The Heat Index: Rookie performance
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This week’s edition of The Heat Index is one of my favorites: the Rookie Edition. Rookies are an extremely important part of many teams quest to become World Champions. Rookies can replace an injured or traded veteran and provide either an instant spark or a black hole in the lineup. Most of the rookies this year have been called up from the minor leagues because of their stellar performance at the triple-A or double-A level. In reality the jump from the minors to the majors is a gap as wide as the Grand Canyon. Some rookies absolutely rake in the minors and go ice-cold as soon as they reach The Show. Other rookies are average players who are promoted to fill in at a position and they never look back, putting up 10-year veteran numbers. This week, the column will look at five rookies who have been a spark to their teams and five rookies who haven’t quite lived up to the expectations. Let’s dive in.
1. Freddie Freeman – Braves – 1B
Freeman has been a spark in the offense for an Atlanta Braves team that is battling for a playoff birth. In his 369 plate appearances, Freeman sports a .287/.360/.474 line. He ranks fourth in HR (15) and third in RBIs (51). In his first year, Freeman has been everything the Braves expected him to be (not to mention his plus-plus defense). Grab him in a keeper league and hold on for the long haul. He may end up a perennial all-star.
2. Michael Pineda – Mariners – SP
Pineda is most likely going to be the ROY for the American League. And boy does he deserve it. Through 123.2 IP he has 123 strikeouts in addition to a shiny 3.64 ERA. He only has eight wins this year and that is because the Mariners have the offensive equivalent of a five-year-old, tee-ball team. Pineda leads all rookies in Ks, WHIP, IP and games started. The ROY is his to lose, and I heard he hates losing.
3. Dustin Ackley – Mariners – 2B
Ackley is arguably the best hitter on the Seattle Mariners roster and he has 123 at-bats. I told you the Mariners offense was terrible. He has been the lone bright spot in the lineup with a line of .301/.351/.512. Those numbers look like they should belong to a power-hitting third baseman! Production from second basemen has been lagging recently, so he makes for a great addition to any fantasy lineup. Ackley has power, speed and great contact that could lead to a very successful career.
4. Jemile Weeks – Athletics – 2B
Another second baseman makes this list and for good reason. Rickie Weeks‘ little brother has come into his own this year since being handed the starting job at second base for the A’s. Weeks has proven to be a competent leadoff hitter with blazing speed (10 SB) and respectable power (10 2B). His frame is wiry and built for speed, but it can definitely hold more weight. As he gets stronger it wouldn’t be surprising for him to get more power and contact as those doubles turn into homers.
5. Jeremy Hellickson – Rays – SP
Do the Rays have a starting pitcher breeding system that no one knows about? They seem to pump out young talent like it’s going out of style. Hellickson could easily be a #2 or #3 starter in almost any other rotation. In 115 IP this year, he has 77 Ks and a 3.27 ERA … in the AL … in the East Division. That means he faces the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays and Orioles more than anyone else. Those are some potent offenses he has been able to overcome. In July, he is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA. Those two wins came against the Yankees and Cardinals. He has the potential to be a #1 or #2 starter, and this will probably happens sooner than later.
Bonus: Only two players have ever had their first names on the back of their jerseys in MLB. Can you guess who they are? The answer is the bonus in the Cold section.
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