AMERICAN LEAGUE SB PROSPECTS FOR 2009
Adam Jones: If not for a mid-season injury, Jones may already have been established as a major speed threat. He hit 7 triples in 128 games, which is evidence of amazing foot speed, and also showed great improvement in his stolen bases skills, 8 for 15 in Triple-A during the 2007 season vs. 10 for 13 against major league catchers this year.
Joaquin Arias: After swiping 23 bases in 28 tries in Triple-A this year, Arias has 4 steals in 5 attempts in 28 games with the Rangers. Ian Kinsler’s injury has given Arias a shot at playing time but he will be blocked at second base next year, meaning he will have to carve out a utility role to have value in AL-only leagues.
Alexi Casilla: Casilla has shown surprising power, 7 home runs and 15 doubles in 362 AB, but his value lies with his ability to make contact, 89% Ct%, and steal bases, 11 for 12 with the Twins last year and 6 for 8 this year. He will be the starting second baseman next year, which gives him value in all formats.
Brett Gardner: Gardner’s late season audition, 0/12/.202 in 104 AB, is not as bad as it looks, .208 BHIP%. However, without any power, if he is going to nail down a starting position, he will have to make big improvements in his approach at the plate, 7% BB% and a 75% Ct%. The plate patience should come, 17% BB% in Triple-A this year, but the contact skills could be a problem, 78% Ct%. If he makes better contact, he will be a force on the basepaths, 11 steals in 12 attempts with the Yankees this year.
Eric Patterson: Patterson has not hit much this year, 1/15/.192 in 130 AB, due to some bad luck, .225 BHIP%, and poor contact skills, 72% Ct%. He will not hit for power, but with solid plate patience, 12% BB%, and great speed, 10 steals in 11 tries, if he makes better contact, he would be a valuable fantasy player.
Cliff Pennington: Pennington is getting a late season audition as the A’s second basemen. He is showing plate patience, 12% BB% in 84 AB, and speed, 4 steals in 5 attempts. He doesn’t have 40+ potential, but if he gets a regular job next year, he could be good for 20 to 25 steals.
Clete Thomas: In 116 AB with the Tigers this year, Thomas showed good plate patience, 11%, but not much power, 1 home run, so he will need to make better contact, 78% Ct%. The problem is that he had a much worse number in the minors, 70% Ct% in Triple-A this year. He is probably not anything more than a reserve outfielder, but he does have speed, 29 steals in Triple-A this year.
Justin Ruggiano: Ruggiano had a nice season in Triple-A, 11/51/.315 with 20 steals in just 251 AB, but he didn’t fare as well with the Rays, 2/7/.214 with 2 steals in 70 AB. His inability to make contact, 70% Ct in Triple-A and a 66% Ct% with the Rays, and a deep Rays’ roster, will limit him to backup role, but there is power/speed potential here.
Elvis Andrus: Andrus spent the year in Double-A, so his major league arrival time could be mid-season of next year or 2010. He will not hit for power and needs to improve his approach at the plate, 7% BB% and an 81% Ct%, but he has blazing speed, 54 steals in just 118 games.
Austin Jackson: The 21 year-old had a solid season in Double-A, 9/69/.285 with 19 steals in 520 AB. Some of the 33 doubles that he hit will turn into home runs as his body matures, making him a potential power/speed threat. His major league arrival time is mid-season 2009 or early 2010.