Ryan Sweeney's Time to Break Out

Moe BerghausContributor IFebruary 19, 2009

The thing with highly-rated future stars is that we expect them to do it all, whether they are ready or not. Ryan Sweeney, as a 22-year-old, was rated the No. 1 prospect in the White Sox farm system by Baseball America in 2007.

The past couple of seasons, we have seen former highly-touted players finally make good. Two seasons ago, we saw Josh Hamilton finally play at the Major League Level. As the No. 1 pick in the 1999 Amateur Draft, high expectations came with his uniform, and the hopes and dreams of the Tampa Bay Rays franchise eventually wore him down.

Finally in 2007, Josh Hamilton grew into his skin. The ball popped off of his bat when he was up to bat, and all facets of his game came alive.

The Tampa Bay Rays saw another of their long-term prospects, B.J. Upton, finally produce at the Major League level after years of tortured position experiments in the Minor Leagues.

There was never any question that B.J. Upton could hit, but nobody knew where on the field he could play. Like Josh Hamilton in Cincinnati, there was no question he had finally realized his potential.

Ryan Sweeney, after two seasons of having small tastes but no legitimate shots at full-time play in Chicago, worked his way into a crowded outfield and managed to get a starting job with the Oakland Athletics. The tag that has always followed Ryan Sweeney is that he was always playing a level ahead of where he should have been.

His power would never fully develop, but that was alright, because he was younger than everybody else. 

At every level, there has never been any question that Ryan Sweeney has the skills to succeed. Last season, he showed that he could hit at a Major League level, batting .286, but with only five homeruns.

The power is a little slow in developing, but now Sweeney has a chance to get acclimated to his surroundings. There is not a higher level to move to. This is where he has been heading to, and now as a 24-year-old, he is ready to start living up to those lofty expectations.

There is no question that the Oakland Athletics had a weak lineup last year. Upgrades were needed, and that is what happened. Matt Holliday is now around to mentor, and more importantly, to protect Ryan Sweeney in the lineup.

The patience has paid off, and it seems that the time is now for Ryan Sweeney to show that he is not too young anymore.