Based on submissions to last week's chat session and my inbox lately, one thing that you, the readers, would like to know is what we can expect from some of this year's rookie crop for the rest of 2008 and beyond. This week's article is a mailbag of sorts, as the players I've covered are the ones that were most often requested. With the season winding down, we can present you with more of this going forward, in order to sate your fantasy appetite until we ramp up the analysis for next year during the offseason.
Still, 24.4 percent is a high number of liners, one that very few hitters can maintain over time. Putting Span back about two or three percent seems more realistic, as far as tempered enthusiasm goes, but the good news is that even with that kind of correction, we can still expect his BABIP to remain in the .340-.350 range because Span has actually underperformed expectations on that front. It doesn't mean he's going to improve further this year, but it does mean that there's no reason for you not to keep him around in '08, and if you're in a keeper league, next year you may have yourself a .300/.400/.450 hitter who steals upwards of 30 bases. Limited power is his only drawback, but unlike a
There are worries with Headley's performance, however; his line isn't good enough to cover up some underlying problems with his BABIP. Like Span, Headley has an above-average liner rate of 24.2 percent with a .342 BABIP. Unlike Span, who doesn't strike out much, though, Headley does, whiffing nearly one-third of the time. That's problematic for his BABIP, as we can't normally expect both that and his liner rate to be maintained as easily as we could for the Twins' contact-oriented corner outfielder. If we drop Headley's liner rate back the same three percent or so, he's still at a .340 BABIP, but if he suddenly stops having any luck and he's still striking out 29 percent of the time, things could get ugly. Despite his EqA marks that tell us that Headley's been fine, your fantasy league doesn't use that stat, instead using unadjusted raw figures that are damaged by Petco's influence. As of right now, Headley is one of those players who has more utility in the real game than in fantasy. Given his age and ability -- he's just 24, and
While Red Sox fans would have been happy with anyone taking over at shortstop for the injured
Lowrie fits into the theme of the day with his batted-ball data as well, as he's hitting a remarkable, ridiculous 27 percent of his balls in play as liners. On some level, this is a symptom of the small sample size we're working with, and something that will go away with more playing time for Lowrie. Like Headley and Span, Lowrie's BABIP is nevertheless below expectations, but dropping his liner rate by 6-7 percent leaves you with a .310-.320 BABIP. In his case, that means that you should expect a 50-60 point drop in his production, giving him a line that resembles his weighted mean PECOTA forecast of .261/.336/.413, decent for a shortstop, but not nearly as impressive as his current showing.
That would also still be better than what Lugo was doing, so Sox fans and the front office should be pleased with Lowrie even if/when he does decline. But as a fantasy owner facing off against far fewer opponents and with more freedom of choice for your players, someone like Lowrie just doesn't do enough to justify being an important part of your roster going forward. Lowrie's still young, and as his numbers at Double-A have shown, he may turn into a solid hitter, but as far as you're concerned for now he's riding on luck, and you'll get burned if you rely on him for more than that.
Though he's not in the same class as the troika of 24-year olds,
There are a few things that make prognosticating for next year an issue with Fukudome. First of all, he's only around his 10th-percentile PECOTA forecast, and until the '09 PECOTAs come out, we're going to have to guess as to what that does to his once-optimistic weighted mean. Second, as a 31-year old, he doesn't have the same room for growth as other rookies, though we can always give him a mulligan on his first year in the majors, as we did with
The one area that it looks like he could improve on is his pitch selection. His patience makes him valuable, but he rarely swings; he has swung on just 62 percent of balls in the strike zone this year, and 20 percent of the pitches outside of the zone, for 41 percent overall. He's a solid contact hitter, so if he were to swing at a few more pitches that he could drive, he might increase his production overall. That's something that the Cubs and Fukudome will both have to work on though, and not something to bank on heading into your playoffs or next year.