtook incumbent closer Brad Ziegler and currently has nine saves. It was enough to land him in the All-Star game.

Gordon Beckham - IF - Chicago White Sox

The former Georgia Bulldog breezed through the minor leagues, reaching the big leagues roughly one calendar year after getting selected eighth overall. He's shown the ability to draw a walk and he hasn't struck out all that much, though his power has been more doubles than homers. It remains to be seen how much home run power comes out of six-foot, 190 pound frame, but he should at least hit for average with plenty of extra-base hits and solid plate discipline. His ultimate defensive home is also up for question, as he could settle in at third, short, or second.

Dexter Fowler - OF - Colorado Rockies

Fowler, a 14th round pick in 2006, was the consensus top prospect in the organization entering the season. He's done little to disappoint as he leads all rookies (100 plate appearance minimum) with 20 steals, runs created with 42.7 and is tied for tops in doubles with 19. His secondary average (.332) is third-best among rookies and his 12.4% BB is one the 20 highest rates in the National League. He hasn't hit for much power -- he only has three home runs -- but his six-foot-four, 185 pound frame could produce more pop as he matures. The 23-year-old looks like the long-term center fielder/leadoff man in Colorado.

Tommy Hanson - RHP - Atlanta Braves

Hanson, 22, blistered through Triple-A (2.42 FIP, 35.0 K%) but has been more lucky than good so far in the majors. His 2.85 ERA has been aided by a .236 BABIP and his 20/25 BB/K in 41.0 innings isn't great. He may have some short-term struggles, but he's going to be a rotation anchor for the Braves before too long.

J.A Happ - LHP - Philadelphia Phillies 

Between Brett Myers' injury, Jamie Moyer pitching like a 46-year-old, and Cole Hamels battling ineffectiveness, Happ's contributions have been especially important. Happ has 3.04 ERA, but he has a low BABIP (.246), his FIP is 4.66, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is a tick below two-to-one. He's due for a correction, but the runner-up in last year's Triple-A International League strikeout race should settle in as a fourth starter.

Andrew McCutchen - OF - Pittsburgh Pirates

Once Pittsburgh unloaded Nate McLouth, it cleared the way for the 11th overall pick in the 2005 draft. The 22-year-old was having a good season in Triple-A (7.8% BB, 11.9% K, .189 ISOP, .384 wOBA) and he's adjusting well to the majors. He led all rookies in hits (31) for the month of June while his 19 runs were second-best. McCutchen has shown impressive speed by legging out five triples and going seven-for-seven in stolen bases. He may not hit more than 10 homers a year, but his ability to hit for average and his ability to impact the game on the bases will make him a quality top-of-the-order presence for years to come.

Rick Porcello - RHP - Detroit Tigers

After getting selected 27th overall in 2007, Porcello signed too late to debut that summer and spent all of last year with High-A Lakeland where he posted a 65% GB and a 3.81 FIP. That was expected to get him promoted to Double-A Erie to open 2009, but holes in the Tigers' big league rotation accelerated Porcello's time table and he was thrown into the Opening Day rotation. For a 20-year-old with nothing beyond 125 innings at Low-A, Porcello has been impressive, especially his 59% GB, which ranks third in baseball. He hasn't struck many hitters out (12.7%) but hasn't put himself in too much trouble with the free passes, either (8.4%). Most players with Porcello's experience wouldn't have lasted the first month of the season, but he looks like he'll be in the Detroit rotation for years to come.

David Price - LHP - Tampa Bay Rays

The consensus top pitching prospect in baseball going into the year, Price has been a bit of a letdown in 2009. Once Edwin Jackson was traded, Price was expected to open the season in the big league rotation, but he was sent to Triple-A. While he racked up the whiffs (23.8%) he walked too many hitters (12.8%) and he had a 4.63 FIP. Price has since been promoted and he has continued to struggle commanding the zone, as his walk rate sits at 15.2%. Unless he can limit the walks, Price will be hard-pressed to be the ace people expect him to become. The strikeouts are nice, but it's hard to skate around that number of walks at the big league level, especially in the American League. He remains a premium young pitcher, but there's reason for concern.

Colby Rasmus - OF - St. Louis Cardinals

Good things have long been expected of Rasmus, a first round pick in 2005. He's entered the past two seasons as one of the top five prospects in the game and we're beginning to see why. Among rookies with at least 100 plate appearances, the 22-year-old Rasmus is first in hits (74), tied for first in doubles (19), tops in homers (11), and second in runs created (41.0). It's his increasing power that makes him intriguing as the season goes on. After posting a .051 ISOP in April, it's been no lower than .203 in any month since and he's cemented his status as an emerging force in the Cardinals lineup. In what may be one of the dumbest comments of the year, ESPN fantasy sports writer AJ Mass said in April that "Rasmus looks more and more to be one of those AAAA prospects who never quite pan out."

Ricky Romero - LHP - Toronto Blue Jays

Romero was the sixth pick in the 2005 draft -- one slot before Colorado drafted Troy Tulowitzki. As Tulowitzki led the Rockies to the World Series in 2007, a year in which he would also finish runner-up for National League Rookie of the Year, Romero was still finding success hard to come by in the minors. Toronto fans were outraged that their organization passed on Tulowitzki for Romero. "The fans in the minors are all over me. They say, 'We should have picked Tulowitzki!'," Romero told Sports Illustrated last year. It wasn't until this spring when Romero's career took off. Thanks to some adjustments to his delivery, Romero showed enough in the spring to make the opening day roster and he hasn't looked back since. His 53% GB is fourth-best in the American League and he has solid strikeout numbers (19.7%) and a 4.19 FIP. Suddenly, not taking Tulowitzki doesn't seem as crazy and Romero looks like a mid-rotation pitcher.

Matt Wieters - C - Baltimore Orioles

Widely considered the top prospect in the game entering the year, Wieters was hitting well at Triple-A (12.4% BB, .199 ISOP, .391 wOBA) prior to getting the call to the majors. He hasn't been the immediate world-beater some may have expected (7.7% BB, .148 ISOP, .315 wOBA) but there's no reason to worry. He profiles as the type of hitter who's a perennial All-Star and he realizes success isn't far away. "Having gone through that hot streak like I went through in the minor leagues, it's something that you know is going to come if you just give it time and keep working hard," he recently told The Los Angeles Times.

Discussion Question: Who will be the respective Rookie of the Year winners at the end of the year?

(Respond here.)


Contact Ryan Fay at rfay@projectprospect.com