Looking to Avoid the Sophomore Jinx: AL
The 2007 season saw a number of exciting players come into both the American and National leagues. The junior league received some intriguing young pitchers, while the senior circuit welcomed some promising offensive players.
We are more than a month into the 2008 so now is a good time to take a look at how the 2007 rookie class, now a collective group of sophomores, are doing. Are you as curious as I am to see how many of the promising 2007 rookies have been bitten by the dreaded sophomore jinx? Let's have a look at the American League today.
2007 AL Rookie of the Year Voting (10 points or more):
Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia 132 Tampa Bay OF Delmon Young 56 Kansas City RHP Brian Bannister 36 Boston RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka 12 Los Angeles OF Reggie Willits 11
Others: Hideki Okajima, Josh Fields, Joakim Soria
Let’s take a closer look at those players:
Pedroia is the type of player that doesn’t have too many highs or too many lows; he’s just incredibly consistent and a great complimentary player to the big boppers in Boston. He should be good for quite some time and could be one of those players who gets better as he ages, in the Mark Loretta mold.
The more I think about it, the less I like the idea of Young being a Minnesota Twin. The Twins, in general, aren't exactly known for being a patient team; they have always employed athletic, toolsy players that like to hack (Torii Hunter, Jacques Jones). Young might be better off on a club that forces him to be more selective. You can’t be a superstar with his type of approach (there is only one Vladimir Guerrero).
Willits has been hurt by the Angels’ position player depth and really hasn’t received a fair shot at following up on his solid rookie season. Regardless, he probably played over his head in 2007 and is a solid fourth outfielder, similar to the Cubs’ Reed Johnson.
Already stuck at Triple-A (and hitting .240), Fields has been sidelined by patella tendonitis, which never a pleasant injury for baseball players (just ask Mark McGwire). Continued low averages and on-base percentages will likely continue to hinder his major league success.
Bannister is probably a little over-hyped right now, which is hard to imagine for a major league pitcher that throws in the upper 80s and plays for Kansas City. He should probably be a solid starting pitcher for the next few years, but the loss of even a couple of miles an hour on the ol’ fastball could spell doom, regardless of how smart or observant he is.
With a repertoire like Matsuzaka’s it is hard to believe that he's been pitching away from contact, but that is exactly what he's been doing OR his command is really, really off. Ironically, as of the writing of this article he leads the majors in fewest hits allowed per nine innings… So what is he worried about? Someone needs to remind him that he is pretty darn good.
Okajima was an almost invisible free agent signing out of Japan before the 2007, but he has been absolutely outstanding coming out of the bullpen for the Red Sox. But we also have him to thank for teams going wild by signing mediocre Japanese middle relievers prior to the 2008 season; some of those have worked out, but others haven't.
There were quite a few scouts that felt Soria would be one of the more successful Rule 5 picks in 2007, but I don't think there were many that thought he’d be quite this good. Soria has helped to solidify a previously inconsistent (OK, terrible) Royals bullpen. He shows no signs of slowing down.