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.
1. Domonic Brown – Phillies – OF
How many times have we seen Brown in top-prospects lists? He has been a huge disappointment this year for the Phillies who looked to Brown to replace Jayson Werth in right field. Brown is only 23-years old and has plenty of time to figure things out, but maybe he should do that in the minors. He has been hitting seventh in the lineup with a .250 average and only 18 RBIs in 53 games this season. The Phillies have even been shopping him around as trade bait to get an impact outfielder. He may not be the long-term solution the Phillies had hoped for.
2. Danny Duffy – Royals – SP
Duffy was at the top of many top-pitching-prospect lists at the start of the season. He is a big lefty with good control and a couple of plus pitches, which someday may make him a top-of-the-rotation starter. That day looks like it’s a long way off. In 12 starts this year, he has a 5.17 ERA over 62.2 IP. Lucky for him, he is young, and the Royals are hoping he is just experiencing growing pains.
3. Lonnie Chisenhall – Indians – 3B
Chisenhall was one of the most hyped prospects in the Indians system and was supposed to fill a void at third base for them. Unfortunately, the production has not been there over a small sample of 20 games. He is hitting .242 with two homers and four RBIs. No one expected him to come up to the big leagues and rake, but at 3B, he needs to produce better numbers if he wants to stay there. Hold him in deeper leagues and keeper leagues and hope he heats up.
4. Kyle Drabek – Toronto – SP
Baseball America has had him ranked in the top-30 prospects the last two years, and many scouts say he has the stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. He seems to have completely fallen apart this year. Drabek was with the Blue Jays for 14 games this year and posted a 5.70 ERA. His pitches always seem to find bats proven by his .283 BAA. The Blue Jays have since sent him back down to triple-A where he has 6.82 ERA in seven games, so far. Hopefully, he can figure it out and return to the majors, but until then, avoid him like the plague.
5. Mike Trout – Angels – OF
The number-one (or two, depending on which scout you ask) prospect in all of baseball was finally called up earlier this month, and the excitement was electric for Angels fans. Trout has range and speed that are almost unparalleled by any other center fielder in game. His offense, however, has been suffering terribly. Trout has .167 average and only seven hits in 42 at bats. He has not been able to exhibit his speed on the bases because he can’t seem to get on base. With Peter Bourjos coming back from injury this week, Trout will probably be sent back to triple-A. He is not worth a pickup until he can prove he can stay in the major leagues.
Bonus: The answer is Ichiro and Vida Blue. Ichiro is having a very chilly year this year in all aspects of the game. Hopefully, he will turn it around and once more be the Ichiro we all know and love.