With the start of the regular season less than one week away, I’m starting to wrap up my series on players to watch outside of Yankee-land. Today, we’ll swing into the NL Central:
At Target Field, it’s time to put up or shut up for Delmon Young. After lot’s of minor league hype and a respectable showing in 131 ABs in ’06 (.343 wOBA, 4.4 UZR), Young’s fallen off a bit. His wOBAs from ’07-’09 were .315, .324, and .312. This is not what Minnesota expected when they traded Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to the (Devil) Rays for Young. His batting averages have been good–.288, .290, .284–but his awful walk rates–3.8, 5.6, 2.9–and anemic bat–IsoPs of .119, .114, and .142–has held him back. If Young doesn’t get some patience and power (and improve on the field…back to back UZR marks of -16.8), he’ll be considered a big time bust.
For the Tigers, we’ll all have to keep an eye on a familiar face: Austin Jackson. We all know Jackson from his time in the Yankee farm system and we’ll definitely miss him. Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland has said Ajax will play CF and leadoff for Detroit from day one. This is a big assignment for a young guy who could probably stand to get some more seasoning in AAA. While part of me likes the aggressive move, this could be setting Jackson up to fail. I wish him luck, though.
Jake Peavy, presumably healthy, will pitch his first full season in the AL in ’10. After being one of baseball’s best for the last few years, we’ll have to see how he adapts to the big boy league (and a relatively small park in Chicago). Peavy’s a great pitcher and shouldn’t have much trouble adjusting to life in the American League. No matter what, the White Sox do have a pretty strong rotation and could make a run at the division title.
That Grady Sizemore’s 111 OPS+ was a disappointment last year shows us just how good he’s really been. The Indians won’t have a lot to celebrate in 2010, but Sizemore should be just fine. I think he’ll rebound just fine from an injury filled ’09 (not to mention some bad BABIP luck) and return to his ’05-’08 (128 OPS+) form.
Oh Kansas City. What can we say about you, Royals? I’d say “Well, at least you’re not the Astros” but you’re worse off than they are. There are three guys worth watching here, though: Zach Greinke (obvious), David DeJesus (slightly less obvious), and Alex Gordon. I’m not going to waste words on why we should pay attention to ZG, but DeJesus is a fairly solid player and more attention should be paid to him. As for Gordon, he’s in a similar boat to Delmon Young. However, Gordon’s had much more Major League success and has clearly been the better player. It’s unlikely that Gordon ever becomes the star we thought he’d be, but he can still be an above-average player. Let’s hope he takes a step in that direction this season.