Position players are in camp and games are just around the corner! For the last week, we;ve been taking a look at a couple of young players for each team that I think will have a larger impact in 2016. We started with the American League East, moved to the AL Central, hit the AL West, swung it to the National League East, NL Central and today we take our final look at the NL West!
Archie Bradley, RHP – This one is part pipe dream and part reality as I’m not sure Robbie Ray will hold the 5th spot all year. Bradley had been on top prospect lists since 2012 and finally made his debut in 2015 with Arizona and started off with four strong starts where he was 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA, but was hit in the face by a line drive by Carlos Gonzalez that knocked Bradley unconscious for 3-minutes. Bradley made his way back two weeks later, but it was pretty clear he wasn’t the same pitcher. His ERA ballooned to 5.80 by June 1st and Bradley was sent to the minors shortly after. The potential is there and Bradley showed it, if it wasn’t for bad luck, who knows what would have transpired last year and who knows if Bradley will be the pitcher he once was after this trauma.
Yasmany Tomas, OF –There were whispers of Tomas being a bust after spring training last year, however a solid first half to the season where Tomas hit .280 quieted doubters down a bit. The power never really showed up that everyone was expecting and it does seem like either pitchers figured Tomas out in the 2nd half or he wore down as he hit .268. The other concern is the batting average of balls in play (BAbip) was at a very high .354, which would likely decrease this year. My expectations for Tomas are for an average to stay around the .275 range, but the power to increase to 15 homers or so and a few more doubles as he continues to adjust to the league.
Jon Gray, RHP – The 3rd pick in the 2013 draft, Gray got a taste of the Majors as the age of 23 last year with 9 starts, and making his debut on August 4th. Gray’s first three starts were solid, as he carried a 2.40 ERA. Gray was then hit hard in 3 straight starts where he gave up a total of 14 runs, followed up by two solid starts, and then giving up 5 runs in his last start of the season to Pittsburgh. Gray, has been a highly rated prospect his three years in the minors based on a high strike out rate (8.9 per 9), but did struggle in 2015. Although not currently penciled in to the rotation, Gray should find himself there at some point this season and if he can bring that high strike out rate and decent walk rate with him, he should improve considerably from that 5.53 ERA last season.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Corey Seager, SS/3B – Seager is as close to a unanimous top prospect as you’re going to find, and rightfully so after backing up the hype that preceded him to his Major League debut September 4th. Seager who is still rookie eligible, played in 27 games after his call-up where he hit .337 with 13 extra base hits (4 homers), had 17 RBI, 2 steals, and a .986 OPS. Corey impressed the Dodgers so much that he made the post season roster and played 5 games in the playoffs. Expectations are sky high with a full season coming up.
Yasiel Puig, OF – Puig, now 25, just had his worst season as a Major Leaguer, yet the potential is so great that many are predicting a huge come back. Each year in the Majors has seen a decreased batting average since 2013, power numbers dropping and injuries racking up. There really is no telling if Puig will ever put it all together, but if he does, this may be the year. I think if he stays healthy, he has a monster year, but that’s a big IF…
San Diego Padres
Wil Myers, OF – Just when Wil Myers looks like he’s back to his AL Rookie of the Year form, something goes wrong! This time it was a bone spur and its removal that sent him to the DL for two months. The first month of the season looked very positive as Myers was hitting .286 with 7 doubles, 4 homers, 15 RBI and then in mid-May, Myers started to miss games, his missed an entire month in fact, tried to come back for a few games in June to only hit the DL after playing three days in a row. Once Myers came back in September, his timing just wasn’t there and Myers went on to hit .208 and averaged about a strike out a game. What’s the good news, why do I expect him to have more impact?? He’s finally healthy, playing first base which should have less impact on his body, and he’s ready to go.
San Francisco Giants
Matt Duffy, 3B – Duffy came out of nowhere really, as he wasn’t a high draft choice (18th round) and was never on any top prospect lists. His minor league stats tell us that Duffy will hit for average, won’t strike out much, and won’t hit for power often. That said, Duffy finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting when he hit .295 in his first full season and surprisingly hit 12 homers and collected 28 double and 6 triples, that’s 46 extra base hits. Duffy only had 48 extra base hits in three minor league seasons! What’s to like about Duffy is that he may regress in power slightly, but he’s still a contact hitter who is going to put the ball in play most of the time. The big knock and how Duffy could have greater impact this season is if he takes more walks, as he walked just 30 times in 612 plate appearances.
Joe Panik, 2B – Panik played in 100 games last season, made the All-Star team and was on his way to another very good season until he hit the disabled list with lower back inflammation (which was a stress fracture of the L5 vertabra) in early August, making back in September before being shut down. Before being shut down, Panik showed increased power as he was on track to hit double digit home runs (hit 1 in 2014), had doubled his doubles and was well over .800 (.833) for OPS, while only striking out 1 out of every 10 plate appearances. Panik really looks like a guy to keep an eye on this year as all his numbers were looking really good!