There were 58 rookie hitters who qualified for the batting title and 85 who qualified for the ERA title. Over the next few weeks we are going to go position by position and see which of these rookies will be in store for big sophomore campaigns and which could go into the dreaded sophomore slump.
Let’s start things off with the catchers, of which there were six who qualified:
J.P Arencibia – Toronto Blue Jays
We all know he has power, but can he make consistent enough contact to be a viable option? He struck out 27.4 percent of the time in 2011, helping him to a .219 average.
He did make better contact in the minor leagues (20.4 percent), but even if he does improve that department it may not be enough to make a dramatic difference. Unfortunately, we can’t say that he’s a lock to improve upon his .255 BABIP, as he puts around 50 percent of his balls in the air (which certainly does not lend itself to an impressive BABIP).
He should once again hit 20-plus HR, but if he does it with a sub-.250 average, is he going to be a player you want to target?
In deeper formats he will have value, but in one-catcher leagues there are better options.
Wilson Ramos – Washington Nationals
We all know the story of his kidnapping inVenezuela this winter, but don’t let it distract you from what he is capable of. He hit .267 with 15 HR and 52 RBI in 389 AB in his rookie year and has the potential to do even more than that.
A .285 hitter in the minor leagues, he had never shown much power before 2011 (39 HR in 1,479 AB in the minor leagues). However, would anyone doubt that a 24-year-old continues to add power and develop?
All he needs to do is match the numbers he posted in ’11 to be a borderline option in one-catcher formats. With a .297 BABIP, 13.4 percent HR/FB rate and 17.5 percent strand rate, it is possible.
If he wants to take the next step in his development, he will have to improve upon his 14.6 percent line-drive rate (which would allow him to maintain a higher BABIP).
Hank Conger – Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have long looked at catcher as a defensive position. We saw it with Mike Napoli, who eventually got sent packing, and now Conger could be falling into the same conundrum. With Chris Iannetta in town and the team likely looking for a defensive specialist to back him up, exactly where does that leave Conger?
Considering the logjam the team has at DH, it’s not like Conger can garner much playing time there.
Having hit .298 in the minor leagues, including .300 at Triple-A, is there anything left for him to prove there? Considering he has hit .204 in 206 AB, including a 19.9 percent strikeout rate with the Angels over the past two seasons, the team could definitely opt to start him there again.
As it is, if he isn’t going to be playing regularly, the 24-year-old will be much better served getting regular time in the lineup.
Chris Stewart – San Francisco Giants: With Buster Posey returning from injury and Eli Whiteside resigned, it is hard to imagine Stewart getting many opportunities barring an injury. At best he’s a backup and could just as likely end up back at Triple-A.
Michael McKenry – Pittsburgh Pirates: He will back up the newly-signed Rod Barajas, as the team knew they needed to upgrade at the position. Even if the team ultimately decided he offered more potential, he strikes out too much to go with little power (best HR total was 22 at Single-A in ’07).
Carlos Corporan – Houston Astros: The Astros were hit hard by injuries, but he is going to be behind Jason Castro and Humberto Quintero in ’12. There’s little chance he makes an impact.
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Make sure to check out our other 2012 projections: